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Then Joseph threw himself on his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him. 2Joseph commanded the physicians in his service to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel; 3they spent forty days in doing this, for that is the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.

4 When the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph addressed the household of Pharaoh, “If now I have found favor with you, please speak to Pharaoh as follows: 5My father made me swear an oath; he said, ‘I am about to die. In the tomb that I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.’ Now therefore let me go up, so that I may bury my father; then I will return.” 6Pharaoh answered, “Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.”

7 So Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household. Only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen. 9Both chariots and charioteers went up with him. It was a very great company. 10When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they held there a very great and sorrowful lamentation; and he observed a time of mourning for his father seven days. 11When the Canaanite inhabitants of the land saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a grievous mourning on the part of the Egyptians.” Therefore the place was named Abel-mizraim; it is beyond the Jordan. 12Thus his sons did for him as he had instructed them. 13They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, the field near Mamre, which Abraham bought as a burial site from Ephron the Hittite. 14After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.

Joseph Forgives His Brothers

15 Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

Joseph’s Last Days and Death

22 So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father’s household; and Joseph lived one hundred ten years. 23Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation; the children of Machir son of Manasseh were also born on Joseph’s knees.

24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die; but God will surely come to you, and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25So Joseph made the Israelites swear, saying, “When God comes to you, you shall carry up my bones from here.” 26And Joseph died, being one hundred ten years old; he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.

15. And when, Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead. Moses here relates, that the sons of Jacob, after the death of their father, were apprehensive lest Joseph should take vengeance for the injury they had done him. And whence this fear, but because they form their judgment of him according to their own disposition? That they had found him so placable they do not attribute to true piety towards God, nor do they account it a special gift of the Spirit: but rather, they imagine that, out of respect to his father alone, he had hitherto been so far restrained, as barely to postpone his revenge. But, by such perverse judgment, they do a great injury to one who, by the liberality of his treatment, had borne them witness that his mind was free from all hatred and malevolence. Part of the injurious surmise reflected even upon God, whose special grace had shone forth in the moderation of Joseph. Hence, however, we gather, that guilty consciences are so disturbed by blind and unreasonable fears, that they stumble in broad day-light. Joseph had absolved his brethren from the crime they had committed against him; but they are so agitated by guilty compunctions, that they voluntarily become their own tormentors. And they have not themselves to thank, that they did not bring down upon themselves the very punishment which had been remitted; because the mind of Joseph might well have been wounded by their distrust. For, what could they mean by still malignantly suspecting him to whose compassion they had again and again owed their lives? Yet I do not doubt, that long ago they had repented of their wickedness, but, perhaps, because they had not yet been sufficiently purified, the Lord suffered them to be tortured with anxiety and trouble: first, to make them a proof to others, that an evil conscience is its own tormentor, and, then, to humble them under a renewed sense of their own guilt; for, when they regard themselves as obnoxious to their brother’s judgment, they cannot forget, unless they are worse than senseless, the celestial tribunal of God. What Solomon says, we see daily fulfilled, that the wicked flee when no man pursueth; (Proverbs 28:1;) but, in this way, God compels the fugitives to give up their account. They would desire, in their supine torpor, to deceive both God and men; and they bring upon their minds, as far as they are able, the callousness of obstinacy: in the mean time, whether they will or no, they are made to tremble at the sound of a falling leaf, lest their carnal security should obliterate their sense of the judgment of God. (Leviticus 26:36.) Nothing is more desirable than a tranquil mind. While God deprives the wicked of this singular benefit, which is desired by all, he invites us to cultivate integrity. But especially, seeing that the patriarchs, who were already affected with penitence for their wickedness, are yet thus severely awakened, a long time afterwards, let none of us yield to self-indulgence; but let each diligently examine himself, lest hypocrisy should inwardly cherish the secret stings of the wrath of God; and may that happy peace, which can find no place in a double heart, shine within our thoroughly purified breasts. For this due reward of their neglect remains for all those who do not draw nigh to God sincerely and with all their heart, that they are compelled to stand before the judgment-seat of mortal man. Wherefore, there is no other method which can free us from disquietude, but that of returning into favor with God. Whosoever shall despise this remedy, shall be afraid not only of man, but also of a shadow, or a breath of wind.

16. And they sent a messenger. Because they are ashamed themselves to speak, they engage messengers of peace, in whom Joseph might have greater confidence. But here also we perceive that they who have an accusing conscience are destitute of counsel and of reason. For if Jacob had been solicitous on this point, why did he not effect reconciliation between the son who was so obedient unto himself, and his brethren? Besides, for what reason should they attempt to do that through mediators, which they could do so much better in their own persons? The Lord, therefore, suffers them to act like children; that we, being instructed by their example, may look for no advantage from the use of frivolous inventions. But it may be asked, where the sons of Jacob found men to whom they could venture to commit such a message; for it was no light thing to make known their execrable crime to strangers? And it would have been folly to subject themselves to this infamy among the Egyptians. The most probable conjecture is, that some domestic witnesses were chosen from the number of their own servants; for though Moses makes no mention of such, when he relates that Jacob departed into Egypt; yet that some were brought with him, may easily be gathered from certain considerations.

17. Forgive, I pray thee now. They do not dissemble the fact that they had grievously sinned; and they are so far from extenuating their fault, that they freely heap up words in charging themselves with guilt. They do not, therefore, ask that pardon should be granted them as if the offense were light: but they place in opposition to the atrocity of their crime, first, the authority of their father, and then the sacred name of God. Their confession would have been worthy of commendation, had they proceeded directly, and without tortuous contrivances, to appease their brother. Now, since they have drawn from the fountain of piety the instruction that it is right for sin to be remitted to the servants of God; we may receive it as a common exhortation, that if we have been injured by the members of the Church, we must not be too rigid and immovable in pardoning the offense. This humanity indeed is generally enjoined upon us towards all men: but when the bond of religion is superadded, we are harder than iron, if we are not inclined to the exercise of compassion. And we must observe, that they expressly mention the God of Jacob: because the peculiar faith and worship by which they were distinguished from the rest of the nations, ought to unite them with each other in a closer bond: as if God, who had adopted that family, stood forth in the midst of them as engaged to produce reconciliation.

And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. It cannot be ascertained with certainty from the words of Moses, whether the brethren of Joseph were present, and were speaking, at the time he wept. Some interpreters imagine that a part was here acted designedly; so that when the mind of Joseph had been sounded by others, the brethren, soon afterwards, came in, during the discourse. I rather incline to a different opinion; namely, that, when he knew, from the messengers, that their minds were tormented, and they were troubling themselves in vain, he was moved with sympathy towards them. Then, having sent for them, he set them free from all care and fear; and their speech, when they themselves were deprecating his anger, drew forth his tears. Moreover, by thus affectionately weeping over the sorrow and anxiety of his brethren, he affords us a remarkable example of compassion. But if we have an arduous conflict with the impetuosity of an angry temper, or the obstinacy of a disposition to hatred, we must pray to the Lord for a spirit of meekness, the force of which manifests itself not less effectually, at this day, in the members of Christ, than formerly in Joseph.

19. Am I in the place of God? Some think that, in these words, he was rejecting the honor paid him: as if he would say, that it was unjustly offered to him, because it was due to God alone. But this interpretation is destitute of probability, since he often permitted himself to be addressed in this manner, and knew that the minds of his brethren were utterly averse to transfer the worship of God to mortal man. And I equally disapprove another meaning given to the passage, which makes Joseph refuse to exact punishment, because he is not God: for he does not restrain himself from retaliating the injury, in the hope that God will prove his avenger. Others adduce a third signification; namely, that the whole affair was conducted by the counsel of God, and not by his own: which though I do not entirely reject, because it approaches the truth, yet I do not embrace the interpretation as true. For the word תחת(tachat) sometimes signifies instead of, sometimes it means subjection. Therefore if the note of interrogation were not in the way, it might well be rendered, “Because I am under God;” and then the sense would be, “Fear not, for I am under God;” so that Joseph would teach them, that because he is subject to the authority of God, it is not his business to lead the way, but to follow. But, whereas ה(he,) the note of interrogation, is prefixed to the word, it cannot be otherwise expounded than to mean that it would be wrong for him, a mortal man, to presume to thwart the counsel of God. But as to the sum of the matter, there is no ambiguity. For seeing that Joseph considers the design of divine providence, he restrains his feelings as with a bridle, lest they should carry him to excess. He was indeed of a mild and humane disposition; but nothing is better or more suitable to assuage his anger, than to submit himself to be governed by God. When, therefore, the desire of revenge urges us, let all our feelings be subjected to the same authority. Moreover, since he desires his brethren to be tranquil and secure, from the consideration, that he, ascribing due honor to God, willingly submits to obey the Divine command; let us learn, hence, that it is most to our advantage to deal with men of moderation, who set God before them as their leader, and who not only submit to his will, but also cheerfully obey him. For if any one is impotently carried away by the lust of the flesh, we must fear a thousand deaths from him, unless God should forcibly break his fury. Now as it is the one remedy for assuaging our anger, to acknowledge what we ourselves are, and what right God has over us; so, on the other hand, when this thought has taken full possession of our minds, there is no ardor, however furious, which it will not suffice to mitigate.

