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Genesis 50 by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:55 mins 28 secs

Burial of Jacob; Death of Joseph; Genesis 50

 

There are two things that happen in the 50th chapter of Genesis. The first fourteen verses describe the mourning and the burial and the funeral procession of Jacob in the promised land in the land of Canaan. Then in verses 15-26 we have the final reconciliation of Joseph with his brothers and then the description of Joseph's death, and his instructions to his brothers to take care of his body and to take him back to the land of his fathers; all of which is an expression of his faith and trust in God and His promise to Abraham. So even though they were still in Egypt and even though they are going to be in slavery, God is going to be faithful and return them to the land.

 

Genesis 50:1 NASB "Then Joseph fell on his father's face, and wept over him and kissed him." There are three verbs there and the subject of the verbs is Joseph, and the emphasis throughout this section is Joseph in leadership at the time of his father's death. The transition of who is in charge of the family falls now upon Joseph and his brothers look to him for leadership. And he is worthy of it, he is prepared spiritually and by way of his personality and maturity and responsibility to take the leadership of the family.

 

He kissed Jacob, and this is not unusual. In the culture in the Middle East the people are much more demonstrative emotionally than those of us who come out of a white Caucasian, western European culture. We tend to hold things in and they tend to let things out. So it is typical in the Old Testament that when somebody dies the first thing that happens is they let out a wail and they will rip their clothes. Most of us would not do that, we try to keep things in and not let it all out; but that is how they handle things. Cf. Genesis 37:34 when Jacob thinks that Joseph is dead; 2 Samuel 1:11 when word comes to David that Saul is dead; Job 1:20 when Job hears about his children. Not only will they rip their clothes but they will put on sackcloth, so there is a very overt expression of their grief. And there is nothing wrong with that.

 

Genesis 50:2 NASB "Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel." The servants here refers to those who were in his household under his immediate authority, those who take care of all of his commands. The word for physicians here is the Hebrew word rapha, it comes from the core Hebrew word for healing and in the participial form it refers to those who practice healing. It is not really physicians in the sense that we think of physicians, these would be the court healers and the ones who were responsible for the practice of embalming. The word for embalming is the Hebrew word chanat which is only used three times in the Old Testament. It is probably a loan word from Egyptian. It is used twice to refer to Jacob and once to refer to Joseph, the only two people in the Scriptures who are embalmed.

 

Genesis 50:3 NASB "Now forty days were required for it, for such is the period required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days." The process would not have taken forty days but maybe that had something to do with the religious ritual that went along with that. But then they mourned for seventy days, the seventy days would have included the forty days of the preparation. That is a long period of time, two and a half months set aside for this mourning. When we look at Scripture people are mourned for various different periods of time. Some are mourned for a week, and that is about normal. If it was someone of stature like Moses it was for a month, but here they mourn for Jacob for two and a half months. That indicates the respect that the Egyptians had for Joseph and all that he had done, and by association his father. So it shows that all of Egypt honoured him, and this is brought out even more in the rest of the section.

In vv. 4-6 we see Joseph going to the Pharaoh for permission to go back to the land of Canaan. He recognizes his position as subordinate to the Pharaoh and was completely under his authority. Genesis 50:4 NASB "When the days of mourning for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, 'If now I have found favor in your sight, please speak to Pharaoh, saying…" Notice that Joseph doesn't go to Pharaoh. Here he is the number two person  in the land, nobody has more power and authority than Joseph other than the Pharaoh. He can't go to the Pharaoh, he goes to his household, his staff, and it is probably because he has been associated with death. If we look at the Mosaic law, if someone has been in the presence of death then they are ceremonially unclean for a short period of time. So it probably has something to do with the touching and with the religious practices of the Egyptians that Joseph is not able to come into the presence of the Pharaoh.  

Genesis 50:5 NASB "'My father made me swear, saying, 'Behold, I am about to die; in my grave which I dug for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me." Now therefore, please let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.'" This request is bracketed by two uses of the words "my father." The repetition of the words bracket the request and it emphasizes the fact that he is doing this at the request of his father. [6] "Pharaoh said, 'Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear'."

