Genesis 50

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 11, 2007


We’re now at the end of this book of “Beginnings”.  We’ve seen the beginning of creation.  We’ve seen the beginning of sin.  We’ve seen the beginning of faith as a man named Abraham believed God and God declared him “righteous”.  We’ve seen the journey of faith as we’ve followed the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The last chapter ended with the death of Jacob (Gen. 49:33)

(Gen 49:33 NKJV) And when Jacob had finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.

:1-14 Jacob’s burial

:1 Then Joseph fell on his father's face, and wept over him, and kissed him.

As we mentioned in earlier chapters, Joseph had the privilege of being the one to close his dead father’s eyes and give him the final kiss goodbye.

When Jacob brought the entire family to Egypt, God had made him a promise at Beersheba:

(Gen 46:4 NKJV) "I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes."

One of the customs of the ancients was to have the nearest, dearest next of kin at your bedside when you die. They would have the honor of closing your eyelids after death and give you one last parting kiss goodbye. Joseph is the one his father has chosen for this honor.
Now that his father has died, Joseph has closed Jacob’s eyes and gives him the last kiss goodbye. God has kept His promise to Jacob.

:2 And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel.

:3 Forty days were required for him, for such are the days required for those who are embalmed; and the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days.

The practice of embalming dead bodies started with the Egyptians. They perfected the art to the point where some bodies embalmed 3000 years ago were unwrapped and the soles of their feet were still soft and elastic. Over several thousand years the Egyptians embalmed millions of bodies.

The process of embalming involved removing the inner organs and filling the bodies with a combination of herbs, the veins were injected with a balsam fluid, and then the body cavities were sown up. Then the body would be soaked for a period of time in a salt-like solution (niter). After that, the body would be wrapped in long strips of cloth soaked with herbs.

The total time of mourning for Jacob was only two days less than what would be done for a Pharaoh.

:4 And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, "If now I have found favor in your eyes, please speak in the hearing of Pharaoh, saying,

Notice that Joseph doesn’t speak directly to Pharaoh here, but to the “household” of Pharaoh. There’s a reason for this. The Hebrew custom is to not cut your hair or shave during the time of mourning for your loved one. It’s been over two months since Joseph has shaved. He is also probably wearing sackcloth. This kind of appearance would have been a great offense to Pharaoh.

:5 'My father made me swear, saying, "Behold, I am dying; in my grave which I dug for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me." Now therefore, please let me go up and bury my father, and I will come back.'"

:6 And Pharaoh said, "Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear."

Four hundred years later when Moses asked another Pharaoh to let his people go, he would be refused.

:7 So Joseph went up to bury his father; and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,

:8 as well as all the house of Joseph, his brothers, and his father's house. Only their little ones, their flocks, and their herds they left in the land of Goshen.

:9 And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen, and it was a very great gathering.

Jacob had the equivalent of a state funeral. It was something like the funeral last year of President Ford.

:10 Then they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, and they mourned there with a great and very solemn lamentation. He observed seven days of mourning for his father.

threshing floor – this would have been a flat, raised area of land where the wind would commonly blow. The threshing of grain is the process of taking the stalks of grain that have been harvested, crushing them to loosen up the chaff from the grain, then tossing everything into the air where the wind blows away the chaff and the stalk and the grain drops to the ground where it is collected.

Atad‘atad – thorn

:11 And when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, "This is a deep mourning of the Egyptians." Therefore its name was called Abel Mizraim, which is beyond the Jordan.

Abel Mizraim – “meadow of Egypt” or “mourning of Egypt”; this is thought to be an area near the city of Jericho, east of the Jordan and north of the Dead Sea.

The journey from Ramses in Goshen to Atad was something around 250 miles if they took the short route along the coast, but because their route took them to Atad, it seems they went along the eastern side of the Dead Sea, close to the same route Moses would take, a journey closer to 300 miles. From Atad to the cave of Machpelah in Hebron was another forty miles. They made the trip in a couple of weeks while Moses would take forty years. See map.

:12 So his sons did for him just as he had commanded them.

:13 For his sons carried him to the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite as property for a burial place.

Jacob had requested to be buried at this cave in Hebron.  This was where his wife Leah had been buried.  His wife Rachel had been buried twenty miles to the north near Bethlehem.  Why be buried with Lead instead of Rachel?  I believe that the answer lies with the identity of the cave.  According to Jacob’s own words (Gen. 49:29-33), this was the cave where Abraham and Isaac were buried.  This was the one place owned by the family that had passed from generation to generation.  This was the clearest link between the family and the Promised Land.

