Preparation for Death; Genesis 48
Chapters 48 and 49 form a unit dealing with the passing on of the blessings from Jacob to his sons. The focus in these two chapters is on the blessings. The Abrahamic covenant is the interpretive foundation for everything in Genesis from chapter 12 to the end of the book. It is truly the interpretive foundation for understanding everything in the Bible from Genesis 12 to Revelation 22. We must understand God's unconditional permanent covenant with Abraham, that He will provide him with a permanent piece of real estate, the land; and every time we see that terminology in certain contexts related to Israel throughout the Bible we have to always think of physical real estate. Part of the promise of God to Abraham is that he would be a blessing to all nations, and blessing is one of the major themes throughout the book of Genesis.
In chapter 48:3, 4 Jacob is going to adopt Joseph's two sons as his own, just as Reuben and Simeon are his sons; so they become equal within the family. As the chapter focuses on this double portion blessing of Joseph's house we see historically the outworking of this because Ephraim and Manasseh become the two most powerful and populated tribes in the northern kingdom. Remember, when Solomon died his son Rehoboam becomes the king and he listens to all the young foolish advisors. This created a major problem within the kingdom and Jeroboam who is an Ephraimite led the first tax revolt in history and the ten northern tribes of Israel separate themselves from the two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin, and are known historically as the kingdom of Judah. The ten tribes in the northern kingdom are usually referred to as Israel, but there are passages where the northern kingdom is referred to Ephraim and there are passages where the northern kingdom is also referred to as Joseph because the two prominent tribes in the north are Ephraim and Manasseh, the two sons of Joseph.
Ezekiel 37: is a prophecy related to the future restoration and regathering of the nation Israel and what will happen at the end times in Israel's history. In the middle of this section dealing with the regathering is the dry bones passage where the prophet says that he sat down in the midst of the valley and it was full of dry bones. While he watching the bones began to live and to come together. If we just jump into this passage with no understanding of context we might get fooled. In verse 16 we read: "And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, 'For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions'; then take another stick and write on it, 'For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.'  Then join them for yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand." (The Mormons say the stick is a scroll, that the stick of Judah is the Bible the Christians have; the stick of Joseph is Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon) What is happening here is that it is talking about the future restoration of Israel and the union and reunification of the northern kingdom of Israel with the southern kingdom of Judah. The sticks aren't scrolls of Scripture, they're sticks. They are designed to represent the two nations. The prophet was to join them together into one stick. Israel comes together first as unregenerate, and then ultimately it will be breathed upon and regenerated.  "When the sons of your people speak to you saying, 'Will you not declare to us what you mean by these?'  say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand."
We see in chapters 48 and 49 a foreshadowing of the dominance of the sons of Joseph and Judah. As we start chapter 48 we see the setting has to do with Jacob in his old age. We need to note that change from calling him Jacob to Israel. When he is called Jacob in this chapter it is emphasizing Jacob as Jacob the individual, but when he is called Israel that is a sort of clue that what is happening to him has national and historical significance for the nation Israel.
Genesis 48:1 NASB "Now it came about after these things that Joseph was told, 'Behold, your father is sick.' So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him." Verses 1-12 deals with Jacob's adoption of his two grandsons as full heirs, and then in vv. 13-20 the patriarch will then bless his grandsons following the principle of the elder serving the younger. Then the last two verses of the chapter represent his confident assertion that they will indeed return to the land that God has promised them in the land of Canaan and they will eventually be buried there. He also bestows an addition blessing, the land grant, on Joseph. In their culture the bestowal of a blessing by a dying patriarch had irrevocable authority. We see similar examples in Genesis 22:20 and Joshua 24:29. So Jacob begins the ceremony, and he does so by something that smacks of a covenant type of ceremony; he is going to remind Joseph and his two sons of the Abrahamic covenant and how God had reaffirmed it with him. By adopting Joseph's two sons and by reiterating this blessing to them they come into the line of the promise. Jacob recognizes here that the blessing isn't his, the blessing is from God. Genesis 48:3 NASB "Then Jacob said to Joseph, "God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me," The blessing is divine in its source and he is the channel of blessing.  "and He said to me, 'Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession.'  Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine [adoption]; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as [in the same way] Reuben and Simeon are." So the two sons now become historically known as the sons of Joseph and on equal par as tribal heads with the others. The two sons establish their inheritance, Numbers 26:28; Deuteronomy 33:13-17; Joshua 17:17. The rationale that he gives for this adoption is because of the premature death of his beloved Rachel.