20. Ye thought evil against me. Joseph well considers (as we have said) the providence of God; so that he imposes it on himself as a compulsory law, not only to grant pardon, but also to exercise beneficence. And although we have treated at large on this subject, in Genesis 45:1, yet it will be useful also to repeat something on it now. In the first place, we must notice this difference in his language: for whereas, in the former passage, Joseph, desiring to soothe the grief, and to alleviate the fear of his brethren, would cover their wickedness by every means which ingenuity could suggest; he now corrects them a little more openly and freely; perhaps because he is offended with their disingenousness. Yet he holds to the same principle as before. Seeing that, by the secret counsel of God, he was led into Egypt, for the purpose of preserving the life of his brethren, he must devote himself to this object, lest he should resist God. He says, in fact, by his action, “Since God has deposited your life with me, I should be engaged in war against him, if I were not to be the faithful dispenser of the grace which he had committed to my hands.” Meanwhile, he skillfully distinguishes between the wicked counsels of men, and the admirable justice of God, by so ascribing the government of all things to God, as to preserve the divine administration free from contracting any stain from the vices of men. The selling of Joseph was a crime detestable for its cruelty and perfidy; yet he was not sold except by the decree of heaven. For neither did God merely remain at rest, and by conniving for a time, let loose the reins of human malice, in order that afterwards he might make use of this occasion; but, at his own will, he appointed the order of acting which he intended to be fixed and certain. Thus we may say with truth and propriety, that Joseph was sold by the wicked consent of his brethren, and by the secret providence of God. Yet it was not a work common to both, in such a sense that God sanctioned anything connected with or relating to their wicked cupidity: because while they are contriving the destruction of their brother, God is effecting their deliverance from on high. Whence also we conclude, that there are various methods of governing the world. This truly must be generally agreed, that nothing is done without his will; because he both governs the counsels of men, and sways their wills and turns their efforts at his pleasure, and regulates all events: but if men undertake anything right and just, he so actuates and moves them inwardly by his Spirit, that whatever is good in them, may justly be said to be received from him: but if Satan and ungodly men rage, he acts by their hands in such an inexpressible manner, that the wickedness of the deed belongs to them, and the blame of it is imputed to them. For they are not induced to sin, as the faithful are to act aright, by the impulse of the Spirit, but they are the authors of their own evil, and follow Satan as their leader. Thus we see that the justice of God shines brightly in the midst of the darkness of our iniquity. For as God is never without a just cause for his actions, so men are held in the chains of guilt by their own perverse will. When we hear that God frustrates the wicked expectations, and the injurious desires of men, we derive hence no common consolation. Let the impious busy themselves as they please, let them rage, let them mingle heaven and earth; yet they shall gain nothing by their ardor; and not only shall their impetuosity prove ineffectual, but shall be turned to an issue the reverse of that which they intended, so that they shall promote our salvation, though they do it reluctantly. So that whatever poison Satan produces, God turns it into medicine for his elect. And although in this place God is said to have “meant it unto good,” because contrary to expectation, he had educed a joyful issue out of beginnings fraught with death: yet, with perfect rectitude and justice, he turns the food of reprobates into poison, their light into darkness, their table into a snare, and, in short, their life into death. If human minds cannot reach these depths, let them rather suppliantly adore the mysteries they do not comprehend, than, as vessels of clay, proudly exalt themselves against their Maker.

To save much people alive. Joseph renders his office subservient to the design of God’s providence; and this sobriety is always to be cultivated, that every one may behold, by faith, God from on high holding the helm of the government of the world, and may keep himself within the bounds of his vocation; and even, being admonished by the secret judgments of God, may descend into himself, and exhort himself to the discharge of his duty: and if the reason of this does not immediately appear, we must still take care that we do not fly in confused and erratic circuits, as fanatical men are wont to do. What Joseph says respecting his being divinely chosen “to save much people alive,” some extend to the Egyptians. Without condemning such an extension, I would rather restrict the application of the words to the family of Jacob; for Joseph amplifies the goodness of God by this circumstance, that the seed of the Church would be rescued from destruction by his labor. And truly, from these few men, whose seed would otherwise have been extinct before their descendants had been multiplied, that vast multitude sprang into being, which God soon afterwards raised up.

21. I will nourish you. It was a token of a solid and not a feigned reconciliation, not only to abstain from malice and injury, but also to “overcome evil with good,” as Paul teaches, (Romans 12:21:) and truly, he who fails in his duty, when he possesses the power of giving help, and when the occasion demands his assistance, shows, by this very course, that he is not forgetful of injury. This requires to be the more diligently observed, because, commonly, the greater part weakly conclude that they forgive offenses if they do not retaliate them; as if indeed we were not taking revenge when we withdraw our hands from giving help. You would assist your brother if you thought him worthy: he implores your aid in necessity; you desert him because he has done you some unkindness; what hinders you from helping him but hatred? Therefore, we shall then only prove our minds to be free from malevolence, when we follow with kindness those enemies by whom we have been ill treated. Joseph is said to have spoken “to the heart of his brethren,” because, by addressing them with suavity and kindness, he removed all their scruples; as we have before seen, that Shechem spoke to the heart of Dinah, when he attempted to console her with allurements, in order that, forgetting the dishonor he had done her, she might consent to marry him.

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