Genesis 50


Joseph bewails the death of his father, and commands the

physicians to embalm him, 1, 2.

The Egyptians mourn for him seventy days, 3.

Joseph begs permission from Pharaoh to accompany his father's

corpse to Canaan, 4, 5.

Pharaoh consents, 6.

Pharaoh's domestics and elders, the elders of Egypt, Joseph and

his brethren, with chariots, horsemen, &c., form the funeral

procession, 7-9.

They come to the threshing-floor of Atad, and mourn there

seven days, 10.

The Canaanites call the place Abel-Mizraim, 11.

They bury Jacob in the cove of Machpelah, 12, 13.

Joseph returns to Egypt, 14.

His brethren, fearing his displeasure, send messengers to him to

entreat his forgiveness of past wrongs, 15-17.

They follow, and prostrate themselves before him, and offer to be

his servants, 18.

Joseph receives them affectionately, and assures them and theirs

of his care and protection, 19-21.

Joseph and his brethren dwell in Egypt, and he sees the third

generation of his children, 22, 23.

Being about to die, he prophecies the return of the children of

Israel from Egypt, 24,

and causes them to swear that they will carry his bones to Canaan, 25.

Joseph dies, aged one hundred and ten years; is embalmed, and put

in a coffin in Egypt, 26.


Verse 1. Joseph fell upon his father's face] Though this act

appears to be suspended by the unnatural division of this verse

from the preceding chapter, yet we may rest assured it was the

immediate consequence of Jacob's death.

Verse 2. The physicians] ropheim, the healers,

those whose business it was to heal or restore the body from

sickness by the administration of proper medicines; and when death

took place, to heal or preserve it from dissolution by embalming,

and thus give it a sort of immortality or everlasting duration.

The original word chanat, which we translate to embalm, has

undoubtedly the same meaning with the Arabic [Arabic] hanata,

which also signifies to embalm, or to preserve from putrefaction

by the application of spices, &c., and hence [Arabic] hantat, an

embalmer. The word is used to express the reddening of leather;

and probably the ideal meaning may be something analogous to our

tanning, which consists in removing the moisture, and closing up

the pores so as to render them impervious to wet. This probably

is the grand principle in embalming; and whatever effects this,

will preserve flesh as perfectly as skin. Who can doubt that a

human muscle, undergoing the same process of tanning as the hide

of an ox, would not become equally incorruptible? I have seen a

part of the muscle of a human thigh, that, having come into

contact with some tanning matter, either in the coffin or in the

grave, was in a state of perfect soundness, when the rest of the

body had been long reduced to earth; and it exhibited the

appearance of a thick piece of well tanned leather.

In the art of embalming, the Egyptians excelled all nations in

the world; with them it was a common practice. Instances of the

perfection to which they carried this art may be seen in the

numerous mummies, as they are called, which are found in different

European cabinets, and which have been all brought from Egypt.

This people not only embalmed men and women, and thus kept the

bodies of their beloved relatives from the empire of corruption,

but they embalmed useful animals also. I have seen the body of

the Ibris thus preserved; and though the work had been done for

some thousands of years, the very feathers were in complete

preservation, and the colour of the plumage discernible. The

account of this curious process, the articles used, and the manner

of applying them, I subjoin from Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus,

as also the manner of their mournings and funeral solemnities,

which are highly illustrative of the subjects in this chapter.

"When any man of quality dies," says Herodotus, "all the women

of that family besmear their heads and faces with dirt; then,

leaving the body at home, they go lamenting up and down the city

with all their relations; their apparel being girt about them, and

their breasts left naked. On the other hand the men, having

likewise their clothes girt about them, beat themselves. These

things being done, they carry the dead body to be embalmed; for

which there are certain persons appointed who profess this art.

