The mourning for Jacob. (1-6) His funeral. (7-14) Joseph's brethren crave his pardon, He comforts them. (15-21) Joseph's direction concerning his bones, His death. (22-26)
Verses 1-6 Though pious relatives and friends have lived to a good old age, and we are confident they are gone to glory, yet we may regret our own loss, and pay respect to their memory by lamenting them. Grace does not destroy, but it purifies, moderates, and regulates natural affection. The departed soul is out of the reach of any tokens of our affection; but it is proper to show respect to the body, of which we look for a glorious and joyful resurrection, whatever may become of its remains in this world. Thus Joseph showed his faith in God, and love to his father. He ordered the body to be embalmed, or wrapped up with spices, to preserve it. See how vile our bodies are, when the soul has forsaken them; they will in a very little time become noisome, and offensive.
Verses 7-14 Jacob's body was attended, not only by his own family, but by the great men of Egypt. Now that they were better acquainted with the Hebrews, they began to respect them. Professors of religion should endeavour by wisdom and love to remove the prejudices many have against them. Standers-by took notice of it as a grievous mourning. The death of good men is a loss to any place, and ought to be greatly lamented.
Verses 15-21 Various motives might cause the sons of Jacob to continue in Egypt, notwithstanding the prophetic vision Abraham had of their bondage there. Judging of Joseph from the general temper of human nature, they thought he would now avenge himself on those who hated and injured him without cause. Not being able to resist, or to flee away, they attempted to soften him by humbling themselves. They pleaded with him as the servants of Jacob's God. Joseph was much affected at seeing this complete fulfilment of his dreams. He directs them not to fear him, but to fear God; to humble themselves before the Lord, and to seek the Divine forgiveness. He assures them of his own kindness to them. See what an excellent spirit Joseph was of, and learn of him to render good for evil. He comforted them, and, to banish all their fears, he spake kindly to them. Broken spirits must be bound up and encouraged. Those we love and forgive, we must not only do well for, but speak kindly to.
Verses 22-26 Joseph having honoured his father, his days were long in the land, which, for the present, God had given him. When he saw his death approaching, he comforted his brethren with the assurance of their return to Canaan in due time. We must comfort others with the same comforts with which we have been comforted of God, and encourage them to rest on the promises which are our support. For a confession of his own faith, and a confirmation of theirs, he charges them to keep his remains unburied till that glorious day, when they should be settled in the land of promise. Thus Joseph, by faith in the doctrine of the resurrection, and the promise of Canaan, gave commandment concerning his bones. This would keep up their expectation of a speedy departure from Egypt, and keep Canaan continually in their minds. This would also attach Joseph's posterity to their brethren. The death, as well as the life of this eminent saint, was truly excellent; both furnish us with strong encouragement to persevere in the service of God. How happy to set our early in the heavenly race, to continue stedfastly, and to finish the course with joy! This Joseph did, this we also may do. Even when the pains of death are upon us, if we have trusted in Him upon whom the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles depended, we need not fear to say, "My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever."
Genesis 50:1-26 . MOURNING FOR JACOB.
1. Joseph fell upon his father's face, &c.--On him, as the principal member of the family, devolved the duty of closing the eyes of his venerable parent (compare Genesis 46:4 ) and imprinting the farewell kiss.
2. Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father, &c.--In ancient Egypt the embalmers were a class by themselves. The process of embalmment consisted in infusing a great quantity of resinous substances into the cavities of the body, after the intestines had been removed, and then a regulated degree of heat was applied to dry up the humors, as well as decompose the tarry materials which had been previously introduced. Thirty days were alloted for the completion of this process; forty more were spent in anointing it with spices; the body, tanned from this operation, being then washed, was wrapped in numerous folds of linen cloth--the joinings of which were fastened with gum, and then it was deposited in a wooden chest made in the form of a human figure.
3. the Egyptians mourned, &c. It was made a period of public mourning, as on the death of a royal personage.
4, 5. Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh, &c.--Care was taken to let it be known that the family sepulchre was provided before leaving Canaan and that an oath bound his family to convey the remains thither. Besides, Joseph deemed it right to apply for a special leave of absence; and being unfit, as a mourner, to appear in the royal presence, he made the request through the medium of others.
7-9. Joseph went up to bury his father--a journey of three hundred miles. The funeral cavalcade, composed of the nobility and military, with their equipages, would exhibit an imposing appearance.
10. they came to the threshing-floor of Atad, &c.--"Atad" may be taken as a common noun, signifying "the plain of the thorn bushes." It was on the border between Egypt and Canaan; and as the last opportunity of indulging grief was always the most violent, the Egyptians made a prolonged halt at this spot, while the family of Jacob probably proceeded by themselves to the place of sepulture.
15-21. When Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, &c.--Joseph was deeply affected by this communication. He gave them the strongest assurances of his forgiveness and thereby gave both a beautiful trait of his own pious character, as well as appeared an eminent type of the Saviour.
22, 23. Joseph dwelt in Egypt--He lived eighty years after his great increase in the prosperity of the kingdom, and also of his own family and kindred--the infant Church of God.
24. Joseph said unto his brethren, I die--The national feelings of the Egyptians would have been opposed to his burial in Canaan; but he gave the strongest proof of the strength of his faith and full assurance of the promises, by "the commandment concerning his bones" [ Hebrews 11:22 ].
would be conducted in the highest style of Egyptian magnificence and his mummied corpse carefully preserved till the Exodus.