7 “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, 8 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. 9 And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen. It was a very great company. 10 When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they lamented there with a very great and grievous lamentation, and he made a mourning for his father seven days.” (Genesis 50:7–10 (ESV)
Genesis 46:1–4 (ESV) says, “So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. 2 And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” 3 Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. 4 I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”
What God promised Jacob as the patriarch prepared to depart for Egypt was fulfilled as Joseph prepared to bring Jacob’s body back to Canaan. God would also keep His promise in making Jacob’s family into a great nation (Ex. 1:1-7).
Who all accompanied Joseph back to Canaan in order to bury Jacob’s body? There was quite an entourage. The text says there were chariots and horsemen. Moses concluded by saying, “It was a very great company.”
The persons involved in the journey included Joseph, all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of Pharaoh’s household, and all the elders of Egypt. Additionally, Joseph’s family came, along with his brothers. The only ones who remained behind in Goshen were the children, the flocks and the herds.
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “The original audience of Genesis — the Israelites freed from Egyptian slavery — also needed assurance of God’s faithfulness. Our Father inspired Moses to write Genesis to tell His people that they must stand against the pharaoh and follow Moses into the Promised Land. By keeping His promise to Jacob, God revealed His fidelity to the Israelites and gave them confidence that He would keep His promise to be with them as they left the land of the Nile (Ex. 3–4).”
Upon their arrival in Canaan, there was a great lamentation in memory of Jacob. The time for mourning lasted seven days.
Dr. Sproul explains, “Since the Promised Land was the realm of God’s presence and blessing, Jacob’s voyage from Egypt to Canaan dimly reveals his passing from death to life, which will be fully consummated at the resurrection (Rev. 20:11–15). Today, we can rejoice when a believer dies, even as we grieve our loss, because we know he has entered new life.”
Early church father, John Chrysostom, comments: “Since death has been turned into slumber and life’s end into repose, and since there is great certitude of resurrection, we rejoice and exult at death like people moving from one life to another” (Homilies on Genesis, 67.17).”
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.”
The death of Jacob brought about a time of grief and mourning for Jacob’s family. It is evidenct that for all his human frailties, Jacob’s family loved him. It was appropriate for them to mourn his death.
It is also appropriate for believers in Christ today to mourn the death of their loved ones. Thankfully, for those who die in Christ, there is the confidence of eternal life in heaven. That eternal truth sooths the grieving heart of those loved ones who remain on earth.
Soli deo Gloria!