- Jacob blesses his grandchildren Ephraim and Manasseh. (48:1-20)
- Jacob's twelve sons gather around his deathbed, and each receives an evaluation and a prediction of his future. (49:1-33)
- Joseph mourns his father's death and has Jacob embalmed. Jacob is buried in Hebron in the cave of the field of the Machpelah in the land of Canaan. (50:1-14)
- Joseph assures his concerned brothers that he has forgiven them and promises to care for them and their families. (50:15-21)
- Just before he dies, Joseph tells his brothers that God will return them to the Land that God promised to the patriarchs. The Children of Israel promise Joseph that they will take his bones with them when they leave Egypt. (50:22-26)
Arthur C. Greenfield
Vayechi, the last Parashah of Genesis, spans chapters 47:28 to 50:26. It tells of Jacob's predictions for his children and his death.
Jacob knows his strength is diminishing and that his end is near. He summons Joseph to him and asks Joseph to place his hand under Jacob's thigh and swear he will not bury him in Egypt. He charges Joseph to bury him with his father and grandfather in the cave of Machpelah which Abraham bought and where he and Sarah were buried. This same cave is the resting place of Isaac, Rebekah and where he, Jacob, buried his wife Leah. Joseph swears he will obey his father's wishes.
A short time later Jacob grows weaker and Joseph is told of his frail condition. He brings his sons Ephraim and Manasseh to his bedside. Jacob tells Joseph he will adopt these two boys as his own and they will share in the inheritance. He blesses them placing his right hand on Ephraim's head and his left on the head of Manasseh. Joseph tells Jacob his right hand should be on Manasseh's head as he is the first born. Joseph goes to move his hands. Jacob refuses to switch hands and tells Joseph both will be a great people but the younger brother will be greater—then Jacob blesses them.
Jacob gathers his sons to his deathbed to tell them what is going to befall them. To each he ascribes different traits of character. Reuben his first born he calls unstable as water. He declares Reuben will not be successful because he defiled his father's bed by engaging in sexual activity with his stepmother's maid Bilhah.
In Genesis chapters 49:1-18 Jacob tells each of his sons what they can expect to experience in their lives. He describes each son in graphic terms. Judah he names a lion's whelp and tells him he will dominate his enemies. Dan is described as a serpent in the road that bites the horse's heels, and he would judge his people. Jacob called Simeon and Levi brothers in violence. He prayed that his soul not come into their council—for in their anger they slew men and beast. Jacob cursed their descendants to be scattered throughout Israel. When he has finished describing the future of his twelve sons he reclines in his bed and takes his last breath.
Joseph, accompanied by Egyptian dignitaries, traveled to the cave of Machpelah where he buried Jacob. Upon his return to Egypt his brothers feared Joseph would seek revenge upon them for their act of selling him into slavery. Joseph told them not to fear, for he was not G-d, and even though they had intended him evil, God meant it for good in order to save many people. Joseph reassures them and commits to sustain them and their children. He tells his brothers G-d will lead them out of Egypt to the land promised to Abraham. Joseph died when he was 110.
In reading the portion where Jacob describes his children in such graphic terms I was reminded how journalist and writer Damon Runyon (Guys and Dolls and Pocket Full of Miracles), gave descriptive names to all his characters: Benny South Street, Nathan Detroit, Harry the Horse, Apple Annie and Nicely, Nicely Johnson.
I also reflected on the obvious theme that all of his children were different. Anyone with children knows that is usually the case. As parents we are sometimes surprised by how different our children are. My brother and I were born ten years apart; we were essentially two only children. I looked up to him as my very smart big brother. To him, I was just an annoyance who should be ignored.
As an adult, when my father was stricken with cancer, even though we lived in Bakersfield it was I who drove in every week to take him to City Of Hope for chemotherapy. When my mother was sick and elderly, it was I who did what needed to be done for her. My brother was just too busy or lived too far away in Leisure World. He is going to be eighty-eight in a couple of months and is not in good health. Not surprisingly he is feeling depressed and I have been calling him every few days to see how he is doing. I realized I had a choice to make. See my brother and sister-in-law once a year with phone calls every couple of months or remember we are a very small family and recall lessons I had learned through the years and forget the past. I could say tough luck, or like Joseph, believe it was G-D's plan and all had been for the best.
One would think that the basic problems of today would have little or no relevance to events that occurred around 3000 years ago. We might well think that our characters have evolved, that we have become so much wiser with the passage of time, and yet it does not appear to be the case. I suppose the basics have always been there: love, hate, envy, anger, greed, guilt and forgiveness.
It seems to confirm—the stories we read in Genesis really do have a place in molding our thinking about today's concerns.