GENESIS - CHAPTER 50
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
50:1. “And Joseph fell upon his father’s face, and wept upon him, and kissed him.”
The weeping of Joseph represents the sorrow of Christ at the death of the nation of Israel; and his kissing the dead Jacob, the symbol of Christ’s love for that rebellious, unbelieving people.
As to the time when that death occurred, it was A.D.70 when Titus, in destroying Jerusalem, brought Israel’s national existence to an end. The Lord, anticipating that day, wept over the city (as Joseph wept over Jacob), as recorded in Lk 19:41-44, and Mt 23:37, “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. 0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
50:2. “And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel.”
Just as Joseph commanded that the body of the dead Jacob be preserved, so has Christ caused the “dead body” of the nation of Israel to be preserved. The nation has been “dead” for almost two thousand years, the unbelieving Jews on the earth comprising that dead body here in “Egypt” (the world). But as the dead body of Jacob will one day be resurrected, so will dead Israel also be resurrected to take her God-appointed place of supremacy among the millennial nations.
50:3. “And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed: and the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days.”
The forty days required to complete the embalming process represent this present age. As the body of the dead Jacob was in Egypt during those forty days, so has the “body” of the “dead” nation of Israel (the unbel-ieving Jews scattered amongst the Gentile nations) been here in “Egypt” (the world). But since forty is the number of testing, God would remind us that this present age is a time of testing for the world, for Israel, and for the Church. The “dead” Israel represented by the unbelieving Jews scattered amongst the nations, should remind those nations that Israel’s demise as a nation was the result of unbelief, and that they too will die if they continue in unbelief. The lesson applies also to those who comprise the Church. Disobedience and death go together.
But there was also a seventy day period of mourning, and it is emphasized that it was Egyptian mourning, “The Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days.” Whether the first forty of those days were concurrent with the forty days of embalming (they probably were), isn’t important: it is the seventy days that contain the spiritual lesson, for seventy is the number of perfection or completeness. Those seventy days also represent this present age, at the end of which God will resume His dealings with Israel to bring her to repentance and millennial blessing. As those seventy days were days of mourning for the Egyptians, so has this present age been one of mourning for the world: a mourning earth has known nothing but sorrow since she slew the Prince of peace. And as it was a dead Jacob in their midst that caused the Egyptians to mourn, so has it been a “dead” Israel in the midst of the nations that has caused them to mourn for the past two thousand years, because the nations can know nothing but mourning until the “resurrection” of Israel, for it is through her that the nations are to be blessed.
50:4. “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”
50:5. “My father made me sware, 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.”
50:6. “And Pharaoh said, Go up, and bury thy father, according as he made thee sware.”
If we have been correct in viewing these seventy days as being representative of this present age, then their conclusion must, of necessity, represent the end of this age, the events that will mark that moment being the rapture of the Church, and God’s resumption of His dealings with Israel.
The desire of the patriarchs to be buried in Canaan is the symbolic declaration of their faith. Canaan had been promised them by God’s covenant with Abraham, whose purchase of the burial plot in which he and Isaac and Jacob were buried, was faith laying hold of the earnest (pledge) of that promise, that in resurrection the whole land would one day be theirs.
Inasmuch as the man whose body was taken from Egypt to Canaan had two names, Jacob and Israel, that removal is a double type: as Israel, his removal represents the Rapture, the removal of spiritual Israel, the Church, from the world; but, as Jacob, it represents the removal of the spiritually dead nation from among the other nations, and its settlement in Canaan. This will be, in fact, what will occur when this present age ends, the establishment of unbelieving Israel in Canaan in 1948 being but the precursor of the return of the nation to Palestine in the Tribulation.
But the Joseph who took the body of Israel/Jacob to Canaan, said, “I will come again,” and he did return to rule over Egypt. The Christ Who will take the Church “Israel” out of “Egypt” (the world), and Who will take the Jews “Jacob” back to Palestine, will also return to rule the world.
50:7. “And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and the elders of the land of Egypt.”
