March 5, 2018

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

PART IV: JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN (Gen. 37:1-50:26)

      Topic #F: THE LAST DAYS OF JACOB AND OF JOSEPH. (Gen. 47:28-50:26).                    

 

                    Lesson IV.F.8: The Close of Joseph's Career. (Genesis 50:22-26)                                                     

             

 

Genesis 50:22-26

 

22 And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father's house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years.

23 And Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation: the children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were brought up upon Joseph's knees.

24 And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

25 And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.

26 So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

 

Introduction

The story of Joseph’s death and burial is told in five short verses, and with that death the book of Genesis ends.  It was a significant death.  In Hebrews 11, the Holy Spirit passes over scores of things He could have said about Joseph and fastens on the incident mentioned here—the fact that Joseph when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel and gave instructions concerning his bones.  It was the greatest and most enlightening act of faith in a life that was ablaze with faith.

 

The Lesson

22 And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father's house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years.

 

Joseph honored his father, and God rewarded him with a long life, for he lived to the ripe old age of one hundred and ten years. These were years during which he was a support and comfort to God’s chosen people.  The span of one hundred and ten years was fully appropriate, since it was thought to be the ideal life span for an Egyptian; and it was long enough for him to see his great-grandchildren.

 

He was fifty-six when Jacob died, and he lived on in all the pomp and splendor of his high position for another fifty-four years.  The commandment concerning his bones was fulfilled only after the laps of centuries.  There had to come another hereditary line of pharaohs and “a new king of Egypt which knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1:8) and the great oppression of Israel before Joseph’s demand (50:25) could be fulfilled.

 

So we picture Joseph living out his days in a splendor known by only a few.  His contemporaries at court were spending fortunes on their tombs, but not Joseph.  They would say to him: “Joseph, don’t you think it’s about time you started work on your tomb?  Do you think you’re going to live forever?” and Joseph would bear testimony to his faith and to his God.  For though he had success and influence, majesty and power, children and grandchildren, wisdom and wealth, and all that this world could offer, he never once forgot the true values of life and death.  And those values did not include a tomb in Egypt.  One suspects he would have traded Egypt with all its magnificence any day for a tent in Canaan.  His heart’s affections were in the Promised Land, not Egypt.  His heart was in safe keeping in the hands of God.  No wonder God could trust him with such wealth and power.  It is not money that is a root of all evil; it is the love of money.  Joseph, then, dwelt in Egypt but desired Canaan.

 

23 And Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation: the children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were brought up upon Joseph's knees.

 

And Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation:

Joseph lived to see his great-great-grandchildren by Ephraim and his great grandchildren by Manasseh.

 

 

the children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were were brought up upon Joseph's knees.

This gesture serves either as a ritual of adoption or of legitimation.  Placing them on his knees at their birth was a gesture that signified they belonged to him (Job 3:12). Somehow it adds a delightfully human touch to the story of Joseph to picture him, as the Holy Spirit does, as a grandfather with little ones on his knee.

 

24 And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

 

When he was 110, Joseph realized his time had come to make his exodus from Egypt.  His time had come to die. He summoned his brethren to his mansion on the Nile.  “I die,” he said, “and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham to Isaac and to Jacob.” [These words of Joseph, “God will surely visit you (better; come to your aid),” given twice, amazingly summarize the hope expressed throughout the Old Testament as well as the New.]That was his discernment.  He took his stand on that. Although Joseph knows that Egyptian science will turn his body into a mummy, he still thinks of his remains in Hebrew terms as he makes reference to his eventual restoration to the land of the Hebrews.  For the aged diplomat saw beyond his approaching death.  He saw the days of tribulation that would surely come.  He sought Israel crushed and broken beneath a conquering pharaoh’s heel.  He saw the coming of a kinsmen-redeemer.  He can see so far ahead because he was so rooted and grounded in the past.  His faith was anchored to the word of God, to God’s infallible promise to Abraham. 

 

Joseph did not spiritualize and allegorizing the promises of God.  He took them literally and at their face value.  God said what he meant and meant what He said.  Joseph did not call Canaan “heaven” and dissolve all the promises of God into mystical fantasies.  God’s promises dealt with cold, hard facts, and Joseph took them as such.  “God will surely visit you,” he said. It was the right way to handle the word of truth.  Joseph needed no divining cup, no magicians and soothsayers to make a statement like that.  He simply banked on the integrity of the word of God.  God had spoken, that was enough for him.

