Genesis 50:1 by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:56 mins 43 secs

Dying: Death and Grieving. Genesis 50:1


The main thing we have been focusing on is on the biblical teaching on death and dying. We have seen how Jacob prepared his family for his passing. He made sure he bestowed the double blessing on Manasseh and Ephraim, the two sons of Joseph, and he passed on the blessing to the brothers in chapter 49. The point of application there is that as any good father, parent, adult, we should be prepared for the day-to-day facets of our death and dying.


Genesis chapter 50 begins with the mourning of Jacob's sons over his passing. Genesis 50:1-4 NASB "Then Joseph fell on his father's face, and wept over him and kissed him. [2] Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel. [3] Now forty days were required for it, for such is the period required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days. [4] When the days of mourning for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, "If now I have found favor in your sight, please speak to Pharaoh, saying,"


In these opening verses we see that Joseph weeps, and it is a form of the noun which shows up as "mourning" in verse 4. In verse 1 when Joseph weeps over Jacob the Hebrew word is bakah, and in verse 4 there is a different form of it, a noun form that indicates weeping—"the days of weeping for him were past." So there is a clear recognition in Egyptian society of setting aside a particular time to go through this process of grieving. There are about 25-30 different Hebrew words that are translated to have something to do with grief, grieving or weeping or sorrow that are all used in this context. Most of them are only used in a grief or mourning sense once or twice, so they really don't add a lot to our understanding of the concept. In this particular chapter from verse 1-14 some form of bakah occurs several times, which indicates that the major theme here is the mourning and the grief that the sons are experiencing now that Jacob has gone. So this is very much a doctrine that is foundational to understanding this passage and it illustrates some good things for us.


Some key words for grief or mourning


a)  Saphad, translated in various places to wail, lament, to mourn. It is used for mourning at the time of death. The participial form is used to refer to hired mourners who come to a funeral. One form of the word means to sing a lament, to write out a psalm that would be sung for someone as a lament at death. This is what Jeremiah did when Jerusalem was overrun by the Babylonians in 586. He wrote a lament called Lamentations. This verb is used for Abraham mourning for Sarah in Genesis 23. It describes the sons mourning Jacob here, the mourning of the nation Israel at the death of Samuel in 1 Samuel 25:1, the loss of Saul in 2 Samuel 1:12. It also describes the grieving of Bathsheba at the death of Uriah in 2 Samuel 11:26.  

b)  Abel, translated mourning or sorrow. Whereas saphad emphasizes the overt expression of that grief, abel emphasizes the internal dimension more, the deep, profound sadness and sorrow that accompanies the loss of a loved one. This is the word that describes Jacob's sorrow over the death of Joseph when he was told of Joseph's death in Genesis 37. Of course he wasn't but Jacob didn't know that. This word is also used to describe the sorrow, the sadness of the people of Israel when God rebukes them and disciplines them at two key places in their history. In Exodus 33 after the golden calf incident when God lowers the boom on Israel and tells them that they are stubborn, rebellious and stiff-necked people, he says that He would not travel in their midst. They grieved over what God had said, 33:5. Also at Kadesh-barnea after ten of the spies come back and say there were giants in the land, the cities were all fortified, the people were numerous and couldn't be defeated. Only two said that they could if they trusted God. God said they weren't going to trust Him so He would not give them the land, so the people mourned. The problem with grief is not the grieving and the sadness and the sorrow, it is when you allow that to dominate your thinking and push you to make stupid decisions, and sinful decisions and wrong decisions, because that is what happened at Kadesh. They grieved and decided that although they hadn't trusted God they were going to show Him they trusted Him and so they were going to invade the land. They were massively defeated and suffered a tremendous amount of loss of life because they were not going in on God's timetable. So you can't let your grief and sorrows dominate your thinking when going through a time of loss. We are also told that Samuel grieved over Saul, David grieved over Absolom, Ezra mourned over the unfaithfulness of the returning exiles. So this word is used not only for mourning the loss of someone but also for the loss of blessing, and for just the sinfulness of the people.

c)  In Isaiah 53:10 NASB "But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting {Him} to grief; If He would render Himself {as} a guilt offering, He will see {His} offspring, He will prolong {His} days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand." We have the word chalah where it is talking about how God the Father is putting the Lord Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, to grief at the cross. Chalah indicates the weakness, the physical sickness that often accompanies sorrow.

