joseph - a command resulting from faith
“By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones” (Heb. 11:22)
Although there is only this single verse in the Chapter of the Faithful concerning Joseph its mere twenty-two words tell us a great deal, both in regard to his faith and the significance of that which by faith he commanded. This particular manifestation of Joseph’s faith occurred at the time of his falling asleep in death, the Greek in this respect speaking of the ending, or finishing of his life. This might seem to be obvious, but according to the Greek it is suggestive of his dying at the end of a mission accomplished, and it is in this light, and according to the power of his faith, that Joseph gave this final outstanding commandment.
Reference to “making mention” speaks of exercising the memory, recollecting, or bringing to mind, and the word “departing” is from the Greek exodov exodos, meaning “exit”, and figuratively, “death”. It is translated as “decease” in Luke 9:31 in the record of the Transfiguration in relation to Jesus’ forthcoming Exodus in death and resurrection at Jerusalem. The Spirit through Peter also uses the same word (2Pet.1:15) in looking to his own death, and this significantly is linked with his own experience of the Transfiguration, which he cites as a means of outstanding evidence of the truth of his preaching concerning the making known of the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is therefore to be seen a similarity between his objective and that of Joseph.
So far as Joseph is concerned we are being told that he brought to remembrance things that had already been Divinely revealed to Abraham some two hundred years previously regarding the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, which was to take place some further two hundred years after Joseph’s decease, or exodus. Joseph’s decease was to be kept in remembrance in the matter of the command concerning his bones – which goes yet further in looking to the decease, or Exodus of the Lord Jesus Christ in the bringing together of the national and individual Servant. We read in Hosea 11:1 concerning the nation in its infancy, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” This also has an application to the circumstances which caused the infant Jesus to be taken into Egypt, and then, at the death of Herod, to be brought out into “the Land of Israel” (Mat 2:14,21). It is interesting to note the reference to the Land of Israel in this connection, it also being found in the prophecy of Ezekiel. At that time the Land was known as “Palestine” and remained so until the evening of 12th May, 1948, the day before the ending of Britain’s thirty-one years’ Mandate and, after much discussion, and contrary to earlier speculations, David Ben-Gurion proposed, and received acceptance for, the name Israel. It could not, of course, have been otherwise, the Holy One of Israel having inspired His prophet Ezekiel and Gospel writer Matthew to have prophetically recorded it as the Divine intention.
The revelation which Joseph was bringing to the notice of the children of Israel was that recorded in Gen.15:13-16 in which Yahweh confirmed the Covenant of the Holy Land with Abraham, telling him that he was surely to know that his descendants would be as strangers and slaves in Egypt, that they would be afflicted for four hundred years, that Egypt would be subject to Divine judgement when Israel came out of the land with riches. This was to occur in the fourth generation which may be computed according to actual life-spans (as suggested by Bro H P Mansfield in his verse-by-verse exposition of Genesis, p.204), that being from Abraham at the age of his call, through Jacob, Kohath and to the age of Aaron when Israel came out of Egypt. An alternative understanding is according to descendants from the time when Israel entered Egypt, and the four generations of Levi, Kohath, Amram and Moses.
This confirmation of the Covenant, and its associated prophecy, was therefore brought to remembrance by Joseph at the time of his dying, it being a matter of faith on the part of Israel that a future generation some two hundred years into the future was in reality to leave Egypt. It is in Gen. 50:24-26 that we read of Joseph saying unto his brethren, “I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.” So it is that Genesis opens with the declaration of Divine Light, and ends with the darkness suggested by reference to “a coffin in Egypt.”
There is, however, hope in Joseph’s last words with a double assurance that God would certainly – without any possibility of failure – visit Israel at the appropriate time, and this is the context of the command Joseph gave regarding the carrying of his bones out of Egypt. There was, by faith on Joseph’s part, the certainty of the Exodus as well as the certainty that his bones would not remain in Egypt, thereby indicating that he had no place in that land; his hope lay in the Promised Land which he knew he would see by resurrection. In this respect it is significant to bear in mind that he had not seen the Land since he was little more than in his youth. None of his subsequent trials and tribulations, or the honoured position he had held in Egypt had caused him to lose his faith in the promises made to his great grandfather Abraham and confirmed in his grandfather Isaac -16- and his father Jacob. God had brought Joseph out of the pit, had delivered him from prison to make him ruler of the land, but so far as Joseph was concerned all the great things God had done for him were not to overshadow what God had said according to His purpose concerning His people and His Land.
