Genesis 50
Matthew Poole's Commentary
And Joseph fell upon his father's face, and wept upon him, and kissed him.
Joseph bewails his father’s death; and embalms him, Genesis 50:1,2. The Egyptians mourn for him seventy days, Genesis 50:3. Joseph with Pharaoh’s leave carries him stately accompanied to Canaan, Genesis 50:4-9. They mourn there seven days, and sorely, so that the Canaanites from thence named the place Abel-mizraim, Genesis 50:10,11. They bury him where he commanded, Genesis 50:12,13. They return to Egypt, Genesis 50:14. Jacob being dead, his sons are afraid of their brother Joseph, Genesis 50:15. Pretending their father’s order, they address for pardon, Genesis 50:16-18. He weeps, forgives, and encourageth them, Genesis 50:19-21. Joseph lives to see a third and fourth generation, Genesis 50:22,23. Assures his brethren of their future return to Canaan, Genesis 50:24. He takes an oath of them to carry his bones with them, Genesis 50:25; dies; is embalmed; and put in a coffin, Genesis 50:26.

And doubtless closed his eyes, as God had promised, Genesis 46:4, which may be implied in this general phrase.

And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel.
The dead corpse of his father with spices, and ointments, and other things necessary for the preservation of the body from putrefaction as long as might be. This Joseph did, partly, because he would comply as far as he could with the Egyptians, whose custom this was, from whom also the Jews took it, 2 Chronicles 16:14 John 19:39,40; partly, to do honour and show his affections to his worthy father; and partly, because this was necessary for the keeping of the body so long as the times of mourning and the journey to Canaan required.

And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed: and the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days.
For him, i.e. for his embalming; that so the drugs or spices which were applied might more effectually reach to all the parts of the dead body, and keep it from corruption. And the effect of their diligence and so long continuance in this work was, that bodies have been preserved uncorrupt for some thousand of years.

Threescore and ten days, i.e. thirty days, (according to the custom of the Hebrews, Numbers 20:29 Deu 34:8, to which doubtless the Egyptians in this case did accommodate themselves,) besides the forty days spent in embalming him, which also was a time of mourning. And thus I suppose the Egyptians reckoned those seventy-two days which Diodorus Siculus saith they spent in mourning for their deceased kings.

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,
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.

My father made me swear, saying, Lo, I die: in my grave which I have digged for me in the land of Canaan, there shalt thou bury me. Now therefore let me go up, I pray thee, and bury my father, and I will come again.
Here is a triple obligation upon Joseph:

1. His duty to fulfil the will of the dead.

2. The obedience which he owed to his father’s command.

3. The the of a solemn oath: all which had weight even with the heathens, and were so many arguments to Pharaoh and his courtiers.

In my grave which I have digged for me, according to the manner of those ancient and succeeding times. See 2 Chronicles 16:14 Isaiah 22:16 Matthew 27:60. In that large cave which Abraham bought for a burying-place for his family, Jacob had digged a particular and small cell or repository for himself, as others did after him upon the like occasion. And this reason is prudently added, to show that this desire proceeded not from any contempt of Pharaoh or his land, but from that common and customary desire of persons of all ages and nations to be buried in their fathers’ sepulchres.

And Pharaoh said, Go up, and bury thy father, according as he made thee swear.
The heathens by the light of nature discovered the sacredness of an oath, and the wickedness of perjury.

And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,
All the servants, i.e. a great number of them, as that word is understood, Matthew 3:5, and oft elsewhere. For many of them were aged and infirm, and many could not be spared from their attendance at court, or upon their employments, &c.

The servants of Pharaoh were courtiers of an inferior rank;

the elders of his house, the chief officers, and under him governors of his family and councils, who used to reside at or near the court;

and the elders of the land, the great officers civil and military, whose places of habitation and command were dispersed in the several parts of the land.

And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father's house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen.
And such as were necessary to take care of them, which must needs be understood.

Chariots and horsemen, for their defence, in case of any opposition.

And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And they came to the threshingfloor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan, and there they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation: and he made a mourning for his father seven days.
Atad, a man so called; or, of thorn, or thorns, as the word signifies, Judges 9:14 Psalm 58:9. So it might be a place either abounding or encompassed with thorns.

Beyond, or on this side; for the word signifies both, and it may be taken either way here; the one in respect of Egypt, the other in regard of the place in which Moses wrote. It is certain they fetched a great compass, whether for the commodiousness of the way for their chariots, and for conveniences for so great a company, or to prevent all jealousies in the people, as if they came thither with ill design, is not material.

