Genesis 47:27-31

27 So Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions there and grew and multiplied exceedingly.

28 And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. So the length of Jacob’s life was one hundred and forty-seven years.

29 When the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “Now if I have found favor in your sight, please put your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me. Please do not bury me in Egypt,

30 but let me lie with my fathers; you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.” And he said, “I will do as you have said.”

31 Then he said, “Swear to me.” And he swore to him. So Israel bowed himself on the head of the bed.

The writer skillfully transitions (v.27) from a reference to Israel the person—i.e., “And Israel lived in the land of Egypt, in Goshen,” in which the verb is singular—to the first biblical reference to Israel the people—i.e., “and they acquired property in it and were fruitful and became exceedingly numerous,” in which the verbs are all plural. the wording of this latter statement also recalls that of God’s promise to Abraham—e.g., as in Genesis 17:6: “I will make you exceedingly fruitful”—thus connecting this future state of affairs to (and hence reiterating) the important theme of God’s covenant faithfulness. — Wechsler, page 262.


Joseph took a solemn oath that he would indeed do as his father asked [and bury him in Canaan]. Jacob bowed himself against the bed’s head and offered a prayer of worship and thanksgiving to God. This was, according to Hebrews 11:21, a true act of faith on Jacob’s part. In this reference in Hebrews, the “bed’s head” is called “the top of his staff,” following the Septuagint translation. It may be that Jacob supported himself by his staff and the bed’s headboard, as he was very old and feeble by this time. — Morris, page 643.

Bultema thinks perhaps Jacob leaned on his staff while in bed and leaning on the headboard. Williams thinks there were two different occasions—on in bed and one out of it. Treasury thinks it’s just a matter of translation, as the Hebrew word for bed is mittah and that for staff is matteh. I have no idea, but I have no issue with the idea of Jacob holding his staff in his hands while leaning on his bed.

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