Verses 7-14 describe this incredible procession. He goes with all the servants of Pharaoh. It shows again the tremendous respect that the Egyptians had for Joseph. What we need to do now is bring into our mind's eye the first chapter of Exodus where the Jews are slaves, where they have no honour, where they are downtrodden, and where they are later on in Exodus chased by the chariots of Pharaoh. Moses is setting up a contrast here: the way they are honoured in chapter fifty and the way they are dishonoured in Exodus chapter one. All the servants of Pharaoh, the household, all the chief government officials, go with him. They would be gone for at least two months.

Genesis 50:7 NASB "So Joseph went up to bury his father, and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household and all the elders [respected statesmen] of the land of Egypt, [8] and all the household of Joseph and his brothers and his father's household; they left only their little ones and their flocks and their herds in the land of Goshen. [9] There also went up with him both chariots and horsemen; and it was a very great company." Only the wives and the small children stay at home. Along with them went chariots and horsemen, so the elite military units of the Egyptian army went along as a protection from any roving bands of marauders or bandits, but also as an honour guard.

Genesis 50:10 NASB "When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they lamented there with a very great and sorrowful lamentation; and he observed seven days mourning for his father." What does it mean, "beyond the Jordan"? Remember, Moses was writing this and finishing this when he is still outside the land. He is writing from his perspective and Hebron is on the other side of the Jordan from where Moses is writing. There was another week of mourning, and the word here for mourning and solemn lamentation showed the intense grief and demonstration of that grief over the death of Jacob. [11] "Now when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, 'This is a grievous mourning for the Egyptians.' Therefore it was named Abel-mizraim, which is beyond the Jordan." Abel-mizraim has to do with the weeping of the Egyptians; mizraim is the Hebrew for Egypt.

Genesis 50:12 NASB "Thus his sons did for him as he had charged them; [13] for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field for a burial site from Ephron the Hittite. [14] After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brothers, and all who had gone up with him to bury his father." Verses 13 & 14 reiterates. Why is this over and over again from the end of chapter 49 where Jacob made a big deal about the location? Now they repeat that in detail. It is to emphasize that Jacob is buried exactly where he is said to be buried, and this is in the burial place of that field that had been purchased by Abraham. It is the only piece of real estate in the promised land that the Jewish patriarchs ever owned, and God had promised that they would own all of the land from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates and all the land in between. But none of them saw it in their lifetime, which Jesus then uses when He is speaking as a demonstration that they understood resurrection, because they knew God was faithful and would give them that land, and even though they didn't see it in their lifetime it was very real to them. The writer to the Hebrews says that they were looking forward to that city that was built without human hands. They understand this and it was real to them. This is what the faith-rest drill is all about, that the truth of God's Word is more real to us than our experience, even if we don't have it, even if we don't see it in our lifetime we know it will be true.

They buried Jacob and Joseph and his brothers all go back to Egypt. Once they get back to Egypt, in the next section the brothers now become a little worried. This reveals two things. It reveals that Joseph has a true understanding of reality, that God is very real to Joseph. But for his brothers God is less of a reality.

Genesis 50:15 NASB "When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, 'What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!'" As if the only thing that restrained Joseph was the presence of Jacob. What about the presence of God? God hasn't died! Joseph recognizes that all that he has done has always been done in the presence of God. If we think back to the episode in Genesis 39 when he is in the household of Potiphar and Potiphar's wife starts to tempt him and wants to seduce him. Joseph's response was, How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? He had a true view of reality that didn't create a false dichotomy between the spiritual and our everyday life and everyday decision-making. God affected every single decision that he made. If God is God and reality is what God created you can't separate God and put Him in a box and say, Well, that's good for Sunday morning, or That's good in my spiritual life but it doesn't have anything to do with how I understand economics, it doesn't have anything to do with how I understand history, it doesn't have anything to do with how I conduct myself as a lawyer or as a politician, etc. But that is what happens; we compartmentalize and that is what our culture has taught us, is to compartmentalize and put God and spiritual things over here in one little corner of the attic of our mind and then the rest of the week we are over here some place else. This is exactly what Joseph's brothers were doing and yet Joseph doesn't operate that way.

