Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
27 Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly. 28 And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. So the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were 147 years.
29 And when the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If now I have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt, 30 but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place.” He answered, “I will do as you have said.” 31 And he said, “Swear to me”; and he swore to him. Then Israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed.
The rest of Genesis, starting with this section, is kind of like an epilogue. We have seen the story of the patriarchs and how they came to be in Egypt. The rest of the book sets up the events in the books that follow. From The Pulpit Commentaries:
And Israel (i.e. the people) dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein (i.e. acquired holdings in it), and grew (or became fruitful), and multiplied exceedingly—or became very numerous. This was the commencement of the promise (Genesis 46:3).
As the note states, here Israel is used to denote not only Jacob, individually, but his entire family as a people. The note also seems to indicate a period of time much longer than the remaining years of Jacob’s life. Continuing on:
And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was (literally, the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were) an hundred forty and seven years. He had lived seventy-seven years in Canaan, twenty years in Padanaram, thirty-three in Canaan again, and seventeen in Egypt, in all 147 years.
Combined with the previous verse, it seems that verse 27’s statement regarding the multiplication of Israel likely refers to a much longer period of time than the remainign seventeen years of Jacob’s life. From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:
And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt:
ISRAEL IN EGYPT.
(29) The time drew nigh that Israel must die—For seventeen years Jacob lived in Egypt, and saw the growing prosperity of his race under the fostering hand of Joseph. Placed at the entrance of Egypt, on the side of Arabia and Palestine, the clans of his sons would daily grow in number by the addition of Semitic immigrants, by whose aid they would make the vast and fertile region assigned them, and which had previously had but a scanty population, a well-cultivated and thriving land. But at last Jacob feels his end approaching, though apparently he was not as yet in immediate danger of death. But there was a wish over which he had long pondered; and desiring to have his mind set at rest, he sends for Joseph, and makes him promise that he will bury him in the cave at Machpelah. We find him again charging all his sons to grant him this request (Genesis 49:29-32); nor need we seek for any remote reason for it. Jacob’s whole nature was a loving one, and strongly influenced by home and domestic feelings; and at Machpelah his nearest relatives were buried. In the next chapter he dwells upon Rachel’s death, and his burial of her apart from the rest at Ephrath; and this seems to have increased his grief at her loss. At Machpelah, Abraham. whom he had known as a boy, his beloved father and mother, and Leah, who had evidently at last won his affections, all lay; and there, naturally, he too wished to lie among his own.
Put . . . thy hand under my thigh.—See Note on Genesis 24:2.
Jacob requests to be buried in Canaan with his wife and family. Jacob requests to be buried at the Cave of Machpelah, also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs. The site, which is holy to all three Abrahamic faiths, has been the setting for a lot of struggle between those groups in the centuries since.
The Cave of the Patriarchs or Tomb of the Patriarchs, known to Jews by its Biblical name Cave of Machpelah (Biblical Hebrew: מְעָרַת הַמַּכְפֵּלָה, Me’arat HaMakhpela (help·info), lit. ’Cave of the Double’) and to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque (Arabic: ٱلْمَسْجِد ٱلْإِبْرَاهِيمِيّ, al-Masjid al-Ibrahimi (help·info) lit. ’Mosque of Abraham’), is a series of caves situated 30 kilometres (19 mi) south of Jerusalem in the heart of the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank. According to the Abrahamic religions, the cave and adjoining field were purchased by Abraham as a burial plot, although most historians believe the Abraham-Isaac-Jacob narrative to be primarily mythological.
Over the cave stands a large rectangular enclosure dating from the Herodian era. During Byzantine rule of the region, a basilica was built on the site; the structure was converted into the Ibrahimi Mosque following the Muslim conquest of the Levant. By the 12th century, the mosque and its surrounding regions had fallen under Crusader-state control, but were retaken in 1188 by the Ayyubid sultan Saladin, who again converted the structure into a mosque.
During the Six-Day War of 1967, the entire Jordanian-occupied West Bank was seized and occupied by the State of Israel, after which the mosque was divided, with half of it repurposed as a synagogue. In 1968, special Jewish services were authorized outside the usual permitted hours on the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement, leading to a hand-grenade attack on 9 October which injured 47 Israelis; and a second bombing on 4 November, which wounded 6 people. In 1972, the Israeli government increased the Jewish prayer area. New change to the “status quo” were made by Israeli authorities in 1975, which again led to protests by Muslims. In 1976, a scuffle took place between Jewish and Muslim worshippers, during which a Quran was torn. Muslim and Arab figures went to Hebron the next day to protest what was called a “profanation of the Quran”. The Tomb was closed and a curfew was imposed on the whole city. A few days later, about two hundred Arab youths entered the Tomb and destroyed Torah scrolls and prayer books. In May 1980, an attack on Jewish worshippers returning from prayers at the tomb left 6 dead and 17 wounded. In 1994, the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre occurred at the Ibrahimi Mosque, in which an armed Israeli settler entered the complex during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and opened fire on Palestinian Muslims who had gathered to pray at the site, killing 29 people, including children, and wounding over 125.
Finishing through the end of Chapter 47 with The Pulpit Commentaries:
But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying-place. The request of the venerable patriarch, while due in some respect to the deeply-seated instinct of human nature which makes men, almost universally, long to be buried in ancestral graves, was inspired by the clear faith that Canaan was the true inheritance of Israel, and that, though now obtaining a temporary refuge in Egypt, his descendants would eventually return to the land of promise as their permanent abode. And he (i.e. Joseph) said, I will do as thou hast said—literally, according to thy word.
