The Word Made Fresh
1Joseph threw himself on his father and kissed him and wept. 2Then he ordered the physicians under his authority to embalm his father Israel. They began the process, 3which took forty days, and the Egyptians wept for Jacob seventy days.
4When the period of official mourning had passed, Joseph appeared before Pharaoh’s court. He said, “If I have found favor with you, please tell Pharaoh 5that when my father was dying, he made me promise to bury him in the tomb prepared for him in the land of Canaan. Ask him to permit me to go bury my father, and then I will return.”
6Pharaoh answered, “Yes, you may go and bury your father as you promised him.”
7So, Joseph made the trip to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials and servants went with him, 8in addition to Joseph’s family and his brothers’ and father’s families. They left their children and their flocks and herds in Goshen. 9The large number who went with him included chariots and chariot drivers.
10When they crossed the Jordan into Canaan at the threshing floor of Atad, they camped and raised a loud lament for Joseph’s father for seven days. 11When the Canaanites saw them weeping there they said, “The Egyptians are raising a great lamentation,” and called the place Abel-mizraim (weeping Egypt). 12Then his sons carried out Jacob’s instructions 13and carried his body into Canaan and buried him in the cave in the field at Machpelah near Mamre which Abraham bought as a burial site from Ephron the Hittite. 14After he was buried, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and the others who had gone with him.
15Now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still holds a grudge against us. He might retaliate against us for what we did to him.” 16They came to Joseph and said, “Before he died your father said to us, 17‘Tell Joseph to forgive you for the harm you caused him.’ So, now please forgive us, servants of the God of your father, for our wrongdoing.”
Joseph began to weep, 18and they began to weep with him, falling before him, and they said, “We are your slaves!”
19But Joseph said, “You need not have worried. Am I in the place of God? 20You may have intended to harm me, but God arranged it all in order to save people’s lives, which God is still doing today. 21Don’t be afraid. I’ll protect you and your children.” And he reassured them with his kindness.
22Joseph remained in Egypt with his father’s family. He lived 110 years. 23He lived to see his son Ephraim’s children to the third generation, and the children of Machir, his son Manasseh’s son, were born on Joseph’s knees.
24Joseph said to his brothers, “I will die soon, but God will certainly come and bring you out of this land and lead you to the land he promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And he made them swear that when God did come to them, they would carry his bones from Egypt.
25Then Joseph died at the age of one hundred ten. His body was embalmed, and he was laid in a coffin in Egypt.
1-3: Joseph has Jacob embalmed, a forty-day process of preserving the skeletal and external features. The Egyptians keep seventy days of mourning for him, treating him as a high official, or I should say treating him as the father of a high official.
4-6: But now it appears that Joseph has lost some favor. He has to ask Pharaoh’s court to speak to Pharaoh on his behalf and beg permission to bury Jacob in Canaan. They do, and Pharaoh gives his consent.
7-14: But the consent is not as complete as we might expect, for Joseph is accompanied not only by his family, but by Pharaoh’s court along with an escort of chariots and horsemen! Not only that, but they leave their flocks and herds behind in Egypt when they go. The distinct appearance is that their lot in Egypt has changed rather drastically over the last 17 years. Their journey carries them across the Jordan Rift Valley into what would later be Edom. The place is given an Egyptian name, Abel-mizraim, raising the question of whether or not in the intervening years Egypt’s territory has expanded substantially. They move further north and back across the Jordan valley to the burial place beside Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebekah, where they bury Jacob and observe seven days of mourning.
15-21: Joseph’s brothers concoct a story to persuade Joseph not to retaliate now that Jacob is dead. Notice that they never claim to be the ones who sold Joseph into slavery. Joseph again repeats his belief that God arranged his deportment to Egypt and promises to provide for them and their children. But why do they need Joseph to provide for them? Haven’t they settled in Goshen and prospered (see 47:27)? Obviously, their situation has changed, and although Joseph is still an important man in Egypt, he no longer has the exalted position he once had.
22-26: About seventy years pass, and Joseph dies. He lives long enough to see his great-grandchildren. Before he dies Joseph tells his Hebrew family that the day will come when God’s promise to Abraham is fulfilled and they will leave Egypt and go to that promised land. There is again the hint that Joseph has lost favor — he says to them, “God will surely come to your aid, and take you out of this land to the land he promised.” Joseph is one hundred ten years old. If he was thirty when he came to power, and the bountiful harvests lasted seven years, then he was thirty-seven when the famine began and would have been forty-four when the famine ended. Jacob and family came to Egypt sometime during the famine; perhaps in the second or third year of it. That means they had been in Egypt about seventy years when Joseph dies. Why do you think they are still there? Clearly, they were not free to leave after the famine ended.
Joseph is embalmed and buried in Egypt but asks his family to take his bones with them back to Canaan when they return.
Sometimes we humans go to great lengths to ruin things, thinking we are doing good in the world. It just gives God more work to do, but that is what God is good at. It will take God a long time to correct all the damage done by Abraham’s offspring in the book of Genesis — through Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, etc. But then, a thousand years is as a single day to God.