|Topical Bible Study||May 1955|
The People of the Bible
Article V—Genesis 37 – 50
Joseph and His Brethren
THE Patriarch Jacob had twelve sons—Reuben was the oldest, and Benjamin the youngest. The others were Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, and Joseph. When, toward the close of his life, Jacob pronounced his parental blessing upon these twelve, God’s promise of a coming “seed,” the One who would be the Messiah and channel of blessing to all the families of the earth, was narrowed down to the descendants of Judah.—Gen. 49:9,10
Of all these sons of Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel) the Bible deals more particularly with Joseph, the firstborn of Rachel, the wife for whom Jacob served his father-in-law fourteen years. (Gen. 29:20,30) This ancient human interest story begins with the explanation that “Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.”—Gen. 37:3,4
“Jealousy is cruel as the grave,” the Scriptures declare. (Song of Sol. 8:6) This became clearly demonstrated in the attitude of Joseph’s brothers toward him. Their jealousy and hate were increased when Joseph related a dream. “Behold,” he said, “we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.” Joseph’s brethren saw in this dream a suggestion that Joseph expected one day to be ruler over them.—Gen. 37:5-8
Joseph “dreamed yet another dream, and told it to his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.” His brothers envied him even more after hearing this dream, and his father “rebuked” him for relating it, asking, “Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?”—ch. 37:9-11
Although Jacob rebuked Joseph for relating these dreams, the record is that “he observed the saying”—as did Mary, who pondered in her heart the marvelous things which occurred when Jesus was born. (Luke 2:19,51) Jacob seemed to sense that God was dealing with Joseph in some special manner and that he was to be a man of destiny, even as he later proved to be.
Some time after Joseph related his dreams, his brothers departed from home, going to Shechem to seek pasture for their flocks. Joseph, being quite young, remained at home with his father. They had given no outward evidence of desire to injure Joseph because of their hatred for him; so Jacob, wishing to know how his sons were getting along, asked his beloved Joseph to go to Shechem and bring back a report. Joseph was quite willing to render this service to his father, saying, “Here am I.”—vss. 12-14
Arriving in Shechem, Joseph learned that his brothers had moved on to Dothan; so he continued his journey and finally found them there. This afforded them the opportunity, for which they had apparently been waiting, to manifest their hatred toward Joseph. The account says that “when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.”—vss. 15-19
Their first plan was to murder Joseph and cast him into a pit and then report to their father that his beloved boy had been slain by a wild beast. They said, “We shall see what will become of his dreams.” But Reuben, the oldest brother, while hating Joseph, could not bring himself to participate in the plot to murder him, so suggested that, instead, they cast the lad into a pit and there let him die. Reuben planned that, unknown to his brethren, he would return to the pit and rescue Joseph and secretly return him to his father.
The brothers agreed, and Joseph was cast into a pit. But instead of abandoning him there, Judah suggested that they sell him to a band of Ishmaelites who were passing nearby on their way to Egypt. They reasoned that thus the object of their hate would be out of sight and out of their way, and yet they would not be guilty of murder. All agreed to this plan except Reuben, who was not with the others when they sold Joseph. When he returned to the pit to rescue Joseph and discovered that he was not there, he “rent his clothes. And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?”—vss. 23-30
Jacob’s Deep Sorrow
One crime often leads to another. Having disposed of their brother Joseph, it was necessary to offer some plausible explanation of his disappearance to their father, Jacob. So they killed “a kid of the goats” and dipped Joseph’s coat in its blood to make it appear that he had been killed by a wild beast; and, returning home, they presented this “evidence” to Jacob, who at once reached the conclusion that his beloved boy was dead. He said, “it is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.”—vss. 31-33
Jacob’s entire family endeavored to comfort him, “but he refused to be comforted; and he said, “For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning.” (vs. 35) It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word here translated “grave” is sheol. It is the first time it appears in the Bible, and is the only Hebrew word which, throughout the Old Testament, is translated “hell.” It appears sixty-five times, and is translated “hell” thirty-one times, “grave” thirty-one times, and “pit” three times. It is simply the condition of death into which both the righteous and the unrighteous go when they die, there to await the resurrection. It is not a place of eternal torture.
Joseph in Egypt
Ishmaelites and Midianites are mentioned in connection with the selling of Joseph by his brethren, and his being taken into Egypt. The Ishmaelites were descendants of Abraham, through his bondmaid, Hagar, and the Midianites his descendants through his wife, Keturah, whom he married after the death of Sarah. Evidently, the group to which Joseph was sold was mixed, hence the reference to them sometimes as Ishmaelites and sometimes as Midianites.
