Jacob Prepares for his Death

47:28 Jacob lived seventeen years in Egypt (2238-2255). At the end of this period, Jacob's days, i.e., the years of his lifetime, totaled one-hundred forty-seven years. Thus, Jacob did not live as long as his grandfather Abraham (175 years) or his father Isaac (180 years).

29 When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph (who was still viceroy of Egypt at the time and thus had the authority to carry out his father's last requests) to come to Goshen. When Joseph arrived, Israel said to him, "If I have found favor in your eyes, please place your hand under my thigh and swear1 that, upon my death, you will do for me the following act—which is one of genuine kindness—since I will be able to neither thank you for it nor repay you for it in this lifetime: Please do not bury me in Egypt. I foresee that its soil beneath my body will swarm with lice when God will punish this country with plagues,2 and I do not want to feel them. Furthermore, if you bury me here, then, when it comes time for the Resurrection of the Dead, I, along with all others who are buried outside the Land of Israel, will have to undergo the painful experience of rolling through underground channels until reaching the Land of Israel, where the Resurrection will occur. Finally, I know that Pharaoh will want me to be buried in Egypt in order that the merit of my presence continue to bring blessings of prosperity to his country after my death, just as it has during my lifetime.3 But I do not want to risk the Egyptians' making me into an object of worship after my death. True, they are already idolaters in any case, but I want to prevent them from transgressing this commandment to whatever extent I can.4

30 For I am going to soon lie down with my fathers, i.e., die, and then you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place." Joseph replied, "I will do as you say." He promised, but he did not swear, for he felt that his promise was sufficient surety.

31 Nonetheless, Jacob knew that firstly, it would not be easy for Joseph to resist Pharaoh's insistence that he be buried in Egypt. Secondly, since they were under foreign rule in Egypt, circumstances could change in the future, making it difficult for Joseph to keep his word. Finally, he knew that Joseph himself would be more inclined to bury him in Egypt so the merit of his presence could continue to protect his descendants there even after his death. So, aware that someone who takes an oath to do something needs to remain constantly alert to changing circumstances and plan his strategies judiciously in order to ensure that he be able to fulfill his oath,5 he said, "Swear to me that you will fulfill my request." So Joseph swore to him.

Even though they both knew that Israel was Joseph's spiritual superior, Israel prostrated himself before Joseph in order to arouse his son's sense of power and grant him the confidence he would require to carry out his request.6 Before prostrating himself, he positioned himself to face toward the Divine Presence, which was resting on the head of the bed, just as it rests on the head of the bed of all sick people, in order to prostrate himself before God while simultaneously doing so before Joseph. By prostrating himself before Joseph, Israel was fulfilling his part in Joseph's second dream.7 By prostrating himself before God, Israel was thanking Him that all his children, conceived on his bed, had remained loyal to his religious ideals.

Jacob Blesses Ephraim and Manasseh

48:1 Joseph's son Ephraim studied Torah regularly with Jacob in Goshen. When Jacob took ill some time after these above-recounted events, Ephraim went and told Joseph, "Your father is ailing." So Joseph took his two sons with him: Manasseh, who was 25 years old, and Ephraim, who was 24, to be blessed by their grandfather.

2 When Joseph arrived, Ephraim told Jacob, "Your son Joseph has come to you," so Israel, in deference to Joseph's position as viceroy,8 summoned his failing strength and sat up in bed.

3 Jacob said to Joseph, "God Almighty appeared to me in Luz, in Canaan, and blessed me.9

4 He said to me, 'I will make you fruitful and numerous and, besides the family you already have, I will make of you a nation,' referring to my then-unborn son Benjamin, 'and a community of peoples,' referring to the fact that one of my sons already born would be the progenitor of two tribes instead of only one. Although this privilege should properly be given to Reuben, my firstborn, I have elected to give it to you instead. God further told me, 'I will give this land to your descendants after you as their permanent estate.'

5 Now, your two sons who were born to you in Egypt before I came to live with you, to Egypt, shall be considered mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be to me like my own sons, Reuben and Simeon, in that each of them will found their own tribe that will possess its own unique portion in the Promised Land, have its own prince,10 and be mustered under its own banner.11 Thus, in this regard, I am transferring the firstborn's right to receive a double portion from Reuben to you. Reuben, however, will retain the other privileges of primogeniture: inheriting a double portion of my estate, serving as the priest,12 and being counted first in the order of my sons.13

6 Any offspring born to you after them, however, shall be considered yours; when they inherit their portion of the Promised Land, they shall be included under their brothers' names as part of their tribes.

