Family in Mourning
Gracious God, thank You for Your unusual and loving surprises in usual circumstances. Surprise and encourage me today.
Read GENESIS 49:29-50:14
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“To live without Christ is the real death, to die with him is the only life” (Frederick Buechner). Can you affirm that?
With Jacob’s individual blessings completed, and a final reminder of his specific burial arrangements expressed, his eventful life comes to an end. Those of us who have sat with dying parents will know something of the mixed feelings of his sons. There is gratitude for a precious relationship, and sadness that it is over, all combined with relief that frailty and pain are gone. Then come preparations for the final goodbye.
Embalming, intended to preserve a body for life beyond death, was common in wealthier Egyptian circles. Internal organs were professionally removed, and then the body soaked in special fluids for 40 days. In Israel’s history, only Jacob and Joseph were embalmed (50:26) in preparation for their eventual burial in Canaan. Jacob was mourned not only by his immediate family but also for a lengthy period by the Egyptians, either as a sign of honor for Joseph’s father or in his own right as a significant citizen. Even Pharaoh respected Jacob’s burial wishes and his dignitaries supported the extended family in their journey and rituals. Their strong presence would ensure that the large company returned to Egypt, as would leaving the children and herds behind. It would be 400 years before the even larger family could leave Egypt for good, but with opposition from the Pharaoh (Exod. 12:29-32; 14:5-8).
The long journey northward via trans-Jordan seems to have been completed in two stages: first with a week-long public mourning at Adad’s threshing floor, a place of commerce near the Jordan, renamed in memory of the event. Then there was a private burial in the family plot at Mamre near Hebron in Canaan (23:17-20; 25:7-10). Jacob was home with his ancestors, and the family retained a small stake in the future land of promise.
How would you like your death to be commemorated? What signs of hope would you want celebrated?
Shepherd God, when my time comes to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, may Your rod and staff surely comfort me. I trust You in life and in death.
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