Arriving in Egypt, the Ishmaelites sold Joseph to Potiphar, “an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian.” “And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.” (ch. 39:1,2) “The Lord was with Joseph.” This is the explanation of the marvelous series of events which took place in his life, and the manner in which they finally led up to his being reunited with his father and brothers.
Joseph knew that the Lord was with him, and his faith in this fact helped him to endure trial and to remain humble in prosperity. No matter how severely he was tested, his faith in the overruling providences of God remained firm; and regardless of how much honor was bestowed upon him, he gave all the credit to the Lord. Doubtless he often thought about the dreams which, when he related them to his brothers, caused them to hate him and to sell him as a slave. He probably wondered just how they were to be fulfilled, yet the fact that God had given them to him was an assurance that all his experiences were being overruled by divine providence. So, regardless of surrounding circumstances, he made the best of them, ever looking to God for guidance and help.
The hand of God in Joseph’s experiences was so apparent that even Potiphar, his Egyptian master, noticed it—“His master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand.” (vs. 3) This, together with Joseph’s integrity and wisdom, gave his master confidence in him, “and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.” (vs. 4) Not only did the Lord bless Joseph personally, but for his sake he blessed the Egyptian household over which he had been made overseer—“The blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field; … and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat.”—vss. 5,6
But Joseph’s favorable position did not continue. Because he was a “goodly person, and well favored,” Potiphar’s wife became enamored of him; and when he refused her advances she reported to her husband that his trusted servant had mocked her and that when she had lifted up her voice in a cry of alarm, he had fled, leaving his garment with her. Potiphar accepted this story and, without investigation, ordered that Joseph be put into prison.—vss. 7-20
“But the Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” The Lord had permitted Joseph to be imprisoned, yet the statement is that “the Lord was with Joseph.” (vs. 21) The Lord’s people in that ancient time, even as now, found it necessary to walk by faith. It is not so difficult to believe that the Lord is with us when all the circumstances of life are to our liking; but when things go wrong, when calamity strikes, when friends forsake us, when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, it requires a living faith in the wisdom and love of God to believe that he is still with us.
So it was with Joseph. The fact that he was misrepresented and put into prison did not mean that the Lord was not still with him. Joseph, though enduring hardness as a prisoner, did not despair but maintained his faith in the God of his fathers. Yes, the Lord was with Joseph. Few of the personalities of the Bible have this assurance recorded concerning them as frequently as we find it said of Joseph. Because the Lord was with him, even in prison “the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was under his hand, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper.”—vss. 22,23
Thus the Lord was preparing for greater events in Joseph’s life. Shortly after he had been given this trustworthy position in the prison, Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, became offended by his chief butler and chief baker, and they were put into prison and came under the jurisdiction of Joseph. In due course both these men had dreams which disturbed them, and when visited afterward by Joseph, he noticed that “they were sad.”—Gen. 40:1-6
He inquired concerning the cause of their sadness, and they told him of their dreams. Joseph, by God’s help, correctly interpreted these dreams to mean that within three days the butler would be restored to his former position of honor in Pharaoh’s house and that at the close of three days the baker would be taken from prison and hanged.—Gen. 40:7-23
When interpreting the butler’s dream, Joseph asked that when he was reinstated as Pharaoh’s chief butler, he speak a kind word for him, suggesting that he be released from prison. The butler’s release from prison occurred on Pharaoh’s birthday, and in the excitement of the occasion he forgot about Joseph and failed to mention him to the king. So Joseph languished in prison for two more years, which was a further test of his faith in and devotion to God.
But at the end of two years God’s providences again began to operate on behalf of Joseph. Pharaoh had two dreams. In these dreams “he stood by the river, and, behold there came up out of the river seven well-favored kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow. And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill-favored and leanfleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river. And the ill-favored and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well-favored and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.”—ch. 41:1-4
Then Pharaoh fell asleep and dreamed “the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stock, rank and good. And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them. And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.”—vss. 5-7
These dreams greatly disturbed Pharaoh, especially since none of the wise men of Egypt could interpret them for him. The chief butler, because of his close personal association with Pharaoh, would know of these circumstances, and by them he was reminded of Joseph. He was chagrined to realize that he had forgotten to speak to Pharaoh concerning Joseph, but even this the Lord had overruled; for now had come a most favorable opportunity to do so.