There they mourned, because there was the entrance into that country or territory where he was to be buried. Though the Egyptians were not much grieved nor concerned for Jacob’s death, yet they used bitter cries and lamentations, which possibly were made or aggravated by persons hired and used upon such occasions. See Jeremiah 9:17.

Seven days, according to the custom. See 1 Samuel 31:13.

And when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning in the floor of Atad, they said, This is a grievous mourning to the Egyptians: wherefore the name of it was called Abelmizraim, which is beyond Jordan.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And his sons did unto him according as he commanded them:
No text from Poole on this verse.

For his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a buryingplace of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And Joseph returned into Egypt, he, and his brethren, and all that went up with him to bury his father, after he had buried his father.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,
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.

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.
The God of thy father, for whose sake pardon those that join with thee in his worship.

Joseph wept; partly in compassion to their fear and trouble; and partly because they still retained a diffidence in his kindness, after all his great and real demonstrations of it.

And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.
Ready and willing to undergo that servitude into which we so wickedly sold thee.

And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?
It is God’s prerogative to take vengeance, which I dare not usurp. See Deu 32:35. Or, can I do what I please with you without God’s leave? Therefore fear him rather than me, and upon your experience of his wonderful care and kindness to you, believe that God will not, and therefore that I neither can nor will do you any hurt. But it is not unusual to put the Hebrew he for halo, as it is Genesis 27:36 1 Samuel 2:28 2 Samuel 23:19 1 Kings 16:31, &c.; and so the words may be very well rendered, Am not I under God, i.e. subject to his will, a minister of his providence? Dare I destroy those whom God so eminently designed to save? Dare I punish those whom God hath pardoned.

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
Ye thought evil against me, therefore I do not excuse your guilt, though I comfort you against despondency.

Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.
I will nourish you; expect not only a free pardon from me, but all the kindness of a loving brother.

And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father's house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years.
1625 No text from Poole on this verse.

And Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation: the children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were brought up upon Joseph's knees.
Of the third generation, reckoning from and after Ephraim, i.e., Ephraim’s grandchildren’s children. So early did Ephraim’s privilege above Manasseh appear, and Jacob’s blessing { Genesis 48:19} take place.

The children of Machir, Heb. sons. For though he had but one son, viz. Gilead, by his first wife, yet he married a second wife, and by her had two other sons, 1 Chronicles 7:16, which Joseph lived long enough to see. Or under the name of children his grandchildren also might be comprehended. So there is no need of that enallage of sons for one son which we meet with in other places.

Were brought up upon Joseph’s knees; laid upon Joseph’s lap or knees, where parents use ofttimes to take up and repose their infants, to express their love to them, and delight in them. And some observe, that it was an ancient custom in divers nations, that the infant, as soon as it was born, was laid upon the grandfather’s knees. So it is an ellipsis, whereby one word is put for two, or under one verb. See more of this phrase on Genesis 30:3 48:12.

And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
God will surely visit you, i.e. deliver you out of this place, where I foresee you will be hardly used after my decease; or, fulfil his promised kindness to you, as that word is used, Genesis 21:1 Exodus 4:31. There is a double visitation oft mentioned in Scripture; the one of grace and mercy, which is here meant; the other of justice and anger, as elsewhere.

And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.
Joseph took an oath, for the same reason which moved Jacob to require an oath from him, Genesis 47:30,31,

of the children of Israel: he saith not, of his brethren, but of Israel’s children; under which his grandchildren are comprehended, and seem principally intended here; either because his brethren were most of them dead, or rather because he knew that they were not to go out of Egypt in his brethren’s time, but in their second or third generation.

My bones, i.e. my dead body: but he mentions only his bones, because part of his body was corrupted, and the other part, though preserved from corruption by the embalming, yet was so changed and adulterated with the spices, and other materials which they used, that it looked like another thing: only his bones remained entire and unchanged.

Quest. Why did he not desire to be presently carried thither, and buried there, as his father did?

Answ. 1. Lest he should disoblige the Egyptians, and provoke them against his brethren and children. The removal of his father thither was necessary, and forced from him by an oath, but the order for the removal of himself would have been voluntary and designed, and therefore could not have escaped the censure of an ungrateful contempt of the land of Egypt, which as it was thought good enough for him and his to live in, should have been judged so too for his burial.

2. That by these his remains his memory might be the longer and better preserved, both with the Egyptians, who for his sake might show kindness to his near relations; and with the Israelites, to whom this was a visible pledge of their deliverance, and a help to their faith, and all obligation to them to persist in the true religion.

So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
So for about thirteen years of affliction he enjoyed eighty years of honour, and as much happiness as earth could afford him.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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