Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 50:25-26

25 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.

26 So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

Unlike Jacob, Joseph was not immediately carried to his resting place in the land of Canaan. He was embalmed after the Egyptian tradition and then he was laid to rest in Egypt. Many years later his prophecy would come true, though, as the Israelites carried his bones with them in their Exodus and laid him to rest in Shechem.

Of course, this meant that all the time that the Israelites were in bondage, and also later when they wandered forty years in the wilderness without a proper home, during all that time they had the bones of Joseph close beside them. How fitting that Joseph, who was carried away from his home and had to wait years for his deliverance, was present with the Israelites when they went through the same experiences. He was the first Israelite slave in Egypt and his bones were a companion to the last ones.

Also interesting to me is that in his death we see the dual nature of his nationality. He was embalmed and laid to rest in Egypt, the land of his redemption and vocation, but his conviction was to still be brought back to the home of his fathers. When his brothers sold him into Egypt it would be hundreds of years before he came back to the land of his inheritance, but eventually God would restore him back to where he belonged.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 50:22-24

22 And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father’s house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years.

23 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.

We here begin a dramatic transition in the biblical narrative. We have just finished speaking of Jacob’s death, and now we rush ahead to Joseph’s, and then the age of the patriarchs will come to a close. 40 of the 50 chapters in Genesis have been dedicated to the stories of these patriarchs. Five of the other chapters are about Adam and Eve and their immediate children, and five of them are about Noah.

When the book of Genesis was composed, which according to tradition was in the time of Moses, its main subjects were already the stuff of myth and legend. And one interesting indicator that we are moving from more epic characters to more grounded ones is their declining longevity. Abraham lived 175 years, Isaac reached 180, and Jacob 147. Now we have Joseph only reaching the age of 110, which, while still ancient, is an age that typical people really are able to achieve. Thus, there are no more demigods, we are finally and fully descended into the mortal realm.

The other thing I want to call out is the image of great-great-grandchildren laying on Joseph’s knees. At one point his life was in a very precarious place. Murder was being discussed and instead he was abandoned to a life of slavery that could have very well been the death of him. The odds were heavily stacked towards his being a tragic victim, but here he is, more than a hundred years old, with his descendants safe and secure in his lap. In his darkest times he was provided for, and then in the country’s darkest time he provided for all of its people. He was saved so that he could save others, and here upon his knees is the reward of it all.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 50:19-21

19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?

20 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.

21 Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

Joseph firmly reassures his brothers, doubling down on the forgiveness he gave to them before. He has let go of all their trespasses, he has no ill will towards them, and he is not going to destroy them. Let us consider a few points of his reassurances.

First of all, in verse nineteen he asks the question “am I in the place of God?” as if to suggest that he doesn’t even have the right to deny them forgiveness. Joseph may have been their direct victim, but even that does not give him the right to demand his pound of flesh. What an interesting idea. This sentiment is expressed elsewhere in scriptural text, such as in Doctrine and Covenants 64:10 where it states “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”

Obviously, all of us have the capacity to hold a grudge and condemn each other, but how would our world change if we stopped believing that we had a right to. We may speak for truth, may refute evil, but the damnation or salvation of an individual soul should be left only to the Lord.

But realizing we do not have the right to condemn others does not mean that we cannot be opposed to their evil. Being willing to forgive does not require us to condone all behavior. In verse twenty Joseph states in no uncertain terms “ye thought evil against me.” What his brothers did was wrong, and he does not pretend that it was not, or that he can’t have an opinion of such.

Finally, in verse 21, Joseph reaffirms his tender care. He promises that he will continue to nourish his brothers and their children and speaks comfortingly to them. He shows to us what a kind and sympathetic man he is, taking his brothers unwarranted anxiety and responding with graciousness.

The story of Joseph is an astounding lesson in forgiveness. He takes it to a level that many of us might be uncomfortable with. He shows how we can stand for truth while still loving those who do not. He shows how we can walk the careful life of pardoning unreservedly without being irresponsibly permissive of evil behavior. He sets an ideal that we might struggle to match, but which we all should strive for.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 50:16-18

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

17 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.

18 And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.

Joseph’s brothers still did not believe that he had truly forgiven them, and they were afraid that he would take his vengeance upon them now that Jacob was out of the picture. In this they show a lack of faith, but it is worth noting that they have at least improved from the men that they were before.

