Let’s read Genesis 50:24-26 says, “And Joseph said 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.” The story of Joseph and his brethren is well known among the Lord’s people. Even many non-believers are familiar with this story of hatred, betrayal, suffering, repentance, recovery, and redemption.

In this account, we can easily recognize the Lord working in the background to preserve and bless His people, in spite of their actions. Of course, the Lord knew there would be a famine in the land, so He allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery (Genesis 37), to be put in jail (Genesis 39), to be freed from jail and exalted to second in command of all Egypt (Genesis 40-41). In that position, Joseph was able to save the lives of his family and thus preserve the nation of Israel. In all this, God’s providence was manifest. He would accomplish His purposes, in spite of the actions of His people. Joseph recognized this for he said to his brethren in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”

Before we consider the request of Joseph concerning his death and place of burial, let’s consider his father’s request regarding his death and burial. We read in Genesis 50:4-5, “And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh, saying, If now I have found grace in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, My father made me swear, saying, Lo, I die: in my grave which I have digged for me in the land of Canaan, there shalt thou bury me. Now therefore let me go up, I pray thee, and bury my father, and I will come again.” Do you see the difference in their requests? Jacob did not want to be buried in Egypt; he wanted to be buried in Canaan. Joseph gained permission from Pharaoh and honored his father’s request. Joseph’s request was different. He desired for his body to be preserved and carried out of Egypt to be buried in Canaan when the Israelites left Egypt. How long were the Israelites in Egypt? I believe Genesis 15:13-14 makes it clear, “And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them FOUR HUNDRED YEARS; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.”

Why did Joseph determine to leave Egypt when the Israelites left? We read in Hebrews 11:22, “By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.” It was FAITH that caused Joseph to believe that one day, the Israelites would leave Egypt and return to their land. Of course, it seems he had no idea when that would be, but he certainly had faith that it would happen one day, so he gave a commandment that his bones should be preserved and taken with the Israelites when they left Egypt, to be buried in Canaan.

We know his request was honored from the following verses:

  • Exodus 13:19, “And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.”
  • Joshua 24:32, “And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.” (248.10)