Friday, June 17, 2011

Genesis 50:4-9 Joseph Uses Up All His Personal Days

When the days of mourning had passed,
Joseph said to Pharaoh's court,
'If I have found favor in your eyes,
speak to Pharaoh for me.
Tell him, "My father made me swear an oath
 and said, 'I am about to die;
bury me in the tomb I dug for myself
 in the land of Canaan.'
Now let me go up and bury my father,
then I will return.' "

Pharaoh said, "Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear to do."

So Joseph went up to bury his father.
All Pharaoh's officials accompanied him --
the dignitaries of his court
 and all the dignitaries of Egypt --
besides all the members of Joseph's household
and his brothers
and those belonging
to his father's household.
Only their children
and their flocks and herds
were left in Goshen.
Chariots and horsemen also went up with him.
It was a very large company."

Genesis 50:4-9 NIV

It certainly was a large company.  Joseph and Jacob's entire households, Joseph's brothers, all the dignitaries from Pharaoh's personal court as well as those from the country of Egypt (accompanied, I am sure, by servants to take care of the necessities along the journey's way), chariots and horsemen for protection and ceremony -- this was a big deal.  

Children and flocks were left behind, both for practical reasons, and, no doubt, as a bit of insurance that Joseph and his brethren would return to Goshen.

It may seem strange that Joseph had to ask members of Pharaoh's court to speak to Pharaoh about allowing him to go to Canaan to bury his father Jacob, but it is in accordance with court protocol:  those in mourning were not allowed in the ruler's presence.  Also, in general, one would basically 'put on a happy face' in the king's presence, no matter what might be going on in your personal life.

This wasn't only in Egypt, either.  You can see the same thing happening in Babylon in the book of Nehemiah (1:4 and 2:1-2)  where Nehemiah is obviously a bit nervous that the king has detected his deep mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem.  It is also evident in the book of Esther (see chapters 3 and 4), where Mordecai (wearing sackcloth and ashes) is unable to proceed further than the king's gate (4:2).  The latter incident took place in Persia (southwest Iran), in the city of Susa.

So, even though Joseph had saved the entire country of Egypt (not to mention surrounding nations whose people came to Egypt to buy grain during the famine), he, too, had to follow correct procedure.

As we have seen, however, Pharaoh was quite willing to have Joseph fulfill the oath he had sworn to his father.  Pharaoh also provided chariots and horsemen for ceremony and protection.  Pharaoh himself, obviously, would not be able to go to Canaan, but he sent his own court dignitaries and the dignitaries of the nation of Egypt to attend the burial.

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