Blaine Robison, M.A.
Delivered 11 January 2020
The Last Words of Joseph
24 And Joseph said to his brothers, "I am dying, but
God surely will visit you and bring you out of this land to the land
which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob." 25 Then Joseph
took an oath from the sons of Israel, saying, "God surely will visit you, and
you shall carry my bones from this place." 26 So Joseph died at
the age of one hundred and ten years; and they embalmed him and he was
put in a coffin in Egypt." (Gen 50:24-26 BR)
This parashah, which began
in chapter 47, includes Jacob's blessing of his twelve sons and the sons of
Joseph, Jacob's death and burial in Canaan, and finally Joseph's last words
Joseph's life is remarkable
in that no sin is attributed to him. He endured suffering brought on by the
treachery of his brothers, forced emigration to Egypt, his life as a slave,
his arrest and imprisonment on a false charge and then elevation to a high
office after interpreting dreams. At the end of his life Jacob offered a
lengthy and glowing prophecy about his favorite son (Gen 49:22-26). Joseph
was likened to a "fruitful bough" (Gen 49:22), perhaps an allusion to
Joseph's two sons, but more likely to the fact that through Joseph's
position Jacob's family received gifts of immense wealth, including the best
land, from Pharaoh (Gen 45:17-23; 47:5f).
Joseph is a fascinating
study of a life well lived. His moral and ethical choices perhaps justify
his father's favoritism. There was a quality of character recognized very
early. Joseph always did the best he could with the knowledge and wisdom
given by God to handle his circumstances. Regardless of how we might view
his economic and political decisions, he not only saved his family, but also
a nation that was not his own. The latter was very much like Yeshua.
In the final years of his
life Joseph spoke kindly to his brothers and male kinsmen, comforted them,
and committed to take care of their families. Joseph lived 110 years and saw
his great grandchildren. Now in this final scene Joseph told his family
members that he was dying, but God would surely remember them and visit them
to bring them out of Egypt. We don't know whether he considered God's
prophecy to Abraham that four hundred years of suffering needed to be
completed (Gen 15:13), but he had confidence that his descendants would
someday return to the Promised Land. Thus, Joseph made his relatives swear
to carry his bones to that land.
This one act of Joseph
provides the epitaph found in Hebrews 11:22, "By faith Joseph, when dying,
made mention concerning the exodus of the sons of Israel; and gave
instructions concerning his bones" (BR). So Joseph died, and the
Egyptians embalmed him, and put him in a coffin. Moses eventually carried
the bones of Joseph out of Egypt (Ex 13:19) and Joshua buried Joseph's
remains in Shechem where his father had purchased property (Josh 24:32).
So closes the book of
Genesis. All the recorded dealings of God with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and
all the promises and the glories of the patriarchal line, end with a coffin
in Egypt. It is a silent reminder of mortality. We will all end in a box,
too, unless you choose an urn. Few of us think about where we want to be
buried until it's forced upon us.
There are some lessons we
can draw from this story.
First, Joseph understood
that loving and serving God offer no exemption from the sin and suffering of
this world, but even in the midst of the worst circumstances God is good to
those who serve Him. Joseph summarized this perspective in verse 20, "you
meant evil against me, but God meant it for good (Gen 50:20). Sha'ul echoed
Joseph's viewpoint when he wrote, "God causes all things to work together
for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His
purpose" (Rom 8:28).
Second, the last words of
Joseph expressed a future hope in which he would be united with his family
in the land of promise. When Jacob died the Scripture says he was "gathered
to his people" (Gen 49:33). Death holds forth the expectation of meeting
with our own family members who have died in the Lord.
Third, Joseph promised that
after his death, God would visit His people. When we are gone, God still
lives and works to bring about all that He has promised. The greatest
fulfillment of Joseph's prophecy is the visitation of the Son of God,
Yeshua, who brought the victory of resurrection. Yeshua offered these words
of comfort and hope to his talmidim, "Because I live, you shall live also"
Copyright © 2020 by
Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.