Vayehi–Full Circle

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die; but God will surely take notice of you, and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and  to Jacob.” So Joseph made the Israelites swear, saying, “When God takes notice of you, you shall carry up my bones from here.”  (Gen. 50:24-25)

Previously, when Joseph told his story, his coming to Egypt is presented as saving his family and the lives of many others as well (Gen 45:7, 50:20).  Now, at his death, he returns to the narrative of Israel and the land, where leaving Egypt becomes identified with deliverance.  Joseph asks that, in death, his bones share in that return.  His words prove prophetic in Exodus 3:16, where God uses the same words “take notice” to announce the deliverance to Israel.

Moses himself takes the bones of Joseph up to Canaan (Exodus 13:9).   The Mishnah  (Sotah 1:7,9) sees this as an illustration of the principle “by the measure you mete out to others, it shall be meted out to you,” since Joseph had previously undertaken the trip to Canaan to bury his father Jacob (Gen. 50:2-14).   “Ultimately, those bones were buried in Shechem (Josh 24:32), the very city to which Jacob had sent Joseph, then a brash teenager, at the beginning of this astonishing tale of discord and reconciliation in the family that bears God’s promise (Gen 37:13).” (Jon Levenson, Jewish Study Bible)

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