21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.
The historical background for this verse is Genesis 47:28–49:33.
21 By faith Jacob,
Jacob did not try to circumvent God’s will by his own plan. He passed his blessing to Joseph’s sons. This man had many ups and downs in his spiritual life, yet in the end he exercised faith in God.
Jacob was a scheming, ruthless person. He tried to cunningly assist God with His plan, which was a mistake. He and his mother Rebekah perpetrated a hoax on his father. He manipulated Laban out of his cattle. Regardless of his schemes, he was a man of faith. None of his failures are mentioned in our Hebrews passage. The focus was on his faith.
when he was dying,
Jacob exercised faith in God at the point of his death (Ge 48:21–22).
blessed each of the sons of Joseph,
On his deathbed, Jacob blessed his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph (Ge 48:1–22). This was an exercise of faith by Jacob because he believed God would fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant through them. He conferred covenantal blessing to Ephraim with his right hand. Ephraim was the younger of the two sons. Jacob crossed his hands to fulfill God’s purpose. Joseph wanted his elder son, Manasseh, to receive the blessing. Ephraim’s tribe eventually became a leader in the promised land.
and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.
This phrase may come from Genesis 47:31 (LXX). Even in Jacob’s dying hours, he believed God would fulfill His promise to him. The staff was a symbol of rulership and authority.
God honors our faith even when we fail Him.
Blessing given by Isaac and Jacob was an act of faith since neither could give the contents of the promise to their progeny.
Jacob’s life was not all glory; he failed the Lord many times. Nevertheless, God honored his faith when he blessed Joseph’s sons.
Each patriarch conferred blessing on the next generation by faith. They believed God would fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant.