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Bible Commentaries

Smith's Bible Commentary

Genesis 50

Verses 1-26

Chapter 50

And Joseph fell upon his father's face, and he wept upon him, and kissed him. And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel. And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are the days which they take to embalm them: and the Egyptians mourned for him for seventy days ( Genesis 50:1-3 ).

Now embalming processes took forty days and the period of mourning in Egypt for a great person was seventy days. And so it fulfilled the traditional things.

Now it would be interesting if you could find the cave of Machpelah because though you wouldn't find any remains of Abraham and Isaac and their wives, you should find a coffin and the mummified body of Jacob still existing there. And so it would be interesting if you could come across the cave of Machpelah and go down in and see the mummy Jacob because of the embalming of Egypt. He would be preserved like King Tut and some of the others who were embalmed by the Egyptian arts of embalming. Also Joseph was embalmed. So you ought to be able to find Joseph, too. That is, if you're interested in looking for mummies. One thing you'll never find, that's the body of Jesus.

And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spoke to the house of Pharaoh, saying, If now I have found grace in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, My father made me swear, saying, Lo, I'm going to die: in my grave which I have digged for me in the land of Canaan, there shall you bury me. Now therefore let me go up, I pray thee, and bury my father, and I will come again. And Pharaoh said, Go up, and bury your father, according as he has made you to swear ( Genesis 50:4-6 ).

Now though he was buried in a cave and they didn't need to dig the grave that way, yet in these caves they dug niches in the walls and they would lay the bodies in these niches in the wall.

If you've been to the catacombs in Rome, you've seen it there, the niches in the walls that they have dug out for the bodies. And the same is true in Israel; there are caves right up at the top of the Mount of Olives just below the Intercontinental Hotel. There is an interesting burial cave there and all of these niches in the wall of the cave that they dug out for the various people, who in times past were buried in them.

And so he had dug out his own niche and so that's where he means "in the grave, which I dug". He had dug out his niche in this cave when he dug out Leah's niche. He probably no doubt dug out his own niche to be buried by her in the cave.

And so Joseph is now asking the Pharaoh for permission. And of course, they at this time have become an important part of the whole Egyptian prosperity and the Egyptians probably did not want them to leave at this point. And so to ensure the fact that they aren't just migrating back now to Canaan, he's asking permission to go and to bury his father but with the assurance that we will come back again to the land. "And I will come again", he declares, in verse five. And Pharaoh said, "Go up, and bury your father, according as he made you to swear."

And Joseph went to bury his father: and with him the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all of the elders of the land of Egypt, And all the house of Joseph, and his brothers, and his father's house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen ( Genesis 50:7-8 ).

So they didn't take the children but the adults all went. Of course, leaving their children and the herds was one of the greatest guarantees that they're not immigrating back but they're just going for the burial. Now a great multitude went.

There went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a great company of people. And so they came to the threshingfloor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan, and ( Genesis 50:9-10 )

As they came up, they actually came up on the eastern side crossing above the Red Sea coming up on the eastern side of the Dead Sea into the area about where Joshua crossed in the area of Jericho. And from Jericho coming up the pass towards Jerusalem veering to the left, coming up through the area of Bethlehem across through the valley of Eshcol and to Hebron where the cave existed.

So they came up on the east bank of the Jordan because there are more fresh water supplies on the east bank. Coming up the West Bank of the Dead Sea, it would have been a long, hard journey without water because there are very few water tributaries coming into the Dead Sea from the west side. But there are some good streams and springs on the east side of the Dead Sea. So that's why they made their journey up that way, then crossed the Jordan river on the north side of the Dead Sea and then on up. As I said, that valley towards Jerusalem, cutting across to Bethlehem and down through the valley of Eshcol to Hebron where Jacob was to be buried.

But they stopped for a little celebration on the east side of the Jordan River and,

there they mourned with a very great and sore lamentation: and he made a mourning for his father for seven days. And when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning in the floor of Atad, they said, This is a grievous mourning to the Egyptians: wherefore the name of it was called Abelmizraim, which is beyond Jordan ( Genesis 50:10-11 ).

And so they, of course, didn't know probably that it was actually Jacob that his sons Joseph, they just figured they were all Egyptians.

And his sons did unto him according as he commanded them: for the sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a buryingplace of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre. And Joseph returned into Egypt, he, and his brothers, and all that went up with him to bury his father, after he had buried his father ( Genesis 50:12-14 ).