The burial of Jacob/Israel saw an exodus from Egypt of many of the most important people. The “servants” of Pharaoh were high officials, as were also the elders. Inasmuch as they returned with Joseph to resume their governmental positions under him as the chief ruler, they may well represent those who will leave the world at the Rapture, for though the world is unaware of it, believers are the most important people on earth (they are its actual future rulers); and those taken up at the Rapture will return with Christ to administer the affairs of the millennial earth under His rule, though as noted already, they will exercise that rule from the heavenly, not the earthly Jerusalem. (The embalmed body of Israel represents the Church as a corporate body; and the officials who accompanied Joseph out of Egypt, the individuals who comprise that body).
50:8. “And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father’s house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen.”
Accompanying Joseph and the Egyptian officials, were all the important members of Israel’s family, a fact which reminds us that the Church is composed, not only of believing Gentiles, but of believing Jews also.
It is emphasized that there were left behind “Their little ones, and their flocks and ... herds.” These little ones were second generation Israelites (and the second generation always represents faith), so it may be that they represent those Jews who will be left on earth at the Rapture, never having heard the Gospel, but who will be converted in the Tribulation, to become the believing remnant that will enter the Millennium. Its being emphasized that they remained in Goshen (type of millennial Canaan) would seem to confirm this view.
The flocks and herds may represent the literal riches of millennial Israel.
50:9. “And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company.”
Chariots and horsemen are used in Scripture as symbols of power and strength, reminding us that the raptured Church will be characterized by all the omnipotence of Christ. And the “very great company” would remind us that the resurrected and translated saints caught up at the Rapture will also be a very great company.
50:10. “And they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan, and there they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation: and he made a mourning for his father seven days.”
The Rapture will be followed by the Tribulation, a time very clearly pictured here by the great and sore lamentation. Threshing is a harvest activity, and both threshing and harvest are used in Scripture to depict judgment, e.g., Mic 4:13, “Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion ... thou shalt beat in pieces many people....”; and Re 4:15, “Reap: for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”
This place of mourning was the threshing floor of Atad, a name that means bramble. Jg 9:8-15 throws light on this, for there we have the record of the wicked Abimelech’s setting himself up as king after slaying seventy of his brethren; and in verses 14 and 15 he is represented by a bramble. He is a type of the final wicked prince who will rule during the Tribulation, as is also Atad (bramble). The evil connotation is further emphasized by the fact that the bramble is characterized by thorns, which are themselves the symbol of the curse, Ge 3:18. This threshing floor owned by Atad therefore, is an apt symbol of the Tribulation earth under the power of the beast. The “great and very sore lamentation” is but a faint foreshadowing of the far more terrible lamentation that will be in the Tribulation-age earth.
Significantly also, the place is twice described as being “beyond Jordan” which further confirms the thought of evil, for the term “beyond Jordan” almost invariably refers to the territory east of Jordan, and as has been noted already, the east in Scripture always speaks of sin and departure from God. The world that will experience the terrible Tribulation judgments will be a world that is spiritually “beyond Jordan,” that is, living in sin and rejection of God.
This great mourning of the whole company that went up to the burial may picture also the sorrow of the raptured Church at the judgments that will then fall upon the world that will have refused mercy; and its being emphasized that Joseph mourned for his father seven days, tells us of the sorrow of Christ because the world’s rejection of mercy will leave God no alternative but to execute judgment for the seven years of the Tribulation.
50:11. “And when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning in the floor of Atad, they said, This is a grievous mourning to the Egyptians: wherefore the name of it was called Abel-Mizraim, which is beyond Jordan.”
The Canaanite always represents one who trafficks in spiritual things for worldly gain, so that these Canaanites associated with Atad, may represent the religious leaders who will be associated with the worship of the beast in the Tribulation. They had no part in the mourning of Joseph or the Egyptians and Jews who mourned with him. They were unaffected observers of the sorrow of others, but even they were led to exclaim, “This is a grievous mourning to the Egyptians.” Until the time when the judgments of God begin to touch them, so will the priests serving the beast in the Tribulation, stand aloof as mere observers of the world’s sorrow.
Because of the great mourning there, the place was called Abel-Mizraim, that is, the mourning of the Egyptians, and again it is emphasized that it was “beyond Jordan.” Everything in the typological picture points to the misery that will be on the earth during the Tribulation.
50:12. “And his sons did unto him according as he commanded them.”
Israel had given them that command in Ge 49:29, and since these sons (second generation) represent believers, their obedience represents the obedience that should characterize every believer with regard to God’s commands.
50:13. “For his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a buryingplace of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre.”
The reader should consult the notes on Genesis chapter 23 for the spiritual significance of Abraham’s purchase of this cave as a burying place.
50:14. “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.”
If we have been correct in the line of interpretation we have been following, then this return of Joseph, with those who went with him to the burial, represents the victorious return of Christ with His saints after the Rapture, to begin His millennial reign. A word of explanation, however, is necessary at this point. The remnant which will enter the Millen-nium will be they who will have physically survived till Christ’s return. Physically resurrected believers from the Old Testament and Tribulation ages will be in heaven, not on earth, during the Millennium.
50:15. “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.”
This perhaps anticipates the apprehension of the remnant at the time of the Lord’s return to judge the nations just prior to the inauguration of the kingdom; an apprehension that will be allayed by His invitation, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25:34).
50:16. “And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying”
50:17. “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.”
50:18. “And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.”
These verses portray the fulfillment of the Divine prophecy regarding the subjection of Joseph’s brethren; but that prophecy is itself the foreshadowing of a still greater: the brethren who hated, sold, and crucified Christ, will yet come to bow at His feet and acknowledge their guilt, while confessing His worth.
50:19. “And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?”
It is a human tendency to apply to ourselves the good pronounced by God, while ignoring the evil that is also pronounced. This has resulted in a dwelling upon the assurance “fear not,” to the exclusion of any consideration of the solemn implication of Joseph’s question, “Am I in the place of God?” The implication is that while Joseph freely forgave them, they were to remember that it was far more essential to be sure that they had God’s forgiveness. Though David’s sin had been against both Bathsheba and Uriah, he had to confess that ultimately his sin had been against God, “Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned” (Ps 51:4). All sin is first against God, and if His pardon hasn’t been obtained, it matters not whose has been.
50:20. “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.”
As we have noted in other studies, the sufferings of Joseph at the hands of his brethren simply foreshadow the sufferings of Christ at the hands of the Jews. Joseph’s explanation that it had all been planned by God for the preservation, not only of Jacob’s family, but also of the Egyptians, is the symbolic anticipation of the revelation that will be made to the believing remnant when the Lord returns to establish His kingdom, Zec 12:10-13:31, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; all the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.”
50:21. “Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.”
This continues to look forward to the day when repentant Israel, the believing Tribulation remnant, will be assured of the forgiveness of the One they had rejected and crucified, but Who will then stand before them as the long-awaited Messiah returned to reign. The promise, “I will nourish you and your little ones” will have its ultimate fulfillment in the Millennium when the Lord will bless Israel, and the nations, beyond their wildest dreams.
50:22. “And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father’s house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years.”
Joseph’s dwelling in Egypt with “his father’s house” points to the Lord’s “dwelling” with Israel in the Millennium, though it is necessary to remember what was discussed in our study of chapter 46:29, namely, that Christ will be ruling over the millennial earth from the heavenly, rather than the earthly Jerusalem.
The fact of his living for a hundred and ten years implies his death at the end of those years, but since he is a type of Christ Who can’t die, this must be construed as a symbolic revelation of the conclusion of the Millennium, when Christ’s reign over the earth will end, but only to be continued eternally over the new earth.
With reference to the length of his life: whether we take the number as 110, or as 100 plus 10, the factors are the same, 2 and 5. In factorizing 110, division by 2 gives 55, which divided by 5 gives 11; and the removal of 1, the number of God, leaves 10, which has 2 and 5 as its factors. Since two is the number of witness or testimony; and five, of responsibility, Joseph’s age therefore, translates into the spiritual statement of its being the witness to responsibility perfectly fulfilled.