Genesis 50:16 NASB "So they sent {a message} to Joseph, saying, 'Your father charged before he died, saying, [17] 'Thus you shall say to Joseph, 'Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.' 'And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.' And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. [18] Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, 'Behold, we are your servants'." Whether or not Jacob had actually said this is something we are not sure about. They were possibly just making this up to make sure Joseph did the right thing and would not carry out a long-awaited vendetta against them. Unfortunately the brothers understand the nature of reality, that too often when people are wronged, mistreated, rejected, when someone treats another in a very bad way, they nurse a grudge. They never forget and they just seem to wait and wait until they can finally bring about their little vendetta. Joseph understood this and he has understood grace in a magnificent way so that when they do this he recognizes how much their conscience still hurts over what they did. They are still scared, still concerned; they know they have done wrong and they just can't get past it even though he has already told them once that he has completely forgiven them, and his response is to weep when he heard this.

Joseph understands the principle that when we are wronged by anyone, whether it is a real wrong or whether it is just and perceived wrong, it is not our job to justify ourself. It is not our job to make sure they are properly taken care of and the person who does us wrong comes to proper justice. We leave it at the hands of the Supreme Court of heaven, we do not play God.

Genesis 50:19 NASB "But Joseph said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? [20] As for you, you meant evil against me, {but} God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. [21] So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.' So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them." Their motives were wrong. There are times when something happens, someone is the victim of an injustice and people say, Well it must have been God's wrath. It is almost as if they are excusing the wrong actions of the person who did wrong by saying God allowed it. That doesn't make it right. People who do wrong are still wrong. These brothers were still wrong. Joseph is not minimizing or diminishing the evil that they did. The text is very clear that what they did to Joseph was wrong and evil, however it is an illustration of the New Testament principle in Romans 8:28 that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. God is in charge of the events in the universe, and even though bad things happen to good people, even though there is real evil in the world, even though you are maltreated and abused, it is not outside of God's control and he can turn evil into good. This is what Joseph recognizes, that God allowed this to happen because God had a broader plan and purpose which was to take Joseph down into Egypt so that he could be there to prepare a sanctuary where the family of Jacob could come, and for the next four hundred years they would be protected from assimilation into the culture around them. If the family of Jacob had continued to live in the land of Canaan for another generation they would have just dissipated into the whole culture and their distinct identity would have been lost. So God prepared a place for Joseph to go and for him to prepare a place for the family to come until they grew into a nation. The brothers' motive was evil, Joseph doesn't minimize what they did; but God meant it for good. God was working behind the scenes to make it work out for His purposes.

Joseph is expressing his loyalty and his faithfulness to the family. He reassures them that he is going to take care of their wives if they die, he is not going to execute vengeance against them or against their children, he is going to deal with them from a position of integrity and grace no matter what happens.

One of the greatest challenges we face at times is what happens when we go through either real rejection or perceived rejection. This is something that can be very personal. It can involve the break-up of marriage, of romance or friendship, the loss of a job, people who were once our friends who have all of a sudden turned against us, people in the work place that we thought we could trust and all of a sudden they are using us as a stepping-stone to get to another position. There are all kinds of things that can happen where people turn against other people, and we get hurt in the process. How do we respond to that when people hurt us? Joseph had to learn that lesson that he is not going to hold evil actions against people. He is not going to harbour it in his soul, and that is something that is very difficult for some people.

When we go through any type of rejection the sin nature always reacts from this position of self-protection. Going all the way back to the garden, when we feel threatened the first thing that happens is to blame somebody else. It is their fault. Whether it is real or it is perceived we blame somebody else and we try to protect ourselves by putting the focus on somebody else. We always have to keep in mind the five arrogance skills. Self-absorption is the basic orientation of the sin nature: me first, it is always arrogance, and if anything threatens me then my defences immediately go up. We are all guilty of this to one degree or another. We get into self-absorption and then self-indulgence, and the more self-indulgence we are the more vulnerable we become to somebody else doing something to hurt us. Then there is self-deception. In the process of arrogance we create our own reality. We deceive ourselves about people and about events and about things going on around us, and then when somebody does something to hurt us then we are shattered. So then what do we do? Well, it is not my fault, it is their fault! We get into self-justification. Then we have to not only convince ourselves that it is the other person's fault (and they may be legitimately wrong) but others must understand that it is. We live in a culture of victimization where everybody wants to emphasize, Poor me, I'm a victim of what society has done to me, what my teachers have done to me, what my parents have done, etc. So we get involved in all of this self-justification and we have to tell other people about it and we do it in very subtle ways.