7 If you are wondering why I selected you for this distinction, the reason is as follows: When I was coming from Padan Aram, your mother Rachel died on me in Canaan; as you know, I did not bury her in our ancestral burial plot in Hebron, although I could easily have done so, for we were still only a stretch of land equal to one day's plowing, or 2000 cubits short of reaching Efrat, which is not all that far from Hebron. The rain also did not prevent me from bringing her to Hebron for burial, for it was still so dry then that the ground was riddled with potholes. Moreover, I did not even bury her in the city of Efrat itself, but instead I buried her right there, where she died, along the road to Efrat, which is Bethlehem. I know that you do not hold this against me, since you realize that I did not treat your mother in this seemingly disrespectful fashion without reason. But nonetheless, I am equally sure that you resent the fact that she was not buried there and hold me at least partially responsible, since it was through me that this occurred. And now that I am asking you to bury me in the Machpelah cave—thereby highlighting the importance of being buried there—the fact that your mother did not merit to be buried there probably pains you all the more. Therefore, know that I buried her where I did because God commanded me to do so, in order to enable her to later play a pivotal role in the eventual redemption of our people.14 Furthermore, I knew at the time that not only would she have agreed to this, but also insisted on it. It is because of her self-sacrifice on behalf of her descendants that I have selected you, her son—out of all my sons—to be privileged to father two tribes."15

8 So Israel saw Joseph's sons and prepared to bless them, but just then, his Divine inspiration left him. He understood that this meant that they were not worthy of being blessed, and therefore asked Joseph, "Who are these sons of yours, whom I thought I knew so well? Why are they unworthy of my blessing? Is it perhaps because they were born and raised in this country, which is infamous for its lechery?"16 In fact, God withdrew Jacob's inspiration on account of the unworthy descendants that would descend from Joseph's sons—King Yehu17 and his sons from Manasseh, and King Yeravam18 and Achav19 from Ephraim—but Jacob did not know that his Divine inspiration was withdrawn for this reason.20

9 In order to prove that his sons were worthy of Jacob's blessing, Joseph replied to his father, "Precisely because the Egyptians are notoriously lecherous, I went out of my way to ensure that the integrity of my marriage be beyond reproach by following the norms dictated in the Torah, even though we have not yet been formally required to do so, and even going beyond them. Specifically, I had my marriage contract written out, as the Torah requires, and I also had a document written attesting to my engagement, even though the Torah does not require this." Joseph then proceeded to produce these documents. He continued, "So you see, they are my sons, whom I made sure God gave me in accordance with His highest standards of marital integrity, even though they were born in this licentious country. Thus, they are truly worthy of your blessing."21 Joseph then prayed to God to once again grant Jacob the inspiration to bless them, which He did. So Jacob said, "If you would, bring them to me so that I may bless them."

Second Reading 10 Israel's eyesight was impaired due to old age and he could not see, so Joseph brought his sons near him and positioned them between Jacob's knees. Jacob kissed them and embraced them.

11 Israel said to Joseph, "I dared not even hope to see your face, yet now God has even shown me your children."

12 Joseph then withdrew them from between his father's knees in order to later position them to Jacob's right and left so he could place his hands on their heads and bless them. Joseph stepped back from his father and prostrated himself toward him, with his face to the ground.

13 Joseph then took them both—Ephraim with his right hand, to stand at Israel's left, and Manasseh with his left hand, to stand at Israel's right—and brought them close to him. Since Manasseh was the firstborn, he deserved the primary blessing, which Jacob would convey through his right hand.

14 Israel extended his right hand and rested it on Ephraim's head, even though he was the younger son, and rested his left hand on Manasseh's head. He crossed his hands deliberately, even though he knew that Manasseh was the firstborn.

15 He blessed Joseph and said, "May God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd from my earliest days until this day,

16 and has always sent me the angel who delivers me from all harm, bless the lads. May they bear my name, together with the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they propagate like fish—who propagate without danger of incurring the evil eye22 because they are hidden from sight underwater—among humanity on earth."

Third Reading 17 When Joseph saw that his father had placed his right hand on the head of Ephraim, he was displeased, so he lifted his father's hand in order to move it from the head of Ephraim on to the head of Manasseh.

