The Indirect Route

It is amazing how you can be familiar with a Bible story, and yet miss important points. A case in point is Genesis 50:1-14, describing the funeral of Jacob. Upon the death in Egypt of Jacob, he was embalmed for forty days according to the Egyptian practice. The Egyptians then mourned him for another seventy days. Joseph then took the body of Jacob back to Canaan, to the Cave of Machpelah to be buried with his parents and grand-parents.

Joseph, the Viceroy of Egypt, led the entourage. In addition to all of the adults of the family of Jacob, which would have numbered in the hundreds, “all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt” went with them. There was a military escort to protect this company of prestigious Egyptians.

This is what I missed; they did not go directly to Hebron, where the Cave of Machpelah is located. They went first to the eastern side of the Jordan River to the threshing floor of Atad. They did not go directly into Canaan, possibly because such a large entourage might have been misconstrued by the Canaanites. They might have seen the soldiers and chariots and thought that it was an invasion. It is also theorized that the entourage went up the eastern side of the Dead Sea because there was more drinkable water there than on the western side.

But why did they stop at a threshing floor? Derek Gilbert, who has studied ancient pagan religions, says that the pagans considered threshing floors as portals to the spiritual realm. Because of this belief, threshing floors were often pagan high places.

Remember, we struggle not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual realm. (Ephesians 6:12) It appears that the Lord instructed Joseph to go to this pagan high place first, to make a statement against the pagan gods, and to demonstrate the claim on the land of Canaan as He had promised.

The claim was demonstrated and acted out because this particular location was across the Jordan River from Jericho. This was the point where, many years later, the Children of Israel embarked across the river to conquer Jericho and the Promised Land. Joseph, the family and the Egyptians acted out the claim by crossing the Jordan and entering the land of Canaan.

After mourning Jacob for seven days, the family took the body of Jacob to the Cave of Machpelah near Hebron. In that ancient and tribal culture, two events were paramount and respected; weddings and funerals. The Canaanites clearly saw this huge group of people coming their way. They also clearly saw what they thought was an Egyptian funeral. It is possible that the Children of Israel mourned Jacob for seven days to show that this large entourage, that the Canaanites thought were Egyptians, was in fact a funeral procession, not an invading army.

There are so many layers of understanding to the Word of God. Our Heavenly Father, the Most High God, shows the pagan gods Who is supreme throughout the Bible. Praise His name for His supremacy over these wicked beings. Praise His name for including us Christians in His protected family.

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