Having *wailed their anguish* Jacob’s sons went about burying him. This involved more than just digging a hole and dumping Jacob’s corpse in it, as might have been appropriate had Jacob been just any old Canaanite, instead of a Founding Father of the new nation of Israel that he was.
According to their father’s instructions the twelve sons of Jacob carried the body to a field called Machpelah, which was near Mamre, that Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, had bought as a family cemetery from *Ephron the Hittite*. After lugging the body under the scorching Levantine sun to Machpelah field, the sons then had to locate the cave there where Jacob said he must be buried.
Having finally found the cave, the sons dug a big hole inside it, in which they reverentially laid Jacob’s body. They then re-filled – also reverentially – the hole. After that, Joseph gave a short eulogy of his now buried father to the throng who had gathered. Next morning everyone embarked on the long journey back to Goshen, in Egypt.
Once back in Goshen the brothers, excepting Joseph, gave voice among themselves to the troubling thoughts that had assailed them during the journey back.
“I’m going to guess we’re all thinking the same thing” said Reuben, the eldest.
“What might that be, brother?” said Simeon, the second eldest.
“Well…….you know……..about what little brother Joseph could now do to us in revenge for what *we did to him before*. I mean, I don’t think his thoughts about us can be kindly, despite his benign exterior.”
“You have a point, brother. What do you suggest?”
“I’ve thought this all out. Let’s tell little brother Joseph that our father Jacob had told us to ask him to forgive us for what we did to him all those years ago, for we were young and foolish and acted like the young and foolish do, and that we didn’t mean him any harm, for we returned to the well and he was gone, so there was nothing we could do.”
“What have we to lose?”
When the brothers went to Joseph and said to him what they’d agreed to say to him, Joseph said, “My brothers, that is patently a lie. It confirms our father’s very perceptive view of you that *you are scum*. Nonetheless you need have no fears. Really. I mean this. I, as our father’s favourite, now wear his mantle of God’s representative on Earth. So that when you now speak with me, you’re speaking with God. Hence whatever I do to you, it’s really God doing it. God wishes not to harm you. Therefore I won’t harm you.”
“That’s awfully good of you” said Reuben.
“If you’d been listening properly you wouldn’t have said that” said Joseph. “It’s not awfully good of me. It’s awfully good of God. Let me elucidate. If you hadn’t thrown me down the well, the Midianites wouldn’t have found me, so they wouldn’t have sold me to the Ishmaelites, so I wouldn’t have got to Egypt, so I wouldn’t have been re-sold to Potiphar, whose wife wouldn’t have accused me of molesting her, so I wouldn’t have been put in jail, so I wouldn’t have met there the baker and butler of the Pharaoh, so I wouldn’t have interpreted their dreams, so I wouldn’t have got to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream, so he wouldn’t have made me prime minister, so I wouldn’t have administered successfully the famine, so I wouldn’t have got you all into Egypt from Canaan where you would surely have died from the famine there. Do you get the picture now?”
Joseph and his brothers remained in Egypt the rest of their lives. Joseph lived to be one-hundred-and-ten. This was not as long as his great-grandfather Abraham’s one-hundred-and-seventy-five; and not as long as his grandfather Isaac’s one-hundred-and-eighty; and not as long as his father Jacob’s one-hundred-and-forty-seven.
Still, Joseph’s comparatively short one-hundred-and-ten wasn’t to be sneezed at. After all, how many men today – despite cushy lives that the people of those very long-ago days couldn’t even imagine – live to be one-hundred-and-ten?
Source: Genesis 50, 12-26