Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
- The Burial of Jacob
10. אטד 'āṭâd Atad, "the buck-thorn."
11. מצרים אבל 'ābêl-mı̂tsrayı̂m, Abel-Mitsraim, "mourning of Mizraim," or meadow of Mizraim.
This chapter records the burial of Jacob and the death of Joseph, and so completes the history of the chosen family, and the third bible for the instruction of man.
After the natural outburst of sorrow for his deceased parent, Joseph gave orders to embalm the body, according to the custom of Egypt. "His servants, the physicians." As the grand vizier of Egypt, he has physicians in his retinue. The classes and functions of the physicians in Egypt may be learned from Herodotus (ii. 81-86). There were special physicians for each disease; and the embalmers formed a class by themselves. "Forty days" were employed in the process of embalming; "seventy days," including the forty, were devoted to mourning for the dead. Herodotus mentions this number as the period of embalming. Diodorus (i. 91) assigns upwards of thirty days to the process. It is probable that the actual process was continued for forty days, and that the body lay in natron for the remaining thirty days of mourning. See Hengstenberg's B. B. Mos. u. Aeg., and Rawlinson's Herodotus.
Joseph, by means of Pharaoh's courtiers, not in person, because he was a mourner, applies for leave to bury his father in the land of Kenaan, according to his oath. This leave is freely and fully allowed.
The funeral procession is now described. "All the servants of Pharaoh." The highest honor is conferred on Jacob for Joseph's sake. "The elders of Pharaoh, and all the elders of the land of Mizraim." The court and state officials are here separately specified. "All the house." Not only the heads, but all the sons and servants that are able to go. Chariots and horsemen accompany them as a guard on the way. "The threshing-floor of Atari, or of the buck-thorn." This is said to be beyond Jordan. Deterred, probably, by some difficulty in the direct route, they seem to have gone round by the east side of the Salt Sea. "A mourning of seven days." This is a last sad farewell to the departed patriarch. Abel-Mizraim. This name, like many in the East, has a double meaning. The word Abel no doubt at first meant mourning, though the name would be used by many, ignorant of its origin, in the sense of a meadow. "His sons carried him." The main body of the procession seems to have halted beyond the Jordan, and awaited the return of the immediate relatives, who conveyed the body to its last resting-place. The whole company then returned together to Egypt.
His brethren supplicate Joseph for forgiveness. "They sent unto Joseph," commissioned one of their number to speak to him. now that our common father has given us this command. "And Joseph wept" at the distress and doubt of his brothers. He no doubt summons them before him, when they fall down before him entreating his forgiveness. Joseph removes their fears. "Am I in God's stead?" that I should take the law into my own hands, and take revenge. God has already judged them, and moreover turned their sinful deed into a blessing. He assures them of his brotherly kindness toward them.
The biography of Joseph is now completed. "The children of the third generation" - the grandsons of grandsons in the line of Ephraim. We have here an explicit proof that an interval of about twenty years between the births of the father and that of his first-born was not unusual during the lifetime of Joseph. "And Joseph took an oath." He thus expressed his unwavering confidence in the return of the sons of Israel to the land of promise. "God will surely visit." He was embalmed and put in a coffin, and so kept by his descendants, as was not unusual in Egypt. And on the return of the sons of Israel from Egypt they kept their oath to Joseph Exo 13:19, and buried his bones in Shekem Jos 24:32.
The sacred writer here takes leave of the chosen family, and closes the bible of the sons of Israel. It is truly a wonderful book. It lifts the veil of mystery that hangs over the present condition of the human race. It records the origin and fall of man, and thus explains the co-existence of moral evil and a moral sense, and the hereditary memory of God and judgment in the soul of man. It records the cause and mode of the confusion of tongues, and thus explains the concomitance of the unity of the race and the specific diversity of mode or form in human speech. It records the call of Abraham, and thus accounts for the preservation of the knowledge of God and his mercy in one section of the human race, and the corruption or loss of it in all the rest. We need scarcely remark that the six days' creation accounts for the present state of nature. It thus solves the fundamental questions of physics, ethics, philology, and theology for the race of Adam. It notes the primitive relation of man to God, and marks the three great stages of human development that came in with Adam, Noah, and Abraham. It points out the three forms of sin that usher in these stages - the fall of Adam, the intermarriage of the sons of God with the daughters of men, and the building of the tower of Babel. It gradually unfolds the purpose and method of grace to the returning penitent through a Deliverer who is successively announced as the seed of the woman, of Shem, of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah. This is the second Adam, who, when the covenant of works was about to fall to the ground through the failure of the first Adam, undertook to uphold it by fulfilling all its conditions on behalf of those who are the objects of the divine grace.
Hence, the Lord establishes his covenant successively with Adam, Noah, and Abraham; with Adam after the fall tacitly, with Noah expressly, and with both generally as the representatives of the race descending from them; with Abraham especially and instrumentally as the channel through which the blessings of salvation might be at length extended to all the families of the earth. So much of this plan of mercy is revealed from time to time to the human race as comports with the progress they have made in the education of the intellectual, moral, and active faculties. This only authentic epitome of primeval history is worthy of the constant study of intelligent and responsible man.