18 And Joseph said to his father, "Not so, my father, for this is the firstborn; place your right hand on his head."

19 His father declined and said, "I know, my son, I know that he is the firstborn. He, too, will become a nation, and he, too, will rise to greatness through his descendants—specifically Gideon, who will win a military victory even though greatly outnumbered.23 But his younger brother will be greater than he, for his descendant Joshua will lead our people in their conquest of the Promised Land and instruct them in the teachings of the Torah, and the renown of his same descendant, Joshua, will spread and fill all the world's nations when he makes the sun stand still."24

20 On that day, he blessed them and said, "With your names shall the Israelites invoke God's blessings on their sons, saying to them, 'May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh,' " mentioning Ephraim's name before that of Manasseh. By having mentioned Ephraim first, Jacob gave him precedence over Manasseh in all tribal enumerations25 and in the tribal marching order.26

21 Israel then said to Joseph, "I am about to die, but God will be with you, and He will bring you back to the land of your fathers.

22 Moreover, in consideration for your efforts in burying me, I am giving you, too, a specially designated burial place, in the city of Shechem27this land inheritance being one portion over and beyond what you will receive on an equal par with your brothers—which I conquered from the Amorites with my sword and bow."28

Jacob Blesses His Sons

Fourth Reading 49:1 Jacob foresaw that the final Redemption would only occur thousands of years in the future, delayed by the misdeeds of the intervening generations. He thought that if he would tell his sons about this, it would encourage them to urge their progeny to refrain from misbehavior and to augment their performance of good and positive deeds in order to hasten the Redemption. After all, Jacob had seen firsthand how a negative decree could be shortened when he ended the foreordained seven years of famine after only two years. He was not worried that his sons would become disheartened upon hearing that the Redemption was millennia off; he knew them to be righteous and strong of character, and was therefore confident that they would use this knowledge constructively and keep it to themselves in case their progeny would not be able to cope with it.29 Jacob therefore then called for his others sons and said, "Assemble yourselves, and I will tell you what will befall you at the End of Days." But God did not want Jacob to divulge this information, so He withdrew it from him.

2 So instead, he said, "Gather together and listen, sons of Jacob, listen to your father Israel, and I will tell you about the future events that will befall your progeny.30

3 Reuben, you are my firstborn, my strength, and the very first seed of my virility since I had no seminal emission before conceiving you. As such, you should receive all the privileges of primogeniture. However, because you interfered in my private, marital affairs,31 I am denying you the privilege of becoming the progenitor of two tribes.32 Furthermore, because of your meddlesome behavior, I am likewise depriving you of two additional privileges that also should have been yours as the firstborn.33 You should have been foremost in rank by becoming the progenitor of the priestly tribe and foremost in power by becoming the progenitor of the royal line of kings.

4 But you showed yourself to be impetuous as running water by allowing your indignation to compel you to act impulsively, and this propensity to exhibit anger toward others renders you unfit both for the priesthood and for the kingship. Regardless of the people's faults, the priest must always seek to bless them out of his great love for them;34 likewise must the king always feel responsible for his subjects' welfare out of his self-effacing humility. Therefore, you will not be foremost in either of these areas; the priesthood will eventually be transferred to Levi35 and the kingship to Judah. You exhibited just such anger when you moved my bed from Bilhah's tent to your mother's, thereby committing a sin as unconscionable as if you had mounted your father's bed. In doing so, not only were you implying that I had acted improperly, you were also implying that God had misplaced His trust in me. Thus, you then profaned the Name of God, whose presence resided over my bed.

I know that you have repented36 and confessed37 for this misdeed, but nonetheless, Judah has exhibited behavior that shows him to be better suited for the kingship.38

5 Simeon and Levi acted as partners in crime in plotting together against the inhabitants of Shechem39 and against Joseph.40 Their skill with weapons is a craft stolen from Esau, who was blessed by my father to live by the sword;41 such behavior does not befit my sons. Wherever they went, they used weapons of violence.

