Economic conditions were so dire in Egypt that the people had spent all of their money for food and were facing the prospect of starvation. With no money to buy food for themselves, they were also unable to feed their cattle. Joseph traded food for cattle, thus saving the people and their livestock.
Next, with all of their cattle gone, they traded themselves and their land for food. The people then became servants of the king. They were moved into the cities, but were given seed to grow crops as the famine ended. One fifth was to be returned to the king and they could keep the other four fifths for seed and food.
Israel was an old man one hundred forty-seven years of age. He sensed after seventeen years in Egypt, that his life would soon end. Jacob asked Joseph to vow that he would take his body out of Egypt and bury it with his fathers in Canaan. Joseph swore that he would heed his father’s request.
As has been stated earlier, the first-born son was to receive the greatest blessings or inheritance from his father. Jacob accepted Joseph’s sons as equals to his own sons and blessed them after he had blessed their father. Joseph expected his older son, Manasseh to receive the primary blessing. Jacob had other ideas and blessed the younger Ephraim first.
Jacob’s blessings of his twelve sons were delivered partially as obscure prophesies. Reuben, through his sin of adultery with Bilhah had forfeited his birthright. Simeon and Levi were cursed instead of blessed because of their quick temper and anger.
Hidden in Judah’s blessings is a hint of the coming Messiah through his lineage. Jacob’s prophesies concerning his other sons are borne out as one studies the history of the Israelites in the Old Testament.
“And when Jacob had finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.”
After Jacob’s death, he was embalmed. This was a forty-day process in which the body was completely dried. It was wrapped tightly in cloths and placed in a coffin. Thirty more days of mourning later, a great procession of Jacob’s family and Egyptian dignitaries made the journey into Canaan for the burial. Seven additional days of mourning were observed in Canaan.
The brothers of Joseph reasoned that he had been kind to them during the previous seventeen years because of respect for his father. Their father was gone; time for revenge for the great harm that they had committed against their brother. This sin had been gnawing at them for nearly forty years.
Messengers were sent by the brothers to beg for Joseph’s forgiveness. Upon hearing their plea, Joseph again wept. The brothers then appeared before Joseph and fell down at his feet and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”
One of the greatest tragedies in life is the failure of families to live together in harmony. Forgiveness is one of the happiest things that can occur. Joseph repeated the statement that he had made to them seventeen years earlier that they meant evil against him, but that God meant it for good in order to save their lives (to preserve the lineage of Jesus). “Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.”
Joseph lived one hundred ten years—ninety-three of which were in Egypt. He also requested that his bones would be returned to Canaan when they left Egypt many years later as God “swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”