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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 50

Verses 1-26

Genesis 50:2. The physicians embalmed Israel. The Egyptians in early times built pyramids to contain their dead, and they preserved them from putrefaction by balsomic paste. This was performed by physicians, and in the most curious manner. They took out the brain, the viscera, and laid open the principal muscles of the limbs, inlaid the whole with this paste, and then so bandaged the corpse, that it would be durable as the mausoleum where it reposed.

Genesis 50:3. The Egyptians mourned. This shows, at least, how much Joseph was beloved by that nation. And where did there ever exist a minister of state who retained like him his honours for eighty years? But Jacob’s great age and descent would entitle him to very much veneration.

Genesis 50:10. Mourned with a sore lamentation. The Irish still keep up the funeral cries. Women are hired for that purpose, who raise a piercing yell in the streets, about every forty or fifty paces, as the procession slowly moves. In the South-seas, men are very extravagant in their cries, and wounding their bodies; and some will even run a spear through the muscles of their arm when a prince dies. In Babylon, and still in the interior of Africa, servants are murdered the moment the shrieks of death are heard. If it be a princess, the women fly for their lives while the guards pursue, and strike off their heads, that their spirits may still attend their lady.

Genesis 50:23. Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation. Ephraim was born when Joseph was about thirty six years of age. From his living to see the third generation we may justly conclude, that they then began to marry at about the age of twenty five, or before that time. The patriarch Jacob, and his twelve patriarchal sons, lived to see the dawn of the promise, that their “seed should be as the stars of heaven.”

Genesis 50:25. Carry up my bones. Joseph believed in the promised Seed; in the coming and kingdom of the Messiah. Therefore he wished his bones to lie with his holy sires, that he might rise with them in the resurrection. This hope was so strongly enrooted in his heart, as to form the cheering theme of conversation when dying, nor could he be satisfied without an oath that his brethren would perform his last request. Princely honours could not naturalize this stranger to the land of Egypt.

Genesis 50:26 . A coffin. The Hebrews buried their dead, as did the Egyptians. Among some nations, cremation, or burning the dead, was probably introduced because God had accepted the sacrifices of men on special occasions, by fire from heaven; and therefore the body was offered by fire, as the final oblation; and the ashes put into an urn. Many such urns have been found in our English barrows. The Americans used to lay the body on the ground, and raise a heap of stones around it. At Kennet, near Marlborough, there are very large stones, [greyweathers] which have been dug out of barrows. These honours, whether splendid or humble, alike indicate a belief in the life to come.

REFLECTIONS.

This chapter and book close with an account of the death of the best of fathers and the kindest of brothers. And though we may rejoice at the felicity of venerable and holy men after death; yet we cannot but lament the parting, in several views. We have lost their friendship and society, we have lost their counsel, and the salutary effects of their example. But let them still live in our recollection, that we may avoid their errors, and imitate their virtues.

From the obedience of Joseph to Jacob’s commands, and the princely grandeur with which he interred his sire, we learn, that respect is due to the bodies of men. They have, while alive, been washed in some sort from sin, and made the temples of God; and they shall be honoured with a glorious resurrection. Hence they are entitled to be interred with decency, and with such devotion as may instruct the living.

But did the guilt of Joseph’s brethren trouble them with fears after their father’s death; and even thirty years after they had sold their brother? Ah, sin! The remembrance thereof is grievous to the soul. Did they send an embassy to him, with their father’s commands, urging him to forgive them anew? Just so, weak and dejected souls may sometimes fear, that God will still punish their former sins, though they have had many marks of acceptance, and tokens of his forgiving love. Go then, timorous souls, go anew to your Joseph in the heavens; he will still weep at your fears, and assure you anew of his favour. Often when we are perplexed with doubts and fears, in the dark and cloudy day, the Holy Spirit breaks forth suddenly with beams of heavenly love, to chase all gloom and dejection from the mind. We may farther add, that it is no small comfort to timorous and dejected believers to see how good men have died. Jacob after a long pastoral life died remarkably triumphant; and Joseph, a courtier, well prepared first by adversity, died happy too, giving commandment that his bones should not remain in Egypt. What can be more encouraging than to study the lives of these patriarchs, and see how often they were delivered from troubles, how incessantly providence interested itself for their safety, how their iniquities were all forgiven, and how gloriously they retired from a life of tears and toils? Let us, in like manner, keep our eye on the appearing of Christ, and on the heavenly Canaan; and we shall be pardoned by the same grace, and saved by the same arm, till we come to the spirits of just men made perfect, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 50". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/genesis-50.html. 1835.