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Genesis 50:24-26

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Delivered 11 January 2020

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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 and death.

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" (John 14:19).

Barukh Hashem.

Copyright 2020 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.