The chief butler remembered Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams, and he told Pharaoh about him. The king of Egypt sent for Joseph at once—“They brought him hastily out of the dungeon,” the record states, “and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.” Asked by Pharaoh to interpret his dreams, Joseph, with humility said, “It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”—vss. 9-16
Pharaoh then related his dreams to Joseph, to whom God gave the interpretation. Joseph explained that both dreams in reality represented the same thing—“The seven good kine are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years.” He also explained that the seven ill-favored and lean kine were seven years, and “the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine.”—vss. 25-27
Joseph then explained further that what God had revealed through Pharaoh’s dreams was that there were to be seven years of plenty in Egypt, followed by seven years of drought and famine. That the Lord gave two dreams meaning the same thing, Joseph explained, was “because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.” Joseph then advised Pharaoh to select a wise administrator over the affairs of Egypt, that the best advantage might be taken of the seven years of plenty in preparation for the seven years of famine to follow.—vss. 28-36
Pharaoh was greatly impressed and also realized the wisdom of Joseph’s recommendation; and he said to Joseph, “Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.”—vss. 39,40
Surely the Lord was again with Joseph, not altogether for his own sake but, as it later developed, for the salvation of his people, the natural descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and his father, Jacob. He proved to be a wise food administrator, and although given extra dictatorial powers, he did not abuse them, nor did he use his high position to undermine the confidence of the Egyptians in their Pharaoh. A dictatorship can be a great blessing if the dictator is wise, unselfish, and humble, and Joseph possessed all these qualities.
Under his leadership, which began when he was thirty years of age, the Egyptians stored enormous quantities of food during the foretold seven years of plenty. Then began the seven years of famine, which was felt not only throughout Egypt but in neighboring countries as well, reaching even to Canaan, where Joseph’s father, brothers, and their families resided. It is this that presents the climax and indicates the reason for such a strange and dramatic series of circumstances in the life of the boy who had been sold into slavery in Egypt.
Joseph’s Brethren Go to Egypt
While years had passed since Joseph had been sold into Egypt by his brothers, his father Jacob was still living. The whole family, however, was feeling the effect of the famine; and Jacob, having heard that there was corn in Egypt, said to his sons, “Get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die. And Joseph’s ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.”—ch. 42:1-3
Jacob’s youngest son, Benjamin, was not allowed to go with the others, “lest,” as the father explained, “peradventure mischief befall him.” Benjamin was very dear to his father, not only as his youngest son, but also because of the fact that his beloved Rachel, the mother, died in giving birth to him. With Joseph, his other son by Rachel, supposed dead, Benjamin would be the last living tie the father had to link him with the beloved mother.
So the ten brothers proceeded to Egypt. Arriving there and making known their mission, it was necessary that they appear before Joseph, since only upon his word could corn be sold to anyone. He recognized his brethren, but they did not recognize him. He accused them of being spies, which they hotly denied, explaining that they were all the sons of one man, and that they had two other brothers, one of whom “was not,” and that the other remained at home with their father.—ch. 42:3-13
Joseph, of course, knew that his brethren were not spies, but he decided on a course to discover whether or not they had had a change of heart since the time, because of their jealousy, they first thought to kill him, and then sold him as a slave into Egypt. So he insisted that they were spies. He proposed that in order for them to prove otherwise he would hold nine of them prisoners while the other returned to Canaan and brought their brother Benjamin down to Egypt for him to see, to prove the truthfulness of their story.
Then he locked them up for three days, after which he changed his ruling, deciding to keep only one of his brothers, while the nine returned to Canaan with food. Simeon was the one chosen to remain a prisoner in Egypt until Benjamin was brought from Canaan. Confronted with these hardships, the brothers were reminded of the wrong they had done to Joseph, and their consciences pricked them. They discussed the matter among themselves, not realizing that the great ruler before whom they were appearing could understand their language, which undoubtedly was Hebrew. It was perhaps this evidence of their repentance which caused Joseph to relent and allow all but Simeon to return to Canaan.—vss. 15-24
He not only allowed the nine to return to Canaan, but commanded that their sacks be filled with corn. They paid for it, but later, as one of them opened his sack to get provender for his ass, he discovered that his money was there also. They were all afraid, supposing that they would be accused of theft.
Upon their arrival home they explained to their father, Jacob, what had occurred, and why Simeon was not with them, but he refused to allow them to take Benjamin into Egypt. He said, “My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.”—vs. 38
Here again the word grave is a translation of the Hebrew word sheol, the only word in the Old Testament which is translated hell. It is evident that Jacob expected to go to sheol when he died, which indicates clearly that sheol, the Old Testament hell, is not a place of torment but, as the Scriptures everywhere teach, the condition of death, from which there is to be a resurrection.
