Brow Publications, Kingston, Ontario (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) 2004
Introduction | Genesis 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11| 12| 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30
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GENESIS 50:1-14 (The burial of Jacob in Canaan)
50:1-2 Immediately after weeping over the death of his father, Joseph ordered the embalming of his body. In the modern world embalming can be done the same day, but in ancient Egypt this preparation for entombment took 40 days.
50:3-6 As an expression of their appreciation for the Prime Minister who had saved them from famine (see 47:25) the Egyptian people joined in a seventy day period of national mourning for Joseph’s father. When that was over Joseph approached Pharaoh and his family for permission to fulfill the promise he had made to his father to bury him in his homeland. Joseph promised to return, and the request was gladly granted.
50:7-9 A huge funeral cortege was organized including Pharaoh’s servants, members of the royal family, Egyptian officials, and members of Joseph’s family. Jacob’s grandchildren and their sheep and cattle were left in Goshen, perhaps to guarantee the return of the family. There was also a contingent of charioteers to protect this huge caravan on their 500 mile, 800 km, journey each way.
50:10-11 The caravan did not go straight up into Hebron, but they seem to have traveled east to Kadesh Barnea and then around the Dead Sea. Before crossing the Jordan from the east the caravan stopped for a great lamentation and seven day period of mourning for Joseph’s father Jacob. This ceremonial gathering was so awesome that the Canaanites in the area named the place Aabel-Mizraim which means the mourning or lamentation of the Egyptians.
50:12-14 Having fulfilled the desire of their father for him to be buried in the Cave of Machpelah (see 23:1-20; 49:29-32), the great caravan returned on their three or four week journey back to Egypt.
Note: The great importance given to a burial place in the ancient world contrasts with the quite different view of death in the New Testament after the resurrection. When Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took the corpse down and put it into the tomb (Matthew 27:57-60, Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-53), Jesus’ resurrection body was already in Paradise with the penitent thief (Mark16:6; Luke 23:39-43). When Jesus died the first thing he did in his resurrection body was to empty sheol, the abode of the dead, of its contents (clearly taught in Matthew 27:52-53; John 5:28; 11:25-26; 1 Peter 3:18-19). This means that like him, instead of lying in the grave awaiting a future resurrection (as in Judaism and Islam), the Lord comes for us when we die, and we immediately receive our resurrection body and go to be with him in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:15- 18, 20-23; 2 Corinthians 5:1-4, 8; Philippians 1:21-23).
This explains why there is no emphasis in the New Testament on maintaining the tombs of those who die, as if the persons were still lying inside. People were buried and people grieved for their loved ones (as with Stephen, Acts 8:2) but there is no record of Stephen or James, the Apostle, being buried in an elaborate tomb (Acts 12:2). We do not know where any of the other apostles were buried. Paul knew of Christians who had died (1 Corinthians 15:6, 18; 2 Peter 3:4) but there is no record of their tombs being reverenced.
The early Christians did not even mark the place where Jesus’ body lay in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. The location of Jesus’ tomb was of no relevance to Christians for the first three hundred years of the early church. The present location of the Holy Sepulcher was “discovered” by the Empress Helena, and a building over it was erected 326-335 AD. It was destroyed by the Persians in 614, rebuilt, and again destroyed in 1009 AD by the Caliph El Hakim. The present building goes back to 1048 AD. But many think the location of the tomb is three quarters of a mile, 1 km, to the north in the Garden Tomb “discovered” by General Gordon as a result of his studies in Jerusalem in 1882. Nothing hangs on the location of Jesus’ tomb or that of any of the apostles.
GENESIS 50:15 (After the burial of Jacob Joseph’s brothers fear his revenge)
50:15-18 After the mourning and burial of Jacob, Joseph’s brothers imagined that he would take revenge on them. They were now in his complete power, and he could have them killed or enslaved as he chose. So they approached Joseph claiming that their father had left instructions that he should forgive them for the wrong they had done to him (see 37:24, 28; 42:21). So they pleaded for forgiveness for the crime which they admitted. They wept and fell down at his feet, and were willing to be his slaves if he would forgive them. But he did not have vengeance in mind.
50:19-20 He told them not to be afraid. He was not a god who exercised wrath for wrongdoing. As he had done before (45:5) he explained that God had overruled the harm they had intended, and intended to preserve the lives of many people.
50:21 Again he asked them not to be afraid, and he promised that he would himself provide for them and their children and grandchildren. There is no hint of revenge, or blaming, or threatening. Joseph is described as tenderly reassuring them.
We wonder whether Moses learned compassion and forgiveness from his study of the record of the life of Joseph, which he must have collected and studied in Egypt. He wrote in his law “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). He also said “Vengeance is mine, and recompense”(Deuteronomy 32:35, see Proverbs 20:22). This teaching is picked up by Paul when he wrote “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the love of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’ says the Lord “ (Romans 12:19, see Luke 6:27-29, 35-36).
50:22-23 Joseph lived on in Egypt 33 years after the death of his father (47:28; 50:26). During that time Ephraim’s children and grandchildren, and Manasseh’s children were born.
50:24 Before his death Joseph prophesied the Exodus and Joseph made the Israelites swear that they would take his bones out of Egypt. With that in mind he was embalmed (as Jacob was, 50:2-3) and placed in a coffin as evidence of their faith in the return of the Jewish nation to thepromised land. The coffin was taken out according to Joseph’s instructions in the Exodus a hundred and forty years later (13:19). Joseph did not say, as Jacob had done, that the coffin should be interred in the Cave of Machpelah (49:30). A site for the grave of Joseph is located in Shechem, which is 60 miles, 72 km. to the north of the family tomb. It is possible that, in the confusion of the wars that Joshua had to fight, Joshua’s bones were interred in what became the Northern Kingdom and later named Samaria.
Note: Many scholars have dated the exodus of the Jews from Egypt about 1280 BC. This was to allow for the statement that “The time that the Israelites had lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. At the end of four hundred and thirty years, on that very day, all the companies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:40-41). That late date for the Exodus would take us back to 1710 BC when Joseph would have been sold into Egypt.
We prefer to use the date given by Jewish historians for the foundation of the temple being laid by Solomon (King 970-930 BC) in the fourth year of his reign (966 BC).. That was “in the four hundredth eightieth year after the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 6:1). Similarly the writer of the Exodus wrote that “At the end of four hundred and thirty years, on that very day, all the companies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:40-41). This would fit 1446 BC as our preferred date for the exodus from Egypt.
This dating allows us to see Joseph as favored by the Hyksos invaders of Egypt (1786-1570) and the enslavement of the Jews beginning after the Hyksos expulsion from Egypt. It is tempting to imagine that the volcanic eruption on the island of Thera (Santorini), which destroyed the Minoan civilization of Crete, prepared the ground for exodus. The prevailing wind to the south-east would take the clouds of ash six hundred miles, 960 km, into Egypt, which might explain some of the disruption that preceded the Exodus.
Our dating fits the prophecy the LORD gave to Abraham “Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed (for) four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation” (Genesis 15:13-16). The word “for” is not in the Hebrew text, so it does not say that the oppression would be for four hundred years. The 400 year prophecy of the exodus is counted from the time the LORD spoke to Abraham.
Here “the fourth generation” would refer to the generations of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and the generation that followed preceding the birth of Moses.
This seems to date the Exodus 430 years (Exodus 12:37) after Abraham’s first descent into Egypt (Genesis 12:10; 13:1).
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