Genesis 50:16
And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,
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(16, 17) Thy father did command . . . —Many Jewish expositors consider that this was untrue, and that Jacob was never made aware of the fact that his brethren had sold Joseph into slavery. It is, however, probable, from Genesis 49:6, that Jacob not only knew of it, but saw in Simeon and Levi the chief offenders. But besides the father’s authority the message brings a twofold influence to bear upon Joseph: for first it reminds him that they were his brethren, and next, that they shared the same religious faith—no slight band of union in a country where the religion was so unlike their own.

50:15-21 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.His brethren supplicate Joseph for forgiveness. "They sent unto Joseph," commissioned one of their number to speak to him. now that our common father has given us this command. "And Joseph wept" at the distress and doubt of his brothers. He no doubt summons them before him, when they fall down before him entreating his forgiveness. Joseph removes their fears. "Am I in God's stead?" that I should take the law into my own hands, and take revenge. God has already judged them, and moreover turned their sinful deed into a blessing. He assures them of his brotherly kindness toward them.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. This looks like a lie; for Jacob either did not know this fact, or rather, was so well assured of Joseph’s clemency and goodness, that he never feared his revenge. But guilt doth so awaken fear, that it makes a man never to think himself secure.

And they sent a messenger unto Joseph,.... Not Bilhah, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, nor her sons, Dan and Naphtali, as Jarchi, grounding it on Genesis 37:1 though it is not improbable that some from among themselves were deputed, who were most interested in Joseph; since it is not very likely they would commit such an affair to a stranger or to a servant; and the most proper persons to be sent on such an errand seem to be Judah and Benjamin, the latter as having had no concern in the affair of selling him, and was his own brother by father and mother's side, and very dear to him; and the former, because he saved his life, when the rest, excepting Reuben, were for shedding his blood, and had endeared himself also to Joseph, by his tender concern both for his father and his brother Benjamin; however, they thought fit first to sound Joseph by a messenger, how he stood affected to them, before they appeared in a body in person, to whom they gave a charge, as the words may be rendered, "they commanded unto Joseph" (t); that is, they commanded those that were deputed by them to him:

saying, thy father did command before he died; some think, this was no better than a lie, which their fear prompted them to; and that they framed the following story, the more to work upon the mind of Joseph, and dispose it in their favour; seeing it is a question whether Jacob ever knew anything of the affair of their ill usage to Joseph; since otherwise it would have been, in all likelihood, taken notice of in his last dying words, as well as the affair of Reuben, and that of Simeon and Levi; and besides, had he been apprised of it, he knew such was the clemency and generosity of Joseph, that he had nothing to fear from him, nor could he entertain any suspicion of a malevolent disposition in him towards his brethren, or that he would ever use them ill for former offences:

saying, as follows:

(t) "et mandaverunt ad Joseph", Montanus; "nuntio misso", Pagninus; "aliquos ad Josephum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,
16. sent a message] Lit. “charged” (Lat. mandaverunt), the same word as in Genesis 49:29, in the sense of “commissioned,” persons to go to Joseph. LXX παρεγένοντο and Syr. Pesh. follow a different reading, “they drew near unto.” Perhaps the original text contained the delegation of two or three brothers to go unto Joseph.

Thy father did command] An unrecorded dying charge.

Verses 16, 17. - And (under these erroneous though not unnatural apprehensions) they sent a messenger unto Joseph, - literally, they charged Joseph, i.e. they deputed one of their number (possibly Benjamin) to carry their desires to Joseph - saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying (though not recorded, the circumstance here mentioned may have been historically true), 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 (nothing is more inherently probable than that the good man on his death-bed did request his sons to beg their brother's pardon): and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. Joseph's brethren in these words at once evince the depth of their humility, the sincerity of their repentance, and the genuineness of their religion. They were God's true servants, and they wished to be forgiven by their much-offended brother, who, however, had long since embraced them in the arms of his affection. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him - pained that they should for a single moment have enter-rained such suspicions against his love. Genesis 50:16After their father's death, Joseph's brethren were filled with alarm, and said, "If Joseph now should punish us and requite all the evil that we have done to him," sc., what would become of us! The sentence contains an aposiopesis, like Psalm 27:13; and לוּ with the imperfect presupposes a condition, being used "in cases which are not desired, and for the present not real, though perhaps possible" (Ew. 358). The brethren therefore deputed one of their number (possibly Benjamin) to Joseph, and instructed him to appeal to the wish expressed by their father before his death, and to implore forgiveness: "O pardon the misdeed of thy brethren and their sin, that they have done thee evil; and now grant forgiveness to the misdeed of the servants of the God of thy father." The ground of their plea is contained in ועתּה "and now," sc., as we request it by the desire and direction of our father, and in the epithet applied to themselves, "servants of the God of thy father." There is no reason whatever for regarding the appeal to their father's wish as a mere pretence. The fact that no reference was made by Jacob in his blessing to their sin against Joseph, merely proved that he as their father had forgiven the sin of his sons, since the grace of God had made their misdeed the means of Israel's salvation; but it by no means proves that he could not have instructed his sons humbly to beg for forgiveness from Joseph, even though Joseph had hitherto shown them only goodness and love. How far Joseph was from thinking of ultimate retribution and revenge, is evident from the reception which he gave to their request (Genesis 50:17): "Joseph wept at their address to him." viz., at the fact that they could impute anything so bad to him; and when they came themselves, and threw themselves as servants at his feet, he said to them (Genesis 50:19), "Fear not, for am I in the place of God?" i.e., am I in a position to interfere of my own accord with the purposes of God, and not rather bound to submit to them myself? "Ye had indeed evil against me in your mind, but God had it in mind for good (to turn this evil into good), to do (עשׂה like ואה Genesis 48:11), as is now evident (lit., as has occurred this day, cf. Deuteronomy 2:30; Deuteronomy 4:20, etc.), to preserve alive a great nation (cf. Genesis 45:7). And now fear not, I shall provide for you and your families." Thus he quieted them by his affectionate words.
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