When Jacob finished his prophecies, he drew up his feet and breathed his last. The chapter centered on the death of Jacob, the mourning of Joseph, the Egyptians and the funeral procession of Jacob from Egypt to the land of Canaan. Here, the passage teaches us about steadfastly holding on to the promise of God until the end of our life.
Did You Know...?
- “To be gathered” (49:29): The verb “gather” in Hebrew has a similar pronunciation, including the consonants and the vowels, with the name “Joseph” and with the verb “draw” as in “[Jacob] drew his feet up…and breathed his last” (Gen 49:33).
- Cave (49:30): In Greek-Septuagint, the word “cave” can literally be translated as “double” or “two-fold,” indicating that the cave has a two-fold chamber.
- Possession (49:30): In Hebrew, the word “possession” can literally be used to denote the “everlasting possession” of the Israelites—the Promised Land of God, the land of Canaan (Gen 17:8, 48:4) or the “possession of inheritance”—the divided portion of the land of Canaan to the twelve tribes of Israel by Moses and Joshua (Num 27:7, 32:32, 35:2; Josh 13:15-19:51, 22:4, 9).
- The physicians (50:2): In Hebrew, the word “physician” can literally be translated as “mend,” “repair,” “heal” or “stitch together.” According to historical reference, each physician was only qualified to treat a single ailment.
The physicians in Egypt were originally priests who were expected to know all things relating to the body, diseases and remedies. Later, they were divided into several divisions of labor and one group were embalmers—thus, the physicians. [ref]
While the process of mummification in Egypt usually required extensive ritualistic and cultic after-life ceremonies performed by professional mortuary priests, the Scriptures only mentioned the embalming of Jacob performed by the physicians—the embalmers, instead of professional priests—as a practical measure to preserve the corpse without the mention of elaborate Egyptian after-life rituals. [ref]
- Embalm (50:2): The Scriptures mentioned only two persons who underwent the process of embalming before their burial, Jacob and Joseph (Gen 50:2, 26). While the word “embalm” can literally be translated as “to spice” or “to season” in Hebrew, it can be literally translated as “to prepare for burial” in the sense of preserving the body through myrrh and other aromatic spices in the Greek-Septuagint. According to a historical reference, the most expensive process of embalming cost one talent of silver (around 75 lbs or 33 kg or USD 16,500). The long and complex process of mummification was as follows: First, the brain of the deceased was extracted through the nostrils by means of a crooked piece of iron. Then the skull was thoroughly cleansed of any remaining portions by rinsing with drugs. Furthermore, the entrails were removed through an opening in the left side made with a sharp Ethiopian knife of agate. Afterwards, the abdomen was purified with palm wine and aromatics, and the disembowelled corpse was filled with every sort of spices except frankincense. Finally, the stuffed body was submerged in natrum or subcarbonate of soda obtained from the Libyan desert for seventy days. When the period ended, the form was washed, wrapped about with linen bandages, smeared over with gum, decorated and covered with a linen shroud and was ready to be transferred to a mummy case. [ref]
- “Forty days…seventy days” (50:3): A historical reference mentioned how a thirty-day dressing of the corpse with oils and spices was commonly performed in the late Hellenistic period. Jewish exegetes largely understood that forty days were required for embalming, followed by another thirty days of mourning and thus, forming a total of seventy days mourning period. [ref]
- “The Egyptians mourned” (50:3): In Greek-Septuagint, the phrase can literally be translated as “Egypt mourned,” which emphasizes Egypt in a singular form as a whole nation mourned for Jacob.
- “In my grave which I dug for myself” (50:5): Similar phrase is recorded in
2 Chr 16:14, which can literally be translated in Hebrew as “in his own tomb, which he made for himself.”
- “Little ones” (50:8) can be literally translated as “relatives” or “extended families” in Greek-Septuagint.
- “Chariots and horsemen” (50:9): In Hebrew, those words “chariots and horsemen” are also used as parts of Pharaoh’s army to militarily pursue the Israelites to the Red Sea (Ex 14:9, 17, 18, 23, 26, 28; Josh 24:6). In addition, the Scriptures used those mentioned words to refer to the military strength of the Philistines (1 Sam 13:5), the Syrians (2 Sam 10:18), the Zobahites (2 Sam 8:3-4) and other nations, including the Israelites themselves (1 Kgs 4:26, 9:19).