While Jacob was positive that Benjamin must not be taken to Egypt, as the famine continued and the family’s food supply dwindled, something had to be done; so he directed that his other sons make another trip to Egypt for food. Then Judah reaffirmed the situation, insisting that Egypt’s ruler really meant what he said about their brother Benjamin, and that it would be useless to return to Egypt for food unless they complied with his conditions.
Finally, after Judah promised faithfully to be personally responsible for Benjamin, Jacob relented. He instructed his sons to go to Egypt, with the thought of presenting as favorable an impression upon the ruler as possible. He said to them, “Take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts and almonds: and take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight: take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man.”—ch. 43:11-13
While suggesting that his sons take every precaution and do all they could to win favor with Egypt’s ruler, he knew that only the Lord could really protect them and Benjamin; so he said, “God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin.” (vs. 14) The brethren did as directed by their father, and in due time they arrived in Egypt and were presented to Joseph, whom they still did not know.
Joseph instructed the ruler of his house to make ready, for he would have these Hebrews dine with him that day. Naturally they at once became suspicious. Having themselves practiced treachery upon their brother Joseph, they feared what might befall them. While Joseph was out, they approached the steward of his house and offered as full an explanation as possible concerning the money they had found in their sacks and told him that they had brought this money back with them, and more besides. Then the steward said, “Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them.”—vss. 15-23
What more could he say to assure the men that the ruler had no evil intentions toward them! To use a modern expression, he had talked to them in their own language, speaking of their God, and the God of their father. We might gather from this that Joseph did not fail to witness to his servants concerning Jehovah, the true God. Certainly he had never hesitated to credit God for his ability to interpret dreams, and all who knew of Joseph’s past realized that he was a Hebrew, and that the God he worshiped was the God of the Hebrews, therefore the God of Jacob and of his sons who had come to Egypt the second time to buy corn.
Finally Joseph returned home, and it was time for dinner. Seeing Benjamin again, he could not refrain from weeping for joy but concealed himself in his “chamber” while doing so, for it was not yet time to reveal himself to his brethren. He inquired after their father—if he was alive, and well. They assured him that he was, for which Joseph was glad. —vss. 24-31
Finally they sat down to eat. Joseph sat alone, for it was an abomination for Egyptians to eat with the Hebrews, and he wanted his brothers to believe, as yet, that he was an Egyptian. They marveled, though, that in being seated according to the directions of Joseph, it should be in accordance with their ages. How did these Egyptians know their ages? And why was Benjamin given five times as much as the others? They no doubt pondered these things in their hearts; nevertheless “they drank, and were merry” with Joseph.—vss. 32-34
When the time came for the brothers to start on their homeward journey, Joseph commanded his steward to fill their sacks with corn, and again to put the money they had paid for the corn, “every man’s … in his sack’s mouth.” Besides, the steward was directed to put Joseph’s special silver cup in the mouth of Benjamin’s sack. The next morning they started for Canaan, and for home, happy in the thought, no doubt, of the joy they would soon bring to their aged father.
But a new trial was in store for them. Joseph directed his steward to overtake them and accuse them of the theft of the silver cup. They were certain, of course, that they had not stolen the cup and readily consented that if it should be found in any of their sacks, the one to whom the sack belonged should become the servant of the ruler and not return to Canaan.
The cup, of course, was found in Benjamin’s sack. Then they “rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city.” (ch. 44:13) It was a dark time for them, for now it seemed certain that Benjamin would be retained in Egypt, and they would have to return to Canaan and break the sad news to their father.
But Judah did not give up. Having promised his father that he would be personally responsible for the safe return of Benjamin, he pleaded with Joseph for his release. He explained all the circumstances to Joseph, and appealed to his sense of kindness and mercy by emphasizing that if Benjamin were retained in Egypt it would probably break the father’s heart. He said, “When I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be not with us; seeing his life is bound up in the lad’s life; it shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave [sheol, the Bible hell].”—vss. 30,31
Then, explaining to Joseph that he had personally made himself responsible for Benjamin’s safety, Judah offered to remain in Egypt as a prisoner in his place—“Let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren; for how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father.”—vss. 33,34
Joseph could stand no more. He was convinced now that his brethren had experienced a change of heart since they had sold him as a slave. He ordered all except his brothers to leave his presence. Then he said to them, “I am Joseph; doth my father yet live?”—ch. 45:1-3
The record says that Joseph’s brethren were troubled in his presence. The marginal translation says “terrified,” and well they might be—from their standpoint, that is; for here the one whom they so grievously injured and supposed dead was before them as a powerful ruler in Egypt, and they were at his mercy.
