Genesis 49:29 – 50:11 One’s treasure in heaven does not consist of his physical possessions, but of his capacity to love
29 Then he charged them and said to them, “I am about to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site. 31 There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah— 32 the field and the cave that is in it, purchased from the sons of Heth.” 33 When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people. 1 Then Joseph fell on his father’s face, and wept over him and kissed him. 2 Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel. 3 Now forty days were required for it, for such is the period required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.
4 When the days of mourning for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your sight, please speak to Pharaoh, saying, 5 ‘My father made me swear, saying, “Behold, I am about to die; in my grave which I dug for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.” Now therefore, please let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.’” 6 Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear.” 7 So Joseph went up to bury his father, and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8 and all the household of Joseph and his brothers and his father’s household; they left only their little ones and their flocks and their herds in the land of Goshen. 9 There also went up with him both chariots and horsemen; and 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 sorrowful lamentation; and he observed seven days mourning for his father. 11 Now when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a grievous mourning for the Egyptians.” Therefore it was named Abel-mizraim, which is beyond the Jordan.
Jacob concluded his oracular blessings with explicit instructions to be buried in Canaan. The embalming and the grand funeral procession cast light on the kingly stature of Jacob in the eyes of the Egyptians. Although he was embalmed according to Egypt traditions, he was not buried in an elaborate tomb as was the custom of Egyptian dignitaries. This scene portends the eventual exodus of the nation Israel to the Promised Land, which is symbolic of the heavenly kingdom. The manner in which Jacob was buried reveals to the Egyptians what true and eternal riches are consist of. Today’s devotion teaches us: one’s treasure in heaven does not consist of his physical possessions, but of his capacity to love through sacrificial service and giving.
“I am about to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,
Jacob gave explicit instructions to be buried in the legally acquired gravesite (the cave that is in the field of Machpelah) where the patriarchs and matriarchs rested. Despite living the more luxurious part of his life in Egypt, Jacob continued to perceive Canaan as home. Jacob saw Egypt as symbolic of the world, and Canaan, as the heavenly kingdom.
Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father.
The purpose for which Joseph embalmed his father differs from that of the Egyptians. While the Egyptians embalmed the body to provide a passage to a glorious afterlife, Joseph embalmed his father to give him kingly dignity in the eyes of the Egyptians. The process of embalming or mummification involves disinfecting the body using palm wine or a solution of a salt called natron. The internal organs were removed, separately mummified and returned to the body cavity. Next, the corpse was treated with salts which extracts tissue moisture preserving it from decay. The entire process was intended to transform the deceased into the glorious likeness of a god in the afterlife. During the entire period of seventy days, the Egyptians mourned the father of Joseph, their Hebrew saviour.
Now therefore, please let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.
Joseph requested permission from the Pharaoh to bury his father in Canaan. This request assumed a grand funeral procession fit for a king. Joseph made clear to Pharaoh his intention to return to Egypt by leaving behind the children and the flocks. The Egyptians’ participation (and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household and all the elders of the land of Egypt) in the funeral procession spoke of the greatness of Jacob in the land of Egypt. The fact that all (including the Egyptian dignitaries) lamented there with a very great and sorrowful lamentation attested to the genuine affection that the people had for Jacob. The mourning was indeed genuine, not just ceremonial so much so the Canaanites commented, “This is a grievous mourning for the Egyptians.”
By dwelling on the beautiful things of heaven, we draw divine strength to accomplish our mission.
Jacob, even as he had spent the best part of his life in Egypt, longed to return to Canaan. What was it about Canaan that captivated Jacob? Canaan is the earthly prototype of the heavenly kingdom. In God’s kingdom, God rules with righteousness (see Isaiah 66:1). There is no voice of weeping or the sound of crying, but infinite rejoicing (see Isaiah 65:19). There is no death, but only life eternal (see v20). There is no oppression but prosperity for all (see v21-23). There is no war, but generations after generations will enjoy lasting peace and blessedness (see v23-26). In God’s kingdom, we do not have to bear with the hypocrisy and mindless exploitations of the weak. Neither do we have to bear with the constant evil and darkness that lurk around us. Heaven is a place where love and truth are the mainstay. There is no need to constantly guard ourselves against evil or from people who seek to take advantage of us. In heaven, we experience infinite love and intimacy with God and with fellow saints.
Here on earth, we have to constantly bear with the tribulations and temptations of evil. The daily sorrow that comes from betrayals and the actions of selfish people are too much to bear. Jacob had his share of sorrows and hardship (see Genesis 47:9) which the luxury of Egypt had done little to alleviate. For him, death is the end of evil and suffering, but the beginning of eternal life. Nevertheless, Paul had this to say to the rest of us,
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Paul teaches believers not to be discouraged in the face of tribulations and temptations, but to look pass the momentary afflictions while soldiering on towards eternal glory. By dwelling on the beautiful things of heaven, we draw divine strength to accomplish the mission that God has entrusted us.
One’s treasure in heaven does not consist of his physical possessions, but of his capacity to love.
Jacob was embalmed according to the traditions of Egypt, but he was not buried in an elaborate tomb as was the custom of Egyptian dignitaries. The ancient Egyptians believe that upon death, they could literally take their wealth with them into the next world. Hence, they construct elaborate tombs and gather all their worldly possessions to be buried with them. But the bible says, “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.” 1 Timothy 6:6-7. Hence, Jacob is contented to be buried in a bare cave in Canaan than an opulent tomb in Egypt. The ancient Egyptians believed that with money, one can create a glorious afterlife. But the bible explicitly states that the great gain of eternal life is granted to those who do not store up treasure for himself, but who are rich toward God (see Luke 12:21). How then can one be rich toward God? Jesus instructed a rich man, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Matthew 19:21. When Jacob forewent the opportunity to be buried in like fashion of the Egyptians, he showed them the way to true and eternal riches. Indeed, one’s treasure in heaven does not consist of his physical possessions, but of his capacity to love through sacrificial giving.
Do you constantly think about your physical needs or how you can gather more wealth? Be contented believing what you possess is fully sufficient for abundant living. Instead, pursue the riches of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, perseverance, wisdom and self-control. Seek to do all things selflessly as unto God and not unto men. And you will obtain eternal treasures in heaven.
Dear Lord, I thank you for showing me the way to eternal riches and glory. Help me to become rich in the spirit by being kind despite being ill treated and to do what is right despite temptations. Enlighten the eyes of my heart, so that I may grasp the riches, and the surpassing power and glory of God that awaits me. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.