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GENESIS CHAPTER 50
Joseph bewails his father's death; and embalms him, Genesis 50:1-2.
The Egyptians mourn for him seventy days, Genesis 50:3.
Joseph with Pharaoh's leave carries him stately accompanied to Canaan, Genesis 50:4-9.
They mourn there seven days, and sorely, so that the Canaanites from thence named the place Abel-mizraim, Genesis 50:10-11.
They bury him where he commanded, Genesis 50:12-13.
They return to Egypt, Genesis 50:14. Jacob being dead, his sons are afraid of their brother Joseph, Genesis 50:15.
Pretending their father's order, they address for pardon, Genesis 50:16-18.
He weeps, forgives, and encourageth them, Genesis 50:19-21.
Joseph lives to see a third and fourth generation, Genesis 50:22-23.
Assures his brethren of their future return to Canaan, Genesis 50:24.
He takes an oath of them to carry his bones with them, Genesis 50:25; dies; is embalmed; and put in a coffin, Genesis 50:26.
And doubtless closed his eyes, as God had promised, Genesis 46:4, which may be implied in this general phrase.
The dead corpse of his father with spices, and ointments, and other things necessary for the preservation of the body from putrefaction as long as might be. This Joseph did, partly, because he would comply as far as he could with the Egyptians, whose custom this was, from whom also the Jews took it, 2 Chronicles 16:14; John 19:39-40; partly, to do honour and show his affections to his worthy father; and partly, because this was necessary for the keeping of the body so long as the times of mourning and the journey to Canaan required.
For him, i.e. for his embalming; that so the drugs or spices which were applied might more effectually reach to all the parts of the dead body, and keep it from corruption. And the effect of their diligence and so long continuance in this work was, that bodies have been preserved uncorrupt for some thousand of years.
Threescore and ten days, i.e. thirty days, (according to the custom of the Hebrews, Numbers 20:29; Deuteronomy 34:8, to which doubtless the Egyptians in this case did accommodate themselves,) besides the forty days spent in embalming him, which also was a time of mourning. And thus I suppose the Egyptians reckoned those seventy-two days which Diodorus Siculus saith they spent in mourning for their deceased kings.
The house of Pharaoh; the household or family, namely, those of them which were chief in place and favour with the king. Joseph makes use of their intercession, either,
1. Lest he might seem to despise them, or to presume too much upon his own single interest. Or,
2. By engaging them in this matter to stop their mouths, who otherwise might have been ready enough to censure this action, which they would have a fair opportunity to do in Joseph’s absence. Or,
3. Because it was the custom here, as it was elsewhere, Esther 4:2, that persons in mourning habit might not come into the king’s presence, partly because they would not give them any occasion of sadness, and partly because, according to their superstitions conceits, the sight of such a person was judged ominous.
Here is a triple obligation upon Joseph:
1. His duty to fulfil the will of the dead.
2. The obedience which he owed to his father’s command.
3. The the of a solemn oath: all which had weight even with the heathens, and were so many arguments to Pharaoh and his courtiers.
In my grave which I have digged for me, according to the manner of those ancient and succeeding times. See 2 Chronicles 16:14; Isaiah 22:16; Matthew 27:60. In that large cave which Abraham bought for a burying-place for his family, Jacob had digged a particular and small cell or repository for himself, as others did after him upon the like occasion. And this reason is prudently added, to show that this desire proceeded not from any contempt of Pharaoh or his land, but from that common and customary desire of persons of all ages and nations to be buried in their fathers’ sepulchres.
The heathens by the light of nature discovered the sacredness of an oath, and the wickedness of perjury.
All the servants, i.e. a great number of them, as that word is understood, Matthew 3:5, and oft elsewhere. For many of them were aged and infirm, and many could not be spared from their attendance at court, or upon their employments, &c.
The servants of Pharaoh were courtiers of an inferior rank;
the elders of his house, the chief officers, and under him governors of his family and councils, who used to reside at or near the court;
and the elders of the land, the great officers civil and military, whose places of habitation and command were dispersed in the several parts of the land.
And such as were necessary to take care of them, which must needs be understood.
Chariots and horsemen, for their defence, in case of any opposition.
Atad, a man so called; or, of thorn, or thorns, as the word signifies, Judges 9:14; Psalms 58:9. So it might be a place either abounding or encompassed with thorns.
Beyond, or on this side; for the word signifies both, and it may be taken either way here; the one in respect of Egypt, the other in regard of the place in which Moses wrote. It is certain they fetched a great compass, whether for the commodiousness of the way for their chariots, and for conveniences for so great a company, or to prevent all jealousies in the people, as if they came thither with ill design, is not material.
