50 1 Joseph flung himself on his father’s face, wept over him, and kissed him. 2 Joseph then ordered his servants, his physicians, to embalm his father, and the physicians embalmed Israel. 3 A full forty days were required to complete the embalming. The Egyptians mourned him for seventy days. 4 After the days of mourning had passed, Joseph spoke to Pharaoh’s household: “If I have found favor in your eyes, I ask you to speak to Pharaoh this message: 5 My father made me swear, saying, ‘I am about to die. In the burial site, I prepared for myself in the land of Canaan, there you must bury me.’ Now, let me go up, bury my father, and return.”
6 Pharaoh replied, “Go up and bury your father, as he had you swear.”
7 So Joseph went up to bury his father. All of Pharaoh’s servants went with him, together with the elders of his household and the land of Egypt. 8 Joseph’s entire household, along with his brothers, and father’s households went up. Only the children, flocks, and cattle remained in the land of Goshen.9 Along with him also went chariots and horsemen; the procession was prestigious.
10 When they arrived at Goren ha-Atad/Threshing Floor of Brambles on the other side of the Jordan River, they again keened heavily and deeply mourned. They grieved his father for seven days.
11 When the natives of the land, the Canaanites, saw the observance of grief in Goren ha-Atad, they said, “This heavy mourning is by Egypt.” Therefore, its name became Abel-Mizraim/Meadow of Mourning. It is on the other side of the Jordan. 12 Israel’s sons did for him just as he had them swear. 13 His sons carried him up to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave in the field of Machpelah, which Abraham had purchased as burial property from Ephron the Hittite, facing Mamre. 14 Then Joseph returned to Egypt, he, his brothers, and everyone who had gone up with him to bury his father.
15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was now dead, they said, “If Joseph holds a grudge against us, he will pay us back for all the terrible things we did to him?” 16 So they approached Joseph, claiming, “Your father gave orders before he died, telling us, 17 ‘This is what you should say to Joseph: “Please, forgive the crime and offense of your brothers, for the trouble they caused you. Now, I beseech you to forgive the sins of the servants of your father’s God.”’” Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
18 His brothers came and flung themselves before him, and said, “Here we are, your slaves.”
19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid. Have I replaced God? 20 While you planned something bad for me, God re-planned it for good, to bring about this very day and keep many people alive. 21 So, do not be afraid. I will sustain you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke to their hearts.
Joseph has wept upon the neck of Benjamin and his brothers. At the death of his father, Joseph weeps wordlessly upon the face of his father, Jacob. After Jacob died, Joseph had his body mummified. This is an Egyptian tradition, not Hebrew, and can remind readers of the Egyptianization of Joseph. There is also a practical consideration of how to return Jacob’s body to the Cave at Machpelah, the family burial spot so far away in Canaan.
The number of days for mummification and mourning are reported through a Hebraic sensibility, rather than an accurate accounting of Egyptian practice.
Whatever the time frame, after an appropriate time, Joseph approaches Pharaoh for permission to return with his father’s body for burial in Canaan. As Pharaohs do, his permission came with caveats. The Hebrew children and flocks were kept in Egypt. This might be considered as security held to guarantee Joseph’s return. Additionally, Egyptian officials went along with Jacob’s family, and chariots and cavalry guarded the whole procession. These not only protected those going out but ensured they would return. Joseph was too valuable an asset to the Pharaoh to lose.
The procession made it to the Jordan River and Jacob was buried with his grandfather Abraham and grandmother Sarah, his mother Rebekah and father Isaac, and his first wife, Leah.
Either after Jacob’s death or his burial, Joseph’s half-brothers claim Jacob had instructed that Joseph forgive his brothers for their betrayal and sale of him to some Ishmaelites. The brothers deeply bow and offer to become slaves (sheaves) of Joseph. This recapitulation takes readers back to Joseph’s first family dreams, and everyone is reminded that good had come, they are not to fear, and Joseph returns to sustaining his family (though at a distance) and further indebting people for Pharaoh’s gain.
A resolution seems to be made, fearful minds are comforted, all seems right with the world, and they were about to live happily ever after—except Jacob’s multiplying family is not with him in Canaan.