Genesis 50:4
And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spoke to the house of Pharaoh, saying, If now I have found grace in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying,
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(4) Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh.—It may seem at first sight strange that Joseph should make his request through mediators, but probably no one in the attire of mourning might enter the royal presence. (Comp. Esther 4:2.) The dress of a mourner was squalid, his beard unshorn, his hair in disorder, and while these outward signs of grief were maintained, he was also expected to confine himself to his own house.

Genesis 50:4-5. Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh — Either it was not customary for mourners to enter the royal presence, or Joseph wished to make his request to the king with all possible humility and respect. He therefore made application to Pharaoh, not directly, but through the intervention of some of his courtiers. Let me go up, I pray thee — It was a piece of necessary respect to Pharaoh, that he would not go without leave; for we may suppose, though his charge about the corn was long since over, yet he continued a prime minister of state, and therefore would not be so long absent from his business without license.50:1-6 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.Joseph, by means of Pharaoh's courtiers, not in person, because he was a mourner, applies for leave to bury his father in the land of Kenaan, according to his oath. This leave is freely and fully allowed.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. The house of Pharaoh; the household or family, namely, those of them which were chief in place and favour with the king. Joseph makes use of their intercession, either,

1. Lest he might seem to despise them, or to presume too much upon his own single interest. Or,

2. By engaging them in this matter to stop their mouths, who otherwise might have been ready enough to censure this action, which they would have a fair opportunity to do in Joseph’s absence. Or,

3. Because it was the custom here, as it was elsewhere, Esther 4:2, that persons in mourning habit might not come into the king’s presence, partly because they would not give them any occasion of sadness, and partly because, according to their superstitions conceits, the sight of such a person was judged ominous. And when the days of his mourning were past,.... The forty days before mentioned, in which both the Egyptians and Jacob's family mourned for him. An Arabic writer (g) says, the Egyptians mourned for Jacob forty days, which was the time of embalming; but the text is express for sventy days:

Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh; to the court of Pharaoh, the principal men there; so the Targum of Jonathan and the Septuagint version, to the great men or princes of the house of Pharaoh: it may seem strange that Joseph, being next to Pharaoh in the administration of the government, should make use of any to speak for him to Pharaoh on the following account. It may be, that Joseph was not in so high an office, and in so much power and authority, as in the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine; and it is certain that that branch of his office, respecting the corn, must have ceased; or this might have been a piece of policy in Joseph to make these men his friends by such obliging treatment, and by this means prevent their making objections to his suit, or plotting against him in his absence; or if it was the custom in Egypt, as it afterwards was in Persia, that no man might appear before the king in a mourning habit, Esther 4:2 this might be the reason of his not making application in person: moreover, it might not seem so decent for him to come to court, and leave the dead, and his father's family, in such circumstances as they were: besides, he might speak to them not in person, but by a messenger, since it is highly probable he was now in Goshen, at a distance from Pharaoh's court; unless it can be supposed that these were some of Pharaoh's courtiers who were come to him in Goshen, to condole his father's death:

saying, if now I have found grace in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh; however, as these men had the ear of Pharaoh, and an interest in him, Joseph entreats the favour of them to move it to him:

saying, as follows, in his name.

(g) Elmacinus, p. 43. apud Hottinger. Smegma, c. 8. p. 380.

And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh, saying, If now I have found grace in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying,
4. unto the house of Pharaoh] Joseph does not speak to Pharaoh personally, but to the court officials. As a mourner, he is unclean and would not be permitted to approach Pharaoh.Verses 4, 5. - And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh, saying, If now I have found grace in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh, - that Joseph did not address himself directly to Pharaoh, but through the members of the royal household, was not owing to the circumstance that, being arrayed in mourning apparel, he could not come before the king (Rosenmüller), since it is not certain that this Persian custom (Esther 4:2) prevailed in Egypt, but is supposed to have been due, either to a desire on Joseph's part to put himself on a good understanding with the priesthood who composed the courtly circle, since the interment of the dead was closely connected with the religious beliefs of Egypt (Havernick), or, what was more likely, to the fact that Joseph, having, according to Egyptian custom (Herod. 2:36), allowed his beard and hair to grow, could not enter the king's presence without being both shaven and shorn (Hengstenberg, Kurtz, Keil). It has been suggested (Kalisch) that Joseph's power may have been restricted after the expiration of the famine, or that another Pharaoh may have succeeded to the throne who was not so friendly as his predecessor with the grand vizier of the realm; but such conjectures are not required to render Joseph's conduct in this matter perfectly intelligible - saying, My father made me swear (Genesis 47:29), saying (i.e. my father saying), Lo, I die: in my grave which I have digged for me - not bought (Onkelos, Drusius, Ainsworth, Bohlen, and others), but digged, ὤρυξα (LXX.), fodi (Vulgate). Jacob may have either enlarged the original cave at Machpelah, or prepared in it the special niche which he designed to occupy - in the land of Canaan, there shalt thou bury me. Now therefore (literally, and now) let me go up, I pray thee (the royal permission was required to enable Joseph to pass beyond the boundaries of Egypt, especially when accompanied by a large funeral procession), and bury my father, and I will come again. Death of Jacob. - After the blessing, Jacob again expressed to his twelve sons his desire to be buried in the sepulchre of his fathers (Genesis 24), where Isaac and Rebekah and his own wife Leah lay by the side of Abraham and Sarah, which Joseph had already promised on oath to perform (Genesis 47:29-31). He then drew his feet into the bed to lie down, for he had been sitting upright while blessing his sons, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered to his people (vid., Genesis 25:8). ויּגוע instead of ויּמת indicates that the patriarch departed from this earthly life without a struggle. His age is not given here, because that has already been done at Genesis 47:28.
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