So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt (Genesis 50:26).
Joseph, the son of Jacob, was both a righteous man before God and a mighty leader before men.
The Egyptians of old were keen on lasting monuments: statues, pyramids, temples. To this day you can visit the land where three thousand years ago pharaohs ruled and the reminders of the greatness of Egypt’s past still leave men in awe.
Surely monuments to Joseph adorned the landscape of Egypt during and even after his lifetime. He was the man whose divinely-gifted wisdom and leadership preserved the Egyptian empire during a world-wide famine. Yet an unusual thing happened: Joseph was quickly forgotten.
Exodus begins by explaining that there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph (Exodus 1:8). New kings seldom care about old friendships, trusted alliances, or faithful servants. They want to make a name for themselves.
With a new king began a new era. The wisdom and greatness of Joseph were forgotten. His friendship and loyalty to the old pharaoh no longer meant anything. His love and service to the Egyptian people didn’t matter. Nothing about Joseph could prevent his memory from fading from Egypt’s mind and heart.
Not only did Joseph disappear from the national conscience, but the Jewish people were perceived as a threat.
Though Joseph was a nobody to pharaoh, and the Jews were considered pests, God didn’t forget His people. He heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant … and God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them (Exodus 2:24, 25).
This didn’t mean that life went back to the way it was, but that whatever was happening, God knew and was working to provide exactly what His people needed at just the right time.