“1Then Joseph fell on his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him. 2 And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel. 3 Forty days were required for it, for that is how many are required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.” (Genesis 50:1–3 (ESV)
No matter how much you prepare for a loved one’s eventual death, it is still a shock when it occurs. Both my parents died following an extended illness and eventual hospice care. This was the same situation with my wife’s mother. Preparations were made and goodbyes were said prior to their demise. However, the arrival of their deaths was a disturbing moment.
Unfortunately, there are some families who do not have the opportunity to properly prepare for mourning. A longtime and dear friend of mine was suddenly killed in an automobile accident. There was no emotional preparation for her homecoming to heaven. Her death was sudden and severe.
In both scenarios, the sudden realization of the reality of death hits hard. Thankfully, the sting of death is softened by the reality that loved ones are believers in Christ.
Even though Joseph knew his dad was dying, the reality of Jacob’s death still impacted him emotionally. Joseph fell on his father’s face, wept over him and kissed him. His sorrow was real and sincere.
Today’s text goes on to say that Joseph instructed his Egyptian servants and physicians to embalm Jacob. As today, embalming was done to slow down the process of the body’s decay following death. The process then would involve anointing the body with perfumes.
The Egyptians wept as a sign of their sorrow. It was an example of the respect the Egyptians had for Joseph and for his father.
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Egypt holds Jacob in high esteem; the mourning period observed when he dies (Gen. 49:33–50:3) is only two days shorter than the one prescribed for a pharaoh’s death. They also embalm Jacob’s body, at Joseph’s behest, for the long journey ahead. Similarly, the Israelites buried their dead instead of burning them, because preserving the body intact exhibited a belief that God will renew what He made “very good” (1:26–31), a resurrection to life incorruptible (Dan. 12:2; 1 Cor. 15:42); thus, later Israelites continued to bury their dead. Cremation was avoided since it was applied to heinous sinners (Lev. 20:14; 21:9) and was practiced in ancient times by pagan idolaters.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13 (ESV) says, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”
Believers in Christ are not immune to grief. Death occurs for believers and non-believers alike. However, a Christian’s grief is not a hopeless sorrow. There is a confident expectation beyond the grave for the believer in Christ and for their family.
Soli deo Gloria!