Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
22 So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father’s house. Joseph lived 110 years. 23 And Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation. The children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were counted as Joseph’s own. 24 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” 26 So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
This section is something like the epilogue of the book of Genesis. We find out about the rest of Joseph’s life. From The Pulpit Commentaries:
And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father’s house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years. Wordsworth notices that Joshua, who superintended the burial of Joseph in Shechem, also lived 110 years. Joseph’s death occurred fifty-six years after that of Jacob.
We should probably assume – given the duration of Joseph’s life – that at least the first one-eighth (50 years / 400 years) of Israel’s sojourning in Egypt was relatively peaceful and prosperous. This extended period of good times might also explain why Israel did not return to the land of Canaan. And after a generation or two, the idea of returning may have begun to feel undesirable. Continuing on with Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:
(23) The third generation.—These would be Joseph’s great-grandchildren. Thus Eran, son of Shuthelah, son of Ephraim, was to be born in Joseph’s lifetime (Numbers 26:35-36).
Were brought up . . . —Heb., were born upon Joseph’s knees, that is, were adopted by him. (See Note on Genesis 30:3.) They would not form tribes, as this prerogative was reserved for the sons of Jacob (Genesis 48:5), but they would count as Joseph’s sons (Genesis 48:6), and form “families.”
Joseph sees three additional generations of his family born in Egypt before he dies. It gets easier to see how Israel might have initially become comfortable in Egypt. Imagine feeling obligated to move out of a home you have always known, and one you are comfortable in, due to something your ancestors decided six or seven generations ago. On that theme, continuing on with Ellicott:
(24) God will . . . bring you out of this land.—This is, first, a proof of Joseph’s faith, commended in Hebrews 11:22; and, secondly, it is a preparation for the next book (Exodus). Joseph’s faith thus unites the two books together.
Joseph was a righteous man and remembered God’s promise. However, it was likely necessary that he provide a reminder before his death. Finishing the section in The Pulpit Commentaries:
And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God (Elohim) will surely visit you,—literally, visiting will visit you, according to his promise (Genesis 46:4)—and bring you out of this land unto the land which he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel,—as his father had done of him (Genesis 47:31),—saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. The writer to the Hebrews (Genesis 11:22) refers to this as a signal instance of faith on the part of Joseph.
So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old (literally, a son of a hundred and ten years), and they (i.e. the children of Israel) embalmed him (vide on Genesis 50:2), and he was put in a coffin (or chest, i.e. a mummy case, which was commonly constructed of sycamore wood) in Egypt, where he remained for a period of 360 years, until the time of the Exodus, when, according to the engagement now given, his remains were carried up to Canaan, and solemnly deposited in the sepulcher of Shechem (Joshua 24:32).
Joseph requests that he be buried in Canaan. This promise is not kept until we reach the Book of Joshua 24:32:
As for the bones of Joseph, which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt, they buried them at Shechem, in the piece of land that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money. It became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph.
Notably, he is not buried in Israel immediately after dying, in the same manner that his father Jacob was buried. Why not? There are several theories: From theisraelbible.com:
One explanation for why Joseph’s remains were not taken to the Land of Israel immediately upon his death is that Joseph had been sold into slavery and, even though he was the second most powerful man in Egypt, he remained a slave. As a slave, his body (including his bones) belonged to Pharaoh. His bones remained with his owner until he, along with all the Jews, was redeemed from slavery.
An alternate theory suggests that Joseph had the political power to require a burial in Israel with the same honors afforded Jacob. Yet his demand to be buried in Israel was an expression of faith in the eventual redemption from Egypt, and therefore was not to be carried out until the redemption occurred.
It is interesting that the word for “bones” in Hebrew is the same as the word for “essence,” (i.e. עצם, etzem). This gives the account a dual meaning; Moses took Joseph’s bone, as well as his essence, with the Jewish people when they left Egypt.
The entire article is interesting, including Midrash teaching on how difficult finding his bones ended up being for Moses, and I recommend reading all of it.
Chabad.org provides another fascinating article on the burial of Joseph. I include another excerpt below:
Joseph ruled over Egypt as viceroy for 80 years, from the age of 30 until his death at 110 (in the year 2309 from creation, or 1452 BCE).
As the leader who had saved Egypt from hunger and who had led with kindness and generosity, Joseph was held in high regard by the Egyptians, so they planned to place his body in a lead casket and sink it into the Nile.
They had two reasons for this:
- The Nile was their source of food and sustenance, so they felt that his holy remains would bring blessing to the Nile.1
- They didn’t want the Jews to be able to find the casket.2 The Egyptians knew that the Jews would not leave Egypt without it, as per Joseph’s promise to them, “G‑d will surely remember you, and you shall take up my bones out of here.”3
Joseph himself knew that the Egyptians would want to keep his coffin in Egypt, and he was fine with that, provided that his brethren would take it with them when they would eventually depart. In contrast, Jacob asked that his remains be taken directly to the Holy Land for burial.
In a sense, this reflects Joseph’s unique ability to be immersed within Egyptian culture, politics and leadership, all the while retaining his unique sense of self and moral compass.
Again, I recommend following the link to the entire article as it includes a lot more information than what I shared here. It’s fascinating.
Do we know today where Joseph was buried? There have been sites throughout history proposed to be the location, with one primarily credited with the title. From wiki:
Joseph’s Tomb (Hebrew: קבר יוסף, Qever Yosef; Arabic: قبر يوسف, Qabr Yūsuf) is a funerary monument located in Balata village at the eastern entrance to the valley that separates Mounts Gerizim and Ebal, 300 metres northwest of Jacob’s Well, on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Nablus. It has been venerated throughout the ages by Samaritans, for whom it is the second holiest site; by Jews; by Christians; and by Muslims, some of whom view it as the location of a local sheikh, Yusef al-Dwaik or Dawiqat, who died in the 18th century.
The site is near Tell Balata, the site of Shakmu in the Late Bronze Age and later biblical Shechem. One biblical tradition identifies the general area of Shechem as the resting-place of the biblical patriarch Joseph and his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh. Multiple locations over the years have been viewed as the legendary burial place of Joseph. Post-biblical records regarding the location of Joseph’s Tomb somewhere around this area date from the beginning of the 4th century CE. The present structure, a small rectangular room with a cenotaph, is the result of a 1868 rebuilding action, and does not contain any architectural elements older than that. While some scholars, such as Kenneth Kitchen and James K. Hoffmeier affirm the essential historicity of the biblical account of Joseph, others, such as Donald B. Redford, argue that the story itself has “no basis in fact”.
There is no archaeological evidence establishing the tomb as Joseph’s, and modern scholarship has yet to determine whether or not the present cenotaph is to be identified with the ancient biblical gravesite. The lack of Jewish or Christian sources prior to the 5th century that mention the tomb indicates that prior to the 4th century it was a Samaritan site. Samaritan sources tell of struggles between Samaritans and Christians who wished to remove Joseph’s bones.
At key points in its long history, a site thought to be Joseph’s Tomb in this area witnessed intense sectarian conflict. Samaritans and Christians disputing access and title to the site in the early Byzantine period often engaged in violent clashes. After Israel captured the West Bank in 1967, Muslims were prohibited from worship at the shrine and it was gradually turned into a Jewish prayer room. Interreligious friction and conflict from competing Jewish and Muslim claims over the tomb became frequent. Though it fell under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) following the signing of the Oslo Accords, it remained under IDF guard with Muslims prohibited from praying there. At the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000, just after being handed over to the PNA, it was looted and razed by rioting Palestinians. Following the reoccupation of Nablus during Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, Jewish groups returned there intermittently. Between 2009 and 2010 the structure was refurbished, with a new cupola installed, and visits by Jewish worshippers have resumed. The tomb was vandalized by Palestinian rioters in 2015 and again in 2022.
Well, here at least, dear friends, reading the ESV, comes the end of our fellowship in the Book of Genesis. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.
(I will have a section wrap-up summarizing the last several chapters of Genesis in addition to several topical posts spanning points of interest from the book more generally.)