:14 And after he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brothers and all who went up with him to bury his father.

:15-21 Joseph reconciles with brothers

:15 When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him."

For seventeen years the brothers had assumed that Joseph was nice to them was simply because dad was still around. Now that dad’s gone, they’re afraid that things will change.

:16 So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, "Before your father died he commanded, saying,

:17 'Thus you shall say to Joseph: "I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you." ' Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father." And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.

I don’t know about you, but I kind of wonder if the brothers were simply making this up. We don’t have any record of Jacob telling these things to them. But it could be possible that they asked Jacob for advice.

Joseph seems to be grieved that they feel they have to hide behind their father in order to be forgiven.

Do you need to make up a story in order to ask for forgiveness?  Do you need an excuse to be forgiven?

It’s better if you simply tell the truth – you were wrong.

:18 Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, "Behold, we are your servants."

:19 Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?

Joseph has no intentions of taking vengeance on his brothers. He considers “getting even” to be God’s job, not his.


Vengeance isn’t mine

It is not your place to take vengeance on those who have wronged you.
Pay attention to this point. If you are not currently in a situation where someone has hurt you, you will be. I’m not giving you a “word of knowledge”, it’s simply common sense. If you have any kind of interaction with other human beings, you will be hurt. You will be offended.

You will be tested on this.

A watermelon farmer was determined to scare off the local kids who went into his watermelon patch every night to eat their fill. After some thought, he made a sign that read, “WARNING! ONE OF THESE WATERMELONS HAS BEEN INJECTED WITH CYANIDE!” He smiled smugly as he watched the kids run off the next night without eating any of his melons. A week later, the farmer was surveying his field. To his satisfaction, no watermelons were missing, but a sign next to his read, “NOW THERE ARE TWO!”
We like to take revenge.  We think it will make the situation better.  But it usually just makes it worse.  Even if it temporarily makes the situation better, it still makes US worse.
(Rom 12:17-21 NKJV) Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.
We need to be careful that we don’t get into the habit of playing “tit-for-tat”. If you trip me up and I skin my knee, then I have the right to trip you up so you can skin your knee.
{18} If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
It may not be possible to live in peace with all men, but don’t let it be your fault that the peace falls apart. Do your part to maintain peace.
{19} Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. {20} Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head."
Vengeance is something that God wants to be in charge of. He is the boss of the “vengeance department”. You and I don’t always know what is appropriate when it comes to vengeance, but God knows just what needs to happen.
We tend to favor the side of wiping out all those who hurt us. God tends to favor the side of being merciful to those who offend us.

Think about your life. What if God had wiped you out the first time you really hurt someone? Would you have even had time to have become a Christian? How many of you have found Jesus because of the mercy He’s shown you?

Don’t get me wrong – it is important when we share the Lord with people that we are faithful to remind people of the judgment that they are facing when it comes to their sins. But the truth is that God has not yet judged them for their sins. If God had judged them, they would be currently in hell. But instead God is currently showing them mercy.

(Rom 2:4 NKJV) Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

What if you are on a jury and you have to vote on the guilt or innocence of a person? If they are guilty, they are guilty. These verses are not talking about the right of the state to enforce it’s laws on society. It’s talking about the individual’s response to being wronged.

If my wife was killed and the killer was caught, I’m not going to protest the actions that the court may want to take on the person. But I’m not going to go out and take vengeance.

{21} Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Perhaps this doesn’t mean that you will always change the situation by your good deeds, but perhaps it might also speak to the fact that you can overcome the evil inside you by doing good towards the other person.

(Mat 5:43-45 NKJV) "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' {44} "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, {45} "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

:20 "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

:21 "Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Joseph didn’t just speak pretty words. His actions backed up what he said.

(1 Pet 3:8-11 NKJV) Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; {9} not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. {10} For "He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. {11} Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it.

:22-26 Joseph dies

:22 So Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father's household. And Joseph lived one hundred and ten years.

:23 Joseph saw Ephraim's children to the third generation. The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were also brought up on Joseph's knees.

Joseph would see his great-great-grandchildren by Ephraim and his great-grandchildren from Manasseh.

Ephraim's children to the third generation – this would be Joseph’s great-great-grandchildren.

The children of Machir – Machir would be the first generation from Manasseh, his children would be the second generation. We know the name of one of Machir’s sons, Gilead, the father of the Gileadites (Num. 26:29)

(Num 26:29 NKJV) The sons of Manasseh: of Machir, the family of the Machirites; and Machir begot Gilead; of Gilead, the family of the Gileadites.

brought up on Joseph’s knees – this may indicate that Joseph adopted these children just as Jacob his father had adopted Ephraim and Manasseh as his children.

