Joseph Promises To Bury Jacob In Canaan!
Jacob lived for seventeen years after his arrival in Egypt, so he lived 147 years in all.
As the time of his death drew near, Jacob called for his son Joseph and said to him, “Please do me this favor. Put your hand under my thigh and swear that you will treat me with unfailing love by honoring this last request: Do not bury me in Egypt. When I die, please take my body out of Egypt and bury me with my ancestors.”
So Joseph promised, “I will do as you ask.”
“Swear that you will do it,” Jacob insisted. So Joseph gave his oath, and Jacob bowed humbly at the head of his bed.
Genesis 47:28-31 (NLT)
Now we see that Jacob would live 17 years in Egypt before he died at the age of 147. Jacob, the last patriarch, would be the only one to die on foreign soil. But, before he died, when he knew his time was near, Jacob called Joseph to his side and made him promise not to leave Jacob buried in the sands of Egypt, but that his remains be returned to the Promised Land. Jacob had no need to worry if this promise would be carried out, because before he had arrived in Egypt, God had assured Jacob that this wish would be granted.
Now, Jacob loved God and trusted God; but just exactly HOW God operated (as far as Jacob was concerned) he basically knew from the well-established and common beliefs and traditions of all the Middle Eastern cultures.
So, let me remind you of the issue for Jacob that made the location of his burial so critically important to him. This was not some idealistic matter, nor was it about honor. This wasn’t even about nationalism, like when a country makes every effort to bring their soldiers who died in battle on foreign soil, home to be interred in their native land.
The issue for Jacob involved the all-important matter of ancestor worship.
|Ancestor worship involves religious beliefs and practices consisting of prayers and offerings to the spirits of dead relatives. Ancestor worship is found in many cultures all across the world. Prayers and offerings are made because it’s believed the spirits of ancestors live on in the natural world and are thus able to influence the futures and fortunes of the living relatives. Ancestors’ spirits are also thought to act as mediators between the living and the Creator.
Death was not the sole criterion for being worshipped as an ancestor. The person must have lived a moral life with great social distinction in order to attain that status. Ancestors are believed to influence the lives of later generations by blessing or cursing them, in essence acting as gods. So praying to them, presenting them with gifts, and making offerings are done to appease them and gain their favor.
Evidence of ancestor worship has been found at sites in the Near East in Jericho dating to the 7th century before Christ. It existed in ancient Greek and Roman cultures as well. Ancestor worship has had its greatest influence on Chinese and African religions and is found in Japanese and Native American religions where it’s better known as ancestor reverence.
Satan has always sought to supplant God, and he uses lies about worshipping other gods and even ancestors to try to lead people away from the truth of God’s existence. Ancestor worship is wrong because it goes against God’s specific warnings about such worship, and it seeks to replace Jesus Christ as the Divine Mediator between God and mankind.
How was he to be buried and gathered to his kin, if his kin (Abraham and Isaac) was in Canaan, but he was in Egypt?
The spirits of the dead didn’t travel.
How was his essence to continue on, after his death, by means of his spirit being tended and honored by his sons, grandsons, great-grandsons, and so on, if those sons were in Canaan, but his spirit was still in Egypt?
If a spirit weren’t tended, it would come to and end; that person’s essence would evaporate for all time. And, besides, it was the gods of each territory who had rule over their own kingdoms of the dead. So, for Jacob, he wanted to ensure that he indeed would be taken back to Canaan so he could live with his ancestors and his descendants would properly look after his spirit.
But, Jacob had some further duties, as head of the clan, to perform before he passed. He had to transfer the rights he possessed as leader and ruler of the family of Israel along with being the possessor of its wealth, over to the one who would carry on.
That is, the first-born rights had to be transferred to the one who would be the next leader of Israel; and along with it, blessings and instructions not only to the next leader of Israel, but to all 12 of his sons. And, what Jacob does next, but hours and days before his death, is quite dramatic and has the most serious, far-reaching, even eternal, consequences for US.
I cannot find the words to stress enough that for us to fill with meaning the remainder of the Torah as well as the whole of the Old Testament, we must grasp the significance of the events about to unfold in the last days of Jacob’s life. And, after understanding all that, even the New Testament will take on a deeper and fuller meaning to us, as will the rapid unfolding of current events occurring in Israel even as I am speaking to you.
And, those blessings and instructions we will find in the next 3 chapters, which will bring Genesis to a close.