Genesis Chapter 50
Here is, I. The preparation for Jacob’s funeral, ver. 1-6. II. The funeral itself, ver. 7-14. III. The settling of a good understanding between Joseph and his brethren after the death of Jacob, ver. 15-21. IV. The age and death of Joseph, ver. 22-26. Thus 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.
1 And Joseph fell upon his father’s face, and wept upon him, and kissed him. 2 And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel. 3 And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed: and the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days. 4 And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh, saying, If now I have found grace in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, 5 My father made me swear, saying, Lo, I die: in my grave which I have digged for me in the land of Canaan, there shalt thou bury me. Now therefore let me go up, I pray thee, and bury my father, and I will come again. 6 And Pharaoh said, Go up, and bury thy father, according as he made thee swear.
Joseph is here paying his last respects to his deceased father.
1. With tears and kisses, and all the tender expressions of a filial affection, he takes leave of the deserted body, v. 1. Though Jacob was old and decrepit, and must needs die in the course of nature–though he was poor comparatively, and a constant charge to his son Joseph, yet such an affection he had for a loving father, and so sensible was he of the loss of a prudent, pious, praying father, that he could not part with him without floods of tears. Note, As it is an honour to die lamented, so it is the duty of survivors to lament the death of those who have been useful in their day, though for some time they may have survived their usefulness. The departed soul is out of the reach of our tears and kisses, but with them it is proper to show our respect to the poor body, of which we look for a glorious and joyful resurrection. Thus Joseph showed his faith in God, and love to his father, by kissing his pale and cold lips, and so giving an affectionate farewell. Probably the rest of Jacob’s sons did the same, much moved, no doubt, with his dying words.
2. He ordered the body to be embalmed (v. 2), not only because he died in Egypt, and that was the manner of the Egyptians, but because he was to be carried to Canaan, which would be a work of time, and therefore it was necessary the body should be preserved as well as it might be from putrefaction. See how vile our bodies are, when the soul has forsaken them; without a great deal of art, and pains, and care, they will, in a very little time, become noisome. If the body have been dead four days, by that time it is offensive.
3. He observed the ceremony of solemn mourning for him, v. 3. Forty days were taken up in embalming the body, which the Egyptians (they say) had an art of doing so curiously as to preserve the very features of the face unchanged; all this time, and thirty days more, seventy in all, they either confined themselves and sat solitary, or, when they went out, appeared in the habit of close mourners, according to the decent custom of the country. Even the Egyptians, many of them, out of the great respect they had for Joseph (whose good offices done for the king and country were now fresh in remembrance), put themselves into mourning for his father: as with us, when the court goes into mourning, those of the best quality do so too. About ten weeks was the court of Egypt in mourning for Jacob. Note, What they did in state, we should do in sincerity, weep with those that weep, and mourn with those that mourn, as being ourselves also in the body.
4. He asked and obtained leave of Pharaoh to go to Canaan, thither to attend the funeral of his father, v. 4-6.
(1.) It was a piece of necessary respect to Pharaoh that he would not go without leave; for we may suppose that, though his charge about the corn was long since over, yet he continued a prime-minister of state, and therefore would not be so long absent from his business without licence.
(2.) He observed a decorum, in employing some of the royal family, or some of the officers of the household, to intercede for this licence, either because it was not proper for him in the days of his mourning to come into the presence-chamber, or because he would not presume too much upon his own interest. Note, Modesty is a great ornament to dignity.
(3.) He pleaded the obligation his father had laid upon him, by an oath, to bury him in Canaan, v. 5. It was not from pride or humour, but from his regard to an indispensable duty, that he desired it. All nations reckon that oaths must be performed, and the will of the dead must be observed.
(4.) He promised to return: I will come again. When we return to our own houses from burying the bodies of our relations, we say, “We have left them behind;” but, if their souls have gone to our heavenly Father’s house, we may say with more reason, “They have left us behind.”
(5.) He obtained leave (v. 6): Go and bury thy father. Pharaoh was willing his business should stand still so long; but the service of Christ is more needful, and therefore he would not allow one that had work to do for him to go first and bury his father; no, Let the dead bury their dead, Matt. viii. 22.
– Matthew Henry Commentary