Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Burial of Jacob. - Gen 50:1-3. When Jacob died, Joseph fell upon the face of his beloved father, wept over him, and kissed him. He then gave the body to the physicians to be embalmed, according to the usual custom in Egypt. The physicians are called his servants, because the reference is to the regular physicians in the service of Joseph, the eminent minister of state; and according to Herod. 2, 84, there were special physicians in Egypt for every description of disease, among whom the Taricheuta, who superintended the embalming, were included, as a special but subordinate class. The process of embalming lasted 40 days, and the solemn mourning 70 (Gen 50:3). This is in harmony with the statements of Herodotus and Diodorus when rightly understood (see Hengstenberg, Egypt and the Books of Moses, p. 67ff.).
At the end of this period of mourning, Joseph requested "the house of Pharaoh," i.e., the attendants upon the king, to obtain Pharaoh's permission for him to go to Canaan and bury his father, according to his last will, in the cave prepared by him there. כּרה (Gen 50:5) signifies "to dig" (used, as in Ch2 16:14, for the preparation of a tomb), not "to buy," In the expression לי כּריתי Jacob attributes to himself as patriarch what had really been done by Abraham (Gen 24). Joseph required the royal permission, because he wished to go beyond the border with his family and a large procession. But he did not apply directly to Pharaoh, because his deep mourning (unshaven and unadorned) prevented him from appearing in the presence of the king.
After the king's permission had been obtained, the corpse was carried to Canaan, attended by a large company. With Joseph there went up "all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt," i.e., the leading officers of the court and state, "and all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father's house," i.e., all the members of the families of Joseph, of his brethren, and of is deceased father, "excepting only their children and flocks; also chariots and horsemen," as an escort for the journey through the desert, "a very large army." The splendid retinue of Egyptian officers may be explained, in part from the esteem in which Joseph was held in Egypt, and in part from the fondness of the Egyptians for such funeral processions (cf. Hengst. pp. 70, 71).
Thus they came to Goren Atad beyond the Jordan, as the procession did not take the shortest route by Gaza through the country of the Philistines, probably because so large a procession with a military escort was likely to meet with difficulties there, but went round by the Dead Sea. There, on the border of Canaan, a great mourning and funeral ceremony was kept up for seven days, from which the Canaanites, who watched it from Canaan, gave the place the name of Abel-mizraim, i.e., meadow (אבל with a play upon אבל mourning) of the Egyptians. The situation of Goren Atad (the buck-thorn floor), or Abel-mizraim, has not been discovered. According to Gen 50:11, it was on the other side, i.e., the eastern side, of the Jordan. This is put beyond all doubt by Gen 50:12, where the sons of Jacob are said to have carried the corpse into the land of Canaan (the land on this side) after the mourning at Goren Atad.
(Note: Consequently the statement of Jerome in the Onam. s. v. Area Atad - "locus trans Jordanem, in quo planxerunt quondam Jacob, tertio ab Jerico lapide, duobus millibus ab Jordane, qui nunc vocatur Bethagla, quod interpretatur locus gyri, eo quod ibi more plangentium circumierint in funere Jacob" - is wrong. Beth Agla cannot be the same as Goren Atad, if only because of the distances given by Jerome from Jericho and the Jordan. They do not harmonize at all with his trans Jordanem, which is probably taken from this passage, but point to a place on this side of the Jordan; but still more, because Beth Hagla was on the frontier of Benjamin towards Judah (Jos 15:6; Jos 18:19), and its name has been retained in the fountain and tower of Hajla, an hour and a quarter to the S.E. of Riha (Jericho), and three-quarters of an hour from the Jordan, by which the site of the ancient Beth Hagla is certainly determined. (Vid., Robinson, Pal., ii. p. 268ff.))
There the Egyptian procession probably stopped short; for in Gen 50:12 the sons of Jacob only are mentioned as having carried their father to Canaan according to his last request, and buried him in the cave of Machpelah.
After performing this filial duty, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brethren and all their attendants.
After their father's death, Joseph's brethren were filled with alarm, and said, "If Joseph now should punish us and requite all the evil that we have done to him," sc., what would become of us! The sentence contains an aposiopesis, like Psa 27:13; and לוּ with the imperfect presupposes a condition, being used "in cases which are not desired, and for the present not real, though perhaps possible" (Ew. 358). The brethren therefore deputed one of their number (possibly Benjamin) to Joseph, and instructed him to appeal to the wish expressed by their father before his death, and to implore forgiveness: "O pardon the misdeed of thy brethren and their sin, that they have done thee evil; and now grant forgiveness to the misdeed of the servants of the God of thy father." The ground of their plea is contained in ועתּה "and now," sc., as we request it by the desire and direction of our father, and in the epithet applied to themselves, "servants of the God of thy father." There is no reason whatever for regarding the appeal to their father's wish as a mere pretence. The fact that no reference was made by Jacob in his blessing to their sin against Joseph, merely proved that he as their father had forgiven the sin of his sons, since the grace of God had made their misdeed the means of Israel's salvation; but it by no means proves that he could not have instructed his sons humbly to beg for forgiveness from Joseph, even though Joseph had hitherto shown them only goodness and love. How far Joseph was from thinking of ultimate retribution and revenge, is evident from the reception which he gave to their request (Gen 50:17): "Joseph wept at their address to him." viz., at the fact that they could impute anything so bad to him; and when they came themselves, and threw themselves as servants at his feet, he said to them (Gen 50:19), "Fear not, for am I in the place of God?" i.e., am I in a position to interfere of my own accord with the purposes of God, and not rather bound to submit to them myself? "Ye had indeed evil against me in your mind, but God had it in mind for good (to turn this evil into good), to do (עשׂה like ואה Gen 48:11), as is now evident (lit., as has occurred this day, cf. Deu 2:30; Deu 4:20, etc.), to preserve alive a great nation (cf. Gen 45:7). And now fear not, I shall provide for you and your families." Thus he quieted them by his affectionate words.