From Joseph’s standpoint, however, there was no need to fear, because he had already forgiven them. He asked them to come near to him, and he repeated, “I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.” (vss. 4,5) In the 7th and 8th verses, Joseph again stated that it was God who had sent him into Egypt, the purpose being to “preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”
Here is the reason the story of Joseph and his brethren is recorded in the sacred Word of God. It is to show the marvelous manner in which the Lord preserved the natural seed of Abraham. It is an outstanding example of how the Lord is able to cause the wrath of men to praise him and how he is able also to protect his people against any and all vicious attacks which might be made against them by their enemies.
Nothing in the New Testament indicates that the experiences of Joseph were intended to be typical, such as, for example, Paul states concerning Isaac: “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” (Gal. 4:28) Some interesting comparisons, however, may be made. Fired into hatred by their religious leaders, the Jewish nation put Jesus to death, even as Joseph’s brethren endeavored to dispose of him.
From prison, Joseph was exalted to rulership, occupying the position of life-giver to his brethren, to the Egyptians and surrounding nations. So Jesus, cast off by his brethren, and cast into the great prison house of death, was called forth and exalted to the right hand of God and will be Life-giver to the whole world of mankind during the thousand years of his kingdom.
Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from the experiences of Joseph is the manner in which he received them. His faith in God never wavered. He never complained. And while he had every reason to be resentful of his brothers and, when the opportunity came, to punish them severely, he did not permit his heart to become bitter toward them but was ready to forgive and to bless.
His was a noble character, with a nobility based upon his faith in God. He knew that God’s hand was overruling in his experiences; so he had no reason to resent whatever God permitted, nor to be bitter against those who mistreated him. It is important for all the Lord’s people thus to accept what they cannot change, and to realize that if the Lord wanted it otherwise he is abundantly able to accomplish his purposes.
Jacob Moves to Egypt
After revealing himself to his brethren, Joseph’s next step was to send for his father and the remainder of the family. He explained to his brothers that there were to be five more years of famine, and that this move into Egypt was a necessity if their lives were to be saved. Pharaoh concurred in this, and the land of Goshen was set aside for the newcomers.—ch. 45:6-16
Lavish arrangements were made for the return to Canaan for their father and their families. Changes of raiment were provided for the ten, and for Benjamin, five changes of raiment. He also was given three hundred pieces of silver. Twenty asses were sent to the father, “laden with corn and bread and meat.” Joseph said to his brothers, “See that ye fall not out by the way.” Benjamin had been favored above the others, and Joseph did not want them to become jealous over him. He knew their weakness.
Jacob was overjoyed when he was finally convinced that his beloved son Joseph was still alive and was a ruler in Egypt. He accepted Joseph’s invitation, and in due course the entire family arrived in Goshen. The list of those who went to Egypt is given in chapter 46 of Genesis, the total, including the two sons born to Joseph in Egypt, was seventy. They were given a royal welcome, both by Joseph and by Pharaoh. There they “grew and multiplied exceedingly.”—ch. 47:27
By now Jacob was very old. He called Joseph and obtained a promise from him that when he died his body would be taken back to Canaan for burial. Before his death he pronounced a blessing upon Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh; and upon his deathbed he blessed all twelve of his own sons. It was here that the messianic promise of a coming ruler was limited to the tribe of Judah.—Gen. 49:9,10
“When Jacob had made an end of commanding [blessing] his sons, he gathered up his feet into his bed, and yielded up the ghost [his breath], and was gathered unto his people.” (Gen. 49:33) In harmony with his request he was taken to Canaan for burial. There he was laid away in the cave of Machpelah, in the field which Abraham bought as a burial place for his wife Sarah. Jacob’s funeral procession was probably one of the greatest of all time, consisting of “all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt. And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father’s house. … And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company.”—ch. 50:7-9
After Jacob died, Joseph’s brethren became apprehensive of what his attitude toward them might now be; so they interviewed him to find out. He assured them that they had no cause for fear, explaining again that God had overruled all the circumstances of his life for his own good and for theirs. “Now therefore fear ye not,” he said, “I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.”—vs. 21
Joseph assured his brothers also that God would surely visit them and restore them to the land which he had promised to Abraham. Being assured of this, he gave instructions that when he died his body should be embalmed, and when the exodus did occur, it should be taken with them. Commenting on this Paul wrote, “By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.”—Heb. 11:22
Joseph was one hundred and ten years old when he died, having served as a ruler in Egypt for eighty years. His dreams in which he saw, in symbol, his father and his brothers bowing down to him had been marvelously fulfilled. But he did not take advantage of the circumstances to punish them. He did not even remind them of his dreams. In exaltation, he remained humble and kind and was a blesser of his brethren and of the Egyptians. What a noble example for the Lord’s people now to follow!