He saw Ephraim's sons to the third generation, and indeed the sons of Machir son of Manasseh were brought up on Joseph's knees.
I. THE LIFE OF JOSEPH.
I. INTENDED BANE OFTEN BECOMES UNINTENTIONAL BOON. Evil works evil to others, but sometimes good. Intended evil is overruled by God when he has some good object in view. "Man proposes, God disposes." God always knows what the result of certain actions will be. If they are good actions they work in line with his will: if evil, he overrules them. If the horse keeps the road it feels not the rein, but if it will turn aside, the sharp bit must draw it back again. Whatever speculation there may be about our absolute freeness, we feel that we are free. It is the glory of God to be able to trust with freedom a being with such great powers for moral evil, like man. He would teach us to use our wills, by giving us full freedom. We frequently pain him by our misuse and our abuse of our powers. What evil we devise and strive to carry out! The brethren of Joseph even intended murder, and modified it by selling their brother into slavery. They acted more cruelly than some of the men-stealers of Africa. The latter steal strangers to sell them, but these ten men sold their own brother. They thought they were rid of him. Egypt was a long way off; Joseph was but a weakling, and might soon perish. They would be free from his presence, and could divide their guilty gains. They hardened themselves against his tears and entreaties; and even in malicious spite were ready to slay the weeping youth because he did not appreciate their considerateness in selling him into slavery instead of killing him outright. It was an evil deed. Those who looked on could see no good to come out of it. There were, however, several great results.
1. He was personally advanced in life, and was able to make the best of it.
2. He saved thousands of people from perishing, and among them his own family.
3. He was the means of bringing Israel into Egypt, where it developed as a people. Its deliverance gave occasion to the mightiest display of Divine power.
4. He became a type of the Messiah - rejected of men. Thus we know not the results of any of our acts. God can overrule, to the development of character and spiritual power, circumstances seemingly most opposed to our best interests. God knows what is best. He could break the plans of the evil in pieces. Instead of this he oft confounds the wicked by letting them see that the ends they did not desire have been attained in spite of their opposition, and even by the very existence, that the intended bane becomes an unintentional boon. Thus Joseph's brothers found it, and bowed their heads.
II. THERE ARE SEVERAL LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM THE WAY IN WHICH, BY GOD'S OVERRULING, INTENDED BANE BECOMES A BOON.
1. It is a dangerous thing to scheme against others. Especially is it a dangerous thing when a good man is the object of the attack. It is likely to be checked and to recoil. "A greater power than we can contradict may thwart our plans." There are a thousand chances of check or change. Men have so noticed this that even a French moralist said, "I do not know what hidden force it is that seems to delight in breaking up human plans just at the moment when they promise to turn out well." Yes, there is a "hidden force," ever watchful, ever balancing human actions, ever ordaining, either in this world or the next, the just need of praise or blame, of retribution or reward. See how the scribes and Pharisees held councils against Jesus, the gentle, pure, loving teacher of truth, and healer of diseases, they sought how they might kill him. They excommunicated him, they sent others to entrap him. They succeeded at length in nailing him to the cross. They carried out their evil intentions; but that cross became the throne of the Savior's power, the salvation; and the death of Christ became the life of the world. They went by wagging their heads, but at last they had to wring their hands. They themselves were left in their sin, and their "house left unto them desolate," while unto the Christ they hated all men are being drawn.
2. That God overrules evil's no license to do evil. Many would say, "Let us do evil that good may come." This would suit carnal nature. They would say, "Sin is not so great an evil, since God can overrule it." To talk like this would be like throwing dust in our own eyes when we have reached an eminence from whence we might behold a beautiful landscape. It would be like a youth who, seeing a gardener pruning trees, should take a knife and cut and slash all the trunks. Or, it would be like the act of one who, seeing how an artist had wrought in a picture some blunder into a beauty, should take a brush and streak with black the brilliant sky. We are not at liberty to sin that God may bring good out of it.
3. That God overrules evil should make us feel our dependence on him. If we could succeed in good without him, if all we intended to do could surely be calculated upon, we should become proud. It is well that God sometimes even breaks up our good plans in order that we may learn this lesson. We might even intend good without him otherwise, and that would lead to evil in ourselves. But we are dependent on him to check the evil of our own lives and of others intentions.
4. It should make us hopeful also with respect to our affairs. Surely out of this thought we may get "royal contentment," as knowing we are in the hands of a noble protector, "who never gives ill but to him who deserves ill."
5. It should make us hopeful with respect to the order and destiny of the world. In some way, far off, God's glory may be advanced, even by the way in which he will have subdued, by Christ, all things unto himself.