- “A very great gathering” (50:9): Once the Wilkinson’s Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians described a highly detailed account of an Egyptian high official’s funeral procession. First, the servants led the way carrying tables loaded with fruit, cakes, flowers, vases of ointment, wine and other liquids, with three young geese and a calf for sacrifice, chairs and wooden tablets, napkins, and other things. Then other groups followed beating daggers, bows, fans, and the mummy cases of the deceased and his ancestors previously kept for burial. Afterwards, more men appeared with a table of offerings, couches, boxes, a chariot, gold vases and more offerings. Placed in a consecrated boat, the mummy case was drawn by four oxen and by seven men, under the direction of a supervisor who regulated the funeral procession. Finally, the male relations and friends of the deceased, either beat their breasts or gave token of their sorrow by their silence and solemn step as they walked, leaning on their long sticks, to end the procession. [ref]
- Threshing floor (50:10) was a large open round area used for trampling out corn by means of oxen.
The large area could accommodate many people, such as the company of “a very great gathering” of Joseph.
- Atad (50:10) in Hebrew can literally be translated as “bramble,” “thornbush,” “buckthorn” (Judg 9:14-15; Psa 58:9). Thus, “Atad” was either from the name of the owner of the threshing floor or from the quantity of thornbush which grew in the vicinity.
- “Beyond the Jordan” (50:10): In Hebrew, the phrase can literally be translated as “on the other side of Jordan “ or “east side of Jordan” or “west side of Jordan.” A modern suggestion of the mentioned location is Tell-el-Ajjul, a four-mile or a seven-kilometer journey southwest of Gaza—an Egyptian garrison town on the main coast road from Egypt to Canaan. The Scriptures mentioned that the Canaanites were able to observe the great mourning, and therefore, the threshing floor was close to Canaan, which implied that Joseph and his company took a route south of the Dead Sea and entered Canaan by crossing the Jordan near Jericho. [ref]
- “They mourned” (50:10): The phrase can literally be translated in Greek-Septuagint as “they beat the breast.”
- “Seven days of mourning” (50:10): The observance of seven days of mourning is not only a common practice in the Scriptures (1 Sam 31:13;
1 Chr 10:12; Job 2:13; Ezek 3:15-16) but it is also a customary Jewish rite today.
- “The Canaanites…saw the mourning” (50:11): Instead of only being heard through the sounds of weeping or crying, the funeral’s mourning could be also seen in actions. The Scriptures mentioned several examples of the middle-eastern mourning customs, such as: tearing clothes and donning sackcloth (Gen 37:34;
2 Sam 1:11), fasting (2 Sam 1:12), walking around bareheaded and barefoot (Ezek 24:17), lacerating themselves (Jer 16:6) or shaving their hair (Ezek 7:18).
- Abel Mizraim (50:11): In the Scriptures, there are several places of names compounded with the word Abel, such as: Abel Shittim or Abel Acacia Grove (Num 33:49), Abel Keramim (Judg 11:33), Abel of Beth Maachah (2 Sam 20:15), Abel Maim (2 Chr 16:4) and Abel Meholah (1 Kgs 19:16). The word “Abel” in Hebrew can literally be translated as “stream,” “brook,” “meadow,” “river” or “watercourse,” which was a wordplay to the word’s intended meaning in the mentioned context, “to mourn.” According to a biblical reference, the location of Abel Mizraim might be Beth ‘Eglaim, situated 4.5 miles southwest of Gaza on the eastern Mediterranean coast alongside the desert road which connected the Hyksos capital of Nile Delta with Asia. Through a large collection of Egyptian-style clay coffins found in a cemetery, the excavations had proved that the town was an Egyptian stronghold. The place was considered a burial site for high-ranking Egyptians serving in Canaan and for Egyptianized Canaanite rulers. [ref]
How did the burial of Jacob in the cave of Machpelah, in the land of Canaan: Conclude the chapter of the three patriarchs in the book of Genesis.Hide Answer
The burial of Jacob in the cave of Machpelah, in the land of Canaan, concluded the chapter of the three patriarchs in the book of Genesis. The Scriptures mentioned that the three patriarchs were all buried in the cave of Machpelah. First, “Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre” (Gen 23:19). Second, “Isaac and Ishmael buried [Abraham] in the cave of Machpelah” (Gen 25:9). Third, both Isaac and Rebekah were also buried in the same cave (Gen 49:31). Fourth, Jacob buried Leah, his wife, in the cave of Machpelah (Gen 49:31). Fifth, the sons of Jacob “carried him to the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre” (Gen 50:13). Therefore, the burial of Jacob inside the cave of Machpelah acted as a conclusion to the journey of the three patriarchs of Genesis—Abraham and Sarah his wife, Isaac and Rebekah his wife, Jacob and Leah his wife.
