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.