These, when the body is brought to them, show to those that bring

it certain models of dead persons in wood, according to any of

which the deceased may be painted. One of these they say is

accurately made like to one whom, in such a matter, I do not think

lawful to name; τουουκοσιονποιουμαιτοουνομαεπιτοιουτω

πρηγματιονομαζειν; (probably Osiris, one of the principal gods of

Egypt, is here intended;) then they show a second inferior to it,

and of an easier price; and next a third, cheaper than the former,

and of a very small value; which being seen, they ask them after

which model the deceased shall be represented. When they have

agreed upon the price they depart; and those with whom the dead

corpse is left proceed to embalm it after the following manner:

First of all, they with a crooked iron draw the brain out of the

head through the nostrils; next, with a sharp AEthiopic stone they

cut up that part of the abdomen called the ilia, and that way draw

out all the bowels, which, having cleansed and washed with palm

wine, they again rinse and wash with wine perfumed with pounded

odours: then filling up the belly with pure myrrh and cassia

grossly powdered, and all other odours except frankincense, they

sew it up again. Having so done, they salt it up close with nitre

seventy days, for longer they may not salt it. After this number

of days are over they wash the corpse again, and then roll it up

with fine linen, all besmeared with a sort of gum, commonly used

by the Egyptians instead of glue. Then is the body restored to

its relations, who prepare a wooden coffin for it in the shape and

likeness of a man, and then put the embalmed body into it, and

thus enclosed, place it in a repository in the house, setting it

upright against the wall. After this manner they, with great

expense, preserve their dead; whereas those who to avoid too great

a charge desire a mediocrity, thus embalm them: they neither cut

the belly nor pluck out the entrails, but fill it with clysters of

oil of cedar injected up the anus, and then salt it the aforesaid

number of days. On the last of these they press out the cedar

clyster by the same way they had injected it, which has such

virtue and efficacy that it brings out along with it the bowels

wasted, and the nitre consumes the flesh, leaving only the skin

and bones: having thus done, they restore the dead body to the

relations, doing nothing more. The third way of embalming is for

those of yet meaner circumstances; they with lotions wash the

belly, then dry it up with salt for seventy days, and afterwards

deliver it to be carried away. Nevertheless, beautiful women and

ladles of quality were not delivered to be embalmed till three or

four days after they had been dead;" for which Herodotus assigns a

sufficient reason, however degrading to human nature: τουτοδε



γυναικοςκατειπαιδετονομοτεχνον. [The original should not

be put into a plainer language; the abomination to which it refers

being too gross.] "But if any stranger or Egyptian was either

killed by a crocodile or drowned in the river, the city where he

was cast up was to embalm and bury him honourably in the sacred

monuments, whom no one, no, not a relation or friend, but the

priests of the Nile only, might touch; because they buried one who

was something more than a dead man." -HEROD. Euterpe, p. 120, ed.


Diodorus Siculus relates the funeral ceremonies of the Egyptians

more distinctly and clearly, and with some very remarkable

additional circumstances. "When any one among the Egyptians dies,"

says he, "all his relations and friends, putting dirt upon their

heads, go lamenting about the city, till such time as the body

shall be buried: in the meantime, they abstain from baths and

wine, and all kinds of delicate meats; neither do they, during

that time, wear any costly apparel. The manner of their burials

is threefold: one very costly, a second sort less chargeable, and

a third very mean. In the first, they say, there is spent a

talent of silver; in the second, twenty minae; but in the last

there is very little expense. 'Those who have the care of ordering

the body are such as have been taught that art by their ancestors.