Completed the usage of the threefold patriarchal phrase “Abraham, lsaac, and Jacob” in the Scriptures.Hide Answer
The burial of Jacob in the cave of Machpelah, in the land of Canaan, completed the usage of the threefold patriarchal phrase “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” in the Scriptures. When Jacob was still alive, his prayer only consisted of the twofold phrase “God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac” (Gen 32:9). After Jacob’s burial, now Joseph was able to speak to his brethren about God’s promise with the complete reference of the threefold partriarchal phrase “to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Gen 50:24). Subsequently, the rest of the book in the Scriptures use the mentioned reference of the threefold phrase “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Deut 6:10, 9:5, 30:20). Even throughout the Scriptures, after the ending of the book of Genesis—the burial of Jacob and the death of Joseph, the Lord often addressed Himself as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex 3:6, 15-16, 4:5;
1 Kgs 18:36; 1 Chr 29:18; 2 Chr 30:6; Mt 22:32; Mk 12:26; Lk 13:28; Acts 3:13, 7:32). Hence, the burial of Jacob in the cave of Machpelah—together with Abraham and Isaac—marked the completion of the usage of threefold patriarchal phrase throughout the Scriptures.
Jacob emphasized about his death to Joseph three different times. First, in the book of Genesis 47:29-31, Jacob called his son Joseph and made him swear to “deal kindly and truly” with Jacob, saying, “Please do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers; you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.” Second, in Gen 48:21-22, Jacob said to Joseph, “Behold, I am dying, but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers.” Third, the writer of the book of Genesis 49:29 mentioned Jacob’s last emphasis, “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite.”
How was the emphasize of Jacob’s words in Gen 49:29 different from the previous two emphases concerning his death?Hide Answer
The third emphases of Jacob’s words concerning his death in Gen 49:29-32 was different from the previous two emphases in Gen 47:29-31 and Gen 48:21-22. The difference was both in the recipients of Jacob’s message and the content of his message. While Jacob talked only to Joseph about his death in Gen 47:29-31 and Gen 48:21-22, Jacob emphasized his imminent death to all his sons in Gen 49:29-32. Furthermore, it was only in Gen 49:29-32 that Jacob emphasized the exact location—“the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan”—and the legal status of the burial site—“which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite as a possession for a burial place” to his sons.
In the book of Genesis, the writer mentioned how Jacob had insisted his sons to “bury [him] with [his] fathers” specifically in the cave that was “in the field of Ephron the Hittite,…in the field of Machpelah, which [was] before Mamre in the land of Canaan” (Gen 49:29-30) instead of in the land of Goshen, in Egypt. The insistence of Jacob concerning the location of his burial was supported by the words of God, which He had previously spoken to Jacob.
First, when Jacob was sent away from his family, the Lord God comforted him at Bethel that He would keep Jacob wherever he went and would bring him back to the land of Canaan (Gen 28:15). Second, when Jacob returned to Bethel, the Lord spoke to Jacob again emphasizing His promise, “The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land” (Gen 35:12). Third, on his way to Egypt to meet Joseph, the Lord God strengthened Jacob and explained His purpose for Jacob in Egypt, saying, “Do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again” (Gen 46:3-4). Fourth, when Jacob was sick, he reminded Joseph his son of God’s promise, saying, “I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession” (Gen 48:3-4).
