If you have experienced the death of a loved one, then you know just how precious last moments are words can be. Jacob is one hundred and forty-seven years old, and as he recognizes that he is approaching death, he is attentive to some final details including the place of his burial. He calls his family together so that he can bless them and settle some matters before it is too late. These years in Egypt have not diminished his love for the Promised Land, so he summons Joseph and asks him for his word in a solemn oath. Jacob requests that Joseph swear to bury him where his fathers were buried in the land of Canaan. How can you refuse your dying father? He complies with Jacob's request. At that moment, we are allowed a glimpse into a very intimate moment between an elderly father nearing death and his son. What a touching scene unfolds as the old venerable father bows in worship and thanksgiving.
Seventeen years pass between the arrival of Jacob and his family in Egypt and his death at the age of one hundred and forty-seven. Jacob is not in despair but looks at death as a reunion, and he wants to be buried where his ancestors are buried as a representation of that reunion. It is at the moment of his death that the scripture tells us that Jacob is reunited with his forebears. Jacob is not just looking back; he is looking forward as he teaches and reminds his sons of their inheritance.
Jacob does not just want to be buried with specifically named ancestors, but he wants to be buried in a specific place that belongs to him. The cave is mentioned three times in quick sequence and Jacob repeats the fact that the cave was purchased. It truly belongs to him and his family. The cave matters as much for what it represents about the future as for what it represents about the past. There is hope and instruction in Jacob’s last words because the promises of God were given to Jacob’s father and grandfather. What a moment of closure for this family. Having said all that he needed to say, Jacob goes to be with his people. Joseph expresses his grief as he weeps over his father and kisses him.
Thing To Consider:
- What do we see about Jacob's faith as he nears the end of his life?
- What can we learn from this story about caring for the elderly?
- How can we find hope in the way scripture describes death? Does that hope extend to everyone?
- What does Jacob remind us when we think of God's covenant with him?