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The End of the Beginning

May 5, 2024

Teacher: Daniel Baker
Scripture: Genesis 48–50

The End of the Beginning
Genesis 48–50 – Right from the Start: Genesis – Daniel J. Baker – May 5, 2024


Ecclesiastes next week.

“If you’re able please stand...” Reading Gen. 47:27–48:7. “...Thanks be to God.”

25th sermon from Genesis. Series is called “right from the start.”

I’m always curious how an author will end his story. I appreciate it when an author takes the time to end a book well. Carl Sandburg’s Abraham Lincoln[1]ended his book describing the vault where Lincoln was buried and then said in the last three sentences: “And the night came with great quiet. And there was rest. The prairie years, the war years, were over.”[2] Sandburg’s ending reminds us he was also a poet and not just a historian.

The ending of John’s gospel:

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25)

Such a fitting end for a man writing about the most important person in all of history who lived with Jesus for years and saw countless miracles and heard countless teachings.

But what about Moses? How will he end his account?

Well, as we survey these last chapters and consider the book as a whole, we’re reminded that Genesis is not the end of Moses’ story. Genesis is the first of a five-volume work that Moses wrote. We call it the “Pentateuch,” which means “five books.”

The Pentateuch includes the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. These five will start with creation and take us to Israel’s deliverance from Egypt (Exodus) and then to Israel on the shores of Canaan (Deuteronomy). Moses will not be able to go into Canaan because of his sin of anger. It will be Joshua who brings the nation of Israel into “the land that [God] swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Gen 50:24).

Moses will end this first installment with clear connections to later parts of the history—some he will write, some that will not be fulfilled for centuries or even millennia after him.

For our time this morning we’ll look at three things: (1) The end of Jacob, (2) the end of Joseph, and (3) the end of Genesis. We will think about what each has to say to us.


I. The End of Jacob (48–49)

At the end of chapter 47 and into chapters 48 and 49, we read about the end of Jacob’s life. This is Jacob the patriarch, the grandson of the great Abraham, the son of Isaac. Jacob is the father of the 12 sons who become the 12 tribes of Israel.

In our opening reading we heard about Jacob being 147 when he died, living the last 17 years of his life in Egypt. He asks Joseph to bury him “with my fathers” and not in Egypt (Gen 47:29).

In chapter 48 Jacob is dying and someone tells Joseph. Joseph comes to see him with his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim (Gen 48:1).

Jacob blesses these two sons of Jacob. Once again the younger son Ephraim receives the greater blessing. This time it’s no accident or scheme on the part of Joseph. Jacob very intentionally blesses the younger son.

When Joseph reacts, Jacob clarifies:

But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.” (Gen 48:19)

As the history of Israel unfolds, Ephraim will have a distinct place. It is Ephraim that is given the land just north of Judah. And when the northern and southern kingdoms divide, the north will sometimes be called Ephraim where the southern kingdom is called Judah (see Ezek 37:15–24).

After Jacob blesses the boys, Jacob will bless his 12 sons. But Moses makes it clear what’s also happening here. The 12 sons are the 12 tribes. Gen. 49:28:

All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him. (Gen 49:28)

What he says to the 12 sons becomes a prophecy about the 12 tribes. We won’t go into all 12 blessings, but I’ll hit the first four.


3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. 4 Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch! (Gen 49:3-4)

Reuben disqualified himself from being “preeminent” because of his sin with Bilhah, his father’s concubine (Gen 35:22). His sin cost him dearly. Whatever his motivation, his sin had massive consequences for him and for his descendants. The tribe of Reuben would not be esteemed like the others.


“Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords....Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.” (Gen 49:5, 7)

Simeon and Levi killed the men of the city of Shechem when they raped their sister Dinah. The problem wasn’t their desire for justice. The problem was how they sought that justice. As a result they would not receive any significant inheritance in the promised land.

Simeon would receive an initial allotment of land inside the tribe of Judah. Over time this land gets swallowed up by Judah, and he virtually disappears from the Old Testament.

Levi also receives no land in the promised land, but for a different reason. In Exodus 32 after the scene with the golden calf, Moses asks for those who are on the Lord’s side to join him. Only the tribe of Levi does. They are told to kill all those who participated in the sin with the golden calf and kill 3,000 Israelites.

This wasn’t an act of personal vengeance. It was executing God’s justice. And because of that, they were blessed. The tribe of Levi would become the priestly tribe under the law of Moses.

