Jacob said of the first hundred and thirty years of his life to Pharaoh: “Few and unpleasant have been the years of my life” (verse 99So Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning.”). That is because he had not accepted the guidance of the LORD, but had gone his own way. For this reason his life years have not “attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning”.
Isaac has not left the land and, as far as Scripture tells us, has had no particular difficulties. Abraham’s life was for the most part in the favor of and fellowship with God. Jacob did not understand that God wanted to lead him in love and did not experience that leadership. He did not rely on God, but thought he had to take care of himself to get what God promised him. So he came to Egypt after one hundred and thirty years.
However, in the last seventeen years of his life, years he spent with Joseph in Egypt, he grew towards an end that was more glorious than that of his fathers. In the way of faith he stays behind with Abraham and Isaac, but his end is better. We have no record of the deathbed of Abraham or Isaac. We read extensively about the deathbed of Jacob. That is to show how ultimately the grace of God triumphs over this man. It is the culmination of God’s patient work of discipline.
“When the time for Israel to die drew near” (verse 2929When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt,). The end of his walk is nearby (cf. Heb 13:77Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.). He calls Joseph and tells him to lay his hand under his thigh. At his thigh he is beaten at Penuel (Gen 32:2525When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.) and since then he walks crippled. He is constantly reminded in his walk of his struggle with God. Now he is where God wants him to be.
Jacob makes Joseph swear that he will be buried in the land. He wants to be buried with a view to the resurrection and to all the vows made by God in connection with the land of promise. The Lord Jesus also answers the question of the resurrection by referring to God as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He adds: “He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Mt 22:31-3231But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God:32‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”). By this He says that the patriarchs live for God although they have died and that they will live in the resurrection and inherit the promises.
Joseph declares with an oath that he will fulfill his father’s wish. Here too Joseph is a picture of the Lord Jesus, for through Him all the promises of God will be fulfilled.
“Then Israel bowed [in worship] at the head of the bed” (verse 3131He said, “Swear to me.” So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed [in worship] at the head of the bed.). He pledged Joseph at his word. This gives him peace and he can worship. This verse is quoted in Hebrews 11. There it is translated with: “And worshiped, [leaning] on the top of his staff” (Heb 11:2121By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, [leaning] on the top of his staff.). The staff speaks of the support he needed on his way of life. He did not want to accept this support at first. He wanted to do everything himself. Since God struck him at the thigh, the staff has been an indispensable part of his life. Here he acknowledges that God has been his support and that leads him to worship.
His death is marked by worship of God and the distribution of blessing to his descendants. The latter we see in the following chapters. Is there a better ending imaginable?