Earlier they had felt threatened by Joseph, specifically by their father’s favoritism of him and his visions, and at that time their response was to try and destroy him. Another time they had felt insulted by the people of Shechem and had destroyed the men of that land. Today, though, there is no violence in them whatsoever. Today they are willing to humble themselves, fall before Joseph’s face, and beg for mercy instead. There is faith to believe in the forgiveness that we have been given, but lacking that there is at least the faith to ask for it.

What of their claim that before Jacob died he expressed that Joseph should forgive them? If they mean that Jacob said this only to them, intending for them to convey the message secondhand to Joseph, that seems highly suspect. We know that Jacob met Joseph shortly before his death, to bless him and his sons, so why would he not have just told Joseph his wishes directly then? This claim of theirs seems entirely made up.

Unless, of course, they mean that Jacob did express such a wish at that final gathering, with all the brothers including Joseph hearing it, in which case the brothers are simply reminding Joseph of that request. In either case, the fact that the brothers are invoking these wishes of Jacob, whether real or fabricated, supports my theory that Jacob was at some point made fully aware of how Joseph’s brothers had sold him into Egypt.

As for Joseph, he is moved to tears by their pathetic plea. Those tears are not explained, but they could be tears of pity for his brothers’ fear, or perhaps tears of frustration that they still think they have to fear in the first place.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 50:14-15

14 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.

15 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.

Joseph had already gone to great lengths to assure his brethren that their offenses were behind him, but evidently they are still gripped by a fear that he only restrains himself out of respect to his father. If that fear is true, then now that Jacob is dead and buried, there is nothing to stand in the way of Joseph’s wrath. And given Joseph’s powerful station in Egypt, if he does wish to pursue vengeance, he will be able to do so with impunity.

And so, Joseph’s brothers betray a faithlessness here. They have a hard time accepting that they could truly be forgiven, perhaps because they have a hard time forgiving themselves. Certainly many of us can relate to this failing, it is only natural to feel that if our sins don’t deserve to be forgiven then they won’t be. But the gospel is the “good news” that the natural order can be overturned for one that is entirely unnatural. An “eye for an eye” can be replaced with “turn the other cheek.” Part of us will always have difficulty with such seemingly irresponsible grace, but until we are able to accept it, we will forever remain a prisoner to our sins, even when the door to our cell was unlocked long ago.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 50:4-6

4 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,

5 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.

6 And Pharaoh said, Go up, and bury thy father, according as he made thee swear.

“If now I have found grace in your eyes,” is a phrase we hear several times throughout the scriptures. It is a statement of ultimate humility, reserved primarily for sovereigns and God. Its communicates that I have something to say, but only if you will allow me to by your grace and favor. That might be a deeper humility than many of us may want to reach, especially in our modern society! It may feel like debasing oneself, but I feel in instances like these, Joseph is merely recognizing a simple truth.

The fact is, if Pharaoh wants to ignore to Joseph, if he wants to deny his request, if he wants to prevent him from leaving, he absolutely can and will. He has the power to do it. And so, yes, “if I have found grace in your eyes…” may be flattering, but it is not vain flattery. It is a way for Joseph to demonstrate that he sees the power distribution as it really is and has respect to it.

It is worth noting that when Moses approaches another Pharaoh to request the release of Israel from captivity there are none of these humble concessions. Moses is recorded as saying “if I have found grace in thy sight,” to the Lord on a number of occasions, but never to Pharaoh. Because at that time Pharaoh did not have the power to give or withhold. Pharaoh thought that he did, but Moses proved the power was in the hands of God instead, and that Pharaoh was the one who would be forced to comply.

Also of note is that Joseph did not speak to Pharaoh directly, he spoke to Pharaoh’s household, depending on a representative carry the petition for him. Some have speculated that this is because he was still in the attire of mourning, which would not have been respectful in the king’s royal court. Regardless, Pharaoh gives his approval to Joseph’s petition, and now will begin the great funeral procession out of Egypt.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 49:25-26

25 Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:

26 The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.

In the previous verses Jacob had described Joseph as a bough rooted in a permanent fountain of water. He continues those analogies of nourishment by calling to mind an infant and the breasts and womb of its mother.

The womb, with its umbilical cord, represents a direct tether to God. It is our innate understanding of what is good, our childlike certainty of self-worth, our conscience ever reminding us of our divine self. For those that believe that the immortal spirit has existed since before we were born, the womb could also be representative of a pre-earth existence directly in the presence of our Heavenly parents.

The breasts represent the more active side of our discipleship. After the womb a child changes from receiving nourishment directly to now having to work for it. This is our need to constantly return to truth, to dispel the sophistry that surrounds us in the world, to regain hope in the face of cynicism, to unburden our personal sins and shame. We do not do those things only once. We get renewed and then we get renewed again and again.

