In this last chapter of Genesis we see three important things. We see a model for us as believers who lose a Christian loved one, we see the proper way to defuse potential sibling rivalry, and finally we see how we as believers should deal with our own death then the time comes.
Then Joseph, leaning over his father’s face, wept and kissed him. He commanded his servants who were physicians to embalm his father. So they embalmed Israel. They took forty days to complete this, for embalming takes that long, and the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days.
When the days of mourning were over, Joseph said to Pharaoh’s household, “If I have found favor with you, please tell Pharaoh that my father made me take an oath, saying, ‘I am about to die. You must bury me there in the tomb that I made for myself in the land of Canaan.’ Now let me go and bury my father. Then I will return.”
So Pharaoh said, “Go and bury your father in keeping with your oath.”
Then Joseph went to bury his father, and all Pharaoh’s servants, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt went with him, along with all Joseph’s family, his brothers, and his father’s family. Only their dependents, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen. Horses and chariots went up with him; it was a very impressive procession. When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, which is across the Jordan, they lamented and wept loudly, and Joseph mourned seven days for his father. When the Canaanite inhabitants of the land saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a solemn mourning on the part of the Egyptians.” Therefore the place is named Abel-mizraim. It is across the Jordan.
So Jacob’s sons did for him what he had commanded them. They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave at Machpelah in the field near Mamre, which Abraham had purchased as burial property from Ephron the Hethite. After Joseph buried his father, he returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone with him to bury his father.—Genesis 50:1-14
The first thing we see in Genesis is a model for us as believers who lose a Christian loved one, and that model is Joseph’s reaction to his father’s death. In Joseph’s reaction we see four things.
- We must show sincere grief—Joseph was not afraid to express emotion as he mourned the loss of his father. In his case, he grieved seventy days and spent several more weeks taking Jacob’s body back to Canaan for burial. It is normal to experience emotional pain and grief over a period of weeks or even months following the death of someone very close to us.
- We must show care and attention to details is preparing for that person’s burial—In every effort, Joseph did what he believed would bring the highest honor and respect to the memory of his father.
- We must fulfill that person’s last wishes—Joseph kept the promises he made to his father. Promises made in trust—and based on God’s will—should be carried out after a loved one’s death.
- We must have faith in God—Joseph showed his faith in God’s promises by taking his father’s body to the promised land of Canaan. There he placed it in the tomb of Abraham, Isaac and the others.
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said to one another, “If Joseph is holding a grudge against us, he will certainly repay us for all the suffering we caused him.”
So they sent this message to Joseph, “Before he died your father gave a command: ‘Say this to Joseph: Please forgive your brothers’ transgression and their sin—the suffering they caused you.’ Therefore, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when their message came to him. His brothers also came to him, bowed down before him, and said, “We are your slaves!”
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people. Therefore don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your children.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.—Genesis 50:15-21
The second thing we see is how to properly deal with the potential for continued sibling rivalry. And that once again comes from Joseph’s reaction to his father’s death and more importantly his brothers reaction to their father’s death.
Joseph’s brothers despite having lived under Joseph’s provision and protection for many years, and despite knowing that Joseph had named one son Manasseh (“God has made me forget all my hardships in my father’s house”), the brothers still doubted that Joseph had forgiven them. With Jacob now dead, Joseph’s brothers feared for their lives and hoped that saying their father called for forgiveness before he died would protect them from Joseph’s wrath. They were so afraid of Joseph that they did not dare at first to come to him personally, instead they only sent a message entreating him to forgive his brother’s “rebellion” and sin, especially since they were “slaves” of the God of your father—that is, they worshiped the same God that Jospeh did. Perhaps the reason the brothers came to Joseph was that they head he had wept when he received their message. To maximize their chances of survival they bowed down before him and offered themselves as his personal slaves.
Joseph refused their offer. They were slaves of God, not him, and he would not put himself in the place of God to make them his slaves. He admitted that his older brothers planned evil against him, but with great spiritual insight he also confessed that God planned it for good to bring about the survival of many people. God had transformed the soot of human sin into a diamond of divine blessing. Far from being embittered, Joseph was emboldened to take care of the very ones who had tried to kill him, along with their children. He spoke kindly to them and comforted them.
Joseph and his father’s family remained in Egypt. Joseph lived 110 years. He saw Ephraim’s sons to the third generation; the sons of Manasseh’s son Machir were recognized by Joseph.
Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will certainly come to your aid and bring you up from this land to the land he swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” So Joseph made the sons of Israel take an oath: “When God comes to your aid, you are to carry my bones up from here.”
Joseph died at the age of 110. They embalmed him and placed him in a coffin in Egypt.—Genesis 50:22-26
And finally we see how we should react to our own death when the time comes. And once again we are going to look to Joseph. Joseph’s steadfast faith was in God’s promises that Canaan would be his people’s homeland. Therefore, he requested that his body be taken to the land of promise, when his people finally left Egypt. Four hundred years later, when the Israelites left Egypt to go to Canaan, they took Joseph’s bones with them. In the same way, all believers have the assurance that our future does not lie in this present world, but in another land, a heavenly country where we will live forever with God and enjoy his eternal presence and blessings.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Exodus 2:11-3:22, Matthew 17:10-27, Psalm 22:1-18 and Proverbs 5:7-14