These, showing each kind of burial, ask them after what manner

they will have the body prepared. When they have agreed upon the

manner, they deliver the body to such as are usually appointed for

this office. First, he who has the name of scribe, laying it upon

the ground, marks about the flank on the left side how much is to

be cut away; then he who is called παρασχιστης, paraschistes, the

cutter or dissector, with an AEthiopic stone, cuts away as much

of the flesh as the law commands, and presently runs away as fast

as he can; those who are present, pursuing him, cast stones at

him, and curse him, hereby turning all the execrations which they

imagine due to his office upon him. For whosoever offers

violence, wounds, or does any kind of injury to a body of the same

nature with himself, they think him worthy of hatred: but those

who are ταριχευται, taricheutae, the embalmers, they esteem

worthy of honour and respect; for they are familiar with their

priests, and go into the temples as holy men, without any

prohibition. As soon as they come to embalm the dissected body,

one of them thrusts his hand through the wound into the abdomen,

and draws forth all the bowels but the heart and kidneys, which

another washes and cleanses with wine made of palms and aromatic

odours. Lastly, having washed the body, they anoint it with oil

of cedar and other things for about thirty days, and afterwards

with myrrh, cinnamon, and other such like matters, which have not

only a power to preserve it a long time, but also give it a sweet

smell; after which they deliver it to the kindred in such manner

that every member remains whole and entire, and no part of it

changed, but the beauty and shape of the face seem just as they

were before; and the person may be known, even the eyebrows and

eyelids remaining as they were at first. By this means many of

the Egyptians, keeping the dead bodies of their ancestors in

magnificent houses, so perfectly see the true visage and

countenance of those that died many ages before they themselves

were born, that in viewing the proportions of every one of them,

and the lineaments of their faces, they take as much delight as if

they were still living among them. Moreover, the friends and

nearest relations of the deceased, for the greater pomp of the

solemnity, acquaint the judges and the rest of their friends with

the time prefixed for the funeral or day of sepulture, declaring

that such a one (calling the dead by his name) is such a day to

pass the lake; at which time above forty judges appear, and sit

together in a semicircle, in a place prepared on the hither side

of the lake, where a ship, provided beforehand by such as have the

care of the business, is haled up to the shore, and steered by a

pilot whom the Egyptians in their language called Charon. Hence

they say Orpheus, upon seeing this ceremony while he was in Egypt,

invented the fable of hell, partly imitating therein the people of

Egypt, and partly adding somewhat of his own. The ship being thus

brought to the lake side, before the coffin is put on board every

one is at liberty by the law to accuse the dead of what he thinks

him guilty. If any one proves he was a bad man, the judges give

sentence that the body shall be deprived of sepulture; but in case

the informer be convicted of false accusation, then he is severely

punished. If no accuser appear, or the information prove false,

then all the kindred of the deceased leave off mourning, and begin

to set forth his praises, yet say nothing of his birth, (as the

custom is among the Greeks,) because the Egyptians all think

themselves equally noble; but they recount how the deceased was

educated from his youth and brought up to man's estate, exalting

his piety towards the gods, and justice towards men, his

chastity, and other virtues wherein he excelled; and lastly pray

and call upon the infernal deities (τουςκατωθεους, the gods

below) to receive him into the societies of the just. The common

people take this from the others, and consequently all is said in

his praise by a loud shout, setting forth likewise his virtues in

the highest strains of commendation, as one that is to live for

ever with the infernal gods. Then those that have tombs of their

own inter the corpse in places appointed for that purpose; and

they that have none rear up the body in its coffin against some

strong wall of their house. But such as are denied sepulture on

account of some crime or debt, are laid up at home without

coffins; yet when it shall afterwards happen that any of their

posterity grows rich, he commonly pays off the deceased person's

debts, and gets his crimes absolved, and so buries him honourably;

for the Egyptians are wont to boast of their parents and ancestors

that were honourably buried. It is a custom likewise among them

to pawn the dead bodies of their parents to their creditors; but

then those that do not redeem them fall under the greatest

disgrace imaginable, and are denied burial themselves at their

deaths."-Diod. Sic. Biblioth., lib. i., cap. 91-93., edit.

Bipont. See also the Necrokedia, or Art of Embalming, by

Greenhill, 4to., p. 241, who endeavoured in vain to recommend

and restore the art But he could not give his countrymen Egyptian

manners; for a dead carcass is to the British an object of horror,

and scarcely any, except a surgeon or an undertaker, cares to

touch it.

Verse 3. Forty days] The body it appears required this number

of days to complete the process of embalming; afterwards it lay in

natron thirty days more, making in the whole seventy days,

according to the preceding accounts, during which the mourning was


Verse 4. Speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh.] But why

did not Joseph apply himself? Because he was now in his mourning

habits, and in such none must appear in the presence of the

eastern monarchs. See Es 4:2.

Verse 7. The elders of his house] Persons who, by reason of

their age, had acquired much experience; and who on this account

were deemed the best qualified to conduct the affairs of the

king's household. Similar to these were the [Anglo-Saxon]

Eldermen, or Aldermen, among our Saxon ancestors, who were

senators and peers of the realm.