d)  In Lamentations 3:31-33 there is another word for grief. "For the Lord will not reject forever, For if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion According to His abundant lovingkindness For He does not afflict willingly Or grieve the sons of men." The word here for grief is yagah, which means to suffer, to afflict, to be pained and to grieve, and it indicates the fact that grief is a real pain. It refers to the emotion and the despair brought about by some act or condition. Here it is Jerusalem's misfortunes and the death of so many. But the solution is always found in the grace provision of God. That is the focus of the word; that is what makes the grief of the bearable so different. The grief of the believer is going to be ameliorated by the grace of God. The grace of God provides a solution, so even though our focus is on loss and sorrow, even at the times that we are experiencing that we also know that God has a plan and that He is going to supply sustenance for us no matter what those circumstances might be. Psalm 31:8-12 NASB "And You have not given me over into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a large place. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body {also.}" The psalmist is physically affected by the emotions that he has related to his rejection and those who are opposed to him. "For my life is spent with sorrow And my years with sighing; My strength has failed because of my iniquity, And my body has wasted away. Because of all my adversaries, I have become a reproach, Especially to my neighbors, And an object of dread to my acquaintances; Those who see me in the street flee from me. I am forgotten as a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel." This is a mature believer who has doctrine in his soul, nevertheless his circumstances affect him. That is the thing that we need to understand here is that there is nothing wrong with our spiritual life if we place heartaches or problems or difficulties in life and we go through grief, because that is part of our human condition. David often portrays this when he is going to the Lord in prayer. The point that we have to recognize as believers is that we have to be honest about those emotions. This doesn't mean that we wallow in them or cave in to self-pity; that is not what David is doing. We feel the grief intensely but then we have to decide how we are going to handle that. Are we going to let it overpower us where we just cave in to a lot of self-absorbed self-pity in arrogance, or are we going to let that drive us to a greater dependence upon God. That is what the psalmist is doing. Later in the psalm we see how God turns the sorrow into praise as we focus on doctrine going through the process of grief.

e)  Kaas, sometimes translated anger or provocation, vexation, and at other times grief and sorrow. A lot of times other emotions are mixed in with grief. Grief can be very complex because if you are grieving over the loss of someone, depending on how your relationship has been, that grief can also be mixed with guilt, with anger, bitterness, etc. So it can be a very complex situation depending on what the circumstances are.

f)   The core Greek word that has to do with sorrow and sadness is lupeo [lupew]. It has the idea of grieving, to be afflicted with sorrow, to be sad. It is a intensely emotional word. Lupe [luph] is the noun form, sometimes translated "regret," but it has the idea of being overcome with grief. In Romans 9:1,2 Paul expresses his grief over the fact that his fellow Jews have rejected Christ as their Saviour, and he is mourning for them. NASB "I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart." So grief and mourning doesn't just apply to the loss of a loved one, the loss of a friend, the loss of life; it has to do with sinfulness, with the fact that there are those who have rejected Christ, with the condition of one's nation, of any number of things. It is not something that necessarily makes the believer carnal. There is a general sadness and sorrow about living in the cosmic system, in a fallen world where people reject Christ. The word translated "unceasing grief" is the Greek word odune [o)dunh] which is variously translated. It has the idea of sorrow, torment, grief, pain, distress of body or mind. So it can refer to deep emotional distress over a particular situation.

g)  pentheo [penqew] (Noun form, penqoj) has more of the idea of an external type of grief, similar to the Hebrew saphad.

h)  perilupos [perilupoj]. peri is a Greek preposition that intensifies lupos, the noun, so perilupos deals with a profound, intense sorrow or grief. This is the word which described what Jesus Christ was going through in the Garden of Gethsemane.

i)  sullupeo [sullupew] which has the idea of being afflicted, grieving or grieving together.


That covers the basic words and gives us an idea of what the Bible is talking about, recognizing the legitimacy of sadness and sorrow and mourning at the time of death or even at looking at failures that are taking place within the cosmic system.


Grief and mourning are legitimate realities in a fallen world. It is totally legitimate and spiritual to express grief and to grieve and sorrow. We are not to feel guilty, we are going through a legitimate loss and God made us in such a way that we would feel that pain. Why do we feel that pain? Because we are living in a fallen world. It is a reminder that should drive us to the grace of God and that this world is not what it was designed to be. Sin, suffering, death and all of these things were not part of God's original plan. They are there because of Adam's sin and Adam's failure. So every time we go through anything that causes us to grieve it is a reminder that this isn't the way that God intended it to be, we are living in a world that has this because of sin and because of man's disobedience to God. So we re-route our thinking back to dependence upon the grace of God, dependence upon the throne of God, recognizing that He is the one who is going to take care of things. But we are not going to live in denial, we are not going to create some kind of neurotic fairy-tale castle that everything is just fine and "I am happy," and at the same time we are sorrowful but denying that. That is how human viewpoint has to handle sorrow and sadness and death. All they can do is create a totally fictitious world, a fantasy world and live in denial.


Spiritually mature believers are depicted in Scripture as grieving over the death of their loved ones. Genesis 23:2 NASB "Sarah died in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her."


Genesis 37:34 NASB "So Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days."


