50 Joseph threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him. 2 Then Joseph directed the physicians in his service to embalm his father Israel. So the physicians embalmed him, 3 taking a full forty days, for that was the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days. 4 When the days of mourning had passed, Joseph said to Pharaoh’s court, “If I have found favor in your eyes, speak to Pharaoh for me. Tell him, 5 ‘My father made me swear an oath and said, “I am about to die; bury me in the tomb I dug for myself in the land of Canaan.” Now let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.’” 6 Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.” 7 So Joseph went up to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him—the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt— 8 besides all the members of Joseph’s household and his brothers and those belonging to his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen. 9 Chariots and horsemen also went up with him. It was a very large company. 10 When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan, they lamented loudly and bitterly; and there Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father. 11 When the Canaanites who lived there saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “The Egyptians are holding a solemn ceremony of mourning.” That is why that place near the Jordan is called Abel Mizraim. 12 So Jacob’s sons did as he had commanded them: 13 They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 14 After burying his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, together with his brothers and all the others who had gone with him to bury his father.
When a person of love and significance dies, the whole world stops.
The shock, the grief and the pain can be overwhelming. I remember when my own father died, way too young in years, when the world changed for me.
So the funeral service for a loved one is a part of dealing with this raw emotion and hopefully working through it, maybe even, eventually, some good might come out of the loss.
It’s also about honour. Jacob had requested that he be buried in a certain way in a certain location. Even though he wasn’t there to check if his request was followed, his children wanted to honour his memory and his life by treating him well in death.
But in the model death in today’s scripture, one thing (from the previous chapter) stands out to me: there is a conversation between Jacob and those who he loves, where everything that needed to be said was spoken.
As I read this passage, I’m reminded of the importance of saying the things I need to say, while there is still time, not holding back.
Lord, help me to find the words to speak the things that are of greatest importance to the people who I love.
Written by Ps. Justin Ware