Our journey through Genesis concludes with the death and burial of Jacob and the death of Joseph and instructions for his final burial. Matthew Henry states “the book of Genesis, which began with the origin of light and life, ends with nothing but death and darkness so sad a change has sin made.”
After giving an individual blessing to each of his son’s (Gen 49:1-27), Jacob then instructs them to bury him with his family in the cave that Abraham had purchased (Gen 23) back in Israel (Gen 49:28 -32). The chapter concludes with the touching scene of Jacob’s passing surrounded by his family and the outpouring of grief from his favourite son.
Having been immersed in Egyptian society and culture, Joseph arranges for his father’s body to be embalmed and a long period of mourning is observed. He approaches Pharaoh to allow both he and his family to leave Egypt in order to fulfil his father’s dying wish.
Joseph is held in such favour, that Pharaoh grants what we would regard as a state funeral and “all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt” accompany the family on their journey to bury Jacob.
Without their father’s protection, Joseph’s brothers now feel vulnerable to some act of retribution from their wronged sibling (v15) and so they send him a note saying that their father wished that the sins of the past were forgiven that draws an emotional response. The footnote in the NIV Study Bible conjectures that Joseph may have been saddened by the thought that his brothers might be falsely implicating their father in the story. Or he may have regretted his failure to reassure them sooner that he had already forgiven them.
What is clear is purpose behind the long saga of Joseph’s life that we have been following since back in Chapter 37:
20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Genesis concludes with the account of Joseph’s death at the ripe old age of 110. It is noteworthy that he is not afforded the state funeral given his father – the attitudes towards the Israelite people were changing with in a generation as we shall see further in tomorrow’s reading from Exodus 1.
Reflecting back on recent readings from Genesis we can see many of the lessons from Joseph’s story summarised in our New Testament reading from Galatians in Chapter 6:1-10.
- Those spiritual restoring those caught in transgression
- Facing temptation
- Thinking you are something when you are nothing
- Sowing what you reap
- Doing good to everyone