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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 50

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Genesis 50:0


The Death of IsraelJacob's Death and Burial(Genesis 49:29-14)The Death of Jacob and the Final Days of Joseph(Genesis 49:29-26)The Death and Burial of Jacob(Genesis 49:29-14)Jacob's Funeral
Genesis 50:1-3Genesis 50:1-3Genesis 50:1-3Genesis 50:1-3Genesis 50:1-3a
Genesis 50:3-6
Genesis 50:4-6Genesis 50:4-11Genesis 50:4-6Genesis 50:4-5
Genesis 50:6
Genesis 50:7-11 Genesis 50:7-14Genesis 50:7-9Genesis 50:7-9
Burial at Machpelah Genesis 50:10-11Genesis 50:10-11
Genesis 50:12-14Genesis 50:12-14 Genesis 50:12-14Genesis 50:12-13
Genesis 50:14
Joseph Reassures His Brothers Joseph Reassures His BrothersFrom the Death of Jacob to the Death of Joseph
Genesis 50:15-21Genesis 50:15-21Genesis 50:15-21Genesis 50:15-17Genesis 50:15-17
Genesis 50:18Genesis 50:18-21
Genesis 50:19-21
Death of JosephDeath of Joseph The Death of Joseph
Genesis 50:22-26Genesis 50:22-26Genesis 50:22-23Genesis 50:22-26Genesis 50:22-25
Genesis 50:24-26
Genesis 50:26

READING CYCLE THREE (see Guide to Good Bible Reading)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 50:1-3 1Then Joseph fell on his father's face, and wept over him and kissed him. 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.

Genesis 50:1 This verse shows three signs of grieving associated with death.

1. fell on his father's face, BDB 656, KB 709, Qal IMPERFECT, similar to Genesis 33:4

2. wept over him, BDB 113, KB 129, Qal IMPERFECT

3. kissed him, BDB 676, KB 730, Qal IMPERFECT

Genesis 50:2 "physicians" This is a Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE of the VERB "to heal" (BDB 950, KB 1272, cf. 2 Chronicles 16:12). There was a group of professional embalmers, but Joseph possibly used physicians in order to side step the religious overtones of Egyptian embalming (NASB Study Bible, p. 73). Jacob was preserved so that he could later be buried in the family burial cave in Canaan (cf. Genesis 49:29-32).

"embalm" This VERB (BDB 334, KB 333, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) means "spice," "make spice" (cf. Song of Song of Solomon 2:13), or "embalm." This was a uniquely Egyptian procedure, found only here in the OT. It had religious connections to Osiris (beginning about 2700 B.C.) and the Egyptians' belief in an afterlife.

It involved

1. the removal of the internal organs and their separate preservation in jars

2. in a later period the brain was also removed and placed in a separate jar

3. the body was wrapped with resinated linen cloth

The only written accounts of how to embalm come from Herodotus, History 2:85-90 and Diodorus Siculus, History 1.91. For a fuller discussion see ABD, vol. 2, pp. 490-495, and James M. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, pp. 56-58.

This discussion is not meant in any way to address modern embalming practices. They have no religious overtones as did the Egyptian rituals. Many have assumed that the curse statement in Genesis 3:19 still applies. I personally think the physical remains of life (i.e., human bodies) are not that significant!



Genesis 50:3 "forty days" The number 40 (BDB 917) can be literal or figurative. The Hebrews mourned for 30 days (cf. Numbers 20:29; Deuteronomy 34:8) for national leaders. It was a sign of respect.

"seventy days" Jacob received a royal burial. Pharaoh himself was mourned for seventy-two days (the Greek historian, Diodorus [1.72]). The Egyptians mourned for Jacob out of respect for Joseph.


Verses 4-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 50:4-6 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."

Genesis 50:4 "favor in your sight" This is an idiom of approval (cf. Genesis 18:3; Genesis 47:29; Exodus 33:13). This idiom is always used of an inferior asking a superior (i.e., Ruth 2:13). Here Joseph is showing respect for Pharaoh.

Genesis 50:5-6 In Genesis 50:5 Joseph shares his oath (BDB 989, KB 1396, two Hiphil PERFECTS, Genesis 50:5, Genesis 50:6) to his father, Jacob (#1,2) and a promise to return (#3).

1. go up, BDB 748, KB 828, Qal IMPERFECT used in a COHORTATIVE sense

2. bury me, BDB 868, KB 1064, Qal COHORTATIVE

3. I will return, BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal COHORTATIVE

In Genesis 50:6 Pharaoh responds to his request related to his oath.

1. go up, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. bury, Qal IMPERATIVE

Genesis 50:5 "dug" The rabbinical Midrash (Peshitta and REV) replaces this term with "bought" (cf. Genesis 23:17-20; Genesis 47:27-31; Genesis 49:29-32). The two Hebrew roots are the same

1. dig, BDB 500 I, cf. Genesis 26:25; Numbers 21:18

2. buy, BDB 500 II, cf. Deuteronomy 2:6

Verses 7-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 50:7-14 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. 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. 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.

Genesis 50:7-8 Verses Genesis 50:7-8 show how large a funeral possession went to Canaan.

1. Joseph

2. the servants of Pharaoh

3. the elders of his household

4. the elders of the land of Egypt

5. household of Joseph

6. Joseph's brothers

7. Jacob's household

8. a military escort, Genesis 50:9

Verse Genesis 50:9 implies a military escort. It may also have been Pharaoh's way to assure the return of his best administrator/advisor.

Genesis 50:8 "They left only their little ones and their flocks" This was to assure their return!

"in the land of Goshen" See notes at Genesis 45:10; Genesis 46:28.

Genesis 50:10 "Atad" Literally this is "thorns" (BDB 31). The rabbis say it was a protective hedge. This site is unknown. Jerome says it was located near Jericho. It was the site of a ritual mourning, not necessarily the site of the burial!