Deuteronomy 34:8 NASB "So the sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the days of weeping {and} mourning for Moses came to an end."


Different people grieve in different ways. There are always alternative ways to approaching grieving other than a biblical way.


We may mourn for many reasons. It may be the result of death, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a friend, the loss of a job, loss of income, loss of possessions, loss of health, extremely bad news. Scripturally we see that there are prophets who grieve over the sinful condition of people. Parents may grieve over rebellious children, children who make bad decisions or continue to make bad decisions or refuse to get right with the Lord. So there are a lot of reasons that people have for grieving. Exodus 33:4 when the people heard that the Lord would not go in their midst: NASB "When the people heard this sad word, they went into mourning, and none of them put on his ornaments." Numbers 14:39 NASB "When Moses spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people mourned greatly" because God wasn't going to let them into the land. In 2 Corinthians 12:21 Paul expect5ed believers to mourn over the sin in their life. Samuel mourned over Saul's disobedience and the divine discipline on Saul, 1 Samuel 16:1. Jonathan grieved over the what his father treated David. Parents will grieve over a foolish son, Proverbs 10:1; 17:25. Sometimes we will grieve and be highly anxious over an approaching test or distress or challenge that we see. This is what happened with the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane, Matthew 26:37 NASB "And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved [luph]and distressed [a)dhmonew]. [38] Then He said to them, 'My soul is deeply grieved [perilupoj], to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me'." This is the Lord expressing His own condition. Mark 3:5 NASB "After looking around at them with anger, grieved [sullupew] at their hardness of heart …"


There is legitimacy in mourning. One of the ironic things is in 2 Samuel 12 after Bathsheba has given birth to the baby that was the product of her adultery with David. God has announced that this baby is going to die. David mourns and grieves and fasts for the child, and prays continually for his son until the son dies. When the son dies he quits grieving. When Absolom dies we are told that David mourned exceedingly. But what we don't see is this plunge into self-absorption and self-pity. The fact that we have these emotions is used to drive the mature believer to trust God and to apply doctrine, not to just have a pity party.


Several times the Psalmist describes the intensity of his grief over rejection, rebellion and death. Psalm 6:7 NASB "My eye has wasted away with grief; It has become old because of all my adversaries." This is weeping. Psalm 31:9, 10 NASB "Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body {also.} For my life is spent with sorrow And my years with sighing; My strength has failed because of my iniquity, And my body has wasted away." We are admonished in the Scripture, e.g. Romans 12:15 NASB "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." This is part of our genuine compassion for those who are going through sadness and sorrow. 2 Corinthians 3:1-4 tells us that one reason that some of us go through a certain amount of testing and adversity in life is so that we can learn how God comforts us, and we can in turn comfort others with that same comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 NASB "Blessed {be} the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."


As believers we know that we don't stay in the same situation forever, that the grief, the sorrow is going to pass and there is going to be joy. Psalm 30:11 NASB "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness." Because we have the certainty of God's plan and His revelation we know that, although we might be sad and overwhelmed by grief and loss right now, tomorrow and the next week or next month, God is going to turn that sorrow into gladness and we will have full joy that we had before. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 NASB "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve [lupew] as do the rest who have no hope." As believers we are not to grieve as those who have no hope.


How do unbelievers grieve? They grieve by going into deep and lasting depression, and they just stay there. Some believers are like that because they never really learn to trust God. Once there is a death it is too late to learn the doctrine and to start applying it because you have to have your soul prepared ahead of time. Once you get into the test it is too late to go home and plan. You have to pass it with what you have. If you don't have your soul prepared when you hit the death test then it is going to take much longer for you to go through the whole grief process, and you may not; you may just end up being a spiritual wreck for decades. With unbelievers there is hopelessness: "the rest who have no hope." We as believers have hope, a confident expectation. We know with certainty that when a believer dies they are face to face with the Lord, but unbelievers don't have that certainty. The only way they can handle it is to construct a completely false view of life, and they go into some form of denial just so they are able to cope with what goes on. Believers have the problem-solving devices so that they can handle every problem and live above their circumstances and not under their circumstances.


In contrast to the unbeliever, how should a believer sorrow? First of all, we honestly recognize the fact that we are grieving, that this hurts. We have lost a loved one and there is genuine sadness and sorrow there. We don't have to hide it like an unbeliever. There is an honesty with reality. Never make an issue out of your loss. That is the path to self-absorption and self-pity. Shift the focus to God's plan; that is the process we see every time we read the Psalms. Use the opportunities of sorrow and intense emotions to relax and pray about these things. It is not wrong to have certain feelings, what is wrong is to do the wrong thing with those feelings. You will feel lonely and isolated and miss the person profoundly at times, and you go to the Lord in prayer because He is the one who comforts.