The above promises of God, especially God’s emphasis in bringing him back to the land which God had given him and his descendants, had become Jacob’s anchor of life. Thus, knowing his imminent death, Jacob commanded his sons to bury him in the land which God had promised him.
Who were buried in the cave of the field of Machpelah? And how were they intimately related to Jacob?Hide Answer
The people buried in the cave of the field of Machpelah were “Abraham and Sarah his wife,” “Isaac and Rebekah his wife” and “Leah” (Gen 49:31). In that very cave, the one in the field of Machpelah, Jacob’s grandfather and grandmother—Abraham and Sarah (Gen 21:3), Jacob’s father and mother—Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 25:26), and Jacob’s wife—Leah (Gen 29:23)—were buried.
The ownership status of the burial site of the field of Machpelah was legally belonged to Abraham and his descendants. In his deathbed, Jacob emphasized that the burial site was bought by Abraham from Ephron the Hittite (Gen 49:30).
According to the book of Genesis, the site was not acquired by conquest, but rather through a legitimate business arrangement initiated by Abraham (Gen 23:4). The writer of the book of Genesis recorded how the land—the land in Machpelah before Mamre, “the field and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, which were within all the surrounding borders—was bought with four hundred shekels of silver, the price requested by Ephron the Hittite himself. And the business arrangement between the two parties was witnessed “in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city” (Gen 23:14-18).
Moreover, the writer of the book of Genesis emphasized twice more that burial land was legally “purchased from the sons of Heth” (Gen 25:9-10) “as a property for a burial place” by Abraham (Gen 50:13). Thus, the land of the burial site with all that were in it was legitimately acquired by Jacob’s grandfather and it was rightfully owned by Jacob and his descendants.
How did the cave of the field of Machpelah serve as a linkage to the faith of Jacob and his forefathers?Hide Answer
The cave of the field of Machpelah served as a linkage to the faith of Jacob and his forefathers in several ways.
First, the possession of the cave of the field of Machpelah served as a symbol of the future inheritance of Jacob’s descendants. In Gen 49:29, Jacob emphasized that the burial site was bought by Abraham as a possession. While the word “possession” in Gen 49:29 refers to the property of Abraham for a burial place, the same word is used in the Scriptures to denote the Israelites’ everlasting possession of God’s Promised Land (Gen 17:8). The writer of the book of Genesis mentioned that even Jacob himself referred to the land of Canaan “as an everlasting possession” from God (Gen 48:4). Moreover, in the time of Moses and Joshua, the same word was used to denote the Israelites’ possession of inheritance—the divided portion of the land of Canaan according to each of the tribes of Israel (Num 27:7, 32:32, 35:2; Josh 13:15-19:51, 22:4, 9).
Second, the cave of the field of Machpelah served as a constant reminder of God’s future resting place—the land of promise—from the nomadic journeys of Jacob and his forefathers. Initially, Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, had obeyed God to go out from his family (Gen 12:1). Leaving behind his country, Abraham nomadically journeyed and dwelt in tents, “not knowing where he was going.” But by faith, Abraham “dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country” and “waited for the city…whose builder and maker is God” (Heb 11:8-10). In other words, Abraham hoped for the Promised Land and waited for the city of God until his death, as well as did Isaac and Jacob. Thus, the burial site which Abraham had purchased served as a tangible reminder of God’s future promise for Jacob and his forefathers from their present state of “not-receiving-the-promise” (Heb 11:39).
Third, the cave of the field of Machpelah served as a means to reflect the active faith of Jacob, his forefathers and his descendants to hold onto God’s promise of “a land that He [would] show [them]” (Gen 12:1). Both Abraham and Isaac were buried in the cave of the field of Machpelah, in the land of Canaan (Gen 25:9, 49:31). And now, on his deathbed, Jacob commanded his sons to bury him in the same cave where his forefathers were buried (Gen 49:29). Later, Joseph the son of Jacob made a similar instruction and even made the children of Israel to swear an oath to carry up his bones from Egypt to the land of Canaan (Gen 50:25). Just as Jacob’s forefathers had clung onto the hope of God’s promise until their death, Jacob continued to hold fast his faith in God’s promise of the land by following the footsteps of his forefathers—to be buried in the land of Canaan, the land which one day would be given by God as a possession of inheritance to the children of Israel.