6 Let my soul not enter, i.e., let my name not be mentioned as their ancestor, in the account of their progeny's conspiracy." Here, Jacob was referring prophetically to the conspiracy of Zimri, prince of the tribe of Simeon, against Moses.42 "Similarly, let my honor have no part, i.e., let my name not be mentioned as their ancestor, in the account of their progeny's assembly." Here, Jacob was referring prophetically to the assembly of Korach, Levi's great-grandson, who challenged Moses' authority.43 In neither of these incidents is Jacob's name mentioned in their central characters' lineages. However, his name is mentioned as the head of Korach's lineage when Korach is mentioned honorably—as an ancestor of one of the Levite clans who served in the Temple.44

"For in their anger against the inhabitants of Shechem, they killed all the city's men as matter-of-factly as if they were killing just one man, and their anger did not abate until they had killed every last man.45 By right, they should have only killed Shechem himself, since he alone had actually committed the crime; they should have left the other men—who were guilty only by implication—to be sentenced to death by the regional legal authorities.46 And they wanted to maim Joseph, who is like an ox." Here, Jacob was referring prophetically to Moses' parting blessing to the people, in which he calls Joseph an "ox."47

7 Cursed be their rage, for it is fierce, and their fury, for it is harsh." Even when Jacob was reproving Simeon and Levi, he only cursed their rage and not them. "In order to prevent them from doing any more harm, I will separate them from one another by removing Levi from the count of the twelve tribes of Jacob. In this way, he will have no land inheritance. I shall also scatter them both among Israel by making their descendants wander throughout the land to earn their livelihood. Nonetheless, the dispersion that I am imposing on Levi's descendants will be more honorable than Simeon's, for Simeon's descendants are destined to earn their living mainly as itinerant scribes and teachers, whereas Levi's descendants will earn their livelihood by collecting dues from the populace in exchange for serving in the Temple."

8 Having heard his father rebuke his three older brothers, Judah assumed that Jacob would now rebuke him for the dubious incident with Tamar. When Jacob noticed Judah shying away, he said, "Do not worry, Judah, you are not deserving of such rebuke. On the contrary, your brothers will praise you. Your descendant's hand shall be figuratively holding onto the neck of your fleeing enemies, i.e., he will vanquish them." This prophecy was fulfilled in King David, when his enemies fled from him.48 "You are to be the progenitor of the royal line, so the descendants of your father's sons—i.e., of all your brothers—shall bow down to the kings who are destined to issue from you.

9 Although Judah's descendant will begin his royal career as a young cub, subordinate to another king, upon assuming the throne he will fight like a lion." This prophecy was fulfilled in King David, who began his royal career as a subordinate to King Saul, a descendant of Benjamin.49

"I am conferring upon you the honor of the royal line as a reward for your exemplary behavior in two incidents. Firstly, when I suspected you of having killed Joseph,50 I later found out that you raised yourself, my son, from stooping to participate in your brothers' plot against him, recoiling from treating your brother Joseph like prey, and thereby saving his life.51 Secondly, you raised yourself, my son, from the infamy of letting Tamar fall prey to the accusations leveled against her, even though your doing so entailed publicly repenting and thereby shaming yourself.52 Although it is true that your elder brother Reuben also tried to save Joseph, nevertheless he did not save his life, as you did; he merely kept the brothers from killing him with their own hands. And, although it is similarly true that he also repented for this sin, his repentance did not save anyone's life, whereas yours did. Thus, both cases proved you to be more worthy of the kingship, since the role of the king is to assume responsibility for the welfare of his subjects.53

As further reward for your concern for your fellow, during the reign of one of your descendants, our people will figuratively crouch and lie down like a lion, even like an awesome lion, dwelling securely and in peace—who will dare rouse it?" This prophecy was fulfilled during the entire reign of King Solomon, which was undisturbed by wars.54

10 "Even when the Jewish people no longer have an independent kingdom, the scepter of regency shall not depart from Judah." This prophecy was fulfilled during the Babylonian exile, when the descendants of King David continued to serve as the acknowledged rulers of the Jewish people. "Nor shall lawgivers—scholars who render rulings in Jewish law—cease from among his descendants." This prophecy was fulfilled in the presidents of the Sanhedrin, who also were descended from King David. "Judah's preeminence shall continue until the coming of Shiloh—one of the names for the Messiah, who shall also be a descendant of Judah—before whom nations shall assemble to hear his teachings.55

11 Your portion of the Promised Land will be so fertile that your typical descendant will tie his donkey to a single vine by loading the donkey up with the grapes of only one vine. Furthermore, he will tie his donkey-foal to a single vine branch by loading it up with the grapes of only one branch. Wine will be so plentiful that he will launder his clothes in wine and his cloak in the blood-colored juice of grapes.

In the future, the Messiah will bring all the Israelites (symbolized by the vine56) to surround Jerusalem, where they will build the Temple. The righteous (symbolized by the vine) will surround the Messiah, who will enter Jerusalem astride his donkey,57 and those who teach the Torah will study with him. His garments will be dyed fine purple, and his clothes will be of wool dyed crimson and other colors.

