Attention!
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Genesis 50

II. PATRIARCHAL NARRATIVES 11:27-50:26

One of the significant changes in the emphasis that occurs at this point in Genesis is from cursing in the primeval record to blessing in the patriarchal narratives. The Abrahamic Covenant is most important in this respect. How Abram’s family gained and provided these blessings unfolds. Israel could, and we can, identify with their experiences.

"Chapters 1-11 are set in Babylonia; chs. 12-36 are set in Palestine; chs. 37-50 are set in Egypt. (The same kind of tripartite geographical focus emerges from Exodus: [1] Exodus 1:1 to Exodus 12:36, in Egypt; [2] Exodus 12:37 to Exodus 18:27, to Sinai; [3] Exodus 19:1 to Exodus 40:38, at Sinai.) In other words, each part of the Mediterranean world is highlighted in some part of Genesis. The crucial center section of Genesis (chs. 12-36) is bracketed geographically by two sections of the Near Eastern world with whose history that of Israel would be constantly interlocked. . . .

"In chs. 1-11 we read of individuals who had land, but are either losing it or being expelled from it. In chs. 12-50 the emphasis is on individuals who do not have land, but are on the way toward it. One group is losing; another group is expecting.

"Genesis is moving us progressively from generation (chs. 1-2), to degeneration (chs. 3-11), to regeneration (chs. 12-50)." [Note: Hamilton, pp. 10, 11.]

Chapters 1-11 present a structural pattern that carries over into the rest of the Pentateuch.

"The importance of Genesis 1-11 for the rest of the Pentateuch can be seen in the fact that its narrative structure provides a pattern by which the author often shapes subsequent pentateuchal narratives. Thus the order and arrangement of the Creation accounts in Genesis 1-2 exhibit the same pattern as the description of the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 25-31); the tabernacle is portrayed as a return to the Garden of Eden. The instructions given to Noah for building the ark foreshadow those given to Moses for building the tabernacle. Furthermore, one can demonstrate that whole sections of laws in the Pentateuch have been grouped and arranged in patterns that parallel the narrative structure of Genesis 1-11." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 39.]

"The ancient oriental background to Genesis 1-11 shows it to be concerned with rather different issues from those that tend to preoccupy modern readers. It is affirming the unity of God in the face of polytheism, his justice rather than his caprice, his power as opposed to his impotence, his concern for mankind rather than his exploitation. And whereas Mesopotamia clung to the wisdom of primeval man, Genesis records his sinful disobedience. Because as Christians we tend to assume these points in our theology, we often fail to recognize the striking originality of the message of Genesis 1-11 and concentrate on subsidiary points that may well be of less moment." [Note: Wenham, Genesis 1-15, p. l.]

Some notable changes take place in the second part of Genesis, though both parts begin with a creation initiated by the word of God (Genesis 1:1; Genesis 12:1). Instead of the genealogies being prominent and the stories secondary, as in chapters 1-11, the reverse becomes true now. God retreats farther into the background of the events recorded than was the case earlier, and there is corresponding emphasis on the personalities of the patriarchs. The promises to the patriarchs form the central theme of this section, especially those concerning descendants, land, and divine blessing. There also seems to be increasing depth in the moral awareness of the patriarchs as generation follows generation from Abram to Joseph. [Note: Ibid., p. 258. See also Mathews, Genesis 11:27-50:26, p. 25]

Verses 2-26

E. What Became of Jacob 37:2-50:26

Here begins the tenth and last toledot in Genesis. Jacob remains a major character throughout Genesis. Moses recorded his death in chapter 49. Nevertheless Joseph replaces him as the focus of the writer’s attention at this point. [Note: For some enriching insights into the similarities between the stories of Jacob and Joseph, see Peter Miscall, "The Jacob and Joseph Stories As Analogies," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 6 (February 1978):28-40.] These chapters are not entirely about Joseph, however. The writer showed interest in all the sons of Jacob and among them especially Judah. [Note: See Bryan Smith, "The Central Role of Judah in Genesis 37-50," Bibliotheca Sacra 162:646 (April-June 2005):158-74.]

