“When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, ‘If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.‘”-Genesis 47:29-30
As he was nearing his deathbed, why did Jacob make Joseph promise him to not have him buried in Egypt?
In Genesis 46:4, didn’t God already provide reassurance that it would be He Himself who would bring Jacob back from Egypt?
Didn’t Jacob trust God?
Was his faith weakening here at this point in his old age?
Well, the issue we’re dealing with here is not a matter of lack of faith or trust.
It’s not that Jacob didn’t trust God but in terms of exactly how God operated, his belief system in this area was based on the ancestor worship beliefs of all the Middle Eastern cultures of that time.
For Jacob, the location of his burial was very critical to him.
This wasn’t about honor.
And it wasn’t about nationalism, like when America makes every effort to bring their soldiers who died fighting on foreign soil back to the U.S. to be buried.
In Jacob’s mind, his concerns were along much more practical lines.
How was he to be properly gathered to his kinsmen Abraham and Isaac if he was buried in Egypt?
Dead spirits didn’t travel!
In order to ensure that his essence would continue on, it was necessary that his spirit be tended to by his sons, grandsons and so on.
However, how was this to happen, if his sons were in Canaan while his spirit was still in Egypt?
If a spirit wasn’t properly tended to, that person’s essence would evaporate for all time.
Nothing was more frightening to the ancient middle eastern mind.
Again, this reflects the common belief in those times that there were many gods of each territory who had rule over their own kingdoms of the dead.
Jacob wanted to make sure he was taken back to Canaan where YHVH ruled and where his spirit could be properly looked after by his descendants.
NEXT TIME WE WILL BEGIN GENESIS 48