12 The eyes of your typical descendant will be flushed from drinking so much wine; his flocks will produce so much milk that his teeth will be white from drinking milk. His mountains will appear red from being covered with vineyards, and his winepresses will drip with wine; his valleys will appear white from the abundance of grain and flocks growing in them.

13 The tribe of Zebulun shall dwell by the seashores of the Promised Land. It will be constantly busy at its harbor where its ships load and unload their merchandise. It will donate part of its income to support the Torah scholars from among the tribe of Issachar. Its northern border shall reach Sidon.

14 The tribe of Issachar will ably bear the rigors of Torah study, as a strong-boned donkey ably bears its load. It will study assiduously, forsaking the comforts of luxurious living, similar to how a pack-donkey, having no permanent stable, rests only between the towns along its journeys.

15 It will choose a place to rest in the Promised Land that is good, suited to produce an abundance of fruits, and a land that is pleasant. It will bend its shoulder to accept the burden of rigorous Torah study, and thereby do its duty to the other tribes like a faithful laborer, rendering legal rulings and calculating when to intercalate the year.58

But when the time comes to wage war, it will bend its shoulder to take up arms in battle, since it lives on the border, and conquer the enemy, making it into a servant paying tribute.

16 The tribe of Dan will avenge its people of their enemies; the other tribes of Israel will unite behind it." This prophecy came true with regard to Samson, who vanquished the Philistines.59 "Through this leader, the tribe of Dan will avenge its people as ably as will the most distinguished of the tribes of Israel—Judah—under the king from their tribe." The king whom Jacob was prophetically referring to here was King David.

17 Let the tribe of Dan be to its enemies like a snake on the road, a viper on the path, biting the horse's heel so that the rider falls backward off the horse and dies without the snake ever having touched him." This prophecy, too, came true with regard to Samson, for when he toppled the temple of Dagon, those standing on the roof fell off and died without Samson ever having touched them.60

18 When Jacob foresaw that God would have to restore Samson's lost strength in order for him to be able to topple the temple, he prayed, "I hope for your salvation, O God!

Fifth Reading 19 "Although Gad himself might be weak,61 his descendants will be valiant. Troops will march forth from the tribe of Gad, and they shall return on their same tracks after conquering their enemies without having suffered any casualties." This prophecy was fulfilled in the men of the tribe of Gad who, after having taken possession of their inheritance to the east of the Jordan River, accompanied the other tribes to its west bank and helped them conquer and settle their territories, only afterward returning to their own lands.62

20 "From the territory of the tribe of Asher shall come forth the richest foods, because its land will be blessed with many olive trees, whose oil they will use to prepare food. Therefore, this tribe shall provide the king's delicacies.

21 The fruit growing in the territory of the tribe of Naphtali will ripen as fast as a deer set loose; for this, the tribe of Naphtali will be the one who offers words of praise and thanks to God. When the time comes to wage war, the tribe of Naphtali will rush to do battle as fast as a deer set loose; for its decisive help in the battle, the commander of the army will be the one who offers words of praise and thanks to God." This prophecy was fulfilled when ten thousand men from the tribe of Naphtali quickly answered the call of Deborah and Barak to fight Sisera,63 and Deborah composed a song of praise after the battle was won.64

"Even Naphtali himself will prove to be as swift as a deer set loose, providing choice words as soon as the need arises." This prophecy came true when Jacob's sons arrived in Hebron to bury him and sent Naphtali to bring the deed of ownership of the Machpelah cave, as will be related presently.65

22 "Joseph is a charming man, charming to the eye; I know that the Egyptian girls used to walk along the wall in order to gaze upon his beauty. When I met my brother Esau, Joseph stood in front of his mother Rachel and drew himself up to his full height to protect her from the covetous eye of Esau.66 As a reward for rising to his full height to protect his mother, he rose to greatness as viceroy of Egypt. Thus his charm became well-known, and whenever he went forth to oversee the affairs of the country, the Egyptian girls used to walk along the wall in order to gaze upon his beauty.

The descendants of Joseph will be as prolific as a grapevine planted near a spring; they will be so prolific that two tribes, both of them comparable in size to the other tribes, will issue from them. Nonetheless, they will be immune to the evil eye.67

23 Joseph's brothers embittered his life and became his assailants; they hated him—even though they were his brothers, destined to share my estate with him—mocking him with their arrow-sharp tongues. Potiphera and his wife embittered his life as well, by accusing him falsely and incarcerating him.

