What does Genesis 50:17 mean?
ESV: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
NIV: This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.' Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.' When their message came to him, Joseph wept.
NASB: ‘This is what you shall say to Joseph: 'Please forgive, I beg you, the offense of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.'?’ And now, please forgive the offense of the servants of the God of your father.' And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
CSB: Say this to Joseph: Please forgive your brothers' transgression and their sin--the suffering they caused you.' Therefore, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father." Joseph wept when their message came to him.
NLT: to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you — for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.' When Joseph received the message, he broke down and wept.
KJV: So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.
NKJV: ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.” ’ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
Verse Commentary:
After the death of their father and the trip to Canaan to bury him (Genesis 50:1–14), Joseph's brothers become overwhelmed with guilt and fear. They know they brutally sinned against Joseph by ripping him away from Jacob and selling him into slavery as a teenager (Genesis 37:26–28). Now, this same brother is the governor of all Egypt (Genesis 41:44), second in power only to the Pharaoh himself. They wonder if Joseph's kindness to them (Genesis 47:11–12) has only been for the sake of Jacob. Now that Jacob is dead, they fear what Joseph will do to them (Genesis 50:15–16).

Following in their father's footsteps, they respond to fear with a combination of manipulation and preparation (Genesis 32:9–16; 43:11–14). They send a message to Joseph claiming that Jacob, before he died, had given them a statement to be passed along to Joseph. That statement appeals to Joseph to forgive his brothers for their previous sins. It does not minimize their guilt (Genesis 42:21–22), but it does make a point of describing them as servants of God.

Some commentators believe this is an outright lie. Scripture does not record Jacob making such a request. Also, Jacob was very deliberate in making his last wishes known (Genesis 47:29; 48:3–5; 49:28–29). A message so crucial seems like one Jacob would have passed along in person prior to his death. At the same time, Scripture does not indicate this is deception. A lack of direct references does not make it impossible. In the end, all we know is what the brothers are saying, and what they are thinking.

When Joseph hears the message, he once again responds with tears (Genesis 42:23–24; 43:30; 45:1–3). His response could be due to one or more factors. Hearing a message from his departed father would be an emotional experience. If the message was an obvious lie, Joseph might have been reacting to the idea that his brothers so feared him that they would stoop to such a thing. Or, it might have simply been that Joseph's forgiveness was, indeed, so complete that he was grieved to know his family still held on to fear.

Regardless of his exact thoughts, Joseph's response when his brothers arrive in person is astounding. This is among Scripture's clearest and most pivotal statements about God and His sovereign ability to use "bad things" for a "good purpose" (Genesis 50:20).
Verse Context:
Genesis 50:15–21 reveals that Joseph's brothers are consumed with guilt and fear after their father's death. They worry Joseph has been waiting for Jacob to die before taking revenge. This would not be unexpected, as they cruelly sold Joseph into slavery as a teenager (Genesis 37:26–28). The brothers attempt to appease Joseph with a message, supposedly from Jacob, but he tells them not to be afraid. In one of Scripture's most pivotal remarks, Joseph explains his conviction that, though their intent was evil, God's good purposes were behind everything that had happened. Despite their bad intentions, God used their acts to save many lives. Joseph assures them he will not harm them.
Chapter Summary:
Genesis 50 begins with Joseph's weeping over his father's body, followed by the embalming of Jacob, a 70–day period of state mourning, and a trip to Canaan to bury Jacob with his fathers. Joseph's brothers, worried that he would take his revenge on them for selling him into slavery, seek Joseph's forgiveness. He assures them he will not harm them. The chapter skips to the end of Joseph's life. After assuring his people that God will return them to Canaan one day, Joseph dies and is embalmed.
Chapter Context:
After settling in Egypt, under his son's protection (Genesis 47—49), Jacob dies (Genesis 49:33). He is embalmed and all of Egypt mourns. Joseph buries his father in the family tomb in Canaan, then returns to Egypt. He asks that his body be taken back to Canaan someday. This sets up the events of the book of Exodus. Over centuries, Israel will grow into a prosperous people, only to be enslaved by a jealous Egyptian monarchy. This provides a context for God to rescue Israel and demonstrate His power.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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