Cowboys sometimes say a good death is hard to find. Both Jacob and Joseph found the end of their days from a life well lived.
The famine ended ten years ago, and Joseph is national treasure. The nation launches forward, focusing on many new industrial and engineering projects, things that will last until the days of Moses.
In the future, the family will leave Egypt as a nation of millions but for now, they are a small band of less than a hundred. They live on the shores of Goshen, near what we call the Suez Canal. Joseph calls for a State funeral for his father, a man the Egyptians don’t know, nor do they recognize any heroism save for the fact he is Joseph’s father. A team embalms the body for 40 days, and another team weeps for 70, all according to custom.
This is the first significant mention of the word elder, a tribal designation of great importance. An elder shepherds people, and makes sure things get done. The elder’s behavior mirrors the New Testament practice of eldership.
Joseph humbled himself before Pharoah and asked permission to take Jacob’s corpse back to Hebron. Permission is granted and the servants of Pharoah’s household journey along with his elders to make the trip, along with the same executive staff from Joseph. The text notes the children are left behind in Goshen alongside the animals.
Pharoah likely had mixed motives for sending his elders. It’s likely he wanted to genuinely help Joseph and ensure all is down to guarantee Joseph’s success. Doing so sent a message to other tribes such as the Canaanites to leave Joseph and his land claims alone. Next, sending his entourage allowed Pharoah to have many eyes on the land for financial and military purposes. The large clan would have traveled on a familiar trading route and much could be seen and understood from the locals on the journey. Last and surprisingly, Pharoah needed to make sure Joseph came back to Egpyt. Joseph is the goose that lays the golden eggs, as Jacob once was to Laban, and losing Joseph to Abraham’s lands was not something he could afford to let happen.
So Joseph peaceably returns.
Every bit of theology flows back to Genesis 1:1, and in the same way every bit of God’s sovereign character flows through to Genesis 50:10 …you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…
Joseph’s brothers, likely the oldest three, couldn’t believe Joseph possessed legitimate godly character. To them, it was just a farce held up until Jacob died. Surely Joseph would seek retribution, after all, that’s what they would do.
But Joseph is not them, and says devotedly, am I in the place of God, it was the one thing Joseph deeply possessed, and now all the more, their questioning of Joseph’s character breaks his heart. To those who once wished him dead, and maybe even now, he says, I will provide for you and your little ones. And he comforts them.
Nothing could be more Christ-like.
Joseph lived to see his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren. At age 110 Joseph commands the sons of Israel to carry his bones out of Egypt. When he died, they embalmed the body.