Today we read of the death of Jacob, and how Joseph and his brothers bury him in the land of Canaan. And we also read of the anxiety of Joseph’s brothers, who are worried that Joseph will take vengeance on them now that their father is dead.
But Joseph makes it clear that he is not interested in vengeance. His response makes it clear that he has totally surrendered himself to the authority God. Not only does he realise that it is not for him to take vengeance on his brothers, but he even realizes that God used their evil act to bring about something good. Saint John Chrysostom writes,
‘Don’t be apprehensive or anxious,’ Joseph says. ‘I belong to God,’ and in imitation of my Lord I strive to reward with kindness those who are maliciously disposed to me—‘I belong to God,’ after all. Then to show how great is the favour he enjoys from God Joseph says, ‘You acted against me with evil intent, but God turned everything to good for me.’ Hence Paul also said, ‘For those who love God all things work together for good.’ ‘All things,’ he says. What is meant by ‘all things’? Opposition and apparent disappointment—even these things are turned into good, which is exactly what happened with this remarkable man. In fact, what was done by his brothers had the particular effect of bringing him the kingship, thanks to the creative God’s wisdom transforming all their wickedness into good.
A Reading from the Book of Genesis 49:33-50:26:
When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed, and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people. Then Joseph fell on his father’s face, and wept over him, and kissed him. And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel; forty days were required for it, for so many are required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.
And when the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, My father made me swear, saying, ‘I am about to die: in my tomb which I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there shall you bury me.’ Now therefore let me go up, I pray you, and bury my father; then I will return.” And Pharaoh answered, “Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear.” So Joseph went up to bury his father; and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as 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. And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen; it was a very great company. When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they lamented there with a very great and sorrowful lamentation; and he made a mourning for his father seven days. When the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a grievous mourning to the Egyptians.” Therefore the place was named Abelmizraim; it is beyond the Jordan. Thus his sons did for him as he had commanded them; for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite, to possess as a burying place. After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father. When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil which we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died, ‘Say to Joseph, Forgive, I pray you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ And now, we pray you, forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him, and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Fear not, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he reassured them and comforted them.
So Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s house; and Joseph lived a hundred and ten years. And Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation; the children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were born upon Joseph’s knees. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die; but God will visit you, and bring you up out of this land to the land which he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Then Joseph took an oath of the sons of Israel, saying, “God will visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” So Joseph died, being a hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.