Genesis (Part 224)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis 50:7-14

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, 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. 11 When the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a grievous mourning by the Egyptians.” Therefore the place was named Abel-mizraim; it is beyond the Jordan. 12 Thus his sons did for him as he had commanded them, 13 for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place. 14 After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.


Here we see the description of the burial of Jacob. From The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 50:7-9

And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh (i.e. the chief officers of the royal palace, as the next clause explains), the elders of his house (i.e. of Pharaoh’s house), and all the elders of the land of Egypt (i.e. the nobles and State officials), and all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father’s house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen. And there went up with him (as an escort) both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company. Delineations of funeral processions, of a most elaborate character, may be seen on the monuments. A detailed and highly interesting account of the funeral procession of an Egyptian grandee, enabling us to picture to the mind’s eye the scene of Jacob’s burial, will be found in Wilkinson’s ‘Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians,’ vol. 3. p. 444, ed. 1878. First servants led the way, carrying tables laden with fruit, cakes, flowers, vases of ointment, wine and other liquids, with three young geese and a calf for sacrifice, chairs and wooden tablets, napkins, and other things. Then others followed bearing daggers, bows, fans, and the mummy cases in which the deceased and his ancestors had been kept previous to burial. Next came a table of offerings, fauteuils, couches, boxes, and a chariot. After these men appeared with gold vases and more offerings. To these succeeded the bearers of a sacred boat and the mysterious eye of Osiris, as the god of stability. Placed in the consecrated boat, the hearse containing the mummy of the deceased was drawn by four oxen and by seven men, under the direction of a superintendent who regulated the march of the funeral. Behind the hearse followed the male relations and friends of the deceased, who either beat their breasts, or gave token of their sorrow by their silence and solemn step as they walked, leaning on their long sticks; and with these the procession closed.

The Commentary above provides a picture of Egyptian funereal rites. Combined with the text, we are able to imagine the scene depicted within the text. Ellicott’s Bible Commentary includes a note, for verse 9, with an additional comment regarding the size of the group.

(9) A very great company.—Heb., camp, the word following immediately upon the mention of the chariots and horsemen which went as the escort of the elders. These were the chief officers of Pharaoh’s household, and also of the districts into which Egypt was divided, of which each had its separate governor. Of the Israelites only the men of rank, Jacob’s own sons, and the officers of his house took part in the funeral procession, while their little ones—Heb., their tafs,” translated here in the LXX. their clans, and signifying the great body of their dependents—remained with their cattle in the land of Goshen.

Continuing on with verse 10 and Ellicott:

(10) Threshingfloor of Atad.—Atad means “a thorn-bush,” the rhamnus paliurus of Linnaeus, translated “bramble” in Judges 9:14. As agriculture was only beginning to be practised in Canaan, this threshing. floor would be common property, situated in some place easy of access, and probably a village would grow up near it.

Beyond Jordan.—It is disputed whether this means on the east or on the west of the Jordan. It is certain that the route taken by Joseph lay to the east of the Dead Sea; for Goren-Atad is placed by Jerome at Beth-Hoglah, which lay between the Jordan and Jericho, and Joseph could have gone thither only by travelling through the territories of Moab and Amnion. This may seem a long detour, but, as may be seen in the Excursus on the Expedition of Chedorlaomer, the route through the wilderness of Judah was very difficult; and though the western shore of the Dead Sea was practicable as far as Engedi, it was necessary there to ascend a mountain-path so steep that a few Amorites might have guarded it against any number of invaders; and probably it was absolutely impracticable for chariots. It would have been easy, however, to reach Hebron through the Philistine country; but it is remarkable that we find hostilities going on between the descendants of Joseph and the Philistines (1 Chronicles 7:21); and if raids were of common occurrence between the Semitic clans in Goshen and the Philistines, Joseph would not expose his father’s remains to the danger of an attack. Possibly they may even have refused their consent, and hence the attack upon them by Ephraim’s sons. On the other hand, the sons of Esau would show great respect to the body of their uncle—(Jewish tradition makes even the sons of Ishmael and of Keturah take part in the mourning)—and moreover they had not yet attained to any great power; and we gather from Esau’s march through the lands on the west of the Dead Sea (Genesis 32:6) that the natives there were too few and feeble to resist the chariots and horsemen which formed the escort. While therefore “beyond Jordan” would naturally mean “on the east of Jordan,” it may here express the fact that Joseph had just crossed the Jordan when the lamentation was made. The only other tenable explanation is that Goren-Atad was really on the eastern bank of the Jordan, and that though Beth-Hoglah was the nearest village, the two were not identical. It would be natural to make the solemn seven days’ mourning, either when just about to enter the Canaanite territory or at the tomb.

This lengthy note explains the likely route the funereal company took to get to the burial site and brings up the tradition that some locals descended from Esau and from Ishmael may have joined in the lament for their relative. Verse 11 does not confirm this directly but it certainly leaves open the possibility. From The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 50:11

And when (literally, andthe inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning in the floor of Atad, they (literally, and they) said, This is a grievous mourning to the Egyptians: wherefore the name of it was called Abel-mizraim,i.e. the meadow (אָבֵל) of the Egyptians, with a play upon the word (אֵבֶל) mourning (Keil, Kurtz, Gerlach, Rosenmüller, &c.), if indeed the word has not been punctuated wrongly—אָבֵל instead of אֵבֶל (Kalisch), which latter reading appears to have been followed by the LXX. (πένθος Αἰγύπτου) and the Vulgate (planctus AEgypti)—which is beyond Jordan (vide supra).

You might remember that Mizraim is a reference to Israelite name for Egypt. Ellicott makes the same clarification as The Pulpit Commentaries, regarding the name of the place mentioned by verse 11, but it reads more clearly to me so I will include it below:

(11) Abel-mizraim.—There is here an example of that play upon words that is always dear to Orientals. The word for “mourning” is êbel, while abel means a meadow, and is often found prefixed to the names of towns. When the Versions were made no vowel points were as yet affixed to the Hebrew consonants, and they all read Ebel-mizraim, the mourning of Egypt. The Hebrew text alone, as at present pointed, has Abel-mizraim, the meadow of Egypt.

We will complete the examination of the verses with The Pulpit Commentaries, below:

Genesis 50:12Genesis 50:13

And his sons—the Egyptians halting at Goren Atad (Keil, Havernick, Kalisch, Murphy, etc.); but this does not appear from the narrative—did unto him according as he commanded them (the explanation of what they did being given in the next clause): for his sons carried him—not simply from Goren Atad, but from Egypt, so that this verse does not imply anything about the site of the Buckthorn threshing-floor (vide supra, Genesis 50:11)—into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a burying-place of Ephron the Hittite, before Mature (vide Genesis 23:1-20.).

Genesis 50:14

And Joseph returned into Egypt, he, and his brethren, and all that went up with him to bury his father, after he had buried his father.

And that concludes the story of Jacob in Genesis.