Monday, July 3, 2017

Genesis 50:1-14 comments: Jacob's funeral procession

1 ¶  And Joseph fell upon his father’s face, and wept upon him, and kissed him. 2  And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel. 3  And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed: and the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days. 4  And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh, saying, If now I have found grace in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, 5  My father made me swear, saying, Lo, I die: in my grave which I have digged for me in the land of Canaan, there shalt thou bury me. Now therefore let me go up, I pray thee, and bury my father, and I will come again. 6  And Pharaoh said, Go up, and bury thy father, according as he made thee swear.

Most of us have heard about the ancient Egyptian’s practice of embalming the dead through news stories of mummies uncovered.  We have a forty day period of embalming and a seventy day period of mourning.

From one authority we have this information as part of their description on the Egyptian embalming process. “The process lasted for a period of 70 days…The corpse was to be dried for a period of 40 days.”(49)

Here we have God’s man being subjected to the death and funerary customs of the land in which he lived. No one is saying that if Jacob’s body is disposed of in the Egyptian manner that he cannot go to be with God.

The Pharaoh, this Pharaoh, whom I said before was, in my estimation, not a native Egyptian, was quite sympathetic to Joseph’s mourning of his father and his father’s insistence that he be buried in the land of Canaan.

(49) “Process of Embalming,” (accessed 7.1.2017).

    7 ¶  And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8  And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father’s house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen. 9  And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company. 10  And they came to the threshingfloor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan, and there they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation: and he made a mourning for his father seven days. 11  And when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning in the floor of Atad, they said, This is a grievous mourning to the Egyptians: wherefore the name of it was called Abelmizraim, which is beyond Jordan. 12  And his sons did unto him according as he commanded them: 13  For his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a buryingplace of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre. 14  And Joseph returned into Egypt, he, and his brethren, and all that went up with him to bury his father, after he had buried his father.

Joseph took quite an entourage of officialdom with him to Jacob’s burial. The respect and gratitude this Egyptian Pharaoh and his government had for Joseph was immense and justifiably so. He literally had been their savior and deliverer, although only on a temporal level. This is also an expression of power, an extension of power that the Egyptians displayed in the land of Canaan. Once can imagine that there were Egyptian garrisons already in the land and with a sort of Egyptian peace that ensured trade and travel could go on safely. It is easy to picture how dependent the kings of Canaan would be on Egyptian power and how in awe they would be of this assembly.

The phrase chariots and horsemen will play a very important part in places in the Old Testament and be a source of contention. One thing missing in scholarship and Bible exposition is the common sense understanding of chariot warfare. A chariot was a mobile fighting platform as well as a ceremonial vehicle whose weak link was also how it was delivered to the forefront of the battle so quickly; its horses. Logic tells us, logic and common sense, that the horses would be what the infantry would go after first. Kill the horses and the chariot cannot move and respond to the battle. So, with chariots there needed to be a string of horses and horsemen to accompany them. Like the pit crew at a NASCAR event these teams needed to be able to replace dead and injured horses or, in a fierce battle, the chariot would have been rendered useless and even helpless quite quickly, as the driver would not be able to remove to safety in the event of being overwhelmed, with dead horses.

1Kings 4:26  And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.

2Chronicles 9:25  And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen; whom he bestowed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem.

So, in these two verses which have been the source of much disagreement it is very obvious to me that Solomon had 40,000 stalls for chariot horses and 4,000 stalls that were big enough for the chariot and the horse team that drew it. This would be necessary for maintenance and preparation before training and battle. This also implies a string of 10 horses per chariot as the primary team and backup. These backup teams would have not only needed protection by cavalry but perhaps were a capable fighting force all their own. There is no contradiction, just common sense and reading comprehension needed here.

In verse 11 we have something very interesting. The phrase Abelmizraim combines the name Abel with the name Mizraim. We were not told Abel’s name’s meaning early in Genesis but here, with the founder of Egypt, Mizraim, (see comments on 10:6) we have the meaning of the phrase as grievous mourning to the Egyptians. As Mizraim refers to Egypt so Abel refers to sorrow or mourning. Define your words by the context or you will be hopelessly lost in the maize of scholars debating over root words, meanings, and usages in documents outside of the Bible. 

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