But what’s fascinating is that the Levites receive no land. God is their inheritance, and so they get no land inheritance. They are blessed as priests—and Jacob’s prophecy is fulfilled.


The words to Judah have the farthest-reaching impact:

8 “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. 9 Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? (Gen 49:8-9)

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (Gen 49:10)

Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk. (Gen 49:11-12)

First, notice he supremacy of Judah over his brothers (v. 8).

  • This will happen in stages. What we notice first is that when the tribes of Israel are being counted a few centuries later, Judah’s tribe is the biggest.

Second, notice the promises of the kingly supremacy of Judah (vv. 8–10).

  • The tribe of Judah is also supreme because Israel’s greatest king David is from the tribe of Judah. Because David is from the tribe of Judah, Judah’s connection to the king endures for hundreds of years in the Old Testament.
  • The scepter” is his, “the ruler’s staff” is his (v. 10).
  • Even “tribute” and “the obedience of the peoples” (v. 10).
  • But this King of Judah doesn’t stop with the Old Testament.
  • King Jesus is from the line of David. Genealogies and historical records were kept until the destruction of the temple in AD 70. So Joseph and Mary knew which tribe they were descended from. Both were descendants of King David, which meant they were descendants of Judah himself.

Third, notice Judah as a Lion (v. 9).

  • The image of lion speaks to strength, power, and dominance.
  • And King Jesus possesses all these.
  • That’s why in Revelation 5 we read this about our King:

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Rev 5:5)

Fourth, notice the images of God’s blessing (vv. 11–12).

  • Fruitful crops, wine so abundant you use it to do your washing, physical health and strength.
  • These images are throughout the prophesies about the sons.
  • They tell us that being pilgrims in a foreign land during a famine is not the end of the story.
  • The end of the story is the restoration of the paradise lost in the garden of Eden.
  • A day of life and health and abundance is coming.

John Sailhamer writes,

Behind such imagery of peace and prosperity lies the picture of the garden of Eden—the paradise lost. The focus of Jacob’s words has been the promise that when the one comes to whom the kingship truly belongs, there will once again be the peace and prosperity that God has intended for all in the garden of Eden.
John Sailhamer, Genesis[3]


Right from the start we see that King Jesus was destined to come, destined to come in the line of Judah.

His kingdom is supreme, encompasses all the nations, and brings blessing on his people.

God directs history so that Joseph and Mary are known to be descendants of David—and Judah.

But also directs history with the destruction of the temple in AD 70. After this, there are no authoritative documents to show a Jew’s ancestry. A Jew can’t trace himself back to a particular tribe—not in an authoritative way.

This is another way God is showing Jesus and only Jesus is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.

II. The End of Joseph (50)

After the blessing of the sons, Jacob dies and his sons bury him with his relatives, just as Jacob requested.

He is buried in the promised land. God promised to Abraham all the land of Canaan. But at this stage of Israel’s history, the burial cave of the patriarchs is the only thing they possess in the entire land.

After Jacob dies, the brothers panic. They think Joseph might now try and get revenge.

So, they say something is both deceitful and humble:

16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’” And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” (Gen 50:16-17)

They might be lying, but they also identify their actions against Joseph as “transgression,” “sin,” and “evil.” Calling sin sin is a critical part of true repentance.

And then they offer themselves to Joseph to be his “servants” (50:18). There is something of true repentance in what they’re doing, even if it’s imperfect.

To this Joseph responds with one of the most important statements in the entire Old Testament.

19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen 50:19-21)

Let me read Gen. 50:20 again.

John Currid:

There is no stronger statement regarding the true meaning of the sovereignty of God in Scripture than what Joseph says here to his brothers.
John Currid, Genesis[4]

What is striking about Gen. 50:20 is its straightforwardness but also its completeness. The sinful intentions and actions of the brothers is fully encompassed: “you meant evil against me.” There is no minimizing of their sin or its impacts.

And yet, this very same action is used by God “for good.” This isn’t to excuse or minimize a sin, only to acknowledge that God is using it for his greater good purposes.

When God uses the sins of people, he himself is not sinning. When he lets a person sin in the way that person wants to sin, God himself is not sinning.

When Judas betrayed Jesus it was a sin, a sin that God allowed to happen. But the sin was entirely Judas’. But God used that sin to bring about our salvation.

In the life of Joseph we see this, the sin of man used by God for a greater good.

The actions of Joseph’s brothers were focused on a single person, Joseph and their hatred of him. But God had in view “many people.”

Their actions meant the enslavement of a single man. But God had in view delivering “many people” from starvation.