24 His prophecy concerning his brothers was fulfilled because he relied on God's might. His power was authoritatively established when one of the arms of his hands was bedecked with Pharaoh's gold ring, by the agency of God, the Mighty One of Jacob, who sustains the people of Israel. From then on, he became a shepherd of me, his father, the founder of the people of Israel, by providing for my welfare.

He further deserves greatness because, when he was seduced by Potiphera's wife, his procreative organ was stopped by his sudden resolution not to sin, and his seed miraculously dispersed through the fingers of his hands."68

25 Addressing Joseph directly, Jacob continued, "You succeeded in resisting her thanks to the help you received from the God of your father, who will continue to help you in the future. He came to your aid because your heart remained with Him, the Almighty, loyal to Him, when she tried to seduce you. He will bless you with blessings of dew from heaven above and blessings of springs flowing from the depths that lie below, as well as with blessings of fertile insemination for your male progeny and of wombs that do not miscarry for your female progeny.

26 The blessings bestowed by God upon me, your father, have surpassed the blessings He bestowed upon my forebears, for whereas He blessed Abraham only to inherit the Land of Israel69 and then repeated this same blessing to Isaac,70 He blessed me to spread out beyond its borders, to the utmost bounds of the eternal hills.71 These were the blessings that my mother longed for me to receive.72 May these blessings rest upon the head of Joseph, upon the head of the one who was separated from his brothers.

Sixth Reading 27 The tribe of Benjamin will be like a wolf that grabs." This prophecy came true in the incident involving the concubine at Givah,73 in which the other tribes went to war against the tribe of Benjamin over a moral issue. After the initial conflict, the tribe of Benjamin, instead of stubbornly refusing to relent, quickly "grabbed" the opportunity to repent. In order to survive, those remaining from the tribe of Benjamin then needed to marry women from other tribes in order to replenish their numbers, but the other tribes had sworn not to allow their women to marry into the tribe of Benjamin. So the other tribes allowed the tribe of Benjamin to "grab" wives for themselves.74

Jacob continued, "At a later date in the future, a descendant of Benjamin will fight his enemy like a wolf that grabs its prey away from its owners, 'grabbing' this unsavory form of conduct and appropriating it for holy purposes.75 In the morning, i.e., the early period of the Jewish people's monarchy, this descendant of Benjamin will devour the plunder." This prophecy was fulfilled in Benjamin's descendant, King Saul, Israel's first king, who fearlessly vanquished the fledgling kingdom's enemies.76 "In the evening, i.e., at the end of this period, another descendant will distribute the enemy's spoils." This prophecy was fulfilled in Mordechai and Esther, who lived after the destruction of the first Temple, when they foiled Haman's plot and were given his estate.77

"The altar of the Temple, which will be located in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin, will be like a wolf that mauls, consuming the sacrifices offered up on it: In the morning and evening, it will consume the daily sacrifices,78 and in the evening the priests will distribute their portions of the sacrificial food among themselves."

28 All these are the tribes of Israel, twelve in all. This is what their father said to them, and even though it appears that he did not bless Reuben, Simeon, or Levi, he actually blessed them all, giving each one the blessing appropriate to what would befall him and his tribe in the future, and giving them all the blessings that he had given each one individually. Thus, they all received Judah's lion-like strength, Benjamin's wolf-like rapacity, Naphtali's deer-like speed, and so on, although each tribe's dominant blessing was the one Jacob mentioned specifically with reference to it.79

Jacob's Death

29 He then commanded them, saying to them, "I am about to be gathered unto my people in the afterlife. Bury me with my fathers, in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite—

30 in the cave in the Field of the Machpelah, facing Mamre, in Canaan, the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial property.

31 There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah; there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebecca; and there I buried my wife Leah.

32 The purchase of the field and the cave within it was from the Hittites.

Do not let any Egyptian help carry my coffin. Only the progenitors of my twelve tribes shall participate in carrying my coffin from Egypt to Hebron. Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun shall carry the coffin in front; Reuben, Simeon, and Gad will carry the coffin on the right; Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin will carry the coffin in back; Dan, Asher, and Naphtali will carry the coffin on the left. Levi will not help carry my coffin, since his descendants are to carry the Holy Ark in the future; Joseph will also not help carry my coffin, since he is viceroy of Egypt and it would be an affront to the honor of his position.80 Ephraim and Manasseh will carry me in Levi and Joseph's stead, acting as their agents, so it will be considered just as if they, too, had honored me by carrying me."81

33 When Jacob concluded giving his instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up onto the bed. He breathed his last and was gathered unto his people. But, because all his children had remained loyal to his religious heritage, he did not "die"; rather, his body entered a state of deep slumber only resembling death.

