Genesis chapter 50

English Standard Version

4And when the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, please speak in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, 5‘My father made me swear, saying, “I am about to die: in my tomb that I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there shall you bury me.” Now therefore, let me please go up and bury my father. Then I will return.’” 6And Pharaoh answered, “Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear.” 7So Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household. Only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen. 9And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen. It was a very great company. 10When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they lamented there with a very great and grievous lamentation, and he made a mourning for his father seven days. 11When the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a grievous mourning by the Egyptians.” Therefore the place was named Abel-mizraim; it is beyond the Jordan. 12Thus his sons did for him as he had commanded them, 13for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place. 14After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.
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What does Genesis chapter 50 mean?

Immediately following Jacob's death (Genesis 49:33), Joseph weeps openly and falls on his father's body, kissing his face. This death hits him hard. After ordering Jacob's body to be embalmed—likely meaning mummified—by the Egyptian doctors, Joseph will set about obeying his father's final wish to be buried in Canaan (Genesis 49:29–32). First, however, the state of Egypt observes an official 70–day period of mourning. This is an extraordinary gesture towards a man otherwise unconnected to that culture (Genesis 50:1–3).

Though Joseph has been invested with incredible authority (Genesis 41:44), he is still technically a slave to the ruler of Egypt. This king, known by the title Pharaoh, must be consulted if Joseph is to leave the country. He asks through a messenger, possibly because those in mourning were not allowed to physically see the Pharaoh. Not only does Pharaoh agree to allow Joseph and his brothers to leave for the burial, he sends a huge delegation of Egyptian servants and dignitaries along to honor Jacob. In addition, Pharaoh sends horsemen and chariots. As with Jacob's mourning period, this is an extravagant affair (Genesis 50:4–9).

Along the way, the massive funeral procession stops at a field. There, they spend seven days in traditional ritual mourning rites. Since most of the party are Egyptians, the local Canaanites wonder what has happened. The event is so noteworthy that the Canaanites rename the field. This is a play on words, since the Hebrew terms for "mourning" and "meadow" are almost identical. "Abel-Mizraim" means "meadow of the Egyptians," but sounds much like "mourning of the Egyptians," as well. After this, Joseph and his brothers complete their quest to bury Jacob with his fathers and then return to Egypt (Genesis 50:10–14).

Now that Jacob is gone, Joseph's brothers are overwhelmed with guilt and fear. They are concerned that Joseph was only holding back his rage against them for the sake of Jacob. Many years ago, they had jealously sold Joseph into slavery (Genesis 37:26–28). As it happened, Joseph survived, became a powerful man in Egypt, and rescued his own estranged family from starvation (Genesis 47:11–13). The brothers have already acknowledged their guilt (Genesis 42:21–22), but fear Joseph's vengeance. They send him a message, supposedly from Jacob, pleading with him to be forgiving. They then come to Joseph, in person, and grovel at his feet (Genesis 50:15–18).

Joseph's response is one of the pivotal verses in Scripture. First, he weeps, either at the thought of their unneeded fear, or as he recalls all he has been through. Joseph does not mince words, clearly stating that what his brothers did was evil, and intentionally so. However, Joseph is just as blunt about God's ability to use his own suffering for a greater purpose. Joseph suffered as a wretched slave for thirteen years (Genesis 37:2, 41:46), but this put him in a position of immense prestige and comfort (Genesis 41:50–52). It also allowed him to save many lives, including those of his own family. Those hard thirteen years would lead to eighty years of incredible prosperity (Genesis 50:22). Joseph reassures his brothers that he has no intention of seeking revenge, and plans to continue protecting his extended family (Genesis 50:19–21).

The rest of Joseph's life story is summarized by a few verses explaining his good fortune. He senses his impending death at 110 years old. He has lived long enough to see his great-great-grandchildren. As Jacob did, Joseph makes Israel's "sons"—most likely, the living heads of their tribes—swear to take his body from Egypt someday. This will be accomplished by Moses, centuries in the future (Exodus 13:19). When Joseph dies, he is also embalmed, but his remains are kept in a coffin in the possession of Israel (Genesis 50:22–26).

This ends the book of Genesis. The early verses of the book of Exodus explain how Israel grew and prospered. That process continued for centuries. Unfortunately, a new regime will come to power in Egypt, with no memory or love of Joseph. This dynasty will be the one to brutally enslave Jacob's descendants, setting up God's rescue and the establishment of Israel as a nation (Exodus 1:6–14).
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