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Chapter 50 (ch. 49:29 to 50:26)

Previous Section - Chapter 49

ch. 49:29 - 50:14     ch. 50:15 - 21     ch. 50:22 - 26

The Death Of Jacob  (ch. 49:29 to 50:14)

 

In verses 29 to 32 Jacob begins his final instructions concerning his death.  He wants to be buried in the tomb that Abraham bought as a family burial site.  This tomb is in Hebron, south of Jerusalem, and is there to this day.   No true Israeli would want to be buried in Egypt.  Egypt is a symbol of the world that Israel was not to be like or a part of.  Besides, God promised Israel the  land of Canaan, and that is where they were to live and be buried.  Israel was in Egypt due to God's judgment.  Israel was also dispersed into the world, or, "spiritual Egypt", as a means of God's judgment in 70 A. D. 

 

Verse 33 tells us that Jacob then died.  He drew his feet into his bed.  He had clearly been sitting on the edge of his bed when he was giving the prophecies of the last chapter.  The text says that "he breathed his last".  The Hebrew word for breathe is the same word that we translate spirit from.  Jacob simply gave up his spirit to be gathered with his family. 

 

There are two things to note at this point.  One is that the term "being gathered" means to be gathered with those in his family who had died before him.  He would now be where they are, and that is, Hades, the place of the departed dead.  It is commonly thought that Hades was divided into two sections, one for the righteous dead, and one for the unrighteous dead.  Many people believe that Jesus freed the righteous dead and took them to paradise. 

 

The other point to consider here is that it appears that Jacob gave up his life in the sense that it was his decision.  Many people just die. Death is beyond their control, but that does not seem to be the case here, and I think, sometimes that is the case with certain people.  They almost choose to die.  I tend to think that death can be a two sided thing.  The Lord takes us, but at the same time, when we are close to death, we can say, "I'm ready", and at that point, you just die. I've seen that happen.

 

Chapter 50 continues from chapter 49 in the NIV

 

In verse 1 we see that Joseph threw himself on his father and wept.  The word "threw" is very descriptive.  I picture Joseph lunging on his father because of the great emotion he had.  We've learned earlier that Jacob had lived in Egypt for seventeen years.  Joseph had now been close to his father for the last seventeen years of his life, while being away from him for two decades or more prior to their reunion.

 

We note that in verse 2 Joseph called in the physicians of Egypt to embalm Jacob. We tend to think of the word "physician" as a doctor, but that might not be the case here.  The word seems to suggest "an embalmer".   The Hebrew word translated as "physicians" here mean "a spice'.   Certain types of spices would have been used in the process of embalming.  

 

The text says that the embalming process lasted forty days while the people of Egypt mourned for seventy days.  The embalming process took a long time, anywhere from forty to seventy days.  All of the internal organs were removed except for the heart.  The Egyptians were the first civilization to embalm the dead. 

 

Hebrew people did not embalm the dead.  They buried their dead very quickly.  I think the reason why Jacob was embalmed is obvious.  It is because he was to be transported quite a distance to his burial site.  Of course, Joseph by now is very much influenced by Egyptian culture, but still I think that was a secondary reason for Jacob being embalmed.  

 

Some people might think that Jesus was embalmed but He wasn't.  Yes, His body was prepared with spices and rapped, but not to the same degree as was done in Egypt .  Jesus would rise from the dead, and so there would be no need for Him to be embalmed, besides, that wasn't Jewish practice.  

 

In western culture today people either have their bodies buried or else they are cremated.  Some people are against cremation because they think that will hinder things when the "dead in Christ are raised" at the end of this age.  But we note here that Jacob, and later Joseph, are embalmed, which includes all of the organs except the heart being taken out of the body.   In my thinking, this is not all that different than cremation.  Much of your body is lost to fire in the Egyptian embalming process, just as your body is lost to fire in the process of cremation, and we can be sure that both Jacob and Joseph will be living with Jesus in the next life.         

 

Notice in verses 4 and 5 that Joseph asked permission to leave Egypt and return to Canaan to bury Jacob.  Even though Joseph was the second in command in all of Egypt, he still asked Pharaoh for permission to leave the country.  In verse 6 Pharaoh granted Joseph's request.

 

In verses 7 through 9 we see a "very large company" of people leave Egypt with Joseph.  All the important people of Egypt went with Joseph, his family, and all of the brothers families.  Only the children stayed behind.  This would have been one very long procession across the countryside. 

