Funeral for Jacob (verses 1-14)
When Jacob dies, Joseph humbly requests permission from Pharaoh to bury him, promising to return afterward. After 40 years in Egypt, Jacob’s only return home is to lay his father’s body in the grave. He left home at 17, and at the time of the burial, he is nearly 60. Of his 110 years, 93 were lived in Egypt! Although he goes up with great grief, he does not go up without hope. The lamentation and sorrow are mixed with the assurance of God’s proven faithfulness to keep His promises to Jacob and his family.
Fear and Forgiveness (verses 15-21)
When Joseph’s brothers realize that Jacob is no longer in the picture, they respond with fear. Was Jacob the unifying factor and the protective covering that has kept Joseph from getting revenge for what they had done to him? Will Joseph act in the same way the brothers had acted now that he is no longer under his father’s oversight? In their irrational fear, they fabricate a story about instructions from their father. Surely, one thing that will not help an already difficult situation is lying! What they should have realized is that it was not Jacob that was keeping Joseph from lashing out in revenge at his brothers, it was the work that God had done in Joseph’s heart!
Joseph weeps at his brothers’ request, which implicitly contained an accusation. Seventeen years of kindness, and still they do not trust him. In kindness, once again, he assures them of his forgiveness. He reminds them that God alone is the judge, he explains God’s providence from his perspective, and he promises to care for them. Joseph does not merely acknowledge verbally his forgiveness for his brothers, but shows them practical affection as well. There is a big difference between “forgiving” someone with our words and evidencing our forgiveness with our actions.
Joseph has no doubts that God has been in all that has happened (i.e., his rejection by his brothers, their hostility towards him, their leaving him for dead and then selling him for 20 pieces of silver). He does not pretend that his brothers had not sinned, but he does recognize that it has all been God’s plan. God had turned their rejection of Joseph into Judah’s preservation, and that secured the lineage of the coming Messiah, which gave way to the salvation of the world!
Full Life for Joseph (verses 22-26)
The proverbial blessing of God is evidenced in Joseph’s life in that he saw the third generation of his offspring, his grandchildren (c.f. Proverbs 17:6; Psalm 128:5-6). He had dwelt in the highest walks of life, and yet his final days are full of both faith and humility. God was first for Joseph and all else was dominated by that simple, all-encompassing principle. Though this portion of the story ends with Joseph dying and remaining in Egypt, it also ends with the hope of one day leaving Egypt. Joseph knew that centuries of slavery were coming, but by faith, he was confident of the ultimate return to the promised land (c.f. Hebrews 11:22).
- Joseph’s entire life is a trail of evidence that demonstrates God using the worst of circumstances to make our lives profitable for the kingdom. We are beneficiaries of Joseph’s suffering—his suffering kept the family tree of the Savior alive. That Savior later suffered a similar fate as Joseph (c.f. Isaiah 53:3; John 1:11; Acts 2:23-24). God brings about His purposes despite human sinfulness. When Satan produces poison, God makes it medicine for His people. As Christians, we should be able to decipher God’s good hand in every favorable situation as well as the difficult and painful experiences.