Monday, September 5, 2022

Genesis 50 : "All in God’s Hands"


This Lord’s day  morning  I received  the news that my dear mother  had died. Though we expected it, we did not expect it,... if you know what I mean. 

Death always catches us off guard.  I am so thankful that she died in the Lord, and therefore this is all in God’s hands. I am comforted  by this  truth, and I am comforted by the fact that my mother knows the God of all Truth. And I am able to stand before you this evening, grieving not as those that have no hope.“All in God’s hands”,   was the title I chose for Genesis 50 some time ago. Today I needed to know that!

You will also  have  noted that this closing  chapter   mentions  two significant deaths,  that of Jacob and Joseph.  


1.      50:1-3 The Grief of Joseph and of the Egyptians in response to Jacob’s death

2.      50:4-14 The Burial of Jacob in Canaan

3.      50:15-21  Dealing with the sense of guilt of  Joseph’s brothers

4.      50:22-26 The Death and Burial of Joseph

 1.      50:1-3   The grief of  Joseph  and of the Egyptians in response  to Jacob’s death

We read of  the grief of Joseph and the Egyptians, but  nothing is said about  the other brothers. We will consider their reaction  in 50:15-21. The grief of Joseph is described graphically: “Joseph fell on his father’s face, and wept over him and kissed him.

He commands his servants the physicians to embalm his father…. fourty days were required for it… We have  here a description of  the  process of embalming among the ancient Egyptians by   Herodotus[1],

“The body was given to the embalmers, who first took out the brains and entrails and washed them in palm wine impregnated with strong astringent drugs; after which they began to anoint the body with the oil of cedar, myrrh, cinnamon, and cassia; and this lasted thirty days. They next put it into a solution of nitre (saltpeter) for forty days longer, so that they allowed seventy days to complete the embalming; after which they bound it up in swathes of linen besmeared with gum. Being then able to resist putrefaction, it was delivered to the relatives, enclosed in a wooden or paper case somewhat resembling a coffin, and laid in the catacomb or grave belonging to the family, where it was placed in an upright posture against the wall.”[2]

Embalming was the customary way in which the Egyptians prepared their dignitaries for burial. For Jacob’s burial this was especially helpful for he had requested to be buried at the ancestral cave of Machpelah in Canaan. It was a long way back to Canaan, and his body would have never made that trip without being embalmed.  We then read of a 70 day mourning period by the Egyptians (50:3b). He must have been a very popular figure.  

But ultimately  Jacob's death was all in God's hands.  His death was not the end for the  people of God.

2.      50:4-14 The Burial of Jacob

Since his father Jacob needed to be buried in Canaan, Joseph   requested permission from Pharaoh to bury his father there. His request being granted, he was accompanied by a large delegation of high-ranking Egyptian officials, in addition to his brothers (50:8), and also a large company of horsemen and charioteers (50:9).  The burial site was at the threshing floor of Atad, beyond the Jordan, and a further 7 day mourning period happened there (50:10).  The ceremony was so awesome that it made a profound impression on the Canaanites (50:11).  In so doing Jacob’s wishes and instructions  to his sons were carried out (50:12-13).

It was all in God's hands. Jacob was buried in the land of covenantal  promise. 

3.      50:15-21   Guilty Feelings reappear,  issuing in fear

Here we find a significant portion of Scripture and the heart of chapter 50. Previously we had seen that grief was seemingly only expressed by Joseph and the Egyptians.  We have no reason to believe that the other brothers were less grieved by their father’s death, but this  account by Moses  is  deliberately delayed to deal with the primary emotion of the brothers. They  feared Joseph’s reaction following their father’s death. “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph should bear a grudge against us and pay us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!” (50:15).

This is the power of a guilty conscience, and a lack of understanding of godly forgiveness! Years later, they were still not able to lay their consciences to rest in respect to their horrible treatment of Joseph (cf. 42:21-22). Despite Joseph’s previous assurance in 45:4-8 (read) their collective consciences weren’t easy,   even though 17 years had passed since then, and despite the fact that Joseph had been nothing but kind to them. Now they feared that Joseph would be vindictive to them and that thought appeared to dominate their minds more than the death of their father.  And so, in another sense they were actually distrusting Joseph. None of that was true, of course. We understand that Joseph, with God’s help had dealt with his own bitterness against them. He had truly forgiven his brothers. He would have had plenty of opportunity to do them harm, but it never happened in 17 years.  His brothers failed to receive and believe the complete forgiveness that Joseph had already offered to them.

Now, lest we think that all this has no bearing on us… be careful!  When we experience troubles or illness, or misfortune, even we as professing  Christians quickly fall into the same trap  thinking, “I am being punished for my old sins.” We quickly doubt what God has said in I John 1:8, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”. We quickly  forget  that  Christ is faithful to His Word.