 

In verse 10, when the procession got close to the burial site, they stopped at a place called "the threshing floor of Atad".  Here they all mourned and wept for seven days.  You might wonder how some people could actually weep for so long.

 

In verse 11 we note that the Canaanites saw "the Egyptians" mourning, and that place came to be known as "Abel Mizrain".   Of course, there were lots of Egyptians in the procession, but many, if not most were Hebrews.   It appears that the style of mourning was very much Egyptian.  

 

Verses 12 to 14 simply state that Joseph buried his father where he was to be buried and they all returned to Egypt.

 

Joseph Reassures His Brothers (ch. 50:15-21)

 

In verse 15 we see the natural feelings that Joseph's brothers were having  Now that Jacob was dead, they feared Joseph would now retaliate for the wrong they had done to them.  They obviously thought that Joseph had been kind to them just because of Jacob. 

 

In verses 16 and 17 we note that the brothers really hadn't changed all that much over the years.  Because they felt they would now be in trouble, they lied.  They told Joseph that Jacob had left specific instruction to them to tell him that he forgive them for the evil they did to him.  There is no account of these instructions being given, and I doubt if they were.  If Jacob wanted this to be known to Joseph, he would have told him directly. 

 

Note how verse 17 puts this request made by the brothers to Joseph.  It reads, "now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father".   Note that the brothers claimed to be "servants of God", which might be a bit ironic to some.  Note also that the God they are supposed to be serving was the "God of Joseph's father'.   The brothers are pleading with Joseph through the memory of his father.  In their minds, this memory should soften Joseph's heart.  But as verse 17 states, Joseph's heart was already soft.  He wept when he heard this request.

 

The ultimate fulfillment of Joseph's two dreams when he was seventeen years old now come true.  Verse 18 says that the brothers "threw" themselves down before Joseph and acknowledged that they were his slaves.  The one they sold into slavery now had become their lord and master.  This reminds me of the Jews in Jesus' days while on earth, and at His death.  Jesus, the one the Jews put to death, has now become their Lord and Master, or as Peter stated it in the book of Acts, their "Lord and Christ".  

 

Joseph answers in verse 19.  He tells his brothers not to be afraid.  He asks, "am I in the place of God?"  Joseph is simply saying "am I God".  He is saying that only God has the right to avenge evil with evil.  In verse 20 Joseph reaffirms what he has already said, and that was the brothers meant this to be evil, but God meant it to be good.  God turned their evil into His good in order to save many people.  This is exactly what took place at the cross.  The Jews and the Romans killed Jesus.  They meant it to be evil, but God meant it to be good in order to save many.  The same will happen at the end of this age.  The anti-christ will come, devastate Israel.  The anti-christ will have meant it for evil, but God will use it for Israel's good, that is, their salvation.

 

In verse 21 Joseph reassured his brothers that he would look after them and their children. This makes me think, and I'm not suggesting that this is a secondary meaning to this verse, although part of me would like to think it is.  Joseph said that he would look after his brothers children.  We've already related this event to the death of Jesus.  In both cases, the end result of evil that was done was for the salvation of people.  Now Joseph says he will look after his children.  I would like to think that Jesus will look after our children as well. 

 

The Death Of Joseph (ch. 50:22 - 26)

 

In verses 22 and 23 we see that Joseph spent the rest of his life in Egypt.  He lived one hundred and ten years and actually got to see the third generation from Ephraim, and the second generation from Manasseh. 

 

We see in verse 24 that Joseph speaks to his brothers on his death bed.  I'm not sure if any of the brothers had already died, or if Joseph was the first to die.  He told his brothers that God would come to their aid and look after them and return them back to Canaan as He had promised.  God specifically told Jacob that the Israeli stay in Egypt was temporary.  

 

What we see in Joseph's words here is that he believed all along that it was God who had saved and rescued the family of Jacob.  God had used him, but it was God all along.  So just because Joseph would no longer be around would not mean that God would stop looking after the family of Jacob.  God has always looked after Israel and always will, even though the way in which He looks after them does require severe judgment at times. 

 

In verses 25 and 26, like Jacob, Joseph made his brothers swear that they would not leave his body in Egypt, that they "would carry him up", as in, up to Canaan, and specifically Hebron.  Joseph was embalmed like his father Jacob and probably for the same reason.  He was buried in Egypt until the time came for the Children of Israel to return to Canaan .

 

This ends my commentary on the book of Genesis, from Adam to Joseph, from the beginning of the human race, to the beginning of a special nation of people.   Now to the book of Exodus where we see Moses, the Law, and the next step in nationhood for Israel.             

 

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