Jacob died at the ripe old age of a hundred and forty seven and his dying wish was that he be buried in his ancestral tomb, the one Abraham had bought for Sarah. Perhaps Jacob now realized that he had come a long way from the land that God had promised his forefathers and wanted at least his final resting place to be among his people.
It was a long journey back to Machpelah, so Joseph ordered the doctors in his service to properly embalm his father’s body. If anyone in the ancient world would be experts in funeral arrangements, it would be the Egyptians and that is evident here also, as they took forty days to embalm Jacob’s body.
It is however strange that the Egyptians would also mourn for Jacob, a foreigner in their land. It could be customary for the country to mourn the death of a close family member of a high ranking official in Pharaoh’s court.
We see Joseph approaching Pharaoh, though not directly but through his court. Either Joseph is being too respectful and following the protocols that are in place to the letter or there is some gap between Joseph and Pharaoh by now.
Joseph made his request known to the court with regards to his father’s dying wish and asked to be allowed to leave for his homeland to perform the last rites for his father. Pharaoh granted Joseph’s request but sent all the dignitaries of his court along with Joseph and his entire household. Only their children and flocks were left in Goshen.
It seems like the Egyptians wanted to show compassion towards Joseph but at the same time, exercised caution when dealing with the Hebrews. Jacob’s family had prospered in Egypt and perhaps Pharaoh did not want to lose this influential family. Apart from rearing his livestock, Jacob’s family was of another use to the Pharaoh. He needed Joseph to interpret the will of the God of Heaven and Earth.
The ancient world was full of superstitions and given that they had witnessed God work through Joseph, they perhaps did not want to lose his services, lest he gets emotional when visiting his hometown, a place which he had not visited in the last forty years.
After burying his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, together with his brothers and all the others who had gone with him to bury his father.Genesis 50:14
Joseph & his Brothers
If Jacob had to tell something to Joseph, he would have directly spoken to Joseph when he was alive. We do not know if Jacob even knew what his sons had done to Joseph in the past, as the scriptures do not mention that out-rightly. But it seems like the brothers are again trying to pull a fast one on Joseph. Joseph wept when he heard what his brothers had to say, possibly at their ignorance.
We often try to depend on human recommendations to get our way in this world. We need only recommendations when we feel that on our own merits, we will never get what we want. Recommendations for jobs we don’t deserve, college admissions we don’t qualify for and life partners that are out of our league. Like Jacob, we keep chasing after earthly honor and comforts, and we fail to realize that the only recommendation we need, has already been given to us.
Now it is God who makes …us … stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.2 Corinthians 1:21-22
Joseph could have ruled over his brothers and played out his childhood dreams into a reality but he took a step back and realized who had brought him to his current position.
So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. ” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.Genesis 50:21
In the book of Nehemiah, we read about his anger towards those who mocked the shabbily constructed walls of the fallen Jerusalem. Having spent his entire life in captivity in a foreign nation, Nehemiah still did not understand the gravity of his request when he asked God to allow his enemies to be captives in a foreign land.
Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.Nehemiah 4:4-5
We need to be more like Joseph and David when we are placed in similar situations and always remember that God is the one who raised Joseph & David from their respective prisons and the one who has raised us from our eternal prison.
Death of Joseph
There was always signs of some restraints for Joseph and his family in Egypt. Why did Joseph never contact his family during all the years he was in Egypt? Why did he not reach out to his father during their twenty years of separation? Why did Jacob desire to leave but only his corpse was able to escape Egypt? Why was Jacob’s burial such a big issue with all of Pharaoh’s dignitaries accompanying Joseph?
And now Joseph himself is asking his brothers to carry his bones out of Egypt. Years later, Israelites were slaved for four hundred years and were not even allowed to worship their God. Over the years the silent restrictions became an enforced captivity.
Things were not good for the ‘Hebrew boy’ and his family, as Joseph is not able to find favor in the current Pharaoh’s eyes for his request to be buried in his homeland along with his father. He has to plead his brothers to carry his bones when they eventually leave Egypt.
If we start getting accustomed to our comfort zone and distancing ourselves from God, satan will use the temptation of our comfortable surroundings to further the gap between us and God.
Throughout the book of Genesis, we see God’s plan for our redemption in motion, even when the ‘chosen ones’ kept messing things up. God used their ill-intended motives to bring out good in their life and through them in our lives.
We see the result of Abraham’s distrust on God, Ishmael, become a great nation. The seemingly mundane rivalry between two sisters for their husband’s affection, gave birth to a lot of sin and hurt but also to the twelve tribes of Israel.
The result of the rivalry brought the Israelites to Egypt as out of jealousy towards Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph was sold by his brothers. But as it turned out, the sin the brothers committed in haste, turned out to be what saved Israel from the famine in Canaan.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.Genesis 50:20
Just because God found a way to progress His plan for our redemption through this broken family in spite of their shortcomings, we must not think that we can go on sinning and God will keep his promise. What we rather should takeaway from the story of Genesis is that, our lives are not perfect and oftentimes we too mess up like these people but if we allow God to work in our lives, He will transform the mess that we have created into something beautiful. And that’s the story of Genesis!