And so we read, “they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” (50:16-17). When Joseph heard this message he was shattered:  “Joseph wept when they spoke to him”. Why did he weep? He had been kind to them for 17 years, and still they still doubted his sincerity.

Joseph’s response is significant. Here in 50:19-21(read)  we find a model response, based on a profound understanding  of God’s sovereign hand  over all kinds of difficult things that might  happen to a believer.  

How did Joseph respond? He told them that ultimately all was in God's hands!

a.      JOSEPH POINTED THEM TO THE ULTIMATE JUDGE (50:19). “Am I in the place of God?” Joseph was a powerful man in  Egypt, but he himself in relation to God. He  knew that he wasn’t  God (unlike the Pharaoh’s). He knew that he was in God’s hands.  God was the ultimate Judge  of  those that sinned against him. What an insight. Joseph’s question is a good one to ask when tempted not to grant forgiveness,  or  when seeking revenge  against someone who has wronged you. Take your place before God. Acknowledge God as the one who evaluates and assesses every single life without exception. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay” (Rom. 12:19). Part of our understanding of who we are  and who God is, is this  understanding that  God alone is  the ultimate Judge. Joseph understood that

b.      JOSEPH POINTED THEM TO THE SOVEREIGN GOD OF PROVIDENCE (50:20). You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives”. He had told them this before  in 45:5 - “God had sent me ahead of you to preserve lives.  God’s sovereign purpose was to preserve a remnant in famine years. His purpose was to preserve the seed of Abraham and the seed of the woman and the Messiah who one day shall come. And so he could assert  that he  could take no credit for  his position in Egypt.  God did this! We are all in God’s hands.  Dear Christian friend, are you grumbling about your  circumstances and about what people have done to you? You may find yourself grumbling against God. You will have to deal with your attitude before God or you may die a bitter, unforgiving person. Today, stand with Joseph and say, “Those people mean it for evil, but God meant it for good, and I submit to him and trust his purpose in it all.”  Let’s learn a few lessons  from Joseph.


From Joseph's example we learn a few important  lessons:

·         Believing in God’s providence frees us from bitterness. If you really understand  that  God is at work in your situation, you  will  trust  God.  Learn not to look at second causes.

·         Believing in God’s  providence can give us a new perspective on our tragedies. God is involved with us even in the worst moments of life. He is somehow in control even in our darkest moments.

·         Believing in God’s  providence gives us courage to keep going in hard times. God is designing something beautiful out of what now seems  painful. And yes, life is hard –but God is good.

·         Believing in  God’s providence helps us to live by faith.


4.      50:22-26 The Death and Burial of Joseph

There are more than 50 years between 50:21 and 50:22.  Genesis  finishes with  the deaths of Jacob and Joseph. Joseph died at the age of 110 (50: 22). He lived long enough to see  his third generation (50:23).  He too, like Jacob, charged his brothers concerning his burial. He too requested that his bones be carried back to Canaan at the time of the Exodus. In Exodus 13:19 we read, “And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God shall surely take care of you; and you shall carry my bones from here with you”.


And so we come to the end of Genesis. 

Two funerals do not seem to constitute a very positive ending, for after all Genesis began with man’s promising  origin. It all began in paradise, in the garden of  Eden. But thankfully the book of Genesis is not the end of the story. The final chapters of the  Bible are found in Revelation, where  we are shown where it all leads to – paradise restored  (Revelation 21:1-4 Revelation 22:1-5).

But even in the book of Genesis  we learn that death is not the end.  

·         And Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people (Gen. 25:8).

·         And Isaac breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people, an old man of ripe age; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him (Gen.35:29).

·         When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and breathed his lost, and was gathered to his people (Gen.49:33).

The expression, “to be gathered to his people” was no mere euphemism for death. It was an expression of the patriarch’s hope of life after death. They viewed their death as the occasion to be re-joined with those whose death had separated the living from the dead. 

When  Jesus said, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Matt. 22:32), He spoke in the present tense. He  did this  to prove that there is life after death. Otherwise, He would have spoken in the past tense, saying I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”!

Both Jacob and Joseph called their  sons  and spoke about their  death and gave clear instructions regarding their burial. Let us  follow them in  seeing death not as the end, but as  the beginning. 

Let us, by faith, look forward to being reunited with those we love (I Thess. 4:13-18) and dwelling with our Saviour (John 14:1-3), forever in His presence and experiencing the things He has prepared for us. All is in God's hands!

[1]  Herodotus (c.484 – c. 425 BC) was an ancient Greek historian and geographer from the Greek city of Halicarnassus, part of the Persian Empire (now Bodrum, Turkey). He is known for having written the Histories – a detailed account of the Greco-Persian Wars. Herodotus was the first writer to perform systematic investigation of historical events. He is referred to as "The Father of History”

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