Jacob the mummy goes home
Embalmed for the long trip to Canaan1 Joseph fell on his father’s body, crying as he kissed him. 2 Joseph told the physicians who worked under his authority to embalm his father. They embalmed Israel. 3 It took 40 days to finish the embalming. Egyptians mourned him for 70 days.
4 When the usual time of mourning was over, Joseph told Pharaoh’s household servants, “If you don’t mind, please deliver this message to Pharaoh for me. 5 ‘My father made me promise him something under oath. He said, “Look, I’m about to die. I want you to bury me in the tomb I prepared for myself in the land of Canaan.” This is why I’m asking you to please let me go up there and bury my father. When that is done I’ll come back.’” 6 Pharaoh said, “Go bury your father, and keep the promise he had you make.”
7 Joseph went up to bury his father. All of Pharaoh’s top officials went with him. This included the palace officials and all the most respected leaders in Egypt. 8 All of Joseph’s household went, too, along with Joseph’s brothers and the household of his father. The only ones who stayed behind in Goshen were the kids and the critters. 9 Chariots and cavalry escorted the large funeral procession. 10 The mourners arrived at the plug of land used to thresh grain—the threshing floor of Atad—on the far side of the Jordan River. They stopped and mourned, expressing deep sorrow. Joseph observed another seven days of mourning for his father.
11 When local Canaanites saw the people mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a place of painful mourning for the Egyptians.” So they named the place the Mourning Meadow of Egypt. It’s on the other side of the Jordan River. 12 Jacob’s sons did what he asked them to do for him. 13 They carried his body into the land of Canaan. They buried him in the cave at the field of Machpelah, near the city of Mamre. Abraham had bought this cave for a burial site from Ephron the Hittite.
Joseph's brothers afraid he'll kill them now that dad is dead14 After Joseph buried his father, he went back to Egypt, along with his brothers and everyone else who had gone to the burial. 15 Joseph’s brothers got worried after their father died. They said, “What are we going to do if Joseph holds a grudge against us and decides to pay us back for all the terrible things we did to him?”
16 They sent this message to Joseph: “Before your father died, he had a message for you. 17 He said, ‘I want you to tell Joseph this: “I am begging you to please forgive your brothers for the terrible thing they did to you. It was wrong of them.”’ We are servants of your father’s God. Please forgive us.” Joseph began to cry as he listened to these words. 18 Later his brothers came down to meet with him. They knelt in front of him and said, “We are your servants.”
19 Joseph said, “Don’t be afraid of me. Do I look like God to you? 20 You wanted to hurt me. I know that. But you need to know something, too. God wanted to help me and many others as well. He turned the bad thing you did into something good. He used it to save many people, just as he is doing today. 21 So stop being afraid of me. I will personally take care of you and your children.” This is how Joseph reassured his brothers with kind words.
22 Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with his brothers and their families. Joseph lived to the age of 110. 23 That was long enough for Joseph to see Ephraim’s children three generations deep: grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren. He also lived to see the birth of Manasseh’s son Makir and of Makir’s children, whom he adopted as this own.
Joseph dies24 “I’m going to die soon,” Joseph told his brothers. “But I’m sure that God will one day take you out of this land and back home, honoring the promise he made to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph made his brothers swear an oath. “God will one day lead you out of here. When he takes you home, I want you to carry my bones with you.” 26 At the age of 110, Joseph died. Egyptians embalmed him and put his body in a coffin they kept in Egypt.
Jacob’s new name, given by God (Genesis 32:28).
Israel and Palestinian territories.
This is confusing because “the far side of the Jordan River” or “beyond the Jordan” seems to mean east of the Jordan, which is well past Hebron, their destination. One theory suggests the phrase means west of the Jordan, in what is now Israel and Palestinian territories—possibly near what used to be an Egyptian fort south of the city of Gaza.
Abel-mizariam in Hebrew.
The Hebrew phrase is “born on Joseph’s knee,” implying that Joseph adopted them. The writer used a similar phrase to describe Rachel’s adoption of her slave’s children . “Bilhah….doth bear on my knees”(Genesis 30:3 Young’s Literal Translation).
When it comes time for Joseph to take his father’s body back to what is now Israel, for burial, he does not ask the king’s permission. Instead, oddly, he asks “Pharaoh’s household servants” (50:4) to ask the king. Earlier in the story, Joseph is someone who reports directly to the king. So why do you think Joseph would be using an intermediary, as though he no longer has direct access to Pharaoh?
The route to Jacob’s burial place doesn’t make much sense to Bible experts. They can’t figure out why the burial entourage would need to go anywhere “near the Jordan River” (50:10). They buried Jacob in Hebron, about 200 miles (320 km) northeast of Goshen, which was probably in the Nile River Delta. The Jordan River is another 40 miles (64 km) beyond Hebron. That’s a two-day walk in each direction. What should we do with this part of the story?
With Jacob dead and buried, his 10 oldest sons get nervous. They are afraid that Joseph may have simply delayed retaliating against them for selling him into slavery. They think he might be waiting until their father died, to spare him the anguish. They talk to Joseph about this. What do you think about what they tell him?
Joseph reacts by crying. Scholars offer several theories about why Joseph may have cried. What do you think about it?
Jacob and Joseph were both embalmed when they died. This was so they could be transported and buried in what is now Israel. That’s an awful lot of trouble to go to for a dead person. Why do you think it was such a big deal where they are buried—especially if they are asking to be buried some 200 miles (320 km) away from where they die?
Though the drought lasted only five years after Jacob’s family arrived in Egypt, the Jews stayed “430 years” (Exodus 12:40). That’s as long as Methuselah’s mother-in-law might have stayed for a visit. Why do you think they would stay that long in Egypt?
If Jacob had not moved his family down to Egypt but had managed to survive the drought, we would not have the story of Moses leading the Exodus, getting the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, and organizing Israel into a nation by giving them hundreds of laws to live by and a tribal structure to manage them. How do you react to that?
When Joseph’s brothers apologized again for selling him into slavery, Joseph said: “You wanted to hurt me. I know that. But you need to know something, too. God wanted to help me and many others as well. He turned the bad thing you did into something good. He used it to save many people” (50:20). Really? Did God somehow coerce Joseph’s 10 older brothers to sell him into slavery? Or did God take that terrible situation and somehow turn it around into something helpful?
LIFE APPLICATION. How does God today take terrible and tragic events and turn them into something helpful and healing?
LIFE APPLICATION. This is a question to think about, not necessarily to talk about in this discussion. From emptiness, chaos, and darkness, God created everything we see in this beautiful universe. If there is anything in your life that makes you feel empty, confused, or depressed, how do you think God might be able to use it to create something wonderful?
LIFE APPLICATION. Now that we have reached the end of our study in Genesis, how about a few questions looking back over all 50 chapters in this story of the beginning of the universe, humanity, and the Jewish people.
- What surprised you as we talked about the stories in Genesis?
- What is one story, quote, or idea that moved you?
- Has anything we’ve talked about changed your mind about something, or perhaps changed the way you understand something in Genesis?
- If you could give the author of this leader’s guide, Stephen M. Miller, a piece of your mind, what piece of your mind would you give him? (You can contact him, by the way, through either of his websites: StephenMillerBooks.com or Casual EnglishBible.com.)