"The emphasis now shifts from Jacob’s personal struggles to receive the blessing promised to Abraham and Isaac, to the events in Jacob’s life that lead up to the formation of Israel as a nation." [Note: Aalders, 2:179.]

The story of Joseph also links the history of the patriarchs with their settlement in Egypt.

"The Joseph story . . . develops the theme of the Pentateuch by showing the gradual fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. In particular, it shows how God blesses the nations through the descendants of Abraham [cf. Genesis 50:20]." [Note: Wenham, Genesis 16-50, p. 344.]

"The theme of the Joseph narrative concerns God’s hidden and decisive power which works in and through but also against human forms of power. A ’soft’ word for that reality is providence. A harder word for the same reality is predestination. Either way God is working out his purpose through and in spite of Egypt, through and in spite of Joseph and his brothers." [Note: Brueggemann, Genesis, p. 293.]

One writer concluded that the genre of the Joseph story in chapters 37-50 is a court narrative. He provided many observations on the narrative features of the story. [Note: Richard D. Patterson, "Joseph in Pharaoh’s Court," Bibliotheca Sacra 164:654 (April-June 2007):148-64.]

"The Joseph story, though different in style from that of the patriarchs, continues the theme of the patriarchal narratives-God overcomes obstacles to the fulfillment of the promise." [Note: Longman and Dillard, p. 60.]

"Rarely has God’s providence been so evident in such an extended passage." [Note: Wolf, p. 121.]

The books of Ruth and Esther also emphasize divine providence. Human responsibility is as much a revelation of this section as divine sovereignty.

Plans to bury Jacob in Canaan 49:29-50:14

Jacob again expressed his faith in God’s promises that Canaan would be the Israelites’ homeland by requesting burial in the Cave of Machpelah near Hebron (cf. Genesis 47:29-31; Genesis 48:21-22).

"This scene concludes Jacob’s finest hour. On his deathbed-a scene extending from Genesis 47:28 to Genesis 49:32 -Jacob has assumed total and dynamic leadership of the family. Even Joseph bows down to him." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 617.]

Jacob died peacefully and was "gathered to his people" (i.e., reunited with his ancestors, implying life after death, in the place of departed spirits; cf. Genesis 25:8). Jacob was 147 when he died (Genesis 47:28). Joseph evidently had Jacob’s body preserved as a mummy (Genesis 50:2). [Note: See Davis, Paradise to . . ., pp. 302-3, or H. Vos, p. 169, for how the Egyptians prepared mummies.]

Jacob’s elaborate funeral was probably due both to the high regard in which the Egyptians held him as Joseph’s father and to the Egyptians’ love of showy funeral ceremonies (Genesis 49:7-10). [Note: See E. W. Hengstenberg, Egypt and the Books of Moses, pp. 70-71.] It is the grandest state funeral recorded in the Bible, appropriate since Jacob’s story spans more than half of Genesis. The Egyptians mourned for Jacob just two days less than they normally mourned the death of a Pharaoh. [Note: Ross, "Genesis," p. 100.]

"This grand funeral procession and this exaltation of Jacob as a king by the Egyptians foreshadows Israel’s exodus from the world and gives a foretaste of the time when the nations hail a son of Jacob as King." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 618.]

The record of Jacob’s burial in the land is important to the purposes of Genesis. God had promised the land to Abraham and had given the patriarchs small portions of it. The faith of these men that God would fulfill His promises and do for their descendants all that He had promised is obvious in their view of Canaan as their homeland. They counted on the future faithfulness of God who had proved Himself faithful to them personally during their lifetimes.

15. Deaths and a promise yet to be fulfilled 49:29-50:26

Joseph received permission from Pharaoh to bury Jacob in Canaan as he had requested. He then assured his brothers of his favor in spite of how they had treated him and testified that God would fulfill His promises.

Verses 15-21

Peace in the family of Jacob 50:15-21

The words of Joseph’s brothers were probably not true (Genesis 50:16-17). Jacob may have left such a message even though Moses did not record it in Genesis. Since Moses did not record it, he probably intended the reader to conclude that Jacob had not. The brothers feared because of their uneasy consciences rather than Joseph’s behavior (cf. Genesis 50:19).

