Honoring Jacob (3 of 5)

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How does Joseph approach Pharaoh to ask if he can bury Jacob in Canaan?

(ד) וַיַּֽעַבְרוּ֙ יְמֵ֣י בְכִית֔וֹ וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר יוֹסֵ֔ף אֶל־בֵּ֥ית פַּרְעֹ֖ה לֵאמֹ֑ר אִם־נָ֨א מָצָ֤אתִי חֵן֙ בְּעֵ֣ינֵיכֶ֔ם דַּבְּרוּ־נָ֕א בְּאָזְנֵ֥י פַרְעֹ֖ה לֵאמֹֽר׃

(4) and when the wailing period was over, Joseph spoke to Pharaoh’s court, saying, “If I have found favor in you eyes, please lay this appeal before Pharaoh:

Joseph asks the Egyptian servant to beseech Pharaoh for him. He is avoiding a direct discussion with Pharaoh. He also says "If I have found favor in you eyes". Joseph is above everyone!! Why is he begging some removed people to speak to Pharaoh for him?

Makes sense. This is a pretty awkward request after all Egypt has done for Jacob. They spent 40 days embalming his body and now he wants to return it to dust? This is not just a matter of the effort they put in but also of belief! The Egyptians were horrified at the idea of burying royalty.

Pharaoh himself would also have reason to be mad: why didn't Joseph bring this up before Egypt spent 40 days embalming and 70 days crying?? Big waste of time.

Understandable that Joseph didn't want a private audience with Pharaoh.

What message did Joseph decide to send?

(ה) אָבִ֞י הִשְׁבִּיעַ֣נִי לֵאמֹ֗ר הִנֵּ֣ה אָנֹכִי֮ מֵת֒ בְּקִבְרִ֗י אֲשֶׁ֨ר כָּרִ֤יתִי לִי֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ כְּנַ֔עַן שָׁ֖מָּה תִּקְבְּרֵ֑נִי וְעַתָּ֗ה אֶֽעֱלֶה־נָּ֛א וְאֶקְבְּרָ֥ה אֶת־אָבִ֖י וְאָשֽׁוּבָה׃

(5) ‘My father made me swear, saying, “I am about to die. Be sure to bury me in the grave which I made ready for myself in the land of Canaan.” Now, therefore, let me go up and bury my father; then I shall return.’”

He says two things:

1) He makes it very clear that he is bound by a swear. This creates distance between himself and his request, saying that if it was not for his promise, he wouldn't want this.

2) He says he will return, as if to say "I am still loyal to you and Egypt"

Pharaoh's response:

(ו) וַיֹּ֖אמֶר פַּרְעֹ֑ה עֲלֵ֛ה וּקְבֹ֥ר אֶת־אָבִ֖יךָ כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר הִשְׁבִּיעֶֽךָ׃

(6) And Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you promise on oath.”

(ו) כאשר השביעך וְאִם לֹא בִּשְׁבִיל הַשְּׁבוּעָה לֹא הָיִיתִי מַנִּיחֲךָ

(6) כאשר השביעך ACCORDING AS HE ADJURED THEE — For except for that oath I would not permit you to do so.

Pharaoh says yes--but reluctantly. Only allowing this because Joseph is bound by his word.

One would assume the story ends here. Joseph goes, buries, and come back. Everyone is happy.

But no!

(ז) וַיַּ֥עַל יוֹסֵ֖ף לִקְבֹּ֣ר אֶת־אָבִ֑יו וַיַּֽעֲל֨וּ אִתּ֜וֹ כָּל־עַבְדֵ֤י פַרְעֹה֙ זִקְנֵ֣י בֵית֔וֹ וְכֹ֖ל זִקְנֵ֥י אֶֽרֶץ־מִצְרָֽיִם׃


(ט) וַיַּ֣עַל עִמּ֔וֹ גַּם־רֶ֖כֶב גַּם־פָּרָשִׁ֑ים וַיְהִ֥י הַֽמַּחֲנֶ֖ה כָּבֵ֥ד מְאֹֽד׃

(7) So Joseph went up to bury his father; and with him went up all the officials of Pharaoh, the senior members of his court, and all of Egypt’s dignitaries,


(9) Chariots, too, and horsemen went up with him; it was a very large troop.

Joseph is accompanied by an entire procession of Egyptians! A delegation of stature that must've been sent by Pharaoh himself. This is not the cold response we saw before.

Why were there chariots and horsemen if there was no threat of war?

They were an honor guard!

This procession must've been a pretty peculiar sight.

It surely caught the eyes of the Canaanites. They saw it as mourning for Egypt:

(יא) וַיַּ֡רְא יוֹשֵׁב֩ הָאָ֨רֶץ הַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֜י אֶת־הָאֵ֗בֶל בְּגֹ֙רֶן֙ הָֽאָטָ֔ד וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ אֵֽבֶל־כָּבֵ֥ד זֶ֖ה לְמִצְרָ֑יִם עַל־כֵּ֞ן קָרָ֤א שְׁמָהּ֙ אָבֵ֣ל מִצְרַ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּעֵ֥בֶר הַיַּרְדֵּֽן׃

(11) And when the Canaanite inhabitants of the land saw the mourning at Goren ha-Atad, they said, “This is a solemn mourning on the part of the Egyptians.” That is why it was named Abel-mizraim, which is beyond the Jordan.

The fact that Pharaoh sent an honorable party to accompany Joseph in the fulfilling of his father's request is an amazing occurrence, totally not a given!

This is a story of two heroes:

Joseph--for risking everything to fulfill his father's request

Pharaoh--for putting Jacob's will before his own, for still valuing him and honoring him as a national father despite their differences

Having looked at the story of Jacob’s Burial, we can now come back to the questions we asked earlier about the way in which the Exodus seems to parallel that story.

What can we make of the connections in the texts?

What does a burial story have to do with the Exodus?