6. Intended good is not always a benefit to those for whom intended. God intends good to men, and provides a way to bless, but men refuse. See at what a cost the way has been provided. Those who refuse are under worse condemnation. "It were better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them."
7. We must all face our wrongdoing some time or other. We shall find that the evil we have sown has produced a harvest of weeds, which we shall have sorrowfully to reap. We ought to pray earnestly, "Deliver us from evil." - H.
Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you.I. SATISFIED WITH THE GOODNESS OF THE LORD.
II. FULL OF FAITH.
1. Sure of God's covenant.
2. Superior to the world.
3. The possessor of immortality.
(T. H. Leale.)
II. The last days of Joseph were an illustration of THE MYSTERIES OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE (ver. 20). The strange problems of human history should not cause us to lose faith. Behind the web into which so much that seems chaotic and unintelligible is being wrought, God sits wise to purpose and almighty to accomplish; and when His work is done, the assenting acclaim of the universe will proclaim, "Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of Saints." Morbid views of life are unwarranted. What God pleases is best, and what God pleases is sure to come to pass.
III. Very noticeable also is THE FAITH WHICH COMFORTED THE LAST DAYS OF JOSEPH (ver. 24). He saw already the blooming fields and laden vineyards which his descendants were to inherit, and he "took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence." That same sort of faith has a place and power among men now. Outlook and confidence are not the peculiar privileges of any one age. The victories of faith are world-wide and world-old.
IV. Notice also some INCIDENTAL TEACHINGS of this passage.
1. The last days of Joseph were the natural result of his first days. He began right.
2. Righteousness pays in the long run. Men who are tempted by the speciousness of strong temptation do well to listen to the Saviour's question "What shall it profit?" God's pay-days may be in the future, but He pays well when the time of reckoning comes.
3. What power there is in a good life.
(E. S. Atwood.)
1. Its outward circumstances.(1) Chequered with misfortune. It is the law of our humanity, as that of Christ, that we must be perfected through suffering. And he who has not discerned the Divine sacredness of sorrow, and the profound meaning which is concealed in pain, has yet to learn what life is. The Cross, manifested as the necessity of the highest life, alone interprets it.(2) Besides this, obloquy was part of Joseph's portion. His brethren, even his father, counted him a vain dreamer, full of proud imaginings. He languished long in a dungeon with a stain upon his character. He was subjected to almost all the bitterness which changes the milk of kindly feelings into gall; to Potiphar's fickleness, to slander, to fraternal envy, to the ingratitude of friendship in the neglect of the chief butler, who left his prison and straightway forgot his benefactor. Out of all which a simple lesson arises, "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils." Yet that may be over-stated. Nothing chills the heart like universal distrust. Nothing freezes the genial current of the soul so much as doubts of human nature. Human goodness is no dream. Surely we have met unselfishness, and love, and honour among men. Surely we have seen, and not in dreams, pure benevolence beaming from human countenances. Surely we have met with integrity that the world's wealth could not bribe, and attachment which might bear the test of any sacrifice. It is not so much the depravity as the frailty of men, that makes it impossible to count on them.(3) Success, besides, marked the career of Joseph. Let us not take half views of men and things. The woof of life is dark; that we granted, but it is shot through a web of brightness. Accordingly, in Joseph's case, even in his worst days, you find a kind of balance, to be weighed against his sorrows. The doctrine of compensation is found through all. Amidst the schemings of his brothers' envy he had his father's love. In his slavery he had some recompense in feeling that he was gradually winning his master's confidence. In his dungeon he possessed the consciousness of innocence, and the grateful respect of his fellow prisoners.
2. The spirit of Joseph's inner life.(1) Forgiveness. The Christian spirit before the Christian times.(2) Simplicity of character. He bore a simple, unsophisticated heart amidst the pomp of an Egyptian court.(3) Benevolence. This was manifested in the generosity with which he entertained his brethren, and in the discriminating tenderness with which he provided his best beloved brother's feast with extraordinary delicacies.
II. THE DEATH OF JOSEPH WAS IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS LIFE.
1. The funeral was a homage paid to goodness. Little is said in the text of Joseph's funeral. To know what it was, we must turn to the earlier part of the chapter, where that of Jacob is mentioned. A mourning of seventy days; a funeral whose imposing greatness astonished the Canaanites, they said, "This is a grievous mourning to the Egyptians." Seventy days were the time, or nearly so, fixed by custom for a royal funeral; and Jacob was so honoured, not for his own sake, but because he was Joseph's father. We cannot suppose that Joseph's own obsequies were on a scale less grand. Now, weigh what is implied in this. This was not the homage paid to talent, nor to wealth, nor to birth. Joseph was a foreign slave, raised to eminence by the simple power of goodness. Every man in Egypt felt, at his death, that he had lost a friend. There were thousands whose tears would fall when they recounted the preservation of lives dear to them in the years of famine, and felt that they owed those lives to Joseph. Grateful Egypt mourned the good foreigner; and, for once, the honours of this world were given to the graces of another.