Joseph’s response to his fearful brothers reveals his attitudes toward God and them (Genesis 50:18-21; cf. Genesis 27:41). He humbled himself under God’s authority. He regarded God as sovereign over him and the One who had providentially guided all the events of his life. He knew that God’s purposes for him, his family, and all people were good (cf. chs. 1-2). Consequently he behaved with tender compassion toward his brothers. He proved to be his brothers’ keeper (cf. Genesis 4:9). Genesis opened with a couple, Adam and Eve, trying to become like God. It closes with a man, Joseph, denying that he is in God’s place. [Note: E. I. Lowenthal, The Joseph Narrative in Genesis, p. 156.] Judas was to Jesus what Joseph’s brothers were to Joseph. [Note: Hamilton, The Book . . . Chapters 18-50, p. 707.]

"The sequence of deceptions that causes this family so much suffering finally comes to an end when Joseph chooses not to take revenge on his brothers." [Note: Richard Elliott Friedman, "Deception for Deception," Bible Review 2:1 (Spring 1986):30.]

"Each sentence of his threefold reply is a pinnacle of Old Testament (and New Testament) faith. To leave all the righting of one’s wrongs to God (19; cf. Romans 12:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 4:19); to see His providence in man’s malice (20; cf. on Genesis 45:5); and to repay evil not only with forgiveness but also with practical affection (21; cf. Luke 6:27 ff.), are attitudes which anticipate the adjective ’Christian’ and even ’Christlike.’" [Note: Kidner, p. 224.]

"Behind all the events and human plans recounted in the story of Joseph lies the unchanging plan of God. It is the same plan introduced from the very beginning of the book where God looks out at what he has just created for man and sees that ’it is good’ (tob, 1:4-31). Through his dealings with the patriarchs and Joseph, God had continued to bring about his good plan. He had remained faithful to his purposes, and it is the point of this narrative to show that his people can continue to trust him and to believe that ’in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28)." [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 283.]

Verses 22-26

The death of Joseph 50:22-26

Joseph lived to see God’s blessing on his children’s children. He died 54 years after Jacob’s death when he was 110 years old. [Note: See Hugh C. White, "The Joseph Story: A Narrative that ’Consumes’ Its Content," Semeia 31 (1985):49-69.] Some Egyptian texts refer to 110 as the ideal lifespan. [Note: Hamilton, The Book . . . Chapters 18-50, p. 709.]

Joseph probably could have experienced burial in a pyramid or had some other grand burial in Egypt. However, he wanted his family to embalm him and place his body in a coffin in Egypt. Later descendants could bury him in the Promised Land near Shechem. They did so in the parcel of land his father had bought and given to him, perhaps under Abraham’s oak (Genesis 48:22; cf. Joshua 24:32). This expression of Joseph’s faith in God’s promises to his forefathers provides a fitting climax for the Book of Genesis and the formative period of Israel’s history. Genesis 50:24 contains the first reference to the three patriarchs together.

"The outstanding feature of Joseph’s life was faithful loyalty to God under all circumstances." [Note: Thomas, p. 379.]

"The story of Joseph illustrates patient faith and its reward. It ends the book of Genesis and brings its theme to a literary climax. . . . But the story of Joseph shows us that the road to victory, dominion, mastery, and judicial authority, is through service, the humble service of a slave. Through service and suffering, God purges and destroys indwelling sin in the believer (not completely, but sufficiently), builds character in him, and fits him for the mastery of the world." [Note: Jordan, pp. 67-68.]

"The Book of Genesis, like the Old Testament in microcosm, ends by pointing beyond its own story . . . . Joseph’s dying words epitomized the hope in which the Old Testament, and indeed the New (cf. Revelation 22:20), would fall into expectant silence: God will surely visit you." [Note: Kidner, p. 224.]

Believers who trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to bless in His own inscrutable ways will demonstrate their faith in the way they die.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Genesis 50". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/genesis-50.html. 2012.