“… He Remembers We Are Dust.” Psa. 103:14

It is good to take to heart the strange fact that the twelve gates of paradise are named after Jacob’s twelve sons. There are only a very few Josephs among us. As for the rest of us, not much will be all that noteworthy, at least from outward human observation. There are many in God’s family who simply do not grow very much in this life. Most of us labor, and will continue to labor, under the heavy hand of our darkness. For some reason known only to God, some of us will struggle horribly throughout our lives with the kind of vile attitudes and dark memories that Reuben, Simeon, and Levi knew; we will be glad, perhaps surprised, when one day we make it to the end. We do well to meditate deeply on divine pity and mercy.

What is of supreme importance is that we are headed in the right direction. Israel and his sons had the Land of Promise in their hearts; Canaan was home, not Egypt. Perhaps the most significant thing Israel did for his family was to demand that he be buried not in Egypt but in Canaan with his fathers. When the great man finally died, not only did his children make the trip back to the family plot at Machpelah, near Mamre, in the land of Canaan, but many of Pharaoh’s high officials did as well (Gen. 50:1-14). The Canaanites were deeply impressed, especially at the fact that the Egyptians themselves were mourning so intensely over this Hebrew. This mummy brought proud Egypt out of itself to the Promised Land, and the Canaanites within gathered around. During a brief moment in this ancient time, Israel, Egypt, and the Canaanites, a small segment of the world, experienced a little bit of heaven around Jacob’s mummy as it was placed next to his grandfather Abraham’s bones. Israel never forgot this; their destiny, and the destiny of the nations, lies in their land.

As for Joseph, we find that in spite of all his Egyptian ways, he was a Hebrew at heart. Sure, he had his father and himself mummified according to custom, but he requested that the Israelites bring his bones along with them when God came to bring them out of Egypt (Gen. 50:24-26). A man of his rank would most surely have had opportunity to acquire an expensive tomb, perhaps near his Pharaoh whom he served so faithfully in life, according to all the procedures in Egyptian religious practice necessary to secure for himself eternal life. The fact that he ultimately chose to be buried in Canaan reveals his own personal belief that there was no ultimate hope in Egypt, that great symbol of the world. His hope was in the land promised to his fathers by God Almighty. He would indeed return to Eden, but not in a box!

We now conclude our discussion of this most famous yet most common family. Though it is, as we have said earlier, a magnificent literary masterpiece, it profoundly differs from epics of other nations. There we are bound to find stories that glamorize national heroes, often warriors, and that glorify the fatherland. In our story, humanity is not exulted but seen for what it is, for Israel’s first family represents every man and every woman as they are in real life. It is true that they and we are not much to look at, for we are but mortal dust. However, it is the God of Jacob that catches our eye and inspires our souls to aspire to heights beyond anything we mortals could imagine on our own.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: