Genesis 48–50: Farewell & Forgiveness

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 13: Monday

Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well.”
Genesis 48:11

Monday’s Bible reading of Genesis 48–50, finishes the book of Genesis. These last few chapters begin with Jacob dying and end with the death of Joseph. In Genesis 48, Jacob says goodbye to Joseph and blesses his sons.

So now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are.
Genesis 48:5

Derek Kidner comments on what this means for the future of the nation of Israel:

“This declaration of adoption (cf. 16b) left its lasting mark on the structure of Israel, in which Ephraim inherited the headship of the whole twelve, forfeited by Reuben (cf. 49:4). I Chronicles 5:1,2 states the position: ‘[Reuben’s] birthright was given to the sons of Joseph…’ though Judah became strong among his brothers and a prince was from him, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph.'”1

This is why in the Old Testament you will see references to the tribes of the sons of Joseph, rather than the tribe of Joseph (cf. Numbers 34:23–24; Joshua 4:4), and references to the tribe of Ephraim and the half-tribe of Manasseh (cf. Genesis 48:17–20; Joshua 21:5).

Jacob’s farewell is especially poignant as Jacob remembers Rachel, recounts God’s promises to him, and tells Joseph that he gives him one portion more than his brothers. The rest of his sons gather around him in chapter 49, and Jacob prophesies the future for each of their households.

After the death and burial of their father, Joseph’s brothers are afraid that without Jacob there as a restraint, Joseph will seek revenge on them for the evil they did to him when they sold him as a slave. They send a message to Joseph telling him that their father wanted Joseph to forgive them. Joseph weeps when he hears this, and his words to his brothers reveal the depth of character of this good man who through years of unjust suffering never railed against God nor sought to avenge himself; instead he was faithful in his work, submitted himself to God, and forgave them. His words resonate with Romans 8:28, and Romans 12:17–21.

But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to do what has happened on this day, to keep many people alive.”
Genesis 50:19–20 LSB
Details from the Life of Joseph
(click the image to enlarge)

This is why I wrote several weeks ago that Joseph is one of my favorite persons in the Bible. Joseph knew betrayal, abandonment, and false accu­sation. His faith in God enabled him to live in trust of God’s providence and, I think, enabled him to forgive. We never get the idea that he was able to endure because of a stoic personality; Genesis 41:50–52; 42:21–24; 43:30; 45:1–2, 14–15; 46:29; and 50:1, 17; tell us how very much he had suffered and the depth of his pain. Joseph persevered because he revered and trusted God.

Sometimes we may look around and we can find no one who seems to have gone before us in experiencing some of the things we’ve known, and no one who is able to come alongside to help us with consolation, reassurance, and help in trusting God. God provides His Word, and His Spirit consoles us with the stories of those who have gone before us and who were faithful throughout all their lives. Joseph was such a godly man, and his example has been, and continues to be, of profound encouragement to me.

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through the perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Romans 15:4 LSB

Derek Kidner writes:

“Each sentence of his threefold reply is a pinnacle of Old Testament (and New Testament) faith. To leave all the righting of one’s wrongs to God (19; cf. Rom. 12:19; 1 Thes. 5:15; 1 Pet. 4:19); to see His provi­dence in man’s malice (20; cf. on 45:5), and to repay evil not only with forgiveness but also with practical affection (21; cf. Lk. 6:27ff), are attitudes which anticipate the adjective ‘Christian’ and even ‘Christlike’.”2

James Montgomery Boice preached a series of sermons on verses con–taining the phrase, “But God.” He writes:

“Genesis 50:20…was also part of my “but God” series: “But God intended it for good.” This is a great saying, a forceful testimony. But its strength comes from the contrast with what precedes it, namely, the hurt intended by those who scorned or hated Joseph. This was real scorn, not apparent scorn. It was real hate, not play-acting. It is only against the background of this evil that the good providence of God has real meaning.”3

Boice asks, “What gave Joseph the grace to make this remarkable reply?”

“There is only one answer: Joseph knew God. In particular, he knew two things about God. He knew that God is sovereign—that nothing ever comes into the life of any one of his children that he has not approved first; there are no accidents. And he knew that God is good—therefore, the things that come into our lives by God’s sovereignty are for our benefit (and for others’) and not our harm.

“What Joseph saw and spoke of in this next-to-last scene of his earthly life is what the apostle Paul wrote about eloquently hundreds of years later. It is a text often memorized by Christan people. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28). It is impossible to overestimate the wonder of this verse. It teaches three things, all of which are illustrated in the life of Joseph.

“First, God is working for the good of those who love him. This is what Joseph saw…

“Second, the text teaches that all things are controlled by God and therefore work to our good. In Joseph’s case it would have been easy for him to say that the dream of Pharaoh, which he was enabled to interpret and which led to his being elevated from prison to the throne, was of God. It was clear how that was used for good. But while that was obviously of God and was good, Joseph did not allow his testimony to stop there; he extended it to include even the hostile and damaging acts of his brothers. We can see that even sin works for good for those who belong to God…

“If these words “all things” really mean “all things” and God is not a liar, then there is truly nothing in your life that can possibly be excluded. “All” includes the experiences of your childhood and whether they were affirming or destructive. It includes who your parents were (even if you did not know them) and where you were born. If includes your education, your present employment (or lack of it), the house in which you live, the furniture you have, the car you are driving, your friends, your church, even your appearance—the face that stares back at you from your mirror in the morning—and whether it is attractive, as the world measures attractiveness, or whether it is not. Every one of them is included in that word “all.”…Whether you can see it or not—and often we cannot—everything is being used of God for your good as well as the good of others.”4

That’s quite a list, to say the least! I wanted to include it because all things, as Boice points out, doesn’t mean only the things in which it’s obvious how God works them for our good, but also the things that are so very hard, that make no sense from our point of view, and that cause us anguish and to cry out to God. To trust God in all things is quite a challenge, to say the least.

Boice’s words help me tremendously just today, because I’ve been finding trusting God with the all things in my life that have struck me to the core to be overwhelming and beyond me. My father was an angry, abusive man. My brother went into the homosexual lifestyle, tried to commit suicide and later died of AIDS. I lost my hearing due to unnecessary surgery. We were financially devastated by events beyond our control, and over a decade later continue to face the ripples of its consequences. Your all things is different, whether it includes things that are far worse or things you consider not as bad; we are each called to trust that God is taking the all things of our lives and working them for our good. That brings us to the third thing Boice says we can learn from the life of Joseph.

“Third, we can know this and live by it, as Joseph did. If all things worked together for our good without our knowing it, it would be a wonderful fact even though we might not find out until much later. We can know it now. We can know that all that enters our lives is actually working for good now. This knowledge is by faith, as I indicated. It is not always by sight. But it is nevertheless certain, because it is based on the character of God, who reveals himself to us as both sovereign and benevolent.”5

This is not to say that all things suddenly become good in and of themselves. Boice writes:

“When people conspire to harm us and actually inflict wounds born of cruel hatred or indifference, we will not call their evil good. Evil remains evil. Sin remains sin. But we will testify before these and the world that in a universe ruled by a sovereign and benevolent God—our God—their evil will not succeed. We will say, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” We will declare that in the ultimate assess­ment, nothing can be anything but good for God’s people.”6

“What gave Joseph the grace to make this remarkable reply? There is only one answer: Joseph knew God.” And to know who God is, we must know His Word. Jeremiah contains one of my favorite passages, and I include it time and again when I am teaching women about why we study the Bible.

Thus says Yahweh, “Let not a wise man boast in his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast in his might; let not a rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am Yahweh who shows loving­kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares Yahweh.
Jeremiah 9:23–24LSB

Genesis closes with the final words and death of Joseph:

Now Joseph stayed in Egypt, he and his father’s household, and Joseph lived 110 years. And Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim’s sons; also the sons of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were born on Joseph’s knees. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.” So Joseph died at the age of 110 years; and they embalmed him, and he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.
Genesis 50:22–26 LSB

Kidner concludes:

“The book of Genesis, like the Old Testament in microcosm, ends by pointing beyond its own story. Man had traveled far from Eden to a coffin, and the chosen family far from Canaan to Egypt, but Joseph’s ‘charge concerning his bones’ was a gesture of faith (Heb. 11:22), which would not be disappointed (Ex. 13:19; Jos. 24:32)…Joseph’s dying words epitomized the hope in which the Old Testament, and indeed the New (cf. Rev. 22:20), would fall into expectant silence: God will surely visit you.”7

Boice writes Joseph, “was certainly forgotten by the Egyptians [cf. Ex. 1:8]. But Joseph is remembered in the Word of God, and he is with God today in glory.”8

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Détail d’un vitrail de la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres: l’histoire de Joseph: Vassil. Public Domain.
1,2,7Derek Kidner, Genesis (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1967) 213, 224, 224.
3,4,5,6,8James Montgomery Boice, Genesis: An Expositional Commentary, Volume 3: Genesis 37:1–50:26 (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI: 1987) 330, 332–333, 333, 333–334, 346.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2021–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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