Genesis 47:29 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 47:29, NIV: When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, 'If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt,

Genesis 47:29, ESV: And when the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If now I have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt,

Genesis 47:29, KJV: And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt:

Genesis 47:29, NASB: When 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 your hand under my thigh now and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness: please do not bury me in Egypt,

Genesis 47:29, NLT: As the time of his death drew near, Jacob called for his son Joseph and said to him, 'Please do me this favor. Put your hand under my thigh and swear that you will treat me with unfailing love by honoring this last request: Do not bury me in Egypt.

Genesis 47:29, CSB: When the time approached for him to die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, "If I have found favor with you, put your hand under my thigh and promise me that you will deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt.

What does Genesis 47:29 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

It's not clear exactly when this conversation took place. Jacob came into Egypt speaking as if he was about to die (Genesis 46:30), only to live another seventeen years (Genesis 47:28). Whenever it happened, it's in a moment when Jacob is planning for the aftermath of his own death. He has successfully resettled his large family in Egypt, and they are thriving (Genesis 47:27). He knows the family will not be leaving this area any time soon. A key concern in Jacob's mind is burial: he doesn't want his remains to stay in Egypt. He wants to be interred with his ancestors, in Canaan (Genesis 47:30).

Jacob calls Joseph to his side and puts his request to Joseph very formally. The expression "if I have found favor in your sight" implies an obligation on the person being asked, while also expressing humility. This is an extremely important issue for Jacob. It's critical enough for Jacob to request a common, solemn gesture of promise. This is a guarantee that Joseph will make this request happen.

As was Abraham's servant (Genesis 24:2–3), Joseph is asked to put his hand "under my thigh" and swear a promise. In practice, this likely meant putting the hand just below, or even on, the genitals. Symbolically, the promise is being associated with the descendants of that person. Joseph is not merely vowing to Jacob, but to all of Jacob's posterity. In some cultures, this gesture also implied that breaking the oath would be avenged by those descendants.

Strange as this seems to modern readers, the same intent is used in more recent practices. Legal witnesses or political appointees would often place their hand on a Bible to swear an oath. Symbolically, their promise is also being made to God; Joseph's vow is also being made to Jacob's future line.