How was Jacob’s attitude in giving up the possession of Goshen in Egypt for a possession in the field of Machpelah in Canaan similar to that of Moses’ attitude in Heb 11:24-26?Hide Answer
Jacob’s attitude in giving up the possession of Goshen in Egypt for a possession in the field of Machpelah in Canaan was similar to that of Moses. The writer of the book of Hebrews explained that Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Heb 11:24-26). In other words, Moses was willing to give up the status, the pleasures and the treasures of Egypt for the suffering with the people of God.
Likewise, Jacob who had been living in the “best of the land” of Egypt (Gen 47:6) for seventeen years (Gen 47:28) still held on to God’s promise even until Jacob’s time to die “drew near” (Gen 47:29). Furthermore, Jacob reminded Joseph that the God who appeared to Jacob in the land of Canaan would give the mentioned land to Joseph’s descendants after him as an everlasting possession (Gen 48:3-4) and he also commanded his sons to bury him in the land of Canaan (Gen 49:29-32). By such a reminder and a command, Jacob was willing to give up the wealth and the “best of the land” of Egypt, the possession of Goshen. Jacob looked forward and considered that the everlasting possession of the land of Canaan was worth even greater than the possession of Goshen for his children and their descendants after them.
Describe the stages of Jacob’s death and burial.Hide Answer
Jacob’s death and burial can be divided into several stages. First, the mourning of Jacob and the embalming of the body (Gen 50:1-3). Second, the permission by Pharaoh to grant Joseph and Jacob’s household to go to Canaan for burial (Gen 50:4-9). Third, the great gathering of Jacob’s funeral procession in the threshing floor of Atad (Gen 50:10-11). Fourth, the burial of Jacob in the cave of Machpelah (Gen 50:12-13).
The writer of the book of Genesis described that when “Jacob…drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last” (Gen 49:33), “Joseph fell on his father’s face and wept over him, and kissed him” (Gen 50:1). The emotional feelings which Joseph expressed to Jacob had indirectly fulfilled the promise of God to Jacob that his son, Joseph, would be the one who would “put his hand on your eyes” (Gen 46:4).
List the deep affections of Joseph toward his father, Jacob, in his deathbed.
What were the two promises that Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh in Gen 50:4-5?Hide Answer
In Gen 50:4-5, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, informing them of two promises that he had to fulfill. First, Joseph told them about the promise that he had made to Jacob, his father. Joseph explained that his father, Jacob, had made him swear to bury him in the grave “which [he had] dug for [him]self in the land of Canaan” (Gen 50:5). Therefore, Joseph asked for Pharaoh’s permission to let him go out from Egypt to the land of Canaan to bury his father, Jacob. Second, Joseph made a promise to Pharaoh through the household of Pharaoh, which he preceded with a request to go to Canaan to bury his father. In his message, Joseph stated after he had buried his father, he “[would] come back” (Gen 50:5). In other words, Jacob promised Pharaoh that he would return to his gubernatorial duty as the “lord of the country” (Gen 42:33) to govern “over all the land of Egypt” (Gen 41:41).
From Joseph’s two promises, what can we learn about balancing different responsibilities?Hide Answer
Joseph’s two promises in Gen 50:4-5—the promise to Jacob and the promise to Pharaoh—reflected Jacob’s different responsibilities, family and work. Although Joseph was the governor over all of Egypt, he still made time to fulfill the promise which he swore to his father (Gen 50:5). On the other hand, while attending to family matters in the land of Canaan for his father’s burial, Joseph neither neglected nor abandoned his work. Joseph promised Pharaoh that as soon as he had finished attending to his family matters, he would waste no time in the land of Canaan and immediately return to Egypt to perform his duty (Gen 50:5).
Likewise, the example of Joseph teaches us how to balance different responsibilities in our life. The busyness of our work schedule should not be considered as a reason for us to neglect our responsibility in making time for our family needs. On the other hand, the time spent for our family ought not to be misused that causes us to neglect the responsibility in the workplace.