2. We collect from this, besides, a hint of the resurrection of the body. The Egyptian mode of sepulture was embalming; and the Hebrews, too, attached much importance to the body after death. Joseph commanded his countrymen to preserve his bones to take away with them. In this we detect that unmistakable human craving, not only for immortality, but immortality associated with a form. The opposite to spirituality is not materialism, but sin. The form of matter does not degrade. For what is this world itself but the form of Deity, whereby the manifoldness of His mind and beauty manifests, and where in it clothes itself? It is idle to say that spirit can exist apart from form. We do not know that it can. Perhaps even the Eternal Himself is more closely bound to His works than our philosophical systems have conceived. Perhaps matter is only a mode of thought. At all events, all that we know or can know of mind exists in union with form. The resurrection of the body is the Christian verity, which meets and satisfies those cravings of the ancient Egyptian mind, that expressed themselves in the process of embalming, and the religious reverence felt for the very bones of the departed by the Hebrews. Finally, in the last will and testament of Joseph we find faith. He commanded his brethren, and through them his nation, to carry his bones with them when they migrated to Canaan. In the Epistle to the Hebrews that is reckoned an evidence of faith. "By faith Joseph gave commandment concerning his bones." How did he know that his people would ever quit Egypt? We reply, by faith. Not faith in a written word, for Joseph had no Bible; rather, faith in that conviction of his own heart which is itself the substantial evidence of faith. For religious faith ever dreams of something higher, more beautiful, more perfect, than the state of things with which it feels itself surrounded. Ever, a day future lies before it; the evidence for which is its own hope.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
1. It is full of comfort to the dying, for whatever of good he has done in the world shall not be lost when he is gone. In the words of the appropriate inscription on the monument to the Wesleys in Westminster Abbey, "God buries the workers, but He carries on the work." The sower may die, but the seed which fell from his hands matures into a harvest which is reaped by others, and becomes in its turn the food of multitudes and the germ of many harvests more, I stood once on a Highland hill in my native land, and marked a spot upon the landscape greener than all else around. When I inquired into the reason, I learned that for many, many years there had been a village there, and that the gardens of the villagers so long under cultivation kept unwonted verdure still. So, through the operations of God's grace, the earth is greener where His servants have been at work, though the servants themselves have long since passed away. The operations of grace, like those of Nature, go on after men have died, because God lives to maintain them, and nothing done for Him is ever allowed by Him to come to nothing. So when we are called to leave the earth, the work in which we delighted shall not be lost. We die, but God lives; and we may he sure that under His care it will flourish.
2. Then what consolation comes from the eternity of God to those who are bereaved! Look at the 90th Psalm. It was written by Moses in the wilderness, when he was depressed by the death of those who had reached man's estate when he led them out of Egypt. There came a time when he was left wellnigh alone of all his generation; and then he took his comfort out of the permanence of God, singing, "Lord Thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations; from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God," and by that he was upheld. We see the same thing in David's case; for not far from the close of his life, and when many of his early companions had gone into "the silent land," he wrote the 18th Psalm, in which he said, "The Lord liveth, and blessed be my Rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted." Yes, "the Lord liveth," therefore let us not refuse to be comforted when dear ones are taken from our side. He can sustain us and He will. He is as near us as He was when they were with us, and they were but the agents whom He used for our welfare. But He is not tied to any instrumentality, and He can guide, uphold, and bless by one as well as by another. He takes away the earthly prop that we may learn to lean the more thoroughly on Himself. "He will surely visit us"; yea, He will be ever with us, and when our death-hour comes we shall be with Him.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.): —
I. THAT THE MOST DISTINGUISHED SERVANTS OF GOD MUST DIE. Even the Great Master Himself died.
II. THAT THOUGH THEY DIE, THE CAUSE IN WHICH THEY WERE ENGAGED WILL MOVE ON.
(R. Stodhart.)I. HIS BODILY FRAILTY. "I die."