50:1 Joseph fell on his father's face, wept over him, and kissed him.

2 Joseph then ordered his servants, the physicians, to embalm his father, so the physicians embalmed Israel.

3 His forty days passed, for that was the time required for embalming. In recognition of the fact that Jacob was responsible for having brought the famine to an early end,82 the Egyptians mourned him during an extended period: during the forty days of embalming and then for an additional thirty days, i.e., for a total of seventy days.

4 When the days of weeping for him were over, Joseph addressed Pharaoh's court, saying, "If I have found favor in your eyes, please speak to Pharaoh as follows:

5 'My father bound me by an oath, saying, "I am about to die. In the grave that I purchased at great expense from my brother83 and dug for myself84 in Canaan, there you shall bury me." From this you see how important it was for him to be buried there: he expended a large sum to purchase the site and he dug the grave himself.85 So allow me now to go up and bury my father and then return.' "

6 Pharaoh replied, "Go up and bury your father, as he had you swear." Had Joseph not been bound by an oath, Pharaoh would not have let him remove his father's remains from Egypt. He would have preferred that Jacob's tomb become another Egyptian shrine.86 Pharaoh did not suggest that Joseph break his oath, knowing that Joseph could then in turn threaten to embarrass him by breaking another oath he had taken, namely, the oath not to reveal to anyone that he could speak Hebrew, while Pharaoh could not.87

7 So Joseph went up toward Canaan to bury his father, and with him went up all of Pharaoh's courtiers, the elders of his court, and all the elders of Egypt,

8 followed by all of Joseph's household, his brothers, and his father's household. They left only their small children, their flocks, and their cattle in Goshen.

9 Chariots and horsemen also went up with him—a very sizeable retinue.

10 They came to Goren ha-Atad ["The Threshing Floor (surrounded by a hedge of) Thorns"], which is beyond the Jordan. The kings of the city-states of Canaan and the Ishmaelite chieftains heard that they were coming, and, assuming Jacob's sons were intending to conquer the land, gathered together there to wage war against them. But when they saw the funeral procession, they understood that this was not their purpose in coming. Then, when they saw Joseph's crown set upon Jacob's coffin, they paid homage to Jacob by removing their own crowns and setting them, too, upon his coffin. Thus wreathed with crowns, the coffin resembled a threshing floor surrounded by a hedge of thorns. There they conducted a great and solemn ceremony of lamentation, and Joseph ordained a seven-day mourning period for his father.

11 When the Canaanite inhabitants of the land saw the mourning in Goren ha-Atad, they said, "This is a grievous outpouring of mourning for the Egyptians." The place was therefore called Eivel-Mitzraim ["Egypt's mourning"], which is beyond the Jordan.

12 The sons of Jacob did for him just as he had instructed them:

13 The sons that he had specified carried him to Canaan in the formation he had specified.88

When they arrived in Hebron and were about to bury him in the Machpelah cave, Esau came and protested, saying to them, "Hebron is known as Kiryat Arba because there are only sepulchers for four couples in the Machpelah Cave.89 So far, Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Rebecca have been buried there; since Jacob and I are both sons of Isaac, we should inherit the remaining sepulcher and divide it equally between us. Jacob has already used his half of it to bury Leah, so the remaining half belongs to me!" They replied to him, "You sold it!"90 He said to them, "I may have sold my birthright, but I did not sell my heir's right!" They replied, "Yes, you did!" He said to them, "Show me the document of sale." They replied to him, "The document is in Egypt." They consulted among themselves, saying, "Who should go to fetch it? Let Naphtali go, because he is swift as a deer." So Naphtali set out for Egypt, while everyone else prepared to await his return. Among those present was Chushim, the son of Dan, who was hard-of-hearing. He asked the others, "What is happening?" They told him, "Esau is preventing the burial until Naphtali returns from Egypt." He retorted, "Is my grandfather to lie there in disgrace until Naphtali returns from Egypt?" He took a club and struck Esau on the head, killing him.91 This fulfilled Rebecca's prophecy that both her sons would die around the same time and both be buried on the same day.92

With Esau now out of the way, Jacob's sons buried him in the cave of the Field of the Machpelah, the field facing Mamre, which Abraham had bought as a burial property from Ephron the Hittite.