The result of the sins against Joseph was Joseph being promoted to 2nd in command in Egypt. Without that, many Egyptians and Hebrews would have starved to death.

Without the brothers sinning against Joseph, even their own families would die in the famine.

When trials and the evil of others affects us, we are tempted to pull out the scales and see if our suffering is greater than the goodness God is accomplishing. We weigh our side and God’s side and often determine our side is the heavier. But the problem with this is that we never have the whole picture. We see imperfectly.

What God asks of us is to believe something we can’t see yet. We must trust the goodness of God’s greater plan even when we can’t see it.

That’s the point of Romans 8:28, the mirror image of Genesis 50:20:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)

We must “KNOW” this even when we can’t SEE this. But remember, sometimes KNOWING this is what opens the curtain for you to SEE this.

The end of the Joseph narrative is not here, though. The final description is of his death. He dies at 110.

And like Jacob, he asks to be buried in the promised land, not in Egypt.

His bones will be taken from Egypt to the promised land by Moses (Exod 13:19). And then those bones will be buried in the promised land (Josh 24:32).

The literal last words of Genesis are these:

So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt. (Gen 50:26)

In the Hebrew, the literal last word of Genesis is “in-Egypt.” The prepositional phrase that is the word of Genesis is the same: “In-the-beginning” (Gen 1:1). “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

In Genesis we from perfection “in the beginning” to the reality of this fallen world “in a coffin in Egypt.” That leads us to POINT THREE: THE END OF GENESIS.

III. The End of Genesis

Helps us to think about Genesis as a whole.

Here are four verses to summarize the message of Genesis as whole. They help us to see HOW TO APPLY GENESIS.

Each of these captures some of the critical messages that we learn RIGHT FROM THE START. Right from the start, God has told us some things we need to get.

The first is the first verse of Genesis:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen 1:1)

Our God the Creator. Made all things from nothing. As Moses says in Exodus 20, he did this in six days and then rested on the seventh (Exod 20:11).

Our God the Giver of Life.

Our God the Sovereign One. Our God the Judge. Our God the Lawgiver.

But when Adam and Eve break God’s law and death enters the creation, we learn that our God is also Our God the Redeemer.

The second verse in our summary, God’s word to the Serpent, the Devil:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen 3:15)

An offspring of the woman shall deliver us from the serpent, the Devil. Our deliverer will enter our humanity and deliver us.

As humanity multiplies, God begins to focus his salvation on Abraham and his descendants. They become the focus of God’s story of redemption.

The third verse in our summary is God’s first promise to Abraham:

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:1-3)

A land, a nation, and a blessing, that’s what is promised. Genesis begins the story of God fulfilling these promises to Abraham. Eventually Israel will occupy the promised land as a great nation. But ultimately these promises wait for a greater Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.

He is preparing for us a promised land, a new heaven and new earth (Rev 21:1). He is creating a new people of Jews and Gentiles who are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. The blessing he is bringing to the nations is salvation in Jesus’ name.

But we must respond to God’s offer of grace to the nations.

This leads us to the fourth summary verse from Genesis:

And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Gen 15:6)

Moses says this when Abraham believes God’s Word of promise that even though he is childless at the moment, God will indeed make him a great nation.

God’s grace is offered to us, but we must RESPOND. That response means FAITH.

And that response means REPENTANCE. Like God says to Abraham in Gen. 17:1, “Walk before me and be blameless.”

We believe his promises, trust in him as our Redeemer. But we must also “walk before him.” Following him as our King. Our Lord. Our Master.

And I had to add a 5th verse to my list, I’d add Genesis 50:20

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Gen 50:20)


To make this more personal, in Genesis we see the mysterious way that God combines two things. One is the principle of “sowing and reaping.” You reap what you sow.

But the other principle is God’s sovereign plan unfolding in an unstoppable way. He is accomplishing his plan and no person can stop it.

Sometimes we’re more aware of “sowing and reaping.” I am sowing something, because I reaped something in the past.

Sometimes I’m aware I’m experiencing God’s sovereign plan that has nothing to do with my actions or decisions in the past.

God is there in the details. And God is there in the big picture.

We can trust him.

Prayer and Closing Song (“Sovereign Over Us”)

[1] The 1982 one-volume edition from Harvest Book.

[2] P. 742.

[3] Sailhamer, “Genesis,” Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan), 326.

[4] John Currid, Genesis, Evangelical Press Study Commentary (2003), 2:398.

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