The funeral procession of Jacob must have been truly grand.

Joseph, his brethren and their descendants, the servants of

Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders-all the

principal men, of the land of Egypt, with chariots and horsemen,

must have appeared a very great company indeed. We have seen

LORDS, for their greater honour, buried at the public expense; and

all the male branches of the royal family, as well as the most

eminent men of the nation, join in the funeral procession, as in

the case of the late Lord Nelson; but what was all this in

comparison of the funeral solemnity now before us? Here was no

conqueror, no mighty man of valour, no person of proud descent;

here was only a plain man, who had dwelt almost all his life long

in tents, without any other subjects than his cattle, and whose

kingdom was not of this world. Behold this man honoured by a

national mourning, and by a national funeral! It may be said

indeed that "all this was done out of respect to Joseph." Be it

so; why was Joseph thus respected? Was it because he had

conquered nations, had made his sword drunk with blood, had

triumphed over the enemies of Egypt? NO! But because he had

saved men alive; because he was the king's faithful servant, the

rich man's counsellor, and the poor man's friend. He was a

national blessing; and the nation mourns in his affliction, and

unites to do him honour.

Verse 10. The threshing-floor of Atad] As atad signifies

a bramble or thorn, it has been understood by the Arabic, not as a

man's name, but as the name of a place; but all the other versions

and the Targums consider it as the name of a man. Threshing-floors

were always in a field, in the open air; and Atad was probably

what we would call a great farmer or chief of some clan or

tribe in that place. Jerome supposed the place to have been about

two leagues from Jericho; but we have no certain information on

this point. The funeral procession stopped here, probably as

affording pasturage to their cattle while they observed the seven

days' mourning which terminated the funeral solemnities, after

which nothing remained but the interment of the corpse. The

mourning of the ancient Hebrews was usually of seven days'

continuance, Nu 19:19; 1Sa 31:13; though on certain occasions

it was extended to thirty days, Nu 20:29; De 21:13; 34:8, but

never longer. The seventy days' mourning mentioned above was

that of the Egyptians, and was rendered necessary by the long

process of embalming, which obliged them to keep the body out of

the grave for seventy days, as we learn both from Herodotus and

Diodorus. Seven days by the order of God a man was to mourn for

his dead, because during that time he was considered as unclean;

but when those were finished he was to purify himself, and

consider the mourning as ended; Nu 19:11,19. Thus God gave

seven days, in some cases thirty, to mourn in: man, ever in his

own estimation wiser than the word of God, has added eleven whole

months to the term, which nature itself pronounces to be absurd,

because it is incapable of supporting grief for such a time; and

thus mourning is now, except in the first seven or thirty days, a

mere solemn ill-conducted FARCE, a grave mimicry, a vain show,

that convicts itself of its own hypocrisy. Who will rise up on

the side of God and common sense, and restore becoming sorrow on

the death of a relative to decency of garb and moderation in its

continuance? Suppose the near relatives of the deceased were to

be allowed seven days of seclusion from society, for the purpose

of meditating on death and eternity, and after this to appear in a

mourning habit for thirty days; every important end would be

accomplished, and hypocrisy, the too common attendant of man, be

banished, especially from that part of his life in which deep

sincerity is not less becoming than in the most solemn act of his

religious intercourse with God.

In a kind of politico-religious institution formed by his late

majesty Ferdinand IV., king of Naples and the Sicilies, I find the

following rational institute relative to this point: "There shall

be no mourning among you but only on the death of a father,

mother, husband, or wife. To render to these the last duties of

affection, children, wives, and husbands only shall be permitted

to wear a sign or emblem of grief: a man may wear a crape tied

round his right arm; a woman, a black handkerchief around her

neck; and this in both cases for only two months at the most."

Is there a purpose which religion, reason, or decency can demand

that would not be answered by such external mourning as this? Only

such relatives as the above, brothers and sisters being included,

can mourn; all others make only a part of the dumb hypocritical


Verse 12. And his sons did unto him] This and the thirteenth

verse have been supposed by Mr. Locke and others to belong to the

conclusion of the preceding chapter, in which connection they

certainly read more consistently than they do here.