How did the Pharaoh’s permission in Gen 50:6 reflect his trust in Joseph’s promise?Hide Answer
Pharaoh’s permission in Gen 50:6 reflected his trust in Joseph’s promise. When Joseph requested Pharaoh to leave Egypt to bury his father, Pharaoh succinctly agreed and said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear” (Gen 50:6). The absence of a command “then come back to me” or of a reminder of Joseph’s duty “for you are a governor of Egypt” in Pharaoh’s permission revealed how Pharaoh had fully trusted in Joseph’s promise and his integrity.
Describe the three companies of the great gathering of Jacob’s mourning.Hide Answer
The great gathering of Jacob’s mourning who accompanied Joseph described by the writer of the book of Genesis can be divided into three different companies. First, the company of the Egyptian circle, which consisted of “all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt” (Gen 50:7). Second, the company of Jacob’s circle, which consisted of “all the house of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s house” (Gen 50:8). Third, the company of the outer circle, which consisted of the “chariots and horsemen” (Gen 50:9).
Explain the significance of the inclusion of the first company in Jacob’s funeral procession.Hide Answer
The inclusion of the first company, the Egyptian circle, was significant for Jacob’s funeral procession. The Egyptian circle, “all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt” (Gen 50:7), was the representation of Pharaoh and Egypt as a whole. The book of Genesis mentioned that the servants of Pharaoh were a part of his administration who advised him on matters relating to the Egyptian kingdom (Gen 41:37-38). Moreover, “all the elders of the land of Egypt” signified the representation of “all the land of Egypt” which had previously suffered the famine (Gen 41:55). Therefore, the inclusion of Pharaoh’s servants and the Egyptians’ elders signified the homage which they would like to pay to the father of the son who had helped to save not only the citizens but also the whole nation of Egypt and its surrounding countries from seven years of famine (Gen 41:53-57).
Explain the significance of the inclusion of the third company in Jacob’s funeral procession.Hide Answer
The inclusion of the third company—the chariots and the horsemen—was significant for Jacob’s funeral procession. They were the military escort for the funeral procession. The companies of the great gathering consisted of high-ranking Egyptian officials such as “all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of [Pharaoh’s] house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt” (Gen 50:7), and not to mention Joseph—the governor of all the land of Egypt, second to Pharaoh, the Egyptian Zaphnath-Paaneah (Gen 41:40-41, 45). Such a funeral procession of a very great gathering was prone to attract attention from surrounding inhabitants, such as the inhabitants of the land of Canaan (Gen 50:11). Therefore, sending along chariots and horsemen with Joseph and his companies was an effective way to deter and to defend enemy attacks. According to the Scriptures, both chariots and horsemen were used for military purpose against enemy forces (1 Sam 13:5;
2 Sam 10:18; 1 Kgs 10:26, 20:21; 2 Kgs 6:14; 2 Chr 16:8). In addition, the Scriptures described that the Egyptian chariots and horsemen were not only many and strong (Isa 31:1) but they were also fearful (Ex 14:9) and trusted by other nations as well (Isa 36:9). Thus, the escort of the chariots and the horsemen was significant to protect the safety of the Egyptian Zaphnath-Paaneah, his paternal households and Pharaoh’s high-ranking officials from any unwanted risk of bandits and enemy attacks along their arduous journey from Egypt to the land of Canaan.
The funeral procession of Jacob served as a reminder of God’s promise to the second company—all the house of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s house. Previously, God had promised Jacob that his descendants would be given the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession (Gen 28:15, 35:12, 46:4). Since the famine in the land of Canaan, Jacob and his family had left the Promised Land for seventeen years (Gen 47:28). Therefore, the procession of the great gathering was not only to lead the burial of Jacob but also was a chance for all of Jacob’s households to visit the land of Canaan and to be reminded of an “everlasting possession” (Gen 17:8) which God had given to them.
Why did Joseph and his companies leave “their little ones, their flocks and their herds” in the land of Goshen?Hide Answer
When Joseph and his companies went out from Egypt to bury his father, Jacob, the book of Genesis recorded that they left “their little ones, their flocks and their herds” in the land of Goshen (Gen 50:8). Joseph and his companies did it to show to Pharaoh that they had no intention to run away or to return to the land of Canaan. They left “their little ones” in the land of Goshen as a sign that Joseph and his company will indeed “come back” home to Egypt as Joseph had promised Pharaoh (Gen 50:5) and they will continue to dwell in that land.