1. Not all his honours and dignities can exempt him. The princely robe must be exchanged for the winding-sheet.
2. Not all his eminent piety can buy him off. It is the common lot. No exception to this rule.
3. Will you not remember this? Is it wise to forget it, or try to forget. The one thing that's certain in your earthly history. Ought it to be crowded out by a multitude utterly uncertain? There is nothing else I can foresee. I cannot tell how long you will live. I cannot tell whether rich or poor, strong or weak, joyful or sorrowful. No, I cannot discern anything of the complexion of your course. But this I know, that your course will have an end. And that the day, the hour will come, when (if syllable anything) you will say, "I die." That day — don't let it take you by surprise. Don't leave the preparation for death until death comes. But live habitually prepared. And see whether it is not possible to triumph over death.
II. HIS ABOUNDING FAITH.
1. See his calmness in prospect of departure. "I die!" That's all he has to say about it. No fears — no doubts — of any kind whatever. No vain regrets that his life come to an end. No painful forebodings of what may follow. It is not everyone can meet the last messenger like that. But it is possible to do so. His father Jacob did the same.
2. The consolation he gives those he leaves. "I die, but God will surely visit." Your earthly friend may be taken — your heavenly not forsake you. Nay l more than this — "He will bring you out of this land, unto the land which He sware to, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Nearly three hundred years had passed away since this oath first uttered. More than one hundred must still pass before the time for its fulfilment. How it will be fulfilled Joseph does not know. But fulfilled it must be, for God had spoken it. Mark, brethren, this triumphant faith. My bones (says this dying man) shall not rest in Egypt. You may put them in sarcophagus — but label it "Passenger to Canaan." For when the people go to the promised land, take it with them. "Where they go, I will go — where they rest, I will rest. And there will I be buried!"
3. I call that abounding faith. So the apostle seems to think it, in Epistle to Hebrews. For he gives it a niche in that temple of faith, in chap. Hebrews 11. By the side of Abel, and Noah, and Enoch — Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. Figure of Joseph, with this inscription, "By faith Joseph." And was this faith a mere delusion?
III. A WORD OF APPLICATION.
1. Would not such faith be precious to you? Would it not be pleasant to be able to say, "I die!" without single fear. And to say to those we leave behind, "God will surely?"
2. Are there no precious promises for you? You are a sinner, I know — "If we confess our sins." "The wages of sin is death." "Gift of God is eternal life." Accept these promises — go and plead them. And all fear of death taken away — "Have a desire." I know you cannot take all your loved ones with you. And you may have many a fear on their behalf. "Be careful for nothing." "Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them." Widow's trust.
3. Is there not precious confirmation of these? Ay! more precious than any Joseph ever knew. He knew there should be seed of Abraham, blessing to world — He saw bleeding lamb, emblem. But we can say the seed of Abraham has come — Great Sacrifice offered. "Christ has died." How all the precious promises sealed with precious blood. "He that spared not."
(F. Tucker, B. A.)I. THE REFLECTION WHICH JOSEPH MAKES UPON HIS PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES. "I die," or am dying.
II. THE ASSURANCE HE GIVES THEM, THAT GOD WOULD VISIT THEM.
III. The further assurance he gives them, THAT GOD WOULD BRING THEM INTO THE LAND OF CANAAN.Application:
I. To aged Christians.
1. Frequently to think and speak of dying.
2. Reflect that God will visit and take care of your posterity when you are gone.
3. Remind your posterity of this, for their encouragement, when you are dying and leaving the world, that "God will surely visit them."
II. To those descendants of good men, who are in the prime, or middle of their days.
1. Encourage yourselves with this thought, that God will surely visit you when your parents and friends die.
2. Pray earnestly for His visits.
3. Be prepared to receive His visits. (3. Often.)
PeopleAbel, Canaanites, Egyptians, Ephron, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Machir, Mamre, Manasseh, Mizraim, Pharaoh
PlacesCanaan, Egypt, Goshen, Jordan River, Machpelah, Mamre, Rameses
TopicsBirth, Born, Ephraim's, E'phraim's, Generation, Joseph, Joseph's, Knees, Machir, Makir, Manasseh, Manas'seh, Placed, Sons, Third
Outline1. The mourning for Jacob.
4. Joseph gets leave of Pharaoh to go to bury him.
7. The funeral.
15. Joseph comforts his brothers, who crave his pardon.
22. His age.
23. He sees the third generation of his sons.
24. He prophesies unto his brothers of their return.
25. He takes an oath of them concerning his bones.
26. He dies, and is put into a coffin.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesGenesis 50:22-23
'Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.'--GENESIS l. 25. This is the one act of Joseph's life which the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews selects as the sign that he too lived by faith. 'By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.' It was at once a proof of how entirely he believed God's promise, and of how earnestly he longed …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
A Coffin in Egypt
A Calm Evening, Promising a Bright Morning
The Worst Things Work for Good to the Godly
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