4 “And when the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, please speak in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, 5 ‘My father made me swear, saying, “I am about to die: in my tomb that I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there shall you bury me.” Now therefore, let me please go up and bury my father. Then I will return.’ ” 6 And Pharaoh answered, “Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear.” (Genesis 50:4–6 (ESV)
It is interesting to observe from today’s text that even though Joseph was the second in command of all of Egypt, he did not presume upon his authority. Prior to his leaving for Canaan to bury his father Jacob, Joseph requested permission from Pharaoh to make the journey.
Additionally, Joseph did not inquire directly to Pharaoh but rather spoke to his household. He asked them to speak to Pharaoh on his behalf regarding his request. This displays not only a sensitivity to palace decorum but also a humble spirit (Micah 6:8).
Another reason for Joseph not speaking directly to Pharaoh was cultural. During times of mourning, it was Hebrew custom to let one’s hair and beard grow. Such an appearance would have been objectionable to Pharaoh (Gen. 41:14).
Following the seventy days of mourning, Joseph prepared to take Jacob’s back to Canaan for burial. Pharaoh was more than willing to give Joseph permission to go and make the journey. Joseph promised to return to Egypt following the burial.
One commentator explains, “Jacob’s favorite son is deferential when speaking with the king. His conditional statement, “If now I have found favor,” is designed to communicate the gravity and importance of the request. Joseph implies here that his stewardship should give him enough standing in Pharaoh’s eyes to have his wish granted. Moreover, Joseph leaves out Jacob’s plea that he not be interred in the land of the Nile (Gen. 47:29–31) as well as his desire to lay with his ancestors (Gen. 49:28–33), most likely because he did not want the pharaoh to doubt his loyalty to Egypt. Joseph pledges to return to Egypt and stresses that Jacob belonged in the tomb he labored to prepare to assuage any fears the king might have. Therefore, Pharaoh grants his request (50:5–6). Though an adult himself, Joseph remains committed to honoring his father by honoring his godly plea for burial in Canaan. May we all likewise be committed to respecting our elders (Deut. 5:16).”
No matter how old and successful we may be, God calls us to respect those who are older and who possess positions of responsibility. These positions may include the work place, school administrators and teachers, neighbors, government employees such as police and first responders, along with church leadership (Ephesians 6:1-3; I Timothy 5:1; I Peter 2:13-17).
Whatever our age, may each believer in Christ show respect to those for whom respect is due. Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!