The indirect approach to Pharaoh seems a bit odd and unexpected. Perhaps Joseph’s direct access to Pharaoh earlier in the story should not be the expected norm. Maybe it reflects the fact that this is a personal and private matter as opposed to a piece of official state business. Whatever Joseph’s brothers might have thought about his rightful place among them at the beginning of the story, they seem to accept his leadership at the end.
It is remarkable how "Egyptian" the people of God have become. They were dependent on Egypt for food, for their independence in Goshen, and evidently they are dependent on Pharaoh for the trip into Canaan.
What happens to Jacob immediately after his death could not be more Egyptian. He is embalmed. This is an Egyptian practice, not a Hebrew one. The physicians embalm Israel at Joseph's behest. The family mourns Jacob for seventy days. This too is an Egyptian mourning period and not a Hebrew one. It is somewhat a startling end for Israel, the father of the nation. He dies in Egypt apparently as an Egyptian. His identity as the recipient of the promises of God could hardly be more nebulous. Jacob cares about what happens to his body. It’s not a trivial thing for him, and he wants to make sure that his family understands that he is not to be buried in Egypt.
After the period of mourning, Joseph requested permission from Pharaoh’s court to fulfill his oath and go up to Canaan to bury his father. A large assembly of dignitaries and family members began to make its way northward with chariots and horsemen providing security. It seems that the burial procession did not travel the usual route to Canaan, but perhaps this was done for political reasons. They traveled around the Dead Sea and up the east side of the Jordan. The group paused for seven days at a threshing floor near the Jordan and there Joseph observed another week of mourning for his father. The local Canaanites recognized that this display of grief was severe and gave the spot the name Abel Mizraim, “mourning of the Egyptians”. Finally, the troth was completed, and Jacob was laid to rest by his sons. The Egyptian dignitaries left this final rite to the family alone, and after the burial was complete, the entire group returned to Egypt.
Thing To Consider:
- Do you think they intended to be so dependent on Egypt? Why?
- Why do you think Joseph embalms his father in an Egyptian manner?
- What does this teach us about handling grief?
- What does this teach us about honoring our parents?
- Do you think they might have been tempted to stay?