Innate and constant good, and sources of replenishing and nourishing, these are the blessings that Jacob pronounces upon Joseph. Then Jacob testifies in verse 26 that it is these blessings which have elevated and set him apart in his life. It was these sources of good that raised him to a higher station than anyone in his family had ever known before, and it was what elevated and distinguished Joseph above his brethren. So, too, countless testimonies have attested that it is this grace and goodness of God, the constant nourishment and refreshing of His love, that has made all the difference in the lives of the sincere and the saved. It is God that has taken us from being broken and ashamed, and has made us into His sons and daughters instead.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 48:3-6

3 And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me,

4 And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession.

5 And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.

6 And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine, and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance.

Presumably Joseph only brought his sons to receive a blessing, but in an unexpected turn of events, now they are being adopted by their grandfather! This is hardly an adoption in the traditional sense, though, Jacob is about to die and is not going to raise these two boys in place of Joseph. Rather, he is saying that they will receive of his inheritance, as if they had been born among his immediate sons. They will be counted among the twelve tribes of Israel. And this is why, when Joshua will later divide the land of Canaan among the twelve tribes, there will not be just one land for Joseph’s descendants, but two: one for Ephraim and one for Manasseh.

Which brings up the question of “just what are the twelve tribes of Israel?” The answer to that is a bit inconsistent. Jacob had twelve sons naturally, and here he is said to be adopting two more. In Deuteronomy 27:12-13, the tribes are listed under the names of Jacob’s twelve biological sons, but when the land of Canaan was divided by Joshua, Joseph was replaced with Ephraim and Manasseh, and Levi was not given any land, only specific cities and the temple in Jerusalem. So, in a sense, Jacob had either twelve, thirteen, or fourteen branches, depending on which aspect of Israel you are talking about.

It is also worth noting that while Jacob said Joseph would retain any further sons within his own house, we never receive any indication that Joseph did have any other sons. And if he didn’t, this would explain why there wasn’t an additional land of “Joseph” parceled out when the Israelites came into Canaan.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 48:1-2

1 And it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.

2 And one told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed.

Now begins the final story of Jacob. It began a full 23 chapters ago, in Genesis 25, when he strove with his brother in the womb. At that time, we were told that the striving was representative of the wars that would rise between the two nations that came of those brothers, but more than this, it set the tone for the rest of Jacob’s life.

All throughout, Jacob has been a man of strife. He strove against his brother for the birthright, he strove against his father-in-law for his wife and for fair wages, he strove against the Lord before his reunion to Esau, he strove against his rebellious sons, and he strove against the famine. Over and over again, he has had to make himself strong against the struggle.

Here in verse 2, he makes himself strong one more time, striving against his own declining body to receive his son and bless his grandchildren. He will do this, and give a final blessing to all his sons, and then he will die.

I also find interesting the repeated phrase “one told.” This was not a pre-arranged meeting between Jacob and Joseph, they are each dependent upon third parties to make known to them the state of the other, and to motivate and prepare them for this final reunion. Fortunately, everything works itself out for them to have this moment before it is too late.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 47:21-25

21 And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof.

22 Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands.

23 Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land.

24 And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.

25 And they said, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants.

We examined yesterday how when the people had given their money and flocks in return for grain, all that remained was for them to offer was their lands and servitude. Thus, all the free people of Pharaoh had surrendered themselves back to him. Pharaoh had made his conquest by grain rather than by the sword, just as God makes His conquest over our hearts by grace instead of force.

Of course, becoming a servant in Pharaoh’s household would also mean coming under his support and protection. They would no longer have to exchange anything for their daily bread except to do his bidding.

Joseph accepts their servitude, but he also proves to be a very gracious master. They will work the same fields that they have just given to him, and eighty percent of what they grow they will be able to keep for themselves. Only a fifth part will be required back to Pharaoh, a double tithe. At this point they might not be producing much on those fields, but the famine is about to end, and the yield will return to normal.

And this is much the same pattern for when we finally surrender the last of our own will to God. It takes a great of deal trust to allow Him to do whatever He will with us, theoretically that would empower Him to take all that is most precious to us and require us to do things that we hated. But what we find instead is that those fears were totally unfounded. Most often the things we consecrate to God He returns back to us. The only thing he takes are the vices and the hurts that we wished to be rid of anyway. We are still able to do our work and pleasure, only now it is to His name and glory. And the success we obtain from our efforts now vastly increases, the dearth replaced with sufficiency and abundance.