Verse 15. Saw that their father was dead] This at once argues

both a sense of guilt in their own consciences, and a want of

confidence in their brother. They might have supposed that

hitherto he had forborne to punish them merely on their father's

account; but now that he was dead, and Joseph having them

completely in his power, they imagined that he would take

vengeance on them for their former conduct towards him.

Thus conscience records criminality; and, by giving birth to

continual fears and doubtfulness, destroys all peace of mind,

security, and confidence. On this subject an elegant poet has

spoken with his usual point and discernment:-

Exemplo quodcumque malo committitur, ipsi

Displicet auctori. Prima est haec ultio, quod se

Judice nemo nocens absolvitur, improba quamvis

Gratia fallaci Praetoris vicerit urna.

JUV. Sat. xiii. 1, &c.

Happily metaphrased by Mr. Dryden:-

He that commits a fault shall quickly find

The pressing guilt lies heavy on his mind.

Though bribes, or favour shall assert his cause,

Pronounce him guiltless, and elude the laws,

None quits himself; his own impartial thought

Will damn, and conscience will record the fault.

This, first, the wicked feels.

We have seen this in the preceding history often exemplified in

the case of Joseph's brethren.

Verse 16. Thy father did command] Whether he did or not we

cannot tell. Some think they had feigned this story, but that is

not so likely. Jacob might have had suspicions too, and might have

thought that the best way to prevent evil was to humble themselves

before their brother, and get a fresh assurance of his


Verse 17. The servants of the God of thy father.] These words

were wonderfully well chosen, and spoken in the most forcible

manner to Joseph's piety and filial affection. No wonder then

that he wept when they spake to him.

Verse 19. Am I in the place of God?] These words may be

understood either as a question, or an affirmative proposition.

How should I take any farther notice of your transgression? I

have passed it by, the matter lies now between God and you. Or,

in the order of Divine providence I am now in God's place; he has

furnished me with means, and made me a distributor of his bounty;

I will therefore not only nourish you, but also your little ones,

Ge 50:21: and therefore he spake comfortably unto them, as in

Ge 45:8, telling them that he attributed the whole business to

the particular providence of God rather than to any ill will or

malice in them, and that, in permitting him to be brought into

Egypt, God had graciously saved their lives, the life of their

father, the lives of the people of Canaan, and of the Egyptians:

as therefore God had honoured him by making him vicegerent in the

dispensations of his especial bounty towards so many people, it

was impossible he should be displeased with the means by which

this was brought about.

Verse 22. Joseph dwelt in Egypt] Continued in Egypt after his

return from Canaan till his death; he, and his father's house-all

the descendants of Israel, till the exodus or departure under the

direction of Moses and Aaron, which was one hundred and forty-four

years after.

Verse 23. Were brought up upon Joseph's knees.] They were

educated by him, or under his direction; his sons and their

children continuing to acknowledge him as patriarch, or head of

the family, as long as he lived.

Verse 24. Joseph said-I die] That is, I am dying; and God will

surely visit you-he will yet again give you, in the time when it

shall be essentially necessary, the most signal proof of his

unbounded love towards the seed of Jacob.

And bring you out of this land] Though ye have here every thing

that can render life comfortable, yet this is not the typical

land, the land given by covenant, the land which represents the

rest that remains for the people of God.

Verse 25. Ye shall carry up my bones] That I may finally rest

with my ancestors in the land which God gave to Abraham, to Isaac,

and to Jacob; and which is a pledge as it is a type of the kingdom

of Heaven. Thus says the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews,

Heb 11:22:

"By FAITH Joseph, when he died, (τελευτων, when dying,) made

mention of the departure (εξοδου, of the EXODUS) of the children

of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. From this

it is evident that Joseph considered all these things as typical,

and by this very commandment expressed his faith in the

immortality of the soul, and the general resurrection of the dead.