There they mourned, because there was the entrance into that country or territory where he was to be buried. Though the Egyptians were not much grieved nor concerned for Jacob’s death, yet they used bitter cries and lamentations, which possibly were made or aggravated by persons hired and used upon such occasions. See Jeremiah 9:17.
Seven days, according to the custom. See 1 Samuel 31:13.
This looks like a lie; for Jacob either did not know this fact, or rather, was so well assured of Joseph’s clemency and goodness, that he never feared his revenge. But guilt doth so awaken fear, that it makes a man never to think himself secure.
The God of thy father, for whose sake pardon those that join with thee in his worship.
Joseph wept; partly in compassion to their fear and trouble; and partly because they still retained a diffidence in his kindness, after all his great and real demonstrations of it.
Ready and willing to undergo that servitude into which we so wickedly sold thee.
It is God’s prerogative to take vengeance, which I dare not usurp. See Deuteronomy 32:35. Or, can I do what I please with you without God’s leave? Therefore fear him rather than me, and upon your experience of his wonderful care and kindness to you, believe that God will not, and therefore that I neither can nor will do you any hurt. But it is not unusual to put the Hebrew he for halo, as it is Genesis 27:36; 1 Samuel 2:28; 2 Samuel 23:19; 1 Kings 16:31, &c.; and so the words may be very well rendered, Am not I under God, i.e. subject to his will, a minister of his providence? Dare I destroy those whom God so eminently designed to save? Dare I punish those whom God hath pardoned.
Ye thought evil against me, therefore I do not excuse your guilt, though I comfort you against despondency.
I will nourish you; expect not only a free pardon from me, but all the kindness of a loving brother.
Of the third generation, reckoning from and after Ephraim, i.e., Ephraim’s grandchildren’s children. So early did Ephraim’s privilege above Manasseh appear, and Jacob’s blessing (Genesis 48:19 take place.
The children of Machir, Heb. sons. For though he had but one son, viz. Gilead, by his first wife, yet he married a second wife, and by her had two other sons, 1 Chronicles 7:16, which Joseph lived long enough to see. Or under the name of children his grandchildren also might be comprehended. So there is no need of that enallage of sons for one son which we meet with in other places.
Were brought up upon Joseph’s knees; laid upon Joseph’s lap or knees, where parents use ofttimes to take up and repose their infants, to express their love to them, and delight in them. And some observe, that it was an ancient custom in divers nations, that the infant, as soon as it was born, was laid upon the grandfather’s knees. So it is an ellipsis, whereby one word is put for two, or under one verb. See more of this phrase on Genesis 30:3; Genesis 48:12.
God will surely visit you, i.e. deliver you out of this place, where I foresee you will be hardly used after my decease; or, fulfil his promised kindness to you, as that word is used, Genesis 21:1; Exodus 4:31. There is a double visitation oft mentioned in Scripture; the one of grace and mercy, which is here meant; the other of justice and anger, as elsewhere.
Joseph took an oath, for the same reason which moved Jacob to require an oath from him, Genesis 47:30,Genesis 47:31,
of the children of Israel: he saith not, of his brethren, but of Israel’s children; under which his grandchildren are comprehended, and seem principally intended here; either because his brethren were most of them dead, or rather because he knew that they were not to go out of Egypt in his brethren’s time, but in their second or third generation.
My bones, i.e. my dead body: but he mentions only his bones, because part of his body was corrupted, and the other part, though preserved from corruption by the embalming, yet was so changed and adulterated with the spices, and other materials which they used, that it looked like another thing: only his bones remained entire and unchanged.
Quest. Why did he not desire to be presently carried thither, and buried there, as his father did?
Answ. 1. Lest he should disoblige the Egyptians, and provoke them against his brethren and children. The removal of his father thither was necessary, and forced from him by an oath, but the order for the removal of himself would have been voluntary and designed, and therefore could not have escaped the censure of an ungrateful contempt of the land of Egypt, which as it was thought good enough for him and his to live in, should have been judged so too for his burial.
2. That by these his remains his memory might be the longer and better preserved, both with the Egyptians, who for his sake might show kindness to his near relations; and with the Israelites, to whom this was a visible pledge of their deliverance, and a help to their faith, and all obligation to them to persist in the true religion.
So for about thirteen years of affliction he enjoyed eighty years of honour, and as much happiness as earth could afford him.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Genesis 50". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13