Genesis 50:1-3 – Joseph fell upon his father after he died and wept. Joseph no doubt believed firmly in the resurrection but the loss of a loved one still engenders deep sorrow. The day is coming when according to the Scriptures there will be no more sorrow or crying, but until then death causes sorrow (Revelation 21:4).
We who have come to faith when faced with the death of our loved ones are encouraged not to sorrow as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). According to the customs of the Egyptians Joseph was embalmed, a process that took 40 days. For Joseph’s sake and because of the reputation of Jacob earned in the 17 years that he lived in Egypt, the entire country of Egypt mourned for seven days.
Genesis 50:4-6 – Forty days were required for Egyptian embalming. This was an elaborate process during which the body was mummified by removing most of the vital organs, dehydrating the body, and wrapping it tightly. Following this extensive procedure Joseph and his brothers began the steps necessary to fulfill Jacob’s request to be buried in the Promised Land. The famine was now over in the land and prosperity abounded.
This would be an ideal time humanly speaking for the Israelites to return to the Promised Land. Egypt and Pharaoh had prospered because of Joseph and the idea of his leaving might have been deemed a threat to the future prosperity of the nation. Joseph seems to be aware that any thought of leaving might be seen as a threat to the national security.
Using his God given wisdom he first approaches Pharaoh’s staff with the request to leave Egypt to return to Canaan to bury his father. He knew that they had a great respect for the dead and would be most inclined to grant such a request. He assures them that he will return to Egypt and then asks them to relay his desires to Pharaoh. Pharaoh recognized the appropriateness of his request and went so far as to make the funeral an official state function with all due honors accorded.
Genesis 50:7-11 – The funeral procession was indeed a state affair. Pharaoh’s household and his advisers were a part of the caravan to Canaan. This meant that servants and food and other supplies accompanied the party to the burial in Hebron. At the threshing floor of Atad,
East of the Jordan River and North of the Dead Sea, a formal seven‑day period of mourning was carried out. Since the Egyptians who accompanied the procession joined in the mourning, the place was called Abel Mizraim, which means “mourning of Egypt.” This event had to have had an impact on the Canaanites who probably were the ones to name the site of the mourning. To this day Jewish mourning consists of seven days and is termed Shiva which means seven.
Genesis 50:12-21 – When they finished mourning for Jacob they buried him with his fathers in the cave at Machpelah and returned back to Egypt. The brothers feared that once the death of their father was no longer in the forefront of Joseph’s mind that he would then begin the process of retaliation against them for their treachery toward him. It was one thing for them to believe that he would not retaliate against them while their father was alive, but now that he was dead the brothers were very concerned.
Earlier in Genesis 45:4-11 Joseph had assured them that they he knew that what happened to him was part of God’s providence in saving them all. They still were under heavy conviction and guilt for what they had done to Joseph. In reality they had never really fully confessed their sin to Joseph. Their actions and words to Joseph who they had not yet recognized convinced him that they regretted what they had done to him. Now that their father had died they feared that Joseph would retaliate.
They sent word to Joseph probably through Benjamin or Judah that their father had urged him to forgive the sin of his brothers. With this word they confessed their sin and guilt openly to Joseph. Joseph was moved once again by their plea. He was probably touched by their confession of sin and their plea for his forgiveness. They address themselves as servants of the God of Jacob, which perhaps was an indication of their understanding of their calling and role in the establishment of God’s Kingdom upon the earth.
They offer themselves as his servants or as the NIV translates it as his slaves. This is a further indication of the genuineness of their confession as offering themselves as his servants is an attempt at restitution for their sin. Joseph once again comforts them with his full forgiveness. Joseph comforted others with the same comforts that he had been comforted (2 Corinthians 1:4). Again he reminds them of God’s sovereignty in working out all those events for the good. He further assures them that he will take care of them and their children.
Genesis 50:22-26 – Joseph lived a long life, but considerably shorter than Abraham (175), Isaac (180), and Jacob (147). Longevity continued to decline from the days of the flood. Joseph lived long enough to see his great grandchildren. When he saw his death approaching, he comforted his brothers further by assuring them that they would return to Canaan in due time.
As a confession of his faith, and to encourage theirs, he charged his children and grand children to take his body with them, which they returned to the land (Hebrews 11:22). The Bible tells us that his children did bring their bones with them when they left Egypt (Exodus 13:19 and Joshua 24:32). When Joseph died they prepared his body as they did Jacob’s but did not bury him at that time in Egypt. So we end our study on the Book of Genesis.