"I have given them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world — just as I myself do not belong to the world".
When the famine was over, the Children of Israel could have returned to Canaan; after all, they were not Egyptians! We notice though that when they wanted to bury Jacob in Canaan as he had requested, Joseph had to get special permission. Pharaoh granted the request but the flocks and the children had to stay behind, a foreshadow of the request of a latter Pharaoh. Pharaoh also sent an army with the Israelite procession through the desert. Though it had been twelve years since the end of the famine, it seems that the Children of Israel were not free to go (Genesis 50:7-9).
We must remember that even as Viceroy, Joseph was still a captive. The situation was similar to that of Daniel who, as a Judean captive held a prominent place in the affairs of Babylon, and later of Medo-Persia. As the Children of Israel came to Egypt under the 'umbrella' of Joseph, they seem to have inherited Joseph status of slaves. We could almost say that whereas Joseph did not want to revenge upon his brothers, Hashem took care of it through the famine. How was Joseph still a slave? He was a slave because he lived in a country with culture foreign to him.
Had they planned to do it right at the end of the famine, the Children of Israel might have been able to return to Canaan, but this is the problem with living in Egypt: we get comfortable. Then it becomes hard to leave, to uproot and start again. Comfort and prosperity dulls our senses and lures us into a false sense of security until suddenly one day we wake up and find ourselves bound with gold handcuffs, in the case of Israel, with cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, garlic, and fish which they got for free (Numbers 11:5).
The Master did warn us, we do not belong to the world and the worries of the world, the deceitful glamour of wealth and all the other kinds of desire choke, (John 17:16; Mark 4:19). We are not to live for the conservation and preservation of our life and comfort in this world, but as disciples our lives belong to Him and we are expendables for the needs of His Kingdom.
May we live our lives in remembrance of that.