Now this was Jacob's desire and it was probably a desire; it did express faith, the faith of Jacob that this is the land God has given us up here. And so by faith Jacob made mention of his bones before he died asking them to bury him back in the land. It was a mark of faith. But really it was putting upon the family certainly an unnecessary burden. To carry that body all the way from Egypt clear on up to Hebron to bury it there, what an unnecessary strain and burden he's putting upon the family. But there was a special purpose for it and so it was an expression of faith. This is the land that God has promised. This is the land where I want to be buried.

But let me tell you something. God hasn't promised me any land and I don't care where they bury me because I think that we make much too much fuss over the old house. Once the spirit has departed, all it is is an empty shell. It's the tent in which the person used to dwell. But they now have a "building of God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" ( 2 Corinthians 5:1 ). And I think that we make much too much fuss over the old tent.

Sure we sorrow. And there's nothing wrong with sorrow. Surely we grieve and that's only natural. We're going to miss them. We can't help but miss them. There's nothing sinful or wrong with sorrowing or grieving because a loved one has been taken from us. But to make a big fuss over the body, to get all upset because the casket, you know, just isn't what you wanted or the florist just didn't fix the flowers right, and you know to have a big old thing, such a shame.

My wife said to me the other day, "What do you want me to do with you if you should go before I do?" I said, "I really don't care. Cremate me if you want and scatter my ashes in a big surf." You know it really doesn't matter. Once I leave this old tent, it really doesn't make any difference. You say, "Oh, but cremation. Can Christians be cremated?" I look upon cremation as just a speeding up of nature's process. Cremation will do in thirty-seven minutes what nature will do in thirty-seven years. I see no problem with it spiritually. In time if there were going to be time, the body is just going to go back to the dust again, the tent.

But the tent is me. It has never been me. It has only been the place where I have been living. Now we learn to relate people to the body and that is rightfully so. But once the person's spirit leaves the body, we shouldn't relate them to that body anymore. "Behold, I show you a mystery though; We're not going to all sleep, we're all going to be changed, in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye" ( 1Co 15:51 , 1 Corinthians 15:52 ). I'm looking forward to that.

Now when Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, Aha, Joseph will now hate us, and he'll certainly require from us all of the evil which we did him ( Genesis 50:15 ).

He's going to get even now. He's going to requite us all of that evil.

And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Your father did command before he died, saying, So shall you say to Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spoke unto him ( Genesis 50:16-17 ).

They sent messengers to Joseph saying, Your dad Jacob before he died said, "Hey, treat your brothers all right, will you?" And the brothers came in and said, "You know, hey, we're the servants of your father's God. Please, you know, forgive us the things that we've done." And Joseph wept before them.

And his brothers also went and they fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we'll become your slaves. And Joseph said unto them, Don't be afraid: for am I in the place of God ( Genesis 50:18-19 )?

Now this is a very illuminating phrase because it shows that Joseph has a right estimate of things. That is, that judgment belongs to God. Am I in the place of God? Am I in the place of bringing retribution? Am I in the place of bringing judgment? Am I in the place of bringing vengeance upon you? God said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" ( Romans 12:19 ).

Therefore, it is not up to me to bring judgment or vengeance upon a person who I feel has wronged me. That's God's place. It isn't my place at all. And Joseph recognizing it as God's place then had the right attitude towards his brothers in this whole thing. Am I in the place of God? That shows us actually the secret behind his attitude is his commitment to God, and that area to God. And we also need to commit to God that area of judgment.

There are people that will say horrible things against you if you do anything. If you don't do anything, no one's going to say anything. But if you dare to do anything for the Lord, you're going to get your critics. Now you can waste your time going around trying to answer all your critics or you can just go on doing the work of the Lord and let the Lord take care of the critics that rise. And if you have the right perspective, you'll just leave that in the hands of the Lord. You'll not try to defend yourself or whatever. But, you know I think it's one of Satan's tricks really to get us off of the real work of God and into the area of Apologetics and Defense, get us fighting.

Fighting communism. Fighting liberalism. Fighting, you know, so many different things. And we're no longer really proclaiming the power of God and the love of God and the work of God, but we're fighting now all of these, you know, entities that are out there, fighting the devil. I think that it's a trap that it's easy to fall into.

But as for you, [Joseph said] you thought evil against me; but God intended it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, the salvation of many people alive ( Genesis 50:20 ).