THE SUFFERING OF JOSEPH
It is in Ps. 105:17-22 that we are told of the harsh experiences that Joseph endured, such as are not revealed elsewhere. We are told that God had sent Joseph before “the seed of Abraham his servant,” before the “children of Jacob His chosen”; he being “sold for a servant, whose feet were hurt with fetters,” being “laid in iron,” all this until “the time that His word came” and by which he was tried, Pharaoh making him “lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance (mgn. Heb. possession): to bind his princes at his pleasure; and teach his senators wisdom.” The record in the Book of Genesis is outstandingly detailed in regard to the honour that Joseph enjoyed as second in rank to the king. On this basis Joseph could have been buried with honour in a pyramid or great Egyptian temple, but it is made clear that Joseph’s faith was in what God had promised His people, and their hope, even the Hope of Israel. Future generations of archaeologists and tourists were not intended to investigate and view a pyramid or tomb of a son of Jacob. All this is typical of our Lord, Joseph being an outstanding type of the Saviour.
In Joseph’s attitude we have an example of faith being seen as “the substance (mgn. or, ground, or confidence) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1) Joseph, in having remembered God’s promises to Abraham, would not have forgotten His promises through Israel his father. According to the record of Gen 48:21 when Israel was about to die, he assured Joseph that God would be with him, and would bring him again unto the land of his fathers. For forty years Joseph’s bones were carried in a heavy stone coffin through the wilderness for all to see, with the intention of keeping alive in the people the faith of Joseph. By contrast, however, the bones of the first rebellious generation that was so miraculously visited and brought out of Egypt, remained to perish in the wilderness, while Joseph’s bones were taken into the Land of Promise and buried at Shechem, as we are told in Josh 24:32. Joshua buried them in the “parcel of ground which Jacob had bought of the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem,” to become “the inheritance for the children of Joseph.” “Shechem” means “shoulder”, that which bears the burden, such being typical of the Lord Jesus Christ. The burial place had been purchased by Jacob as an act of redemption, it apparently being where Abraham settled when first entering the Land and at which his Seed, Christ, was promised the inheritance of the Land (Gen 12:6,7); it was in the area of Mount Ephraim, and therefore associated with Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, the borders of whose territories met in that area; it was the place to which Joshua assembled Israel after the conquest of Jericho and Ai, to hear the proclamation of the cursings and blessings from Gerizim and Ebal; it was also the last place at which Joshua addressed the children of Israel; it became a Levitical city, and city of refuge; it was the place where Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman offering her the living water that whoso find it should be as a well of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:10,14).
THE LESSON FOR OURSELVES
As the “Israel of God”, or Spiritual Israel, we do not belong to the Egypt from which we have been called having made our Exodus at baptism, now journeying through the wilderness of separation, having the hope of entering into our promised rest as a result of the Exodus which the Master accomplished at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). Such was the faith of Joseph, when he “gave commandment concerning his bones.”
The day surely draws near when Joseph will be resurrected at his resting place, and called to Sinai to become part of the immortalised and glorified multitudinous Christ Body that is to rise up from Seir, to shine forth from mount Paran (Deut 33:2), to “come from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, glorious in apparel (Heb. lebûsh signifying clothing associated with a wife i.e., a bride), mighty to save” (Is 63:1) in the time of Jacob’s trouble at his second Exodus, saving first the tents of Judah (Zech.12:7), then the house of Israel in its again coming out of the antitypical Egypt, to be purged of the rebels, then brought into the bond of the Covenant, and to enter into the Land of Israel (Ezek.20:37,38). And all this according to the promise that, as a wife returning to her Husband she should be “allured … into the wilderness … spoken to … comfortably … given … her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt” (Hosea 2:14,15).
Let us be encouraged by these wonderful things that are revealed in the Holy Inspired Word for our learning, and preserved even to these last evil days of the Gentiles, preparing ourselves for the return of the Master, to the end that we might be found acceptable at his Judgement Seat.