Genesis Chapter Fifty


Read Genesis 50:1-6 – The Mourning for Jacob


v.1-2  And Joseph fell upon his father's face, and wept upon him, and kissed him. And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel.”


            The patriarch has died; the last of those whose record of their family rule is given to us by God is no longer.  Joseph is the only son mentioned in scripture as being present and since Jacob had given him the patriarchal mantle it is only appropriate that he be the central figure in the mourning and burial of his father.

            Particular mention is made that Jacob was embalmed.  Of course, if we remember our history, the Egyptians invented this process and that they would provide this kind of respect and honor to the father of Joseph would be expected.

This would also preserve the body so that it could carried to Canaan for burial as Jacob had wished.


v.3And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed: and the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days.”


            The period of mourning practiced in Egypt was a little longer than among the Israelites:


Numbers 20:29And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.”


In addition to the record here in Numbers we also a period of mourning for Moses of thirty days that was recorded in Deuteronomy 34:8.  It is thought that the mourning period in Egypt was due to the time required to complete the embalming so they mourned Jacob for 40 days and when the body was appropriately preserved they observed the formal 30 days of mourning.  The Egyptians showed the same level of respect that they would for one of their own, perhaps even of the royal family.


v.4-5And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh, saying, If now I have found grace in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, My father made me swear, saying, Lo, I die: in my grave which I have digged for me in the land of Canaan, there shalt thou bury me. Now therefore let me go up, I pray thee, and bury my father, and I will come again.


            Joseph now has a sworn duty to perform.  Jacob had made him swear under an oath to bury him in the patriarch’s grave in Canaan.  Joseph also has an obligation to Pharaoh as his ruler and because he is the governor of Egypt under Pharaoh.  So he seeks to fulfill both obligations as he should.  He seeks an audience with Pharaoh to gain his permission to take his father to Canaan for burial.  He also promises Pharaoh that he will return, assuring him that he has no other purpose but to honor his oath to his father.


v.6And Pharaoh said, Go up, and bury thy father, according as he made thee swear.”


            An oath was sacred to the Egyptians as well as the Israelites so Pharaoh understands the necessity completing his commitment.  Consequently he readily gives his permission for Joseph to do so.


Read Genesis 50:7-13 – The Burial of Jacob


v.7And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,”


            So Joseph goes up to Canaan to bury his father but there is much more to this occurrence that just his sons burying their father.  In the history of Israel we find in most cases very few words and very little time is spent describing their funerals.  For example when David dies the scripture simply records:


So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.”  I Kings 2:10


But this is not so with Jacob.  Perhaps because of his position as the last of the great patriarchs, perhaps because in his grief over Joseph’s disappearance he was in constant communication with God, perhaps because he is now Israel, the father of a great nation he is honored by God in that the details of his burial were recorded.  He is also given the greatest of honors the Egyptian people, especially the rulers and most prominent of the land.


v.8-9And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father's house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen. And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company.


            This is a funeral procession that probably has not been surpassed in size in the history of man since this day.  The Israelites left their flocks, herds and children in the land of Goshen.  This, of course, verifies to Pharaoh that they plan to return.  Since Egypt was a wealthy nation with all of the modern means to wage war in this time and culture they had chariots and horses and a great many of these were used to escort Jacob to his final resting place.  When all of these officials and prominent families of Egypt were represented they made a great company indeed as most likely they took all of the slaves and servants with them that they might need on their journey.

            One more observation about the honor that Egypt paid Jacob: when the sons of Israel came to Egypt Joseph did not want them to reveal that they were shepherds because of the prejudice in Egypt that would be against them.  But times have changed and the attitudes of the people have as well.  Most likely because of the righteous and upright behavior of Jacob and his sons, they are well respected, so well that it would seem that no effort was spared to honor him in his death.


v.10-11And they came to the threshingfloor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan, and there they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation: and he made a mourning for his father seven days.  And when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning in the floor of Atad, they said, This is a grievous mourning to the Egyptians: wherefore the name of it was called Abelmizraim, which is beyond Jordan.”