This oath, by which Joseph then bound his brethren, their

posterity considered as binding on themselves; and Moses took

care, when he departed from Egypt, to carry up Joseph's body with

him, Ex 13:19; which was afterwards buried in

Shechem, Jos 24:32, the very

portion which Jacob had purchased from the Amorites, and which

he gave to his son Joseph, Ge 48:22; Ac 7:16. See the reason

for this command as given by Chrysostom, vol. ii., p. 695, sec.


Verse 26. Joseph died, being a hundred and ten years old]

ben meah vaeser shanim; literally, the son of a

hundred and ten years. Here the period of time he lived is

personified, all the years of which it was composed being

represented as a nurse or father, feeding, nourishing, and

supporting him to the end. This figure, which is termed by

rhetoricians prosopopaeia, is very frequent in Scripture; and by

this virtues, vices, forms, attributes, and qualities, with every

part of inanimate nature, are represented as endued with reason

and speech, and performing all the actions of intelligent beings.

They embalmed him] See Clarke on Ge 50:2. The same

precautions were taken to preserve his body as to preserve that of

his father Jacob; and this was particularly necessary in his case,

'because his body was to be carried to Canaan a hundred and

forty-four years after; which was the duration of the Israelites'

bondage after the death of Joseph.

And he was put in a coffin in Egypt.] On this subject I shall

subjoin some useful remarks from Harmer's Observations, which

several have borrowed without acknowledgment. I quoted my own

edition of this Work, vol. iii., p. 69, &c. Lond. 1808.

"There were some methods of honouring the dead which demand our

attention; the being put into a coffin has been in particular

considered as a mark of distinction.

"With us the poorest people have their coffins; if the relations

cannot afford them, the parish is at the expense. In the east, on

the contrary, they are not always used, even in our times. The

ancient Jews probably buried their dead in the same manner:

neither was the body of our Lord put in a coffin, nor that of

Elisha, whose bones were touched by the corpse that was let down

a little after into his sepulchre, 2Ki 13:21. That

coffins were anciently used in Egypt, all agree; and antique

coffins of stone and of sycamore wood are still to be seen in that

country, not to mention those said to be made of a sort of

pasteboard, formed by folding and gluing cloth together a great

number of times, curiously plastered, and then painted with


"As it was an ancient Egyptian custom, and was not used in the

neighbouring countries, on these accounts the sacred historian was

doubtless led to observe of Joseph that he was not only embalmed,

but was also put in a coffin, both being practices almost peculiar

to the Egyptians.

"Mr. Maillet conjectures that all were not inclosed in coffins

which were laid in the Egyptian repositories of the dead, but that

it was an honour appropriated to persons of distinction; for after

having given an account of several niches which are found in those

chambers of death, he adds: 'But it must not be imagined that the

bodies deposited in these gloomy apartments were all inclosed in

chests, and placed in niches. The greater part were simply

embalmed and swathed, after which they laid them one by the side

of the other, without any ceremony. Some were even put into these

tombs without any embalming at all, or with such a slight one that

there remains nothing of them in the linen in which they were

wrapped but the bones, and these half rotten. It is probable that

each considerable family had one of these burial-places to

themselves; that the niches were designed for the bodies of the

heads of the family; and that those of their domestics and slaves

had no other care taken of them than merely laying them in the

ground after being slightly embalmed, and sometimes even without

that; which was probably all that was done to heads of families of

less distinction.'-Lett. 7, p. 281. The same author gives an

account of a mode of burial anciently practised in that country,

which has been but recently discovered: it consisted in placing

the bodies, after they were swathed up, on a layer of charcoal,

and covering them with a mat, under a bed of sand seven or eight

feet deep.

"Hence it seems evident that coffins were not universally used

in Egypt, and were only used for persons of eminence and

distinction. It is also reasonable to believe that in times so

remote as those of Joseph they might have been much less common

than afterwards, and that consequently Joseph's being put in a

coffin in Egypt might be mentioned with a design to express the

great honours the Egyptians did him in death, as well as in

life; being treated after the most sumptuous manner, embalmed, and

put into a coffin."