Death of Joseph. - Joseph lived to see the commencement of the fulfilment of his father's blessing. Having reached the age of 110, he saw Ephraim's שׁלּשׁים בּני "sons of the third link," i.e., of great-grandsons, consequently great-great-grandsons. שׁלּשׁים descendants in the third generation are expressly distinguished from "children's children" or grandsons in Exo 34:7. There is no practical difficulty in the way of this explanation, the only one which the language will allow. As Joseph's two sons were born before he was 37 years old (Gen 41:50), and Ephraim therefore was born, at the latest, in his 36th year, and possibly in his 34th, since Joseph was married in his 31st year, he might have had grandsons by the time he was 56 or 60 years old, and great-grandsons when he was from 78 to 85, so that great-great-grandsons might have been born when he was 100 or 110 years old. To regard the "sons of the third generation" as children in the third generation (great-grandsons of Joseph and grandsons of Ephraim), as many commentators do, as though the construct בּני stood for the absolute, is evidently opposed to the context, since it is stated immediately afterwards, that sons of Machir, the son of Manasseh, i.e., great-grandsons, were also born upon his knees, i.e., so that he could take them also upon his knees and show them his paternal love. There is no reason for thinking of adoption in connection with these words. And if Joseph lived to see only the great-grandsons of Ephraim as well as of Manasseh, it is difficult to imagine why the same expression should not be applied to the grandchildren of Manasseh, as to the descendants of Ephraim.
When Joseph saw his death approaching, he expressed to his brethren his firm belief in the fulfilment of the divine promise (Gen 46:4-5, cf. Gen 15:16, Gen 15:18.), and made them take an oath, that if God should bring them into the promised land, they would carry his bones with them from Egypt. This last desire of his was carried out. When he died, they embalmed him, and laid him (ויּישׂם from ישׂם, like Gen 24:33 in the chethib) "in the coffin," i.e., the ordinary coffin, constructed of sycamore-wood (see Hengstenberg, pp. 71, 72), which was then deposited in a room, according to Egyptian custom (Herod. 2, 86), and remained in Egypt for 360 years, until they carried it away with them at the time of the exodus, when it was eventually buried in Shechem, in the piece of land which had been bought by Jacob there (Gen 33:19; Jos 24:32).
Thus the account of the pilgrim-life of the patriarchs terminates with an act of faith on the part of the dying Joseph; and after his death, in consequence of his instructions, the coffin with his bones became a standing exhortation to Israel, to turn its eyes away from Egypt to Canaan, the land promised to its fathers, and to wait in the patience of faith for the fulfilment of the promise.
Chronological Survey of the Leading Eventsof the Patriarchal History
Arranged according to the Hebrew Text, as a continuation of the Chronological Tables at p. 77, with an additional calculation of the year before Christ.
The Events Year of Migration to Egypt Year of Entrance into Canaan Year from the Creation Year Before Christ Abram's entrance into Canaan 1 2021 2137 Birth of Ishmael 11 2032 2126 Institution of Circumcision 24 2045 2113 Birth of Isaac 25 2046 2112 Death of Sarah 62 2083 2075 Marriage of Isaac 65 2086 2072 Birth of Esau and Jacob 85 2106 2052 Death of Abraham 100 2121 2037 Marriage of Esau 125 2146 2012 Death of Ishmael 148 2169 1989 Flight of Jacob to Padan Aram 162 2183 1975 Jacob's Marriage 169 2190 1968 Birth of Joseph 176 2197 1961 Jacob's return from Padan Aram 182 2203 1951 Jacob's arrival at Shechem in Canaan ? 187 ? 2208 ? 1950 Jacob's return home to Hebron 192 2213 1945 Sale of Joseph 193 2214 1944 Death of Isaac 205 2226 1932 Promotion of Joseph in Egypt 206 2227 1931 Removal of Israel to Egypt 1 215 2236 1922 Death of Jacob 17 232 2253 1905 Death of Joseph 71 286 2307 1851 Birth of Moses 350 565 2586 1572 Exodus of Israel from Egypt 430 645 2666 1492
The calculation of the years b.c. is based upon the fact, that the termination of the 70 years' captivity coincided with the first year of the sole government of Cyrus, and fell in the year 536 b.c.; consequently the captivity commenced in the year 606 B. C.