Useful Bible Studies > Hebrews Commentary > chapter 11

The bones of Joseph

Hebrews 11:22

Jacob died in Egypt. Many years later, his son Joseph died there too. So they both died away from Canaan, the country that God had promised to their family.

Both Jacob and Joseph wanted the family to bury their bodies in Canaan. So they each made special funeral arrangements. They wanted to remind their family that, even at their deaths, they still trusted Godís promises. They believed that God would give Canaan to their family in the future. That is faith: active belief and trust in God. As Hebrews 11:13 says, they were still living by faith at their deaths.

You can read Jacobís instructions about his funeral in Genesis 49:29-32. The record of the funeral itself is in Genesis 50:1-14. It was a great event because Joseph was very important in Egyptís government. The whole family travelled especially to Canaan in order to bury Jacobís body there. And many officials from Egypt went with them. After the funeral, they all returned to Egypt.

Joseph did not want his own funeral to be like that. He knew about the words that God had spoken to Abraham (Genesis 15:13-16). God had told Abraham that the family would remain in Egypt for 400 years. And during that time, they would suffer much. But in the end, God would rescue them. And he would bring them to Canaan, as he promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Godís promises had given hope to Joseph while he suffered in Egypt (Psalm 105:17-19). That seems to be the purpose of the promises that God gave to Joseph in his dreams (Genesis 37:5-10). And Joseph wanted to leave something so that Godís promises would give hope to the family during their troubles. What he left was his own bones.

So Joseph asked the family not to bury his body. They should preserve his bones. Those bones would remind them that they would not always live in Egypt. When God rescued them from Egypt, they should carry Josephís bones with them. And then they should take the bones with them into the country that God had promised to them (Genesis 50:24-26).

Josephís instructions were unusual, but the family obeyed them. They kept the bones in a coffin (box) in Egypt. When Moses led them out of Egypt, they took the bones with them (Exodus 13:19). When Joshua took them into Canaan, they brought the bones. You can read how they finally buried the bones in Joshua 24:32.

Next part: The faith of Mosesí parents (Hebrews 11:23)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.