Joseph travels with all his family and “all the elders of the land of Egypt” to bury his father Jacob in the family cemetery near Hebron. His brothers lie to him and say that Jacob asked Joseph to forgive them for selling him as a slave, but again Joseph reassures them that it was all God’s divine plan.
They all travel back to Egypt, and Joseph grows old there. Before he dies, he tells his brothers that they will one day return to Canaan. He dies 110 years old – I believe this is the first patriarch who dies a natural death at an age which is biologically possible.
And so ends Genesis.
Jacob gives a speech before he dies, where he mentions each of his twelve sons.
Reuben is scolded for sleeping with Jacob’s concubine (chapter 35).
Simeon and Levi and scolded for slaughtering an entire city (chapter 34).
Judah is told that he will become a king and leader.
Joseph is strongly praised, and assured that he has his father’s blessing.
The rest of the brothers get various strange descriptions, such as “Issachar is a strong donkey”, “Gad shall be raided by raiders”, and “Asher’s food shall be rich”.
You may have noticed that Judah has been this kind of sub-hero throughout this story. Joseph is the obvious heir to Jacob; the story focuses on him, and he gets his father’s blessing in the end. But Judah got his own chapter (chapter 38), he took a leader role among the brothers several times, and now he is told by his father that he will be king. According to the notes in my book, this focus on Judah is likely a later addition to the story, in order to make sense of the fact that the Tribe of Judah is going to rule Israel in the future. I guess we’ll come back to that later.
Jacob dies at 147 years of age.
Jacob gives his blessing to Joseph (just like Isaac gave the sheepskin-wearing Jacob his blessing a century earlier), and then blesses Joseph’s two sons Ephraim and Manasseh. But he blesses the younger more than the older, and Joseph doesn’t like this.
Joseph’s family settle down in Egypt, get to meet the Pharaoh, and receive a lot of the grain that was seized from Egyptian farmers many years earlier. The desperate Egyptian farmers, meanwhile, have spent all their cash in buying back their own grain, so Joseph allows them to trade in their livestock for grain instead. When they have no more cattle to sell, Joseph buys their land. When they have spent that as well, he gives them grain in exchange for them becoming slaves to the Egyptian state.
I really liked Joseph up until this point, and was ready to forgive him for playing that silly game with his brothers. But now it turns out that he’s actually a much bigger jerk than his father and forefathers. I would have a hard time coming up with a more horrifying tale of government corruption and immorality. Joseph consciously exploits secret knowledge of an impending natural disaster in order to enslave an entire country. The whole point of gathering the grain in the first place was to make sure there was no famine, so it obviously should have been redistributed for free (or in a manner that was beneficial to the peasants). This is literally his entire job. A liberalist might argue that he’s not doing any harm per se by selling the grain at a profit, and that if the peasants don’t have enough food that’s their own fault. But Joseph didn’t pay for the grain in the first place, he forcibly seized it for the government. And since everyone in the country is dying of hunger, it’s pretty clear that he didn’t make a big effort out of telling people about the coming disaster so they could prepare for it themselves.
Jacob’s life is nearing its end, and Joseph promises to bury his father in Hebron with his family.
Jacob and his sons, his son’s wives, his grand-children and their wives and children, all move to Egypt. Many of them are named in a long list, and we are told that in all 70 male Israelites now live in Egypt, including Joseph and his two sons (born to his Egyptian wife).
And Judah passed the test! You see, Joseph was mad at his half-brothers for selling him into slavery, and wanted to see if they would do the same to his true brother, Benjamin. Since they didn’t, Joseph reveals his identity and forgives them, saying that it wasn’t really they who sent him to Egypt, but God. And he invites them all to come live in Egypt with him, so that he can easily share with them the grain that he seized from the Egyptian farmers earlier.
Joseph has a silver cup planted inside of Benjamin’s bag, and then accuses him of theft and threatens him with slavery. But Judah steps forward and says that they have promised their father Jacob to bring Benjamin back, and that their father will die and go to Sheol (a Hades-like place that dead Jews went to before they had discovered resurrection) if they don’t. Judah even offers himself as a slave in place of Benjamin.