4 and when the days of weeping for him were past, joseph spoke to the household of pharaoh, saying, “if now i have found favor in your eyes, please speak in the ears of pharaoh, saying, 5 ‘my father made me swear, saying, “i am about to die: in my tomb that i hewed out for myself in the land of canaan, there shall you bury me.” now therefore, let me please go up and bury my father. then i will return.’” 6 and pharaoh answered, “go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear.” 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. 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.
— [genesis 50:4-14]
i have read through this passage a few times today, and it feels unusual to my 21st century sensibilities. jacob understood that he wasn’t going to live forever, and accordingly had a plan for what would happen to his body after death. burial plans, and the finite nature of this life in general, seem to have been more regularly talked about a few millennia ago than they are today.
in verse 5 we learn that jacob had spent what we can assume to be a good amount of time preparing this place for his own burial. he referred to it as a tomb he ‘had hewed out for’ himself. ensuring that he was properly buried there was obviously important to both jacob and to joseph.
like these men, i am also well aware that i will someday cease to exist in this body, but i certainly haven’t given as much thought to it as they had.
maybe i should. i can focus more intently on the kingdom all believers will inhabit when this life is over. we are already citizens of that kingdom: we are a chosen people, and a royal priesthood [i peter 2:9].
pharaoh trusted joseph because his deep faith defined his integrity. joseph’s belief in an eternal god that held dominion over both this life and the next made his life on earth effective and meaningful.
so while i won’t be hewing a tomb for myself any time soon, i will commit to a life focused on the eternal.
~ jason soroski