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.

The last moments and death of Jacob (Gen 49:29-49:33)

“Then he charged them, saying to them, ‘I am about to be gathered to my people.  Bury me with my ancestors in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave in the field at Machpelah, near Mamre, in the land of Canaan, in the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial site.  There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried.  There Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried.  There I buried Leah.  The field and the cave that is in it were purchased from the Hittites.’   When Jacob ended his charge to his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.”

Jacob was very explicit.  He explained that Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah were all buried in the cave in Canaan near Mamre.  Then he ‘was gathered to his people,’ a nice phrase for death.

The death of Abraham (Gen 25:7- 25:11)

“This is the length of Abraham’s life, one hundred seventy-five years.  Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. His sons, Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with his wife Sarah.  After the death of Abraham, God blessed his son Isaac.  Isaac dwelt at Beer-lahai-roi.”

Abraham lived to be a 175 years so that he ‘died in a good old age, an old man and full of years and was gathered to his people.’  That is a beautiful phrase, ‘full of years.’  His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him with Sarah in the cave of Machpelah that he had purchased for her.   Isaac settled in Beer-lahai-roi.  There is no mention of Keturah and her 6 sons.  It is quite possible that she could have been his wife for the last thirty years of his life.  Apparently, they and Ishmael are out of luck, as Isaac got everything.

The tomb of the patriarchs (Gen 23:1-23:20)

 “Sarah lived a hundred twenty-seven years.  This was the length of Sarah’s life.  Sarah died at Kiriath-arba, that is, Hebron, in the land of Canaan.  Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.  Abraham rose up from beside his dead wife, and said to the Hittites,  ‘I am a stranger and an alien resident among you. Give me property among you for a burying place, so that I may bury my dead out of my sight.’  The Hittites answered Abraham,  ‘Hear us, my lord.  You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places.  None of us will withhold from you burial ground for burying your dead.’  Abraham rose and bowed to the Hittites, the people of the land.  He said to them, ‘If you are willing that I should bury my dead out of my sight, hear me, and entreat for me Ephron son of Zohar, so that he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he owns.  It is at the end of his field.  For the full price let him give it to me in your presence as a possession for a burying place.’  Now Ephron was sitting among the Hittites.  Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites, of all who went in at the gate of his city, ‘No, my lord, hear me.  I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it.  In the presence of my people I give it to you.  Bury your dead.’  Then Abraham bowed down before the people of the land.   He said to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, ‘If you only will listen to me!  I will give the price of the field.  Accept it from me, so that I may bury my dead there.’  Ephron answered Abraham, ‘My lord, listen to me.  This piece of land is worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.’  Abraham agreed with Ephron.  Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver which he had named in the hearing of the Hittites, four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weights current among the merchants.”

Sarah died at Kiriath-arba, which is Hebron, when she was 127 years old so that her son Isaac would be 37 when she died.  Abraham mourned for her and asked the Hittites for a burial place.  They told him to bury her where ever he pleased.  However, he wanted the cave and the land at Machpelah, east of Mamre, which belonged to Ephron, the son of Zohar. Ephron said take it, but Abraham offered 400 shekels of silver which Ephron took.  This was the first purchase of land that is recorded since the others seemed like gifts.  So Sarah and the descendants of Abraham had a burial place.

 “So the field of Ephron in Machpelah, which was to the east of Mamre, the field with the cave that was in it and all the trees that were in the field, throughout its whole area, passed to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the Hittites, in the presence of who went in at the gate of his city.  After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah facing Mamre, that is, Hebron, in the land of Canaan.  The field and the cave that is in it passed from the Hittites into Abraham’s possession as a burying place.”

Were other patriarchs buried here?  Hebron will become an important place for the biblical writers.  The Hittites seem very friendly here but they will be one of the seven nations conquered in the invasion of Canaan by Joshua.  There is a city and a mountain named after Ephron.  This was an official transaction that took place at the gate to the town where all the legal actions took place.


The apparition at Mamre (Gen 18:1-18:15)

Yahweh appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.  He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.  He said, ‘My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.  Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.  Let me bring a little bread that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on, since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said.’”

We are back to the Yahweh tradition.  Yahweh appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre near Hebron, as he was sitting in front of his tent.  Abram is now Abraham. There were three men standing there in the heat of the day.  Abraham was kind to them, bringing water to wash their feet, letting them sit unde a tree, and bringing them bread to eat.

“Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.’   Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.  Then he took curds, and milk, and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them.  He stood by them under the tree while they ate.”

Abraham told Sarah, not Sarai, to make some cakes.  He also got a calf and prepared it along with curds and milk.  All this he brought to the three men sitting under the tree as he stood by.  Abraham seems like the perfect host.

“They said to him, ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ And he said, ‘There in the tent.’  Then one said, ‘I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.  Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age.  He had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.  So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?’  Yahweh said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, and say, shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old.’  Is anything too wonderful for Yahweh? At the set time I will return to you, in due season and Sarah shall have a son.’  But Sarah denied it, saying, ‘I did not laugh,’ because she was afraid. He said, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.’”

They asked Abraham where Sarah was. One of the visitors said that he would return next season and Sarah would have a son.  Sarah, who was listening in the tent, laughed because she was old and was not with her husband in a womanly way.  Now Yahweh is explicitly named as one of the visitors.  He asked why Sarah was laughing. Sarah denied that she was laughing, but he insisted that she was laughing and seemed annoyed that Sarah lied about her laughing.   This is a strange Yahweh story, as some Christians have seen the three men, one of which is called Yahweh, as a fore taste of the Trinity concept.

Melchizedek (Gen 14:17-14:24)

“After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh, that is, the King’s Valley. King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine.  He was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth.  And blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’”

After this great victory, the king of Sodom went out to meet Abram in the Valley of Shaveh, north of Jerusalem.  King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine because he was the priest of the God Most High (El Elyon).    He then blessed Abram.  This episode has another name for God other than Yahweh. Many have seen Salem as Jerusalem.  This combination of a king priest of Jerusalem, Melchizedek, with his bread and wine, became a figure or allegory for Christ with his bread and wine within the priestly order of Melchizedek.

“Abram gave him one-tenth of everything.  Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.’  But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have sworn to Yahweh God Most High, maker of heaven and earth,  that I would not take a thread or a sandal-thong or anything that is yours, so that you might not say, `I have made Abram rich.’  I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me.  Let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.’”

            Abram gave 10% of everything to King Melchizedeck.  Perhaps this is a foreshadowing of things to come or was already in place concurrently at the time of the author. The king of Sodom said he wanted the people, but the not the goods that had been conquered. Abram refused to take any goods because he did not want to be known as someone who got rich out of this battle, since he already was rich.  Abram took nothing except what his men had eaten and the Amorite men’s share.