The funeral of Jacob (Gen 50:1-50:14)

“Then Joseph threw himself on his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him.  Joseph commanded the physicians in his service to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel.  They spent forty days in doing this, for that is the time required for embalming. The Egyptians wept for him seventy days.”

Joseph wept for his father.  He wanted his father embalmed and it took 40 days for this to happen.  I guess that it was a long process back then.  The Egyptians wept for over 70 days, almost like a royal funeral.

“When the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph addressed the household of Pharaoh, ‘If now I have found favor with you, please speak to Pharaoh as follows: ‘My father made me swear an oath.  He said, I am about to die.  In the tomb that I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.  Now therefore let me go up, so that I may bury my father.  Then I will return.’  Pharaoh answered, ‘Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.’”

Then Joseph spoke to Pharaoh about burying his father.  Pharaoh was very kind to him and said go as you swore you would.  It is not clear if the 7 years of famine had come to an end, but it may be supposed since Jacob lived 17 years in Egypt.

“So Joseph went up to bury his father.  With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,  as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household.  Only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen.  Both chariots and charioteers went up with him.  It was a very great company. When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they held there a very great and sorrowful lamentation.  He observed a time of mourning for his father seven days.  When the Canaanite inhabitants of the land saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, ‘This is a grievous mourning on the part of the Egyptians.’  Therefore the place was named Abel-mizraim.  It is beyond the Jordan.  Thus his sons did for him as he had commanded them.  They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, to the field near Mamre, which Abraham bought as a burial site from Ephron the Hittite.  After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.”

So Joseph took the servants of the Pharaoh, the elders of Egypt and his household, as well as his brothers and their families.  This was a huge throng of people.  Only the children and livestock were left behind.  When they got to Atad, which later was named Abel-mizraim, they had another 7 day mourning period.  This is the only biblical reference to this place.  It is strange that they did not go directly to Hebron but were on the other side of the Jordan.  After they buried Jacob, Joseph and all his brothers returned to Egypt.  If they had stayed in Canaan at this time, the whole Exodus story would not have been necessary.