Furthermore, Joseph and his companies intentionally left “their little ones, their flocks and their herds” in the land of Goshen to be excluded from the arduous journey of the funeral procession from Egypt to the land of Canaan. The example from the Scriptures revealed that the “little ones” were considered “weak” and were “not able to endure” hard journeys (Gen 33:13-14).
Lastly, Joseph and his companies left behind the “little ones” to prevent them from becoming victims of enemy attacks. The writer of the book of Genesis recorded an example of how the “little ones” in the city of Shechem were defenseless and taken captive when all the males of the Shechemites were slain and no longer able to protect them (Gen 34:29).
Describe the two events which took place before Jacob’s burial in the land of Canaan.Hide Answer
Before the burial of Jacob in the land of Canaan, there were two events that took place.
First, the deep mourning of the Egyptians. After the great gathering had arrived at the threshing floor of Atad, the writer of the book of Genesis narrated that “they mourned there with a great and very solemn lamentation.” In addition, Joseph “observed seven days of mourning for his father” (Gen 50:10). The acts of the mourning were so great that the Canaanites called the name of the place Abel Mizraim, the “deep mourning of the Egyptians” (Gen 50:11).
Second, the burial of Jacob. After the period of “a great and very solemn lamentation” at the threshing floor of Atad, the Scriptures explained that only “his sons [who] carried [Jacob] to the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite as property for a burial place” (Gen 50:13). In other words, the first company, the third company, the house of Joseph and the house of Jacob remained at Atad and waited for Joseph and his brothers to return from the burial.
Contrast the prevailing atmosphere between Abel Mizraim and cave of Machpelah.Hide Answer
The prevailing atmosphere between Abel Mizraim and cave of Machpelah was as follows: The atmosphere of Abel Mizraim was filled with all of the great gathering’s mourning and a “very solemn lamentation” (Gen 50:10). Even the Canaanites considered it as the “deep mourning of the Egyptians” (Gen 50:11). The Egyptians deeply mourned for the loss of the governor’s father. It was the atmosphere of a great sadness and a great loss at Abel Mizraim. On the other hand, the atmosphere of the burial in the cave of Machpelah was private. Instead of being accompanied by a very great gathering, only the sons of Jacob carried the embalmed body to the cave of Machpelah, before Mamre (Gen 50:13). In addition, the atmosphere of Machpelah was filled with tranquility and glory. Not only was Jacob able to find his rest in peace, reuniting with his families—Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Leah, Jacob’s wife—inside the cave of Machpelah (Gen 49:31), but he also was able to receive glory, being buried in the Promised Land of God—the everlasting possession of the Israelites.
From the prevailing contrast of atmosphere between Abel Mizraim and cave of Machpelah, we can learn an important lesson about one’s death in Christ. While the world views one’s death as a loss and a great sadness of leaving behind the loved ones, the Scriptures view one’s death in Christ as “gain” (Phil 1:21). The writer of the letter of
1st Thessalonians explains further that “God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thess 4:14). In other words, those who experience physical death are considered as ones who “sleep in Jesus” and will be raised up with Jesus (2 Cor 4:14). Although we mourn for one’s death in a funeral as an expression of our loss and our sadness of being left behind by the one whom we loved, we ought to be reminded that death in Jesus means a reunion with Christ (Phil 1:23) and the beginning of the fulfillment of His promise to us—eternal life (1 Jn 2:25).
The returning of Joseph, his brothers and all who went up with him to Egypt was connected to God’s prophecy to Abraham in Gen 15:13. The writer of the book of Genesis explained the prophecy of God to Abraham, “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.” The prophecy was referring to the period in the book of Exodus where the children of Israel were afflicted and served a new king of Egypt “who did not know Joseph” (Ex 1:8-11). Hence, the return of Joseph, his brothers and all who went back with him to continue dwelling in Egypt at the end of the book of Genesis marked the initial fulfillment of God’s prophecy in Gen 15:13 that the descendants of Jacob would soon “be strangers in a land that is not theirs.”