 

When Joseph saw his death approaching, he comforted his brethren with the assurance of their return to Canaan in due time; thus confessing his own faith in God’s promise and encouraging theirs.  The ground is now laid for the great movement out of Egypt described in Exodus.

 

Note in the example of Joseph the signs of a good man’s death.  There is no distress or fear.  Instead, there is simplicity of acceptance that is at once childlike and mature.  “I die.” In these serene monosyllables there is the response of the soul that with a child’s obedience answers their mother’s call to “Come home.” 

 

The death of Joseph suggests further that the good man in his death can be not only serene but also hopeful.  Often it seems, and unhappily so, that this is not true.  Many men when they die have no hope or inspiration to pass along to those who follow; and such men may include by no means only those whose lives have been evil or indifferent.  They may include those who have been called good, but whose goodness was of a passing and unadventuresome kind.  They have invested nothing in the future.

 

25 And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.

 

And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you,

Joseph made his family promise under oath that they would bury him in Canaan (It was his last command), and until that glorious day that they would keep him unburied.  This would keep alive their expectation of a speedy departure from Egypt, and keep Canaan continually in their mind.  This would also connect Joseph’s descendents to their brethren and tend to prevent them from integrating into Egyptian society. We read in Hebrews 11:22, “By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.” He prefers a burial in Canaan―though it would be deferred for almost 200 years―before a magnificent one in Egypt.

 

and ye shall carry up my bones from hence

Moses knew the value of that box of bones.  On the great night of the Exodus, every Hebrew in Egypt was caring something—the spoil of a nation was theirs to be carted away.  Moses “took the bones of Joseph with him” (Exodus 13:19).  The complete verse reads, “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, "God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place." Those bones, that memorial body had a message for Israel just as our Lord’s memorial body has a message for us.  Joseph’s body pointed back to the past, to the fact that God had kept His word and it pointed on—all through the wilderness way and wilderness wonderings—it pointed on to Canaan.  “God had brought them out; God would bring them in.” Joseph’s memorial body spoke to Israel as the Lord’s body does to His church.  It was the last and final point in which Joseph typified Jesus.  “This do in remembrance of me,” said Joseph as he spoke of his body; and Jesus said the same as he spoke of His body.

 

The words “Carry up,” if used directionally refers to movement toward the Promised Land, and when used within the Promised Land, to Jerusalem, and when in Jerusalem, to the temple; hence, “carry up” means to move closer to the presence of the Lord.

 

Some speculate that the political scene was already beginning to change late in Joseph’s life and that it was no longer an easy matter to return to Canaan.

 

26 So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

 

So Joseph died . . . and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt. (The Hebrews in Canaan appear not to have used coffins, for the term occurs only here.) But he did not stay there.  Moses carried his bones across the sands of Sinai, and Joshua carried them on into Canaan.  Joshua 24:32 tells us, “And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.”

 

He dies in Egypt; but with the assurance that God will surely visit Israel, and bring them to Canaan.  The death as well as the life of this eminent saint was truly excellent; and both furnish us with strong encouragement to persevere in the service of God.  Even when our life is coming to a close, if we have trusted in Him upon whom the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles depended, we need not fear to say, “My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.”

 

Someone has a question.  Why wasn’t Joseph taken up to Canaan and buried there at this time?  That’s what they did when Jacob died, but Joseph’s circumstances are quite different from Joseph’s. I think it is obvious that Joseph was a hero in the land of Egypt and his family would not have been permitted to remove his body from Egypt at that time.  I think he was one of the outstanding patriots whom the Egyptians reverenced.  Probably they had a monument raised at his grave.  In Exodus 13 we will see how wonderfully God honored Joseph and answered his request.

 

More than any other people known to history the Egyptians surrounded death with pomp and grandeur.  Witness the pyramids, the colossal temples and statues at Thebes and Karnak, the tombs in the Valley of the Kings.  Among them the incredibly costly splendor of the recovered tomb of Tutankhamen, with his coffin beaten out of gold, gives probably only a partial revelation of the riches in the tombs of the greater pharaohs which were ransacked long ago.

 

 

Something Else

Many have tried to discredit Genesis; for if they can prove that there are errors in any part of it they can say the entire Bible is full of lies. But in the face of all the scrutiny it has undergone no one has been able to find any errors in this holy book, and they never will, because it is all truth. And have you noticed that the writers of the New Testament assume that those who read it already know the Old Testament, but especially the Book of Genesis. This book is a history book and a bibliography, but it is chiefly the Word of God. Read it, every word of it and believe it, every word of it.

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