The Last Words of Jacob: Genesis 49 -- By: Carl Armerding

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 112:448 (Oct 1955)
Article: The Last Words of Jacob: Genesis 49
Author: Carl Armerding

The Last Words of Jacob: Genesis 49

Carl Armerding

[Editor’s Note: Dr. Amerding is a Visiting Lecturer in Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary and President of the Central American Mission.]

The valediction of Jacob is important not only because it was uttered by one of the greatest patriarchs the world has ever known but also because it is prophetic as well as historic. And “like all prophecy it starts from present things, and in its widest expanse penetrates into the remotest future of the present course of nature.”1 Moreover, it comprehends both Jew and Gentile in its perspective.

The custom of making valedictory speeches seems to be a very old one. But the oldest biblical record of any such speech occurs in Isaac’s blessing of his sons Esau and Jacob (Cf. Gen 27; 28:1–5). Strickly speaking that can hardly be called the valedictory of Isaac because he lived for a good many years after he spoke those words (see Gen 35:28–29). But the case of Jacob is quite different. After he had lived in Egypt for seventeen years “the time drew near that Israel must die” (Gen 47:29). According to one great commentator “testamentary words of a prophetic character might be expected from the departing ancestor of the chosen people; and if his discourse to his sons consisted of single sayings applying to individuals, it is quite comprehensible that these sayings, and consequently the blessing which was composed of them, should have remained in the memory and on the lips of the twelve tribes.”2

The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews epitomizes the

last words of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph in one brief paragraph, saying, “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones” (Heb 11:20–22). And these, by the way, are the only valedictories referred to in Hebrews 11. Strangely enough, nothing is said about the blessing of Jacob’s twelve sons but the reason for that need not detain us now.

Outline of the Chapter

The final discourse of Jacob as given in

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