It is no objection to this account that the widow of Nain's son

is represented as carried forth to be buried in a σοπος or bier;

for the present inhabitants of the Levant, who are well known to

lay their dead in the earth uninclosed, carry them frequently out

to burial in a kind of coffin, which is not deposited in the

grave, the body being taken out of it, and placed in the grave in

a reclining posture. It is probable that the coffins used at Nain

were of the same kind, being intended for no other purpose but to

carry the body to the place of interment, the body itself being

buried without them.

It is very probable that the chief difference was not in being

with or without a coffin, but in the expensiveness of the coffin

itself; some of the Egyptian coffins being made of granite, and

covered all over with hieroglyphics, the cutting of which must

have been done at a prodigious expense, both of time and money;

the stone being so hard that we have no tools by which we can make

any impression on it. Two of these are now in the British Museum,

that appear to have belonged to some of the nobles of Egypt. They

are dug out of the solid stone, and adorned with almost

innumerable hieroglyphics. One of these, vulgarly called

Alexander's tomb, is ten feet three inches and a quarter long, ten

inches thick in the sides, in breadth at top five feet three

inches and a half, in breadth at bottom four feet two inches and a

half, and three feet ten in depth, and weighs about ten tons. In

such a coffin I suppose the body of Joseph was deposited; and such

a one could not have been made and transported to Canaan at an

expense that any private individual could bear. It was with

incredible labour and at an extraordinary expense that the coffin

in question was removed the distance of but a few miles, from the

ship that brought it from Egypt, to its present residence in the

British Museum. Judge, then, at what an expense such a coffin

must have been digged, engraved, and transported over the desert

from Egypt to Canaan, a distance of three hundred miles! We need

not be surprised to hear of carriages and horsemen, a very great

company, when such a coffin was to be carried so far, with a

suitable company to attend it.

Joseph's life was the shortest of all the patriarchs, for which

Bishop Patrick gives a sound physical reason-he was the son of his

father's old age. It appears from Archbishop Usher's Chronology

that Joseph governed Egypt under four kings, Mephramuthosis,

Thmosis, Amenophis, and Orus. His government, we know, lasted

eighty years; for when he stood before Pharaoh he was thirty

years of age, Ge 41:46, and he died when he was

one hundred and ten.

On the character and conduct of Joseph many remarks have already

been made in the preceding notes. On the subject of his piety

there can be but one opinion. It was truly exemplary, and

certainly was tried in cases in which few instances occur of

persevering fidelity. His high sense of the holiness of God,

the strong claims of justice, and the rights of hospitality and

gratitude, led him, in the instance of the solicitations of his

master's wife, to act a part which, though absolutely just and

proper, can never be sufficiently praised. Heathen authors boast

of some persons of such singular constancy; but the intelligent

reader will recollect that these relations stand in general in

their fabulous histories, and are destitute of those

characteristics which truth essentially requires; such, I mean, as

the story of Hippolytus and Phaedra, Bellerophon and Antea or

Sthenobaea, Peleus and Astydamia, and others of this complexion,

which appear to be marred pictures, taken from this highly

finished original which the inspired writer has fairly drawn from


His fidelity to his master is not less evident, and God's

approbation of his conduct is strongly marked; for he caused

whatsoever he did to prosper, whether a slave in the house of his

master, a prisoner in the dungeon, or a prime minister by the

throne, which is a full proof that his ways pleased him; and this

is more clearly seen in the providential deliverances by which he

was favoured.

On the political conduct of Joseph there are conflicting

opinions. On the one hand it is asserted that "he found the

Egyptians a free people, and that he availed himself of a most

afflicting providence of God to reduce them all to a state of

slavery, destroyed their political consequence, and made their

king despotic." In all these respects his political measures have

been strongly vindicated, not only as being directed by God, but

as being obviously the best, every thing considered, for the

safety, honour, and welfare of his sovereign and the kingdom. It

is true he bought the lands of the people for the king, but he

farmed them to the original occupiers again, at the moderate and

fixed crown rent of one-fifth part of the produce. "Thus did he

provide for the liberty and independence of the people, while he

strengthened the authority of the king by making him sole

proprietor of the lands. And to secure the people from farther

exaction, Joseph made it a law over all the land of Egypt, that

Pharaoh (i. e. the king) should have only the fifth part; which

law subsisted to the time of Moses, Ge 47:21-26. By this wise

regulation," continues Dr. Hales, "the people had four-fifths of

the produce of the lands for their own use, and were exempted from

any farther taxes, the king being bound to support his civil and

military establishment out of the crown rents." By the original

constitution of Egypt established by Menes, and Thoth or Hermes

his prime minister, the lands were divided into three portions,

between the king, the priests, and the military, each party

being bound to support its respective establishment by the

produce. See the quotations from Diodorus Siculus, in the

note on Ge 47:23.