Now your intentions were evil. You were wrong. Your motives were wrong, but even behind it God was working. The Bible says that God uses "the wrath of man to praise His name" ( Psalms 76:10 ). It is interesting to me how so many times God turns the tables on the devil. He'll prepare a trap for the children of God and God will just turn the tables on him.

Now here the brothers of Joseph, their intentions were evil, no getting around that, but behind it God was working for good. And this is true all the way through life for "no weapon that is formed against you will prosper. This is the heritage of the children of the LORD" ( Isaiah 54:17 ). Though man may intend to evil and to hurt you and all, God is able to turn it around and to bring good from it. We need to have that kind of confidence in God that "all things are working together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose" ( Romans 8:28 ). And even though a person might maliciously seek to malign you and hurt you, God can turn it for good. You meant it for evil but God has intended it for good, for the salvation of many people.

Now therefore don't be afraid: for I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spoke kindly to them. And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father's house: and Joseph lived a hundred and ten years ( Genesis 50:21-22 ).

So another fifty-four years after his father's death.

And Joseph saw Ephraim's children to the third generation: and the children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were brought up on Joseph's knees ( Genesis 50:23 ).

So he was a great grandpa and brought up his grandkids on his knees, bounced them around and had the joy of seeing not only his grandchildren, but his great grandchildren. And I don't know, grandkids are great and I suppose great grandkids are just that much more. So he had the joy of bouncing his great grandkids on his knees.

And Joseph said unto his brethren ( Genesis 50:24 ),

And that it would indicate that some of his brothers were still alive perhaps at the time that he was going to die.

I'm going to die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he swear to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of his children of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and shall and ye shall carry up my bones from here. So Joseph died, being a hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a casket in Egypt ( Genesis 50:24-26 ).

Now Joseph didn't put them to all the trouble of carrying his bones back immediately, the body back immediately, but he at least-when you leave here and you go. And so some three hundred years later when they left, they took this casket of Joseph and the children of Israel carried it out of the land of Egypt and they brought it into the land and buried him in the land of promise. So Joseph again expressing that same faith of Jacob. This isn't my land. I'm a stranger and a pilgrim here. I want to be buried in the land that God has promised unto us.

And so the Jews' love for the land isn't something that has arisen lately. It isn't something that has risen because of the persecution in Germany or the persecution in Russia or elsewhere. That love for the land has been something that has been planted in them from the beginning. Even before they possessed the land, that love for the land was there in their hearts. And Joseph said, "Hey, keep me here for awhile but when you leave, take me with you. I want to be buried in the land that God has promised unto our fathers. And surely God will visit and bring you out."

Now as I said, if they had been reading the Scriptures, they would have known that their time in Egypt would be quite awhile. Four hundred years they were to sojourn in Egypt, but yet the faith and confidence that one day God is going to bring them out, bring them into the land. "When He does, take me with you." And so again, beautiful faith in the promises of God.

So now we jump a period of some three hundred years as we leave now Joseph and as we begin next week the book of Exodus. We are leaving three hundred years unaccounted for in their history because the next important event of their history is their coming out of the land of Egypt. And now under new leadership a man named Moses who was of the tribe of Levi; cruel, short-tempered, hot tempered Levi. And yet of Moses it is said, "Of all of the men upon the earth he's probably the meekest". So surely he did not have the characteristics of Levi, except in the beginning.

You see, he had forty years to learn meekness. In the beginning he did display that hot temper of Levi. That's what got him into trouble. He was out and he saw the Egyptian mistreating one of the Israelites and he killed him. There's Levi again. But by the time God was through with him after his forty years out in the backside of the wilderness, there was a real change wrought in Moses and he became one of the meekest men who ever lived.

The changes that God is able to make in a human personality are really glorious. Taking a person from a fiery hot-tempered, no control, to a meek, quiet kind of a spirit, the work of God in Moses' life.

So we get into Exodus next week, the first five chapters. Shall we stand?

May the Lord be with you and bless you. May His hand be upon your life this week and may God work in your life in the changing of your nature. With open face may you behold the glory of the Lord. And as you gaze into His glory, may His Spirit work in you, changing you from glory to glory into His image. That God might conform you into the image of Christ that you might become the person that God wants you to be.

Not governed by your own will but governed by the Spirit of God. Reacting and responding not after the flesh but after the Spirit that your life might be a testimony in your home, in the office, at your place of work, wherever you are, as that nature and character of Christ is revealed in you. And thus may men be drawn unto our Lord and may your life be used as a witness for God's glory. In Jesus' name "





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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Genesis 50". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/genesis-50.html. 2014.