:24 And Joseph said to his brethren, "I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob."

:25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, "God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here."

When Moses led Israel out of Egypt, they took Joseph’s bones with them (Ex. 13:19). 

(Josh 24:32 NKJV) The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph.

(Exo 13:19 NKJV) And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had placed the children of Israel under solemn oath, saying, "God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here with you."

When Joshua had finished conquering the land, they finally buried Joseph at the city of Shechem (Josh. 24:32)

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

coffin – could have been a wooden mummy case like in the movies, but may have also been a “sarcophagus”, a stone coffin made of limestone. The purpose of the limestone was to hasten the decay of the bodily tissues until there was only bone left. Joseph’s words were to carry his “bone” back to the Promised Land.

(Heb 11:22 NKJV) By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.

For Jacob, it was important to make a statement to his family that Canaan was their home, not Egypt.  He was buried immediately in Canaan.

For Joseph, it was a little different message. He chose not to be buried in Canaan until the nation finally left Egypt for good.

For three hundred more years, Joseph’s coffin was going to be a reminder that Egypt wasn’t their home.  Joseph’s coffin was a reminder that they had somewhere to go, they had a Promised Land they would one day call home.

:20 you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good


Trusting God’s plan

When you and I go through difficult times, what are we going to choose to focus on?  Are we going to fixate on the person we blame for our difficulty or are we going to keep our eye on the God who has our best interest at heart?
(Rom 8:28 NKJV)  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
I have a concern that in our current prosperous American way of life we don’t often value the benefit that comes through hardship.
Peter said that trials refine our faith like gold is refined in the fire (1Pet. 1:7)
Paul said that his difficult times helped him stay humble and helped him experience God’s strength (2Cor. 12:9).
James said that difficult times produce endurance (Jam. 1:3)
All three said that we should learn to rejoice at our trials, not run from them.


In his book The Pressure’s Off, psychologist Larry Crabb uses a story from his childhood to illustrate our need to delight in God through adversity:

One Saturday afternoon, I decided I was a big boy and could use the bathroom without anyone’s help. So I climbed the stairs, closed and locked the door behind me, and for the next few minutes felt very self-sufficient.  

Then it was time to leave. I couldn’t unlock the door. I tried with every ounce of my three-year-old strength, but I couldn’t do it. I panicked. I felt again like a very little boy as the thought went through my head, “I might spend the rest of my life in this bathroom.”

My parents—and likely the neighbors—heard my desperate scream.

“Are you okay?” Mother shouted through the door she couldn’t open from the outside. “Did you fall? Have you hit your head?”

“I can’t unlock the door!” I yelled. “Get me out of here!”

I wasn’t aware of it right then, but Dad raced down the stairs, ran to the garage to find the ladder, hauled it off the hooks, and leaned it against the side of the house just beneath the bedroom window. With adult strength, he pried it open, then climbed into my prison, walked past me, and with that same strength, turned the lock and opened the door.

“Thanks, Dad,” I said—and ran out to play.

That’s how I thought the Christian life was supposed to work. When I get stuck in a tight place, I should do all I can to free myself. When I can’t, I should pray. Then God shows up. He hears my cry—“Get me out of here! I want to play!”—and unlocks the door to the blessings I desire.

Sometimes he does. But now, no longer three years old and approaching sixty, I’m realizing the Christian life doesn’t work that way. And I wonder, are any of us content with God? Do we even like him when he doesn’t open the door we most want opened—when a marriage doesn’t heal, when rebellious kids still rebel, when friends betray, when financial reverses threaten our comfortable way of life, when the prospect of terrorism looms, when health worsens despite much prayer, when loneliness intensifies and depression deepens, when ministries die?

God has climbed through the small window into my dark room. But he doesn’t walk by me to turn the lock that I couldn’t budge. Instead, he sits down on the bathroom floor and says, “Come sit with me!” He seems to think that climbing into the room to be with me matters more than letting me out to play.

I don’t always see it that way. “Get me out of here!” I scream. “If you love me, unlock the door!”

Dear friend, the choice is ours. Either we can keep asking him to give us what we think will make us happy—to escape our dark room and run to the playground of blessings—or we can accept his invitation to sit with him, for now, perhaps, in darkness, and to seize the opportunity to know him better and represent him well in this difficult world.

Larry Crabb, The Pressure’s Off (WaterBrook Press, 2002); pp. 222-223; submitted by John Beukema, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania