Introduction 1 Joseph Weeps over His Father 2-3 The Embalming of Jacob 4-9 Jacob Is Buried in the Promised Land 10-11 A Very Great and Sorrowful Lamentation 12-14 Burial and Return to Egypt 15-21 Joseph Comforts his Brothers 22-26 Joseph Dies

In this chapter we see more the character and the beautiful qualities of Joseph, than his position and the dignities that go with it. He is also here a wonderful reference to the Lord Jesus.

Joseph Weeps over His Father

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

Joseph weeps over his father. Here we see Joseph weeping for the sixth time. He kisses the dead Jacob and thereby expresses his affection for his father. The bond with his father is broken by death, but Joseph’s love for his father remains. In the resurrection that bond will be restored. Thus the love of the Lord Jesus for His people remains, even though the bond with them has been broken for a time (Hos 1:99And the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.”
). That bond will be restored (Hos 3:4-54For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or [sacred] pillar and without ephod or household idols.5Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days.).

The Embalming of Jacob

2Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel. 3Now forty days were required for it, for such is the period required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.

The extensive embalming of Jacob shows that he is considered one of the greats of Egypt. He dies, according to the meaning of his name, as a prince of God and receives a royal funeral. If he or Joseph would have wished so, a pyramid would certainly have been built for him. But Jacob wished for no place in his honor.

Prophetically, the embalming tells that God will keep His people, whom He has to reject for a time, over time, until the time has come that He will take them again as His people.

Jacob Is Buried in the Promised Land

4When the days of mourning for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your sight, please speak to Pharaoh, saying, 5‘My father made me swear, saying, “Behold, I am about to die; 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; then I will return.’” 6Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear.” 7So Joseph went up to bury his father, and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8and all the household of Joseph and his brothers and his father’s household; they left only their little ones and their flocks and their herds in the land of Goshen. 9There also went up with him both chariots and horsemen; and it was a very great company.

Joseph gets permission from Pharaoh to bury his father in Canaan because Jacob’s heart was there. Jacob has spoken more than once about his death as a result of his grief at the robbery of children (Gen 37:3535Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, “Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.” So his father wept for him.; 42:3838But Jacob said, “My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.”). That is in the time that he has gone his own way. Now the time of his death has come and God has come with him to His purpose, he dies in honor and is accompanied at his burial by all his children and all the distinguished men of the land of Egypt.

A Very Great and Sorrowful Lamentation

10When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they lamented there with a very great and sorrowful lamentation; and he observed seven days mourning for his father. 11Now when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a grievous mourning for the Egyptians.” Therefore it was named Abel-mizraim, which is beyond the Jordan.

The lamentation is also a lamentation that suits a great man. A testimony goes out from this. Thus, any burial of a believer can be a testimony to all those who see or hear it. The thorns – Atad means thorn bush – that the earth produced after the fall (Gen 3:1818“Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
) and therefore speak of the consequences of sin, point out that Jacob had much to do with the consequences of the sins he committed in his life. What a man sows, he will reap (Gal 6:7b-87Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.8For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.).

It is not just thorns, however. To the thorns the threshing floor is connected. On the threshing floor the wheat is separated from the chaff. The threshing floor therefore points to the discipline in Jacob’s life, by which God has removed the chaff from Jacob’s life. What remains is the wheat as fruit for God. This fruit is revealed at the death of Jacob.

Burial and Return to Egypt

12Thus his sons did for him as he had charged them; 13for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field for a burial site from Ephron the Hittite. 14After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brothers, and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.

Jacob refused the tribute associated with a burial in Egypt and chose to be buried in a cave in Canaan. Canaan is the land of promise. His sons take him there and give their Godfearing father a dignified burial (cf. Acts 8:22[Some] devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him.). The inhabitants of Egypt and Canaan did not understand this.

Joseph Comforts his Brothers

15When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!” 16So they sent [a message] to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying, 17‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.” ’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? 20As for you, you meant evil against me, [but] God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. 21So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

When Jacob’s father is buried, the brothers are afraid that Joseph will revenge himself for what they have done to him. They think he treated them well for the sake of their father. He took care of them for seventeen years. Now that their father is no longer there, they believe that Joseph will change. How badly they know Joseph! It is as if they say, ‘We know what he has done for us, but we don’t know what he feels for us.

Once again, the exceptional character of Joseph is evident. He doesn’t blame the brothers that they must know him better in the meantime. He shows them the unpretentious love he has for them and reassures them with words of comfort. He is not in the place of God. He did not determine the course of events, God did. If there should be any retaliation, then he leaves it to God (Rom 12:1919Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath [of God], for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.). Joseph submits himself completely to the will of God.

Sometimes we are like the brothers of Joseph. We know that the Lord Jesus has undergone God’s judgment on the cross for us. We know that He cares for us, we have experienced that. However, when a problem arises in our lives, it may suddenly become apparent how little we really trust Him. If there is no direct outcome, we think He is turning against us. We can be very busy with Scripture and know a lot about the Lord, but if it is not combined with a personal, living fellowship with Him Himself, we will react just as Joseph’s brothers do.

Joseph weeps – we read this of him for the seventh time – when he hears what the brothers say. It is a great sadness for him to notice that his love in that way is answered by the brothers. He shows through his tears that their attitude hurts him (cf. Jn 14:99Jesus *said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and [yet] you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how [can] you say, ‘Show us the Father’?). Their attitude betrays the lack of trust in him.

There is another lesson to be learned from the behavior of the brothers. When someone around us falls away, it becomes clear whether our faith is only directed at the Lord Jesus or whether we have attached too much to the other in the experience of our faith.

Joseph Dies

22Now Joseph stayed in Egypt, he and his father’s household, and Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. 23Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim’s sons; also the sons of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were born on Joseph’s knees. 24Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.” 25Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.” 26So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.

Joseph’s last words are not about his position in Egypt, but about God’s promise to his ancestors regarding the land of Canaan. Joseph dies, but God abides. Joseph entrusts the brothers to Him. When he dies, all the glory of Egypt is placed in a coffin with him, as it were. Joseph’s faith looks forward to the land of promise. In view of this, he gives command concerning his bones: “By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones” (Heb 11:2222By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.).

The oath sworn by the sons of Israel is fulfilled by Moses (Exo 13:1919Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you.”). For forty years they carry Joseph’s body through the desert to bury him in the land at the place he mentioned (Jos 24:3232Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph’s sons.). There he is still waiting for the moment that God fulfils His promises.

Joseph does not let his bones to be transferred to Canaan. He wants to emphasize that his bones will be in the midst of the people. He knows that the people will one day move up to the promised land. Until then, the coffin with its bones will be as a testimony with the people. If they will be oppressed – and that time will come – the presence of Joseph, even though he died, will remind them of his words that God will look after them and save them.

The last words Joseph says to his brothers are about the future. They live in the best part of the land and are in the full favor of the king. Their brother Joseph is the second ruler of the land. There is nothing to indicate that a change will occur in this extremely privileged position.

Joseph himself is also happy. He sees his children until the third generation. Yet he says: “God will surely take care of you.” He foresees days of care, days when God alone will be their Helper. In faith Joseph sees the day of Israel’s tribulation. He also sees that God will free them to bring them to the land of promise. Above all, this taking care by God of His people is to be seen in the coming of the Lord Jesus to free His people from the great tribulation and to bring them into the blessing of the kingdom of peace. Just as we have seen with his father (Gen 49:29-3229Then he charged them and said to them, “I am about to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,30in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site.31There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah—32the field and the cave that is in it, purchased from the sons of Heth.”), his heart is not concerned with what he leaves behind, but what he will receive in the resurrection.

Then Joseph dies. He is embalmed and placed in a coffin. Of a burial we don’t hear. He remains as a dead man among the people. Joseph, who died among the people, is reminiscent of what Paul says: “Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2Cor 4:1010always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.).