Genesis 48:7 NASB "Now as for me, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died, to my sorrow, in the land of Canaan on the journey, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)." This terminology is used again in Micah 5:2 where we are told that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem-Ephratha. Ephrath was the pre-Jewish Canaanite name for Bethlehem, just as Bethel was originally named Luz, the Canaanite name. Then we see the adoption per se and the preparation for the blessing. Josephs two sons are presented in verses 8, 9, and in verse 10 we are told that the eyes of Israel were dim (as with Isaac). But he knows what he is doing and is going to pass on the blessing in the correct way within divine viewpoint.
Genesis 48:11NASB "Israel said to Joseph, "I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well." This is a reflection on God's grace. Remember, this was Jacob the heel-grabber, the manipulator, the deceiver. Now he is relaxed, he understands the blessing of God in his maturity, he is a mature believer. God has provided richly for him in restoring his son, and not just his sons but his grandsons.  "Then Joseph took them from his knees, and bowed with his face to the ground." That is the first section, setting the adoption itself in preparation for the blessing that comes forward in verses 13-20.
The scenario: Joseph brings the two boys up and he is looking at his father. He is go9ng to arrange them so that when he brings these boys forward he is going to move Ephraim on his right, his father's left, and put Manasseh over on the right side because Manasseh is the older. Joseph hasn't quite grasped the principle of the older serving the younger yet. Israel understands what is going forward and when he gets ready to bless them he crosses his hands, because he is going to bless Ephraim who is going to get the primary blessing, being the younger, and Manasseh will get the second one. Verse 14 "But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn."
This brings in the whole doctrine of the elder serving the younger. What is the principle there? God is going to perform His plan God's way; God's wisdom surpasses the wisdom of man. The human viewpoint practice is the law of primogeniture, that the eldest always received the double portion and the inheritance; but God is going to work differently because He is teaching a lesson that is based on grace and not by works. So Ishmael who is firstborn serves Isaac who is the promised seed and the younger. Esau who was the first one of the twins to be born served Jacob, the younger. Joseph's brothers all served Joseph in fulfilment of that dream he had in chapter 37. Now Manasseh will serve Ephraim who will be the dominant of the two tribes.
But then as he crosses his hands Israel blesses Joseph because Joseph is the father and the blessing is going down through Joseph. Genesis 48:15 NASB "He blessed Joseph, and said, "The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked," (Walking before God is a sign of living before God, living a positive spiritual life) "The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day." He recognizes that God is the one who sustained him through all those years that he was out of the land.  "The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; And may my name live on in them, And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth." This is the first time the word ga'al, the word for redemption, is used. The noun form is goel which refers to the kinsman redeemer. Redeemer always carries with it the idea of paying a price to deliver or rescue someone. So this is clearly a passing on of the Abrahamic covenant, the blessing, to his grandsons whom he has now adopted.
Genesis 48:17 NASB "When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim's head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father's hand to remove it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head.  Joseph said to his father, 'Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.'  But his father refused and said, 'I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations [people].'  He blessed them that day, saying, "By you Israel [the future nation] will pronounce blessing, saying, 'May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!'" Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh." They will become so prosperous and blessed that it will become proverbial.
In verses 21, 22 Joseph gets a special land grant. Genesis 48:21 NASB "Then Israel said to Joseph, 'Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers.  I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.'" He won't go back physically, his body will be returned just as Jacob's body would be returned. And this would be fulfilled, not historically but prophetically. Jesus shows us how to interpret this in the Gospels when He is asked by the Sadducees about resurrection: "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." If there was no resurrection God was have said, I was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So the fulfilment of this promise to Joseph did not take place historically because Joseph died in Egypt and this fulfilment will come to Joseph in the resurrection in the Millennial kingdom.
The doctrine of dying well
1) A believer should be able to face the reality of physical death with objectivity and courage, because he knows that he will be absent from the body and face to face with the Lord. There should not be fear of death, there should not be concern and anxiety.
2) As such a believer should responsibly provide for and take care of his family in the event of death, whether expected or unexpected.
3) This means a believer should have an up-to-date will, his finances should be properly taken care of, an inheritance to be left for the children (Proverbs 13:22, "A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children…") Distribute your valuables before you die.
4) You should seriously consider leaving some of your estate to the furtherance of the gospel, for missions, missionaries, ministries and local churches.
5) Provision should be taken for the eventuality of nursing care.
6) For the elderly some time should be taken to have some discussion with children, grandchildren, to alleviate whatever anxiety may come their way at the time of your passing. Make sure they understand the gospel so that when the time comes and they come together for the funeral it is a time of joy and rejoicing and celebration. Make sure they understand exactly what the Bible says transpires at the time of death.
7) Write a short letter, make a film or recording where you explain the gospel to make sure that the gospel is given clearly.