[Today: Genesis 50] After the Death of Jacob: After Jacob’s death the brothers of Joseph are fearful that he will turn against them and take vengeance. Joseph reaffirms his love for his brothers as a type of Christ extending forgiveness to whosoever will. Have you accepted the full forgiveness of Jesus on your life?
This chapter covers events from the death of Jacob to the end of Joseph’s life. Joseph was deeply affected by the passing of his father and takes great pains to prepare funeral rites that conferred great honor upon his father in full view of the nation of Egypt and its people. In the aftermath of Jacob’s death, Joseph’s brothers are concerned that since Jacob is gone, Joseph will exact revenge upon them for their mistreatment of Joseph in his youth. Joseph, seeking to clear this up and to comfort his brothers reiterates his heart of forgiveness toward his brothers, and the remainder of the chapter addresses Joseph’s life in his old age and his ultimate death.
In v. 1 seeing that Jacob is dead, Joseph falls on his father’s face, weeping and kissing his father’s cold features. Sadly, many times, Christian leaders try to discourage bereaved families from expressions of grief and mourning over their loved ones. Let this verse be a comfort to you when you are moved to tears when one of your family members goes on to be with the Lord. Joseph was not being immature when he cried over Jacob and showed such emotion at his father’s passing. King David was likewise very demonstrative over the death of his son Absalom and the son born out of the matter with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 18:33; 2 Sam. 12:18). God made us to be emotional beings, and one of those emotions is grief and sorrow that have their rightful place in our lives, regardless of the religious attitude some demonstrate in criticizing such outpourings of heartbreak upon the occasion of the loss of a loved one.
In v. 2, Joseph commands his Egyptian servants to embalm Jacob. In v. 3, we see that this was a process that took up to forty days and beyond that, the entire nation of Egypt mourned Jacob’s passing for a total of 70 days. What is the significance of 70 days of mourning? Historians tell us that when the Pharaoh’s died they were mourned for 72 days; thus, we understand that Joseph was giving his father the highest honor in his death and mourning period, and we observe Pharaoh and the people of Egypt fully participated because of the respect they had for Jacob and for Jacob’s son Joseph.
In v. 4-13, Joseph petitions Pharaoh to allow him to return his father’s body to Canaan, as Jacob commanded before his death. Joseph and his brothers depart from Egypt with their father’s body and come to the threshing floor of one Atad, where they mourned a great mourning for seven days. It is interesting that the Canaanites identified them in their mourning as Egyptians and not Hebrews. This is a strong indication that even as shepherds, the people of Jacob, and the 11 brothers had largely adopted the dress and manner of their Egyptians neighbors during their years living among them having been settled in the land of Goshen.
Jacob is buried in the cave at the field of Machpelah, the very same cave where Abraham buried Sarah and where Isaac and Ishmael had buried Abraham. What does this say to us today? Machpelah means double portion. To choose this as a burial place was a faith statement by the patriarchs that death was not an end; it was only the beginning or the starting point, leading to a greater reward. There may be things in your life that have died, and your losses may have been great but realize that in Christ, losses are not permanent but only precursors to the greater faithfulness of God that will no doubt and without fail be forthcoming in your life.
After Jacob’s death (v. 15), the brothers fear that now that their father is gone Joseph will take retaliation against them for selling him into captivity in his youth. They send a messenger, therefore (v. 17), asking Joseph to reiterate his forgiveness for their sins against him. When Joseph hears of this, he goes to his brothers, weeping before them. They likewise fall on their faces before Joseph declaring themselves to be his servants. Notice that Joseph is making no demands on them because of the sins of years gone by. He declares to them (v. 19) that he will not put himself in place of God so as to punish them now for things in the past. What a great lesson for us of the forgiveness of God toward ourselves and the mandate of walking in forgiveness toward others. Joseph’s ultimate perspective on all of this (v. 20) is that what they meant for evil God meant for good, and that was the end of the matter as far as he was concerned.
In verse 21, Joseph (who speaks to his brothers as a type of Christ), tells them to have no fear. Remember when he tells them this, they are lying prostrate before him declaring themselves to be his servants. What about us today? Are we prostrate before Christ declaring ourselves to be his servants, or are we going our own way, expecting Jesus to make good on the merits of the Cross without any yieldeness on our part? What if Joseph’s brothers would have been standing in opposition against Joseph, hurling his words back in his teeth? The outcome for them would have been much different. Many times, Christians go through things that are contrary to God’s promises to us, but it is important in those times to take account for our attitude. The promises of God are to those accepting Jesus not only as savior but as Lord just as Joseph was not only the savior of his brothers; he was also their lord.
In v. 22, we find mention of the years of Joseph being 110 years. That is not uncommon today. Many men and women in the world live that long and sometimes even longer. Joseph lived to see Ephraim and Mannasah’s children’s children to their third generation. When his death was approaching, he follows the example of his father commanding that he not be buried in Egypt but in Canaan at the cave Machpelah. Having extracted this promise, he dies, and his embalmed body was placed in a sarcophagus to be carried out of Egypt with Moses and the children of Israel almost 400 years later.