14 And after he buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt together with his brothers, followed by all those who had gone up with him for his father's burial (see Figure 48). Whereas the Egyptians had preceded Joseph's brothers on the way up from Egypt to Canaan,93 once they witnessed the great honor paid to Jacob by the Canaanite kings, they respectfully let his sons take the lead on the trip back.

The Aftermath of Jacob's Death

15 While Jacob was alive, Joseph regularly invited his brothers to dine with him and fraternized with them in other ways as well, as a sign of respect for his father. After Jacob's death, Joseph ceased doing this. When Joseph's brothers perceived this change in his behavior now that their father was dead, they said, "Perhaps Joseph is nursing hatred towards us. If so, he will surely repay us for all the wrong we did to him!"

16 So the sons of Leah, with whom Joseph had originally been in conflict, had this message conveyed to Joseph via the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, with whom he had always been more friendly:94 "Before he died, your father gave this instruction:

17 'This is what you must say to Joseph: "Please now forgive your brothers' crime and their transgression of having treated you harshly." ' " In fact, Jacob had never issued any such instruction, because he never suspected that Joseph harbored any animosity toward his brothers. The brothers lied in order to promote peace in the family. The brothers continued: "So now, please forgive this crime of ours. If you will not forgive us in deference to your father's command, because he is gone, then forgive us because we, like you, are the servants of the God of your father, who is eternal." As the messengers spoke to him, Joseph wept.

18 After the sons of Bilhah delivered their message, his other brothers and also his stepmother Bilhah went in, and they all threw themselves at his feet and said, "We are hereby your servants!" Bilhah thereby fulfilled her part of Joseph's second dream.95

19 But Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in place of God?!

20 Though all of you together intended me harm, God intended it for the good, in order to bring things to their present state and to save the lives of many people. How, then, can I, who am only one person, harm you, when it is clear that God wants to do you well? If ten lights cannot extinguish one light, how can one light extinguish ten lights?

Seventh Reading 21 So now, have no fear. I will provide for you and your young children." He thus comforted them. He also spoke to them reassuringly, saying, "Look. Before you came here, people used to say I was born a slave, but when you came, it became clear that I was of high birth. If I kill you, everyone will say that you are not really my brothers—for no one kills his own brothers—and that I just pretended you were my brothers in order to deceive everyone about my lineage." Nonetheless, although Joseph thus calmed his brothers' fears, he did not resume fraternizing with them in the same ways he had when Jacob was alive.

This change in behavior was noticed by the Egyptians. They, too, had shown respect to Jacob's sons during his lifetime in gratitude for Jacob's having ended the famine and restored material prosperity to the country. Once he died, however, taking their cue from Joseph's behavior, they stopped venerating the brothers. The brothers correctly saw in this change of attitude the beginnings of the Egyptians' assertion of their superiority over Jacob's family, a portent of God's promise to Abraham that his progeny would be enslaved in a foreign land.96 So, even though the brothers themselves did not endure actual servitude during their lifetimes,97 they began to be apprehensive.98

Joseph's Death

22 Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father's household, and Joseph lived to be one hundred and ten years old.

23 Joseph lived long enough to see Ephraim's great-grandchildren, and even longer still, for the children of Machir son of Manasseh—Manasseh's grandchildren—were not only born during Joseph's lifetime—Joseph also lived long enough to teach them, as he sat them between his knees.99

24 Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die, but God will surely remember you and take you up from this land, to the land that He promised by oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

25 And Joseph bound the sons of Israel by an oath to bind their descendants by an oath, saying, "God will surely remember you and your descendants, and when He does, you shall have them take up my bones, together with yours, from here." Joseph had heard this prophetic expression ("God will surely remember you") from Jacob and now passed it on to his brothers, who in turn passed it on to their progeny. Joseph did not enjoin his brothers to bury him in the Land of Israel, as his father had enjoined him, for he knew that Pharaoh would not allow this to be done. Since Joseph had been viceroy of Egypt, Pharaoh had to respect the oath he made to his father. The brothers, however, were only resident aliens, and as such had no prestige of office. They told their progeny to take their remains with them when they would eventually leave.100

26 Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years, and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt. The Egyptians sunk the coffin into the Nile River,101 thinking that its presence in the river would bring blessing to its waters.102