This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.
1 Then Joseph fell on his father’s face, and wept over him and kissed him. 2 Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel. 3 Now forty days were required for it, for such is the period required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.
The Egyptians did not embalm just anyone. This indicates Jacob’s exalted status in the eyes of the Egyptians. He was the blessed patriarch of the household of Israel and father of Joseph. The process of embalming took forty days, but the exhibition of grief took seventy.
4 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, 5 ‘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.’” 6 Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear.”
Joseph’s relationship with Pharaoh was nothing like the relationship that would exist between Moses and Pharaoh. Pharaoh allowed Joseph and his family to go and bury Jacob in the land of Canaan.
7 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 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. 10 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. 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.
Pharaoh even sent his servants and elders with Joseph to bury Jacob. This was not a common burial. It was the burial of a beloved patriarch of a nation. The Egyptians mourned so much that the people of the land of Canaan were bewildered by it.
12 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.
So ended the age of the patriarchs. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all buried without seeing the fulfillment of the promises to them. But they died in faith, fully expecting that these promises would be brought about and that their eyes would see them. The sons of Israel returned to Egypt, leaving no part of their household in Canaan. They had no foothold in the Promised Land, but were living in a foreign land.
15 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!” 16 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.” 19 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.
Joseph’s response demonstrates a great understanding of God’s sovereignty over the affairs of men. Although Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery with evil intentions, God had good intentions in their actions. He used their actions to bring about His good result. So Joseph had no reason to hold a grudge against his brothers.
22 Now Joseph stayed in Egypt, he and his father’s household, and Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. 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.” 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.” 26 So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.
Joseph died believing that the covenant promises of God would come to pass. He knew that the sons of Israel would stay in Egypt for many years, but would be delivered from Egypt by God in order to go and possess the Promised Land. So he ordered them to carry his bones with them during their departure. But until that time his remains would stay with them in the land of Egypt.