Chapter’s 48 to 50 of Genesis are where we get to the end of the recount of Joseph’s life and the end of the book of Genesis.
The life of Joseph is quite well known, but this is where it gets a bit less known.
In chapter 48, we get the second mention of Joseph’s sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Jacob (Israel) considers them to be his own sons (Chapter 48:5), and shows his continued favouritism of Joseph, the first son of his wife Rachel by effectively giving Joseph’s family a double share in the inheritence.
Interestingly as well, Jacob gave his blessing to the younger son, Ephraim first, and the older second (48:14-18) which is unusual, however it does follow the precedent set by Abraham, who blessed Isaac over Ishmael, Isaac who blessed Jacob over Esau, and even Jacob’s own, earlier blessing of Joseph over Reuben.
In chapter 49, we see Jacob on his death bed and he blesses all of his 12 sons, with some very interesting things. The blessings all reflect the sons well, and their transgressions.
Reuben, the eldest who all through his life is seen as honourable and is the only one that does not want to kill Joseph when they were plotting early in his life. However, one of his earlier transgressions caught up to him here (Chapter 49:3-4).
Similarly, Simeon and Levi are caught up with as well and their blessing reflects their earlier slaughter of the town where their sister Dinah was raped by Shechem.
Judah gets the first blessing that is entirely positive, and it is pretty clear here why Judah ultimately separates itself from the other tribes of Israel (Chapter 48:8-12):
8 “Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
9 You are a lion’s cub, O Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness-who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs
and the obedience of the nations is his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,
his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine,
his teeth whiter than milk.
The remaining blessings are fairly straight forward and are largely neither bad or extremely good.
For example, in verse 19, “Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels.”, similarly in verse 20, “Asher’s food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king”.
When we get to Joseph though it is a very long blessing that reflects Joseph’s past as well as Jacob’s favouritism of him, blessing him as the prince among his brothers (verse 26).
I find the blessing that Benjamin receives to be an interesting one as there is not much mention of Benjamin and his behaviour at all up to this point, in verse 27:
27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
in the morning he devours the prey,
in the evening he divides the plunder.”
It’s an interesting one isn’t it? Especially considering how little we really know about him.
After his blessings are given, Jacob explains that he wants to be buried in the same field and cave that was bought from the Hittites to bury Sarah, and subsequently, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah and Leah were also buried there, then Jacob died (Chapter 49:29-33).
Now in chapter 50, we get an insight into how influential and high up Joseph really was. It’s mentioned earlier that Joseph was the second to only Pharaoh, but it doesn’t really go into it any more than that.
In chapter 50 verse 2, Joseph has his father embalmed in the same way as the Pharaoh’s, taking the full 40 days as well for the embalming process. Now, in verse 3, not only did Joseph and the rest of the family of Israel mourn, but the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days. Seventy days!
To my understanding, the mourning period of a dead Pharaoh was seventy two days, which means the Egyptians themselves afforded Jacob near Pharaoh status in his death, which is appropriate considering his position as the immediate patriarch of Israel.
If the period of mourning for his father was not enough to solidify just how important Joseph had become in Egypt, look at what happens next in 50:5-11:
5 ‘My father made me swear an oath and said, “I am about to die; bury me in the tomb I dug for myself in the land of Canaan.” Now let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.’ “
6 Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.”
7 So Joseph went up to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him-the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt– 8 besides all the members of Joseph’s household and his brothers and those belonging to his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen. 9 Chariots and horsemen also went up with him. It was a very large company.
10 When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan, they lamented loudly and bitterly; and there Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father. 11 When the Canaanites who lived there saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “The Egyptians are holding a solemn ceremony of mourning.” That is why that place near the Jordan is called Abel Mizraim.
So, not only did Jacob’s family attend his funeral back in Canaan, but all of the Egyptian dignitaries, both from the court of Pharaoh and the rest of Egypt went as well as numerous chariots and horsemen! Getting from Egypt to the burial site would have been a bit of a hike, so for that many of Egypts high ranking people to be attending, the importance of Joseph to Egypt, must have been absolutely enormous. Then, after already having a seventy day mourning period in Egypt, another seven days of mourning are spent at the burial site! So, the period of mourning actually in total, exceeded that of a Pharaoh!
The rest of chapter 50, the rest of Genesis, summarises the remainder of Joseph’s life after the burial of Jacob. This is where the forgiveness of his brothers for their evil acts becomes evident, in verse 20 “…you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
From verse 23 to 26, Joseph meets his grand children and, interesting it sounds like he dies before his older brothers as in verse 24 he speaks to his brothers. There is no mention of whether he only speaks to some of them or all. In verse 26, Joseph died at one hundred and ten and was embalmed and buried in Egypt, however, before he died he made his brothers swear an oath to take his bones from Egypt when God took them back to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
I’m curious to find out whether or not the oath was upheld. I’ve started reading Exodus now, and it was a good four hundred years before they left Egypt, so his brothers would not have been around to uphold it, but did their descendents?
I quite like reading all of the little other things like this and picking up more of the surrounding story than is widely known!