Father showing son a lion in the clouds February 1 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Genesis 47:13–50:26

Legacy and Destiny

It is not how a person begins his quest in life which determines how he or she is remembered—nor is it the rough journey and the conquests along the way. Not many plaques on buildings are placed in memory of those who end their lives dishonorably. What is remembered is the faithful life which endures to the end. What legacy would you like to leave for the next generation?

In the days of Joseph, the famine in Canaan and Egypt is severe. The people of the land first pay for their grain, but when it is used up they sell their cattle, and finally their land and themselves to Pharaoh so they might live. Joseph is clever in his business dealings but fair to the people of the land; he gives them grain to eat and plant and the opportunity to provide for their own needs, but in exchange they must give Pharaoh twenty percent of their crops when they are harvested. Joseph is not ruthless—he is remembered as a leader who saved their lives! Have you made positive contributions to your family and community so you might be fondly remembered?

In today’s Bible reading we see memorials inscribed in remembrance of Jacob and Joseph. Over 2,000 years after Joseph passes away, the writer of the book of Hebrews inscribes them for the entire world to read:

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. (Hebrews 11:21-22, NIV)

Jacob's memorial. What is so special about Jacob blessing his sons and worshipping God that would place his memorial in the hall of faith (Hebrews 11)? Jacob wants to be buried in Canaan, the Promised Land. When Joseph agrees to do this (Genesis 47:29-31), Jacob worships because he will be buried there. This is a definite sign and example to his sons that this is where their inheritance is, and someday they will return there. With this faith he blesses his sons, telling them what their place will be in the Land of Promise. (What follows is an interpretation and summary from The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament, edited by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, pp. 98-99).

What place will Jacob’s sons have in Canaan?

Reuben dishonored his father by sleeping with one of his wives, Bilhah (Genesis 35:22). For this he loses the rights of double inheritance as the firstborn son. The meaning of Reuben’s name, “turbulent as the waters” (Genesis 49:4) may indicate that he can't be counted on to take the leadership. His tribe will hesitate to help fight Israel’s enemies in the days of the Judges (Judges 5:15-16).

Next are Simeon and Levi. In the early days after Jacob 's move to Canaan, these brothers slaughtered all the males of the city of Shechem for the rape of their sister, Dinah (Genesis 34:25-29). For this unbridled vengeance, Simeon’s family will be absorbed into the tribe of Judah, and the family of Levi will be scattered among all the tribes, not having land of her own.

Judah's family will become a prominent tribe. Judah is praised for his strength, and it is prophesied that kings will come from his him —first David, and then later the ultimate ruler, Jesus Christ. At the end of the age, during the millennial reign of Christ, the land of Judah will be abundantly blessed with vineyards and prosperity.

Zebulun will be enriched by sea borne trade.

Issachar, although her tribe will live in the pleasant and fertile Plain of Esdraelon, she will be frequently invaded and forced to work for others.

Dan, whose name means “judge” should act with justice, but his tribe will choose treachery instead, like a snake by a roadside. The first major idolatry after Israel begins to take possession of Canaan will happen in Dan (Judges 18).

The tribe of Gad will constantly have battles with other nations over her borders.

Asher will settle along the rich fertile land on the northern coast of Canaan.

Naphtali, like a doe, will be a free mountain people, settling northwest of the Sea of Galilee. Her beauty will inspire the writing of songs.

Since Reuben forfeited his birthright by his immoral actions, the birthright passed to Joseph, the firstborn of Jacob’s wife, Rachel. Much blessing is therefore bestowed on Joseph because he is the firstborn and a prince among his brothers. Both of his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh will inherit land in place of their father (a double inheritance). Ephraim will have a fruitful land and be the most prominent tribe, and Manasseh will be victorious in battle.

Benjamin is described as a ravenous wolf and will be a powerful and destructive tribe.

All of Israel's family have destinies, but not all will do well. Some who have rebellious or otherwise troublesome children can relate to that. However, a lesson we can learn from Jacob is to pass on our faith to the next generation. Let's show them hope and a future in God's plans if they will be obedient. Let’s bless them. They desire it, and we need to do it.

Joseph's memorial. Joseph ends his life in faith. Like his father, he, too, wants to be identified with the Promised Land by having his bones buried in Canaan. God reveals to him that his large family will go through a long period of persecution, but Joseph has faith that the LORD will deliver them. Sometimes, we know the journey in life will not be easy for us or the next generation. We should encourage them to place their faith in God for their help and deliverance.

Finally, let's consider our own legacy. What plaque might be written about our lives? Will we be known only as financial donors to worthy causes, or will we pass on our faith and hope in God to the next generation?

Lessons to Live By

  • Each of us should strive to be remembered for a faithful life which endures to the end.
  • Let’s pass on our faith to the next generation. Let's show them hope and a future in God's plans if they will be obedient. We need to bless and encourage them.
  • Let's make positive contributions to our family and society. Let's consider our legacy.
  • A godly legacy and destiny begin with a personal relationship with God through Jesus. He can give us forgiveness, spiritual life, peace, and a new purpose for living (more...).

Focus Verse

Psalm 25:3 (NIV) “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.”

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A Look Ahead: Generations after Joseph dies, another Egyptian king arises who knows nothing of what Joseph has done for his country. The Israelites become slaves, and in Moses there is Leadership Born of Necessity. Perhaps God is raised you up for such a time as this. Find out more in our Next Lesson.

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