50 Joseph threw himself on his father’s body. He wept over him and kissed him. 2 Then Joseph talked to the doctors who served him. He told them to prepare the body of his father Israel to be buried. So the doctors prepared it. 3 They took 40 days to do it. They needed that much time to prepare a body in the right way. The Egyptians mourned for Jacob 70 days. 4 After the days of sadness had passed, Joseph went to Pharaoh’s officials. He said to them, “If you are pleased with me, speak to Pharaoh for me. Tell him, 5 ‘My father made me give my word to him. He said, “I’m about to die. Bury me in the tomb I dug for myself in the land of Canaan.” So let me go there and bury my father. Then I’ll come back.’ ” 6 Pharaoh said, “Go there and bury your father. Do what he made you promise to do.” 7 So Joseph went to Canaan to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials went with him. They were the important people of his court and all the leaders of Egypt. 8 Joseph’s family also went. His brothers and all the rest of his father’s family went. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen. 9 Chariots and horsemen also went up with him. It was a very large group. 10 They came to Atad, a place where grain was processed. It was near the Jordan River. There they sobbed loudly and bitterly. Joseph set apart seven days of sadness to honor his father’s memory. 11 The Canaanites living in that area saw how sad all of them were. They said, “The Egyptians are having a very special service for the dead.” That’s why that place near the Jordan River is called Abel of the Egyptians. 12 So Jacob’s sons did exactly as he had commanded them. 13 They carried his body to the land of Canaan. They buried it in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre. Abraham had bought the cave as a place where he could bury his wife’s body. He had bought the cave and the field from Ephron, the Hittite. 14 After Joseph buried his father, he went back to Egypt. His brothers and all the others who had gone to help him bury his father went back with him.
God had brought Jacob and his sons to a place of safety and prosperity, but they were not in the place of God’s promises. In death, Jacob is free to return to the promised land, but Joseph is not. Although he has risen to be the second most powerful man in Egypt, Joseph is still Pharaoh’s slave. He has to ask permission to return and bury his father and must promise to return. Their children remain behind. He’s accompanied by a whole army, perhaps for his protection, perhaps to ensure he returns. God’s people would not be free to return to the place of His promises for another 400 years.
Have God’s promises gone wrong?
There are certainly times during their slavery when it would have seemed like it. And we know how they grumbled during their rescue and journey out of slavery. But we know that this experience was also a picture of our slavery to sin, our rescue through Jesus (our Passover lamb) and our journey into God’s promises.
We know it was God’s perfect timing, but it can be hard to see when you are in the middle of it.
I need to remember this when it’s someone I love stuck in slavery to sin and death, when God’s promises are not happening when I expect them.
Thank you, Jesus, that you have already acted decisively to rescue us and to make things right. Your promises will be fulfilled at just the right time.
Written by David Cornell