            We don’t know where Atad or as the Canaanites renamed it Abel-Mizraim is located but we know that it is beyond Jordan or west of the Jordan.  Some place it in the vicinity of Hebron, others acknowledge that we just don’t know.


v.12-13And his sons did unto him according as he commanded them: For his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a buryingplace of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre.”


            The emphasis is given here that the sons of Jacob obeyed his commandment.  He was to be buried in the cave of the field of Mach-pe-lah that Abraham had bought from the sons of Heth; specifically Ephron the Hittite.


Read Genesis 50:14-21 – Jacob Sons Fear Joseph


v.14And Joseph returned into Egypt, he, and his brethren, and all that went up with him to bury his father, after he had buried his father.”


            When Jacob is buried, Joseph, like all of us in these circumstances tries to bring his life back to normal.  He returns to Egypt and resumes his duties to the king of the land but there is a problem brewing.


v.15And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.


            Joseph’s brothers were not very judges of character were they?  Or perhaps they now expected Joseph to take advantage of this opportunity as they probably would do if they were in his position.  Jacob is gone now so Joseph would have free rein to repay them for the things that they did to him.  So being unwilling, or perhaps afraid, to go themselves they sent a messenger to Joseph to remind him of his oath to his father.


v.16-17And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.”


            The messenger came from his brothers to Joseph and delivered their message.  They beg him to remember his oath to their father, they also beg forgiveness from him of their sin against him by selling him into slavery.  They don’t remember Joseph telling them that all of this was God’s doing and was used by God for the good, not only to them, but also for all men.  Whether from his distress at their distrust of him or because of their plea for forgiveness Joseph is deeply touched by their message.


v.18-19And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.  And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?”


            So in their fear of him and their anticipation that he will become their enemy Joseph’s brothers come to him and pledge their allegiance and offer themselves to him as his servants.  He responds to them much in the same manner as he had before when they first learned that he was their brother.  He says he isn’t God, he will not bring retribution upon them, he is their brother, they are family and their relationship will remain as it has been.


v.20-21 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.  Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.”


            Joseph tells them the same thing that he told them when he revealed his identity to them:


Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.  For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.  And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. Genesis 45:5-7


            The purpose of Joseph’s brothers when they sold him into slavery was evil, no doubt, but God used it for good.  It was God’s will that Joseph be brought into Egypt so that he could deliver them from the famine and save them from starvation and destruction when that time came.  Joseph does not question or challenge the purposes of God, or the means that God uses to accomplish his purpose.  Consequently he has no desire to intention of doing anything to punish his brothers for what they did.


Read Genesis 50:22-26 – The Death of Joseph


v.22-23And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father's house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years.  And Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation: the children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were brought up upon Joseph's knees.”


            So Joseph and his brothers lived in Egypt until Joseph reached the age of 110.  During his time he saw the children of Ephraim, his youngest son to the third generation.  These would be great-great grandchildren unless I’ve miscounted.  He knew, held on his knee, the grandchildren of Manasseh, the children of his son Machir.


v.24 “And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”


            Joseph now has reached the time when he knows that his days on earth are numbered and growing fewer.  Consequently he requires a pledge from the family of Israel.  The Holy Spirit through the Hebrew writer uses it to highlight Joseph’s faith as an example for us:


Hebrews 11:22 By faith Joseph, when the end was nigh, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.” (ASV)


            God had made a promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob concerning the lands of the Canaanites.


Genesis 35:12And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.”


There was no doubt in Joseph’s mind that God would keep his promise and that Israel would return to Canaan in God’s own time.  When they did he wanted them to take his bones, his remains with them so that he could be buried in the land of promise just as the rest of the patriarchs.


v.25And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.”


            Many years later, Moses carried the bones of Joseph out of Egypt and the Israelites buried him, fulfilling that oath and promise:


Exodus 13:19 And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.”


Joshua 24:32And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.”


v.26So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.”


            Thus ends the days of the patriarch’s and our study of the book of beginnings.