GENESIS CHAPTER 50.
The Burial of Jacob; the Death of Joseph.
THE MOURNING FOR JACOB. - V.1. And Joseph fell upon his father’s face, and wept upon him, and kissed him, an evidence of deep, almost uncontrollable sorrow. V.2. And Joseph commanded his servants, the physicians, to embalm his father, an art in which the Egyptians had reached a high degree of perfection, as the condition of most mummies shows. And the physicians embalmed Israel. They took out those organs of the body which were most easily subject to decay, filling the cavities with spices, soaking the flesh in a solution which prevented its decaying, and then wrapping the body in linen smeared with gum.6) V.3. And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those embalmed, so long it took for the entire process of embalming; and the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days, not only during the forty days of the embalming, but for thirty days more, thus giving him the honor which was given to princes in Egypt. V.4. And when the days of his mourning were past, when the official, solemn mourning for Jacob had come to an end, Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh, to the officials of the king’s court,- for since he was still in mourning, he could not appear before Pharaoh in person,- saying, if now I have found grace in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, v.5. 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. Since his father had taken the solemn oath from him, Joseph asked the courtiers to do him the favor of applying to Pharaoh for leave of absence for him, that he might bury his father. Jacob, in anticipation of his death, probably at the time when he buried Leah, had prepared also his own burial-place in the cave of Machpelah. It is by no means a sign of a sickly morbidity if Christians purchase and prepare a cemetery lot for themselves where they hope eventually to rest, for they believe in the resurrection of the dead. Joseph’s request was stated: Now, therefore, let me go up, I pray thee, and bury my father, and I will come again. V.6. And Pharaoh said, Go up and bury thy father, according as he made thee swear. Pharaoh’s regard for Joseph, as for a faithful servant, had in no wise been diminished, and he readily granted the request.
JACOB IS BURIED IN CANAAN. - V.7. And 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, the most prominent court and state officials, in recognition of Joseph’s high position, v.8. and all the house of Joseph, all the relatives of Joseph and of Jacob, 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. V.9. And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen; and it was a very great company, an immense caravan, under the protection of an armed escort. V.10. And they came to the threshing-floor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan, on the east side of the river, the caravan finding it advantageous to travel around the Dead Sea; and there they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation; and he made a mourning for his father seven days. As distinguished from the official period of mourning in Egypt, this was a week of weeping with the chanting of dirges. V.11. 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 (the mourning of the Egyptians), which is beyond Jordan. V.12. And his sons did unto him (Jacob) according as he commanded them, the Egyptians apparently remaining in camp during that time; v.13. 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 burying-place of Ephron, the Hittite, before Mamre. Thus they performed their last duty of love toward their father, and incidentally confessed their belief in the fact that God will finally awaken His children unto life everlasting. V.14. And 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. The children of Israel were not to stay in Canaan at this time, but according to the will of God many years were yet to elapse before their deliverance from Egypt would come. In his hands are the destinies of all mankind.
JOSEPH REASSURES HIS BROTHERS. - V.15. And 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. They thought that it had been only for the sake of his aged father that Joseph had refrained from taking revenge upon them for the wrong which they had done, that the enmity which he had concealed for so long a time would now cause him to pay them back in kind. V.16. And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, they commanded or instructed some one to bring him a message, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, v.17. 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. So the sons’ fear of Joseph’s revenge had caused them to make a full confession to their father and to ask his advice in this difficult matter. Their repentance, their conversion, was now an accomplished fact: they had made a full and free confession. And now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. Thus the brothers received perfect assurance of the forgiveness of their sin, for it is by confessing and forsaking sins that mercy is obtained. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him, it grieved him to think that they believed him capable of such meanness, but he wept also tears of joy over this evidence of complete repentance. V.18. And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. They freely offered what they had formerly resented with indignation. V.19. And Joseph said unto them, Fear not; for am I in the place of God, to judge, to condemn, and to punish? God had brought matters to pass in this manner, and it was not for Joseph to change God’s purposes. V.20. 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. Their evil intentions the Lord had not only frustrated, but had turned them for the best, as they plainly saw before their eyes, their own lives being saved as a consequence of the Lord’s providence. V.21. Now, therefore, fear ye not; I will nourish you and your little ones. His kind favor would be with them as heretofore. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them, thus giving an example of true forgiveness for all times; for this is the disposition which all Christians should foster most diligently.
THE DEATH OF JOSEPH. - V.22. And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s house. And Joseph lived an hundred and ten years, thus enjoying the love and the reverence of the Egyptians for eighty years. V.23. 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. He lived to see grandchildren and great-grandchildren, thus experiencing what it means that God shows mercy to the third and fourth generation of them that love Him and keep His commandments. 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. It was his dying message, prophetical in tone, breathing his faith in the fulfillment of the divine promise, chap. 46, 4. 5. V.25. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. Like his father, he did not want his bones to rest in strange ground, but his very burial should express his faith in the patriarchal blessing and in the Messianic promise. He was sure that the Lord would visit His people with His grace and mercy. That is the final test, if a person retains his faith until the end, V.26. So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt, in a chest of sycamore wood such as was used to keep a mummy until the time of burial. The children of Israel kept the oath which their fathers had sworn to Joseph. When they left Egypt, they carried the mummy of Joseph along with them, Ex. 13, 19, and when they arrived in Canaan, they buried him in the field of Jacob at Shechem, Josh. 24, 32. From Joseph we learn to set our hope forward to the great Land of Promise above and patiently to await the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls.