And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straightly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you…
A premise, and most of all a promise to the dead, is to be regarded as sacred. Amidst the haste of their departure the Israelites did not forget to take with them the bones of Joseph. They probably carried away also the bones of the other patriarchs (Acts 7:16). In this touching incident, see -
I. FAITH'S ANTICIPATIONS VERIFIED. Joseph had said, "God will surely visit you" (Genesis 50:25). He had died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off (Hebrews 11:13-22). At the time of Joseph's death the tokens were scant that Israel would grow to be so great a people, and would be led forth, many thousands strong, to go to Canaan. Joseph's faith rested on God's naked word. God had said that this time would come, and it did. We are never wrong in depending on the Divine promise. Those who trust it, however the world may ridicule them as devout enthusiasts, will prove to be right in the long run. Events will verify their confidence. Apply, e.g., to the ultimate triumph of Christianity.
II. FAITH'S CHOICE GIVEN EFFECT TO. He had strictly sworn the children of Israel, saying, "Ye shall surely carry up my bones away hence with you." Notwithstanding the splendour of his position in Egypt, Joseph's heart was still with his own people. To his clear moral vision, the godless character of the Egyptian civilisation was sufficiently apparent. The Hebrews were as yet but a handful of shepherds; but he discerned in them a spiritual greatness which was wanting to Egypt, and he had faith in the magnificent future which God's Word pledged to them. So he was not ashamed to call the humble settlers in Goshen his brethren, and to declare that he preferred a grave with them to the proudest mausoleum that Egypt could erect for him. He left a charge that when they departed, they were to take his bones with them, and lay them in Canaan, as subsequently they did (Joshua 24:22). He thus anticipated Moses in choosing the better part, and in preferring union with God's people to all the treasures and renown of the land of his adoption. We act in the same spirit when we set the things which are "unseen and eternal' before those which are "seen and temporal," and count it our highest honour to be enrolled among "God's children."
III. A HINT OF THE RESURRECTION. Whence this care of Joseph for the bestowal of his bones? What matters it - it may be asked - where the dust is laid, if only the spirit is secure? In one way it matters very little, though affection naturally inspires the wish to sleep beside one's kindred. There may have been more than this. The care of the body in Egypt was, as we now know, connected with a hope of its revival. And there are good grounds for believing that the same hope had to do with this command of Joseph, and with the loving care shown by the patriarchs generally in the bestowal of their dead. (See the point discussed in Fairbairn's Typology, vol. 1. p. 355, et seq.). The believer's body is a sacred deposit. Destined to share with the soul in the glory yet to be revealed, there is a fitness in treating it with reverence, and in laying it in a place consecrated to the Christian dead. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.