A person’s will usually reflects what they value as most important. In 2007, hotel owner and businesswoman Leona Helmsley died with an estate worth an estimated $4 billion. Much of that money went to a charitable trust; however, she also left a $12 million trust fund for her dog, Trouble. She left two of her grandchildren $5 million each (contingent on their regular visits to her husband’s grave) and left her other two grandchildren nothing.
Jacob’s last wish was that he be buried in the cave his father Abraham had purchased for the burial of Sarah (49:30–31). In the midst of his grief, Joseph arranged to fulfill his father’s final request. He had Jacob embalmed by his personal physicians, with the full service of respect paid to his beloved father. Notice the respect that Jacob and Joseph had also earned from the Egyptians, who honored him with a period of public mourning (v. 3).
The trip back to Canaan for Jacob’s burial is an important detail in this story. It demonstrates the importance of that land to Israel. God had promised Abraham that he would have many offspring, he would receive the land of Canaan, and that his descendants would be a blessing to the nations. This passage refers to all three of those promises. Abraham’s many descendants go up to bury Jacob. Jacob’s tomb serves as a foothold in the Promised Land. The fact that “all Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him” is yet another sign of how important Joseph was to Pharaoh (v. 7). Joseph had been a blessing to that nation.
This scene is a dramatic reminder that God is keeping His promises. It also demonstrates that for all his faults, Jacob believed and acted on those promises, ensuring Israel’s future in the land.
Jacob was most concerned about living faithfully according to the promises God had made to him. He also passed that hope on to his children. What is most important to you? What kind of legacy do you hope to leave those who come behind you? What plans are you making now to ensure that you will give glory to God through your choices?