And he (i.e. Jacob) said, Swear unto me (in the manner indicated in Genesis 47:29). And he (i.e. Joseph) sware unto him. And (having concluded this touching and impressive ceremonial) Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head. Though supported by many eminent authorities (Chaldee Pard. phrase, Symmachus, Vulgate, Calvin, Willet, Rosenmüller, Delitzsch, Keil, Kalisch, &c; &c.), the present rendering is not entirely free from difficulty, since not until the next chapter is there any mention of Jacob’s sickness; while in favor of the reading, “And Israel bowed himself on the top of his staff” (LXX.), it may be urged
(1) that it is adopted by the writer to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:21),
(2) that the Hebrew words for staff and bed differ only in the punctuation, and
(3) that the action of leaning on his staff was quite as suitable to Jacob’s circumstances as turning over and bowing on his bed’s head.
The note here explains that there is a controversy – to some extent – as to whether or not Jacob bows his head from a (sick)bed or from a staff. The note indicates a belief that he bowed on top of his staff. Ellicott seems to take the opposite position:
(31) Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head.—The LXX., followed by the Epistle to the Hebrews (Genesis 11:21) and the Syriac, read, “on the top of his staff.” The word in the Hebrew, without vowels, may mean either bed or staff, and as we have mentioned above (Genesis 22:14), the points indicating the vowels were added in later times, and while valuable as representing a very ancient tradition, are nevertheless not of final authority. The rendering, however, of the Authorised Version is the most satisfactory. It was scarcely worth mentioning that Jacob bowed before Joseph, leaning on his staff; but the picture of the aged patriarch leaning back upon his bed, content and happy in his son’s promise, and giving thanks to God for the peace of his approaching end, is one full of pathos and dignity.
This brings to mind the divide among Christians (Catholic vs. Protestant vs. Eastern Orthodox), not to mention disputes with modern Jewish religious leaders, regarding Old Testament translation disputes. The Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament was the text readily available, and most used, at the time of the Second Temple Period and the Christian Apostles. The Masoretic Text – the standardized Hebrew Bible – came into fruition in the century after the time of Jesus. Surprisingly, then, the Greek translations of the Old Testament in some sense pre-date the standardized Hebrew text. Prior to the Masoretic Text, and we see evidence of this in the Dead Sea Scrolls, there were some variances between the Hebrew texts. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls have subsequently played a role in how the texts are translated, sometimes changing a particular word here in one place or another (notably Deut. 32:8).
Old Testament scholar Dr. Michael Heiser discusses the issue below:
The video below, by Jeremy F. Hultin, provides an explanation for why the Septuagint came into being in the first place, and it goes into some of the difficulties that go into the translation disputes – and why those disputes are relevant.
Here’s another discussion video on the differenes, provided by the Orthodox Christian Theology channel:
The bottom line here, that I would impress upon anyone reading my blog, is that while you can certainly get universal agreement between the translations, on the vast majority of the text, you will find disputes relevant to some finer points of theology in some places where translation disputes exist.
If you would rathe read an article about some of this, rather than watch a video, I will direct you to this one from logos.com from 2021 [excerpt below]:
Originally, Cave 8 contained over 40 human skeletons (hence the colorful nickname) that once belonged to Jewish refugees who hid there during the tumultuous Bar Kokhba revolt. But the Cave of Horror also contained a scroll of the Minor Prophets in Greek, now known simply as the Minor Prophets Scroll, or by the less-than-user-friendly label 8ḤevXIIgr. The scroll was discovered by Yochanan Aharoni and later studied in detail by Dominique Barthélemy (1921–2002).
What makes 8ḤevXIIgr so significant is that the Greek text of the Minor Prophets that it preserves differs in certain ways from what we have in the Hebrew Masoretic Text, itself the textual basis of most modern translations of the Old Testament. In his seminal monograph Devanciers d’Aquila (Cerf, 1963), Barthélemy examined 8ḤevXIIgr and permanently altered scholarly understanding of the textual history of the Septuagint.
Prior to Barthélemy, scholars had noted similarities in various translation features between Judges, Ruth, parts of Samuel and Kings, and Lamentations. Of particular importance is the use of καίγε to translate the Hebrew וגם, an observation that goes back to Thackeray and which later became known generally as the Kaige Recension.
In Barthélemy’s study, however, he showed that this tendency was even broader and earlier than Thackeray (or anyone else) knew. Barthélemy added into the group books like the Song of Songs, the Theodotionic version of Daniel, the recension of Aquila, and some other texts.
The critical point was Barthélemy’s explanation of how all these texts tied together. How do you connect figures like Aquila with translation features in parts of Samuel and other books too? Answer: 8ḤevXIIgr. Barthélemy found the same kinds of translation tendencies in 8ḤevXIIgr that Thackeray and others had noticed in other places, indicating that the Kaige phenomenon was much broader and earlier than scholars ever thought.
Not only that, but Kaige features were not indicative of a totally new translation inserted later (as Thackeray thought), but rather according to Barthélemy, represented a revision of a Greek version already in existence. That revision was meant to bring the Greek version closer into alignment with the Hebrew text and it set a kind of precedent for later work such as the translation style we find in Aquila.
That takes us to the end of Genesis 47. Genesis 48 concerns Jacob’s death and the blessings he bestows.