The intensity of their grief is described by

1. they lamented there

2. with a very great

3. and mournful

4. lamentation

5. observed seven days

6. note Genesis 50:11

"beyond the Jordan" This phrase, "in the region of" (BDB 81 CONSTRUCT BDB 719 I, cf. Genesis 50:11), does not determine the east or west bank. It depends on the location of the speaker.

Genesis 50:11 This is a play on the word "Abel" (BDB 5 II), which means "meadow" (lit. "grow green grass"), and "Abel" (BDB 5 I), which means "mourning" (AB lists a third option, "watercourse," p. 376).

Genesis 50:12-14 This is a summary statement describing their promise to Jacob.

Genesis 50:13 "the cave" This cave is the one referred to in Genesis 23:16-20.

Verses 15-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 50:15-21 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.

Genesis 50:15 The intensity of the brothers' concern is expressed in

1. the VERB "bear a grudge" (BDB 966, KB 1316), which was used earlier of Esau (Genesis 27:41) and alluded to in Genesis 49:23. It is also used by Job 16:9; Job 30:21. It is a very strong VERB.

2. the phrase "and pay us back in full," which is a Hiphil INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and a Hiphil IMPERFECT of the same root (BDB 996, KB 1427).

Genesis 50:16-17 This introduces an unknown quote from Jacob which the brothers were quoting to assure Joseph's favor.

Genesis 50:17 This verse sets the stage for Joseph's faith statement in Genesis 50:19-20. The brothers' fear and desire for forgiveness can be seen in

1. please forgive, BDB 609, KB 724, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. I beg you (NASB expansion)

3. the transgression and sin of your brothers (cf. Genesis 37:18-28)

4. (we) did wrong

5. please forgive the transgression

6. v. Genesis 50:18

The only reasons for their request were

1. Jacob's words, Genesis 50:16-17

2. they are servants of the God of Jacob, Genesis 50:17

Genesis 50:19

NASB, NKJV, NRSV“for am I in God's place" TEV“I can't put myself in the place of God" NJB“is it for me to put myself in God's place" LXX"for I am God's" Peshitta"for I am a servant of God" JPSOA"Am I a substitute for God"

This was Joseph's way of saying that he saw himself as part of God's method for preserving Abraham's family (cf. Genesis 45:5-15; Psalms 105:16-24)! He explains this in Genesis 50:20. He did not see himself as acting as judge, only God can do this! The question in Hebrew expects a "no" answer. This same expression is found in Genesis 30:2.

Genesis 50:20 "you meant evil against me" Joseph did not cover over the brothers' sin, but saw the "unseen hand" of God in his life and circumstances! Oh that we could, by faith, recognize the "unseen hand" in our lives!

For a good article on God using the sin of humans to accomplish His purposes, see Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, second ed., pp. 425-426.

"God meant it for good" This is a good example of the meaning of Romans 8:28-29.

Genesis 50:21 Joseph tells them what he will do for the family.

1. do not be afraid, BDB 431, KB 432, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense, as in Genesis 50:19

2. I will provide for you, BDB 465, KB 463, Pilpel IMPERFECT, cf. Genesis 45:11; Genesis 47:12

3. I will provide for your little ones, BDB 465, KB 463, Pilpel IMPERFECT, cf. Genesis 45:11; Genesis 47:12

4. he comforted them, BDB 636, KB 688, Piel IMPERFECT

5. spoke kindly to them (lit. "speak to the heart," cf. Genesis 34:3; Judges 19:3; Ruth 2:13)

Verses 22-26

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 50:22-26 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.

Genesis 50:22 "one hundred and ten years" This was the ideal age in Egyptian literature of the period.

Genesis 50:23 "Machir" Also see Joshua 17:1 and Judges 5:14. The name may be related to the similar root for "merchandise" or "value" (BDB 569).

"born on Joseph's knee" Obviously this was not to be taken literally. It is a cultural ANE idiom used for adoption (cf. Genesis 30:3; Genesis 48:12) or receiving someone into the family.

Genesis 50:24 "God will surely take care of you" Joseph trusted in God's promised care for Abraham's family (cf. Genesis 15:16)! Joseph was God's instrument, but as he passed from this life, God would raise up others (i.e., Moses, Aaron, Joshua, etc.).

Joseph's words are intensified by the Qal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and Qal IMPERFECT VERB of the same root (BDB 823, KB 955, lit, "visit," used in a specialized sense of God's personal presence and care, cf. Exodus 3:16; Exodus 4:31; Ruth 1:6; Zephaniah 2:7). This form is found in both Genesis 50:24, Genesis 50:25!

Genesis 50:25 "carry my bones" He knew they would return to the promised land and he wanted to be buried there just as his father had been (cf. Exodus 13:19; Joshua 24:32).

Genesis 50:26 "coffin" This word (BDB 75) can refer to

1. ark (of the covenant, i.e., Exodus 25:22; Exodus 26:33; Exodus 30:6; Numbers 10:33; Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 31:9; Joshua 3:3), a religious sacred box

2. coffin, only here (Israelites did not use coffins)

3. chest, for money (i.e., 2 Kings 12:10; 2 Chronicles 24:8, 2 Chronicles 24:10, 2 Chronicles 24:11)

The other word translated in English "ark" (BDB 1061) refers to

1. Noah's ark (i.e., Genesis 6:14)

2. Moses' papyrus crib (i.e., Exodus 2:3)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why was Jacob given an Egyptian royal funeral?

2. Why did Joseph's brothers distrust him?

3. Why are Genesis 50:19-20, when compared to Genesis 45:5-15, so significant?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Genesis 50". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/genesis-50.html. 2021.
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