Jacob’s Oversight

Saturday, January 21, 2017

“And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” (Genesis 47:9 KJV).

Jacob felt cheated. He had lived 130 years, yes, but according to him, days “few and evil.” Why this strange assessment?

Well, Jacob had a point. The rest of the verse said he did not attain to the days of the years of the life of his fathers in the days of their pilgrimage. That is, the Bible says Jacob’s father, Isaac, had lived to age 180 (Genesis 35:28) and his grandfather, Abraham, had died at age 175 (Genesis 25:7). So, here was Jacob, standing before Pharaoh, “only” 130 years old, supposing his death was near. He was 50 years shy of his father’s age at death, and 45 years short of his grandfather’s death-age.

Jacob’s life abounded with grief. Exiled, he escaped his vengeful brother Esau and hid for 20 years (Genesis chapters 28-31). Meanwhile, his father-in-law Laban cheated him out of a wife (Genesis 29:18-30). Laban swindled him out of wages 10 times (Genesis 31:7). Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, was raped; his sons reacted rashly (Genesis 34:1-31). He lost his wife Rachel in childbirth (Genesis 35:16-20). He lost his son Joseph, supposedly to an animal attack (Genesis 37:29-35). Jacob’s family experienced persistent, severe famine (Genesis 42:1,2; Genesis 43:1,2). He temporarily lost his son Simeon to Egyptian imprisonment (Genesis 42:24-36). His youngest son, Benjamin, had been briefly taken (Genesis 42:36; Genesis 43:1-14). Jacob certainly had a tough life!

Twenty years after separation, Jacob was miraculously reunited with Joseph in Egypt. Joseph was able to provide his whole family with food. In chapter 49, Jacob dies. According to Genesis 47:28, he lived 17 years in Egypt (or 17 years after today’s Scripture). Jacob died at age 147. Yes, he fell short of his father’s age and his grandfather’s age. Still, Jacob had seen their God work in a mighty way they had not seen. Planning 20 years in advance, God had saved Israel—Abraham and Isaac’s descendants, a tribe of some 70 souls—from starvation! 🙂