Since, however, he is a type of Christ, what is symbolically declared in these hundred and ten years is that it is Christ alone Who fulfills the type, for it is He alone of Whom heaven, earth, and hell testify that He has perfectly fulfilled responsibility both Godward and manward.
50:23. “And Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation: and the children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were brought up upon Joseph’s knees.”
As we have noted already, Ephraim, the secondborn, represents the spiritual; and Manasseh, the firstborn, the natural man. The reference to the multiplication of these two sons of Joseph becomes therefore, the symbolic annunciation of the multiplication of Israel in the Millennium; but also the reminder that millennial Israel will become what she has always been - a nation made up of those who are spiritual, as well as those who are not. That Ephraim’s descendants represent the spiritual is emphasized by the reference to the third generation, the number of resurrection. They represent those millennial Israelites who will be believers, and who will therefore, pass from the millennial earth into the enjoyment of eternal life on the new earth.
Machir is a name that has a bad connotation, for it means salesman, and in Scripture, selling seems to be related to evil rather than good, e.g., Mephibosheth was called from the house of another Machir, (2 Sa 9:5); and in Pr 27:23 we are exhorted to “Buy the truth, and sell it not.” The relegation of Manasseh to a place of relative obscurity, and its being said that the children were Machir’s, points also to the development of unbelief in the Millennium, a fact declared very clearly in other Scriptures.
50:24. “And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land into the land which He sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”
Here we have continued emphasis upon the truth that, glorious as the Millennium will be, it will be, nonetheless, an earthly state, and like all things earthly, a state that will come to an end. The Millennium isn’t meant to be the complete fulfillment of the promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God would have Israel look beyond the Millennium to richer, fuller eternal blessings in the new earth, of which those of the Millennium will be but a foretaste.
50:25. “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.”
As the attention of his brethren was directed beyond the blessings of a Goshen in an Egypt ruled by Joseph, so would God direct the attention of Israel to blessings better even than those of a Canaan in a millennial earth ruled by Christ.
It is significant that Joseph makes no reference to a burial for his bones, but rather only to their being carried out of Egypt. In this we are reminded that the Christ Who died once to make atonement for sin, and Who having “been delivered for our offenses, has been raised again for our justification,” will never die again. As Joseph was raised from typical death, and made ruler of Egypt, so has Christ been raised from actual death, and will yet rule the millennial earth. But as the presence of Joseph (in the form of his mummified body) continued with his brethren, and with the nation of Israel when they eventually went from Egypt to Canaan, so will Christ go with the redeemed out of the millennial earth into the new one that will succeed it.
50:26. “So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.”
Joseph’s death, as we have noted already, points, not to a future end of Christ, but, rather to the conclusion of His millennial reign. It is significant that Joseph’s body was put in a coffin, and not in a grave or tomb. The coffin was simply that which held his body, but now in a different state, embalmed rather than living. The emphasis is more upon the preservation of his body than its decease.
Those bones were eventually buried in Shechem, Jos 24:32, and it is instructive to note that it is specifically said that it was his bones rather than his body that were buried. Bones are connected with an earthly state rather than a spiritual, e.g., on the evening of His resurrection, the Lord declared to the disciples, “... a spirit hath not flesh and bones....” Lk 24:39). The end of Joseph’s life speaks of the end of Christ’s millennial reign, but the preservation of the embalmed body, later carried from Egypt to Canaan, speaks of the Lord’s millennial reign giving place to His eternal reign in the new earth, represented here by Canaan.
The book of Genesis has been aptly described as the seedplot of the Bible, a miniature of the Book to which it is the introduction, and in closing that introductory book, God would leave us, not with a dead Christ, but with a living Savior; One Who will rule, not only during the Millennium, but for ever. And in the preservation of Joseph’s body, God bids us see, not only the preservation of Christ, but of believing Israel, and of every believer. In the embalmed and coffined body of Joseph, God would have us see a living Christ Who assured His own just prior to His own departure from “Egypt” (the world), “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also” (Jn 14:19).