See Clarke on Ge 47:23.

It is certain, therefore, that the constitution of Egypt was

considerably altered by Joseph, and there can be no doubt that

much additional power was, by this alteration, vested in the hands

of the king; but as we do not find that any improper use was made

of this power, we may rest assured that it was so qualified and

restricted by wholesome regulations, though they are not here

particularized, as completely to prevent all abuse of the regal

power, and all tyrannical usurpation of popular rights. That the

people were nothing but slaves to the king, the military, and the

priests before, appears from the account given by Diodorus; each

of the three estates probably allowing them a certain portion of

land for their own use, while cultivating the rest for the use and

emolument of their masters. Matters, however, became more regular

under the administration of Joseph; and it is perhaps not too much

to say, that, previously to this, Egypt was without a fixed

regular constitution, and that it was not the least of the

blessings that it owed to the wisdom and prudence of Joseph, that

he reduced it to a regular form of government, giving the people

such an interest in the safety of the state as was well calculated

to insure their exertions to defend the nation, and render the

constitution fixed and permanent.

It is well known that Justin, one of the Roman historians, has

made particular and indeed honourable mention of Joseph's

administration in Egypt, in the account he gives of Jewish

affairs, lib. xxxvi. cap. 2. How the relation may have stood in

Trogus Pompeius, from whose voluminous works in forty-four books

or volumes Justin abridged his history, we cannot tell, as the

work of Trogus is irrecoverably lost; but it is evident that the

account was taken in the main from the Mosaic history, and it is

written with as much candour as can be expected from a prejudiced

and unprincipled heathen.

Minimus aetate inter fratres Joseph fruit, &c. "Joseph was the

youngest of his brethren, who, being envious of his excellent

endowments, stole him and privately sold him to a company of

foreign merchants, by whom he was carried into Egypt; where,

having diligently cultivated magic arts, he became, in a short

time, a prime favourite with the king himself. For he was the

most sagacious of men in explaining prodigies; and he was the

first who constructed the science of interpreting dreams. Nor was

there any thing relative to laws human or Divine with which he

seemed unacquainted; for he predicted a failure of the crops many

years before it took place; and the inhabitants of Egypt must have

been famished had not the king, through his counsel, made an edict

to preserve the fruits for several years. And his experiments

were so powerful, that the responses appear to have been given,

not by man, but by God." Tantaque experimenta ejus fuerunt, ut

non ab homine, sed a Deo, responsa dari viderentur. I believe

Justin refers here in the word experimenta, to his figment of

magical incantations eliciting oracular answers. Others have

translated the words: "So excellent were his regulations that they

seemed rather to be oracular responses, not given by man, but by


I have already compared Joseph with his father Jacob,

See Clarke on Ge 48:12, and shall make no apology for having

given the latter a most decided superiority. Joseph was great;

but his greatness came through the interposition of especial

providences. Jacob was great, mentally and practically great,

under the ordinary workings of Providence; and, towards the close

of his life, not less distinguished for piety towards God than his

son Joseph was in the holiest period of his life.

THUS terminates the Book of GENESIS, the most ancient record in

the world; including the history of two grand subjects, CREATION

and PROVIDENCE, of each of which it gives a summary, but

astonishingly minute, and detailed account. From this book almost

all the ancient philosophers, astronomers, chronologists, and

historians have taken their respective data; and all the modern

improvements and accurate discoveries in different arts and

sciences have only served to confirm the facts detailed by Moses;

and to show that all the ancient writers on these subjects have

approached to or receded from TRUTH and the phenomena of

nature, in proportion as they have followed the Mosaic history.

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