Read Genesis 49:29-50:21. What great themes of hope are found in the conclusion of the book of Genesis?
The conclusion of Genesis is made of three events that are filled with hope.
- First, it is the hope that Israel will return to the Promised Land. Moses, the author of Genesis, describes Jacob’s and Joseph’s deaths and burial as events pointing to the Promised Land. Immediately after his blessing and prophecy on the “twelve tribes of Israel” (Genesis 49:28) Jacob thinks of his death and charges his sons to bury him in Canaan, at the cave of Machpelah, where Sarah was buried (Genesis 49:29-31). The narrative describing the funeral procession toward Canaan becomes a precursor to, several centuries later, the Exodus from Egypt.
- Second, it is the hope that God will turn evil into good. After Jacob’s death and burial, Joseph’s brothers are worried about their future. They are afraid that Joseph will now take his revenge. They come to Joseph and prostrate themselves before him, ready to become his servants (Genesis 50:18), a scenario that is reminiscent of Joseph’s prophetic dreams. Joseph reassures them and tells them to “not be afraid” (Genesis 50:19, NKJV), a phrase that refers to the future (Genesis 15:1); because what was “meant evil” against him, “God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20, NKJV), and turned the course of events toward salvation (Genesis 50:19-21; compare with Genesis 45:5, Genesis 45:7-9). That is, even despite so many human failures, God’s providence will overrule.
- Third, it is the hope that God will save fallen humankind. The story of Joseph’s death in this last verse of Genesis is broader than just about Joseph’s death. Strangely, Joseph does not command to have his bones buried. Instead he points to the time “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here” (Genesis 50:25, NKJV), which they did, years later, in direct obedience to those words (see Exodus 13:19). Ultimately, the hope of the Promised Land, Canaan, is a symbol, a precursor, to the ultimate hope of salvation, of restoration, of a new Jerusalem in a new heaven and a new earth — the ultimate hope of all of us, a hope made certain by the death of Shiloh.
Read Revelation 21:1-4. How do these verses represent the grandest hope that we have? Without this promise, what hope do we have other than death alone as the end of all our problems?