Jacob and his father Isaac, and Abraham had a promise from God that God was going to give them the land. God is going to execute justice to them in giving them that land. It didn't happen in a hundred years or a thousand years or five thousand years, but God is faithful and He will bring that promise to fruition because God is truth and God is right. The same thing is happening with justice, that there may not be justice in this life but eventually there is justice. Deuteronomy 32:4 locates the issue in justice where Moses says: NASB "The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He." God is just, He has all the facts, He knows all the data, He knows exactly what needs to take place in order for justice to be brought about. He is a God of faithfulness; He is true to His Word. The key verse on vengeance is in verse 35 NASB "Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them." Moses instructs the nation to recognize that ultimately they have to take justice to the Supreme Court of heaven. The word that is translated "vengeance" here in the Hebrew is a word that when applied to man mostly in the Scriptures it refers to somebody getting personally even with somebody else, but when it is applied to God it doesn't have that idea of vindictiveness, it has the idea of God bringing about justice and properly avenging somebody. Why? Because He is omniscient and knows all the facts, because He is perfectly righteous and perfectly just, and He is going to execute justice in time.

Psalm 94:1 NASB "O LORD, God of vengeance, God of vengeance, shine forth!" The application of justice and righteousness. He is the one who stands up for the widow, the orphan, the one who is mistreated and maltreated.

The problem is when we get into mental attitude sins. When we get into the New Testament we have various key passages on bitterness. Ephesians 4:31 NASB "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice." Don't hold a grudge. We should pray for those who want to hurt us. That is one of the best things that we can do. We need to pray for the very best for them. Don't pray that God would squash them like a bug! You want the best for them, and as you do that what happens is the Holy Spirit begins to work on your soul and before you know it you have gone through a process you really do want what is bets for them and lashing out from hurt is no longer the motivation in your own soul; arrogance has been squashed. When someone treats us unjustly we need to keep our mouth shut about it and not go around telling everybody about it. We need to wait on the Lord.

Joseph understood this and it probably took him some time. This may have been the reason he was in prison so long. He had to work through this process in his own spiritual growth to where he could truly forgive and forget and not hold it against those who mistreated him. This is the principle in Hebrew 12:15 NASB "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled." In other words, we are to exhibit God's grace to people. Once we get bitter and we start talking, then we have sins of the tongue. As soon as we make one little comment here, one little comment there, it starts spreading and it defiles everyone who comes in contact with that. If is like an infectious disease and we can't ever get those words back. So we are not to be the ones seeking revenge but are to put it in the hands of God, knowing that even though human judicial systems may fail, God's ultimate judicial system will never fail.

Now we come to the final part of the chapter which describes the death of Joseph in vv. 22-26. Genesis 50:22 NASB "Now Joseph stayed in Egypt, he and his father's household, and Joseph lived one hundred and ten years." That is not nearly as long as his father lived. [23] "Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim's sons; also the sons of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were born on Joseph's knees. [24] Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob'." Here is where Joseph is demonstrating his loyalty, and there is no reticence here, he fully trusts them. They proved themselves untrustworthy at the beginning but now he entrusts his body to them. [25] "Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, 'God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here'." This was an act of the faith-rest drill. He understands the promise of God. God is going to take him back to the land. God has promised Abraham that they would be out of the land for four hundred years and then He would take them back and give them the land that he had promised to Abraham.

Genesis 50:26 NASB "So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt." So Genesis ends with Joseph in a coffin—death. Genesis began in perfect environment, with no death. One of the main themes in Genesis is the theme of how blessing is turned to cursing because of man's volition. Man through sin destroys but God in His grace redeems. This sets the stage in Genesis for God's redemption that comes from slavery in Egypt in Exodus.