BIBLE STUDY SERIES #65, 66 and 67

24 January, 1993

GENERAL TRIBAL PROPHECIES - PART VI

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

On the former programmes in this series we were examining, from the Genesis account, the various prophetic blessings which the aged, and now dying Jacob-Israel gave to each of his sons, as they gathered about his bed. This account is found in Genesis 49, and today we are nearing the end of that chapter.

Before we return to that Genesis account, however, I should digress slightly to read a small portion from the 56th chapter of the non-biblical Book of Jasher, for it does add a small gleaning to express the spirit of the occasion, and the instructions which Jacob has, during the final few days, been imparting to his sons. It states:

"And Jacob made his sons swear to bury him in Machpelah, in Hebron, and his sons swore unto him concerning this thing. And he commanded them, saying, serve the Lord your God, for he who delivered your fathers will also deliver you from all trouble. And Jacob said, call all your children unto me, and all the children of Jacob's sons came and sat before him, and Jacob blessed them, and he said unto them, the Lord God of your fathers shall grant you a thousand times as much and bless you, and may he give you the blessing of your father Abraham; and all the children of Jacob's sons went forth on that day after he had blessed them.

And on the next day Jacob again called for his sons, and they all assembled and came to him and sat before him, and Jacob on that day blessed his sons before his death, each man did he bless according to his blessing; behold it is written in the book of the law of the Lord appertaining to Israel."

Thus, for each of his sons in turn, Jacob has spoken some particular blessing, relating prophetically, to them, the unfolding developments which are to mark each son's tribal descendants in the last days. Each tribe will take from his words some tribal symbol or set of symbols, to act as an emblem marking and establishing that tribe's existence, wherever they may be found in those last days to which these prophetic pronouncements specifically apply.

Jacob-Israel has made a point of amplifying the blessing of leadership to Judah's tribe, granting him the sceptre of rulership. He has spoken at some length of the blessings to come upon Ephraim and Manasseh, the double portion of the firstborn; blessings which were transferred from Leah's eldest son, Reuben, to Rachel's eldest son, Joseph. He has specifically imparted the stone of Israel, which we perceive to be Jacob's Pillow, the Bethel stone, now called the Coronation Stone, to Joseph's care, and that of his descendants.

As that stone now rests in Westminster Abbey, the prophecy has been fulfilled, for it is thus placed at the heart of the British Nation, and within a stone's throw of the Houses of Parliament.

The tribes of Israel are today, in the main, unrecognized as such, but these blessings become much more meaningful if the tribes are perceived, as we of the British-Israel-World Federation see them, in the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples scattered in many lands, but essentially concentrated in those of North-West Europe, the British Commonwealth, and the United States of America. The clues are present, but not always obvious. Thus we establish that God's prophetic blessings were indeed brought into existence as promised in Old Testament times, and subsequently confirmed by history.

Now, as we return to the Biblical account, Jacob-Israel is about to make a general pronouncement, and confirm his final directions regarding his burial. As we, in our imagination, listen to catch his final words, we will hear him speak once again. The Genesis record, beginning at verse 28, states:

28. All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.
29. And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,
30. In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a buryingplace.
31. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.
32. The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth.
33. And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.

Jacob-Israel, in his last hours, has once again expressed that most natural desire, to be laid close to the loved members of his family back in the Holy Land, and there to await the dispositions of The Almighty, regarding the resurrection yet to be. The Book of Job contains expressions of that hope, in words familiar to all who learn the passages by hearing or singing Handel's great Oratorio, "Messiah", so it does not occur simply in the New Testament alone.

Can we imagine the quiet sobbing in the silence, and then the air suddenly filled with the cry of the bereaved as realization finally broke upon the assembled family. Jacob-Israel, having reached the venerable age of "an hundred forty and seven years" as we know from Genesis 47:28, had finally ceased to draw breath. Jacob, the Patriarch through whom God had given many remarkable prophetic words had finally passed to his people. Life would never be the same again for those present.

Now realtionships were being rapidly adjusted in the minds of those present as reality sank in. Joseph was now as never before, supreme in power, not only in the Government of Egypt, but among the members of his own family also. What would he do, now that the protective presence of the aged Jacob would no longer be present? Many were the thoughts that troubled these sons of Israel as they realised what had now transpired.

Perhaps we ought to consult our commentaries to glean any useful information to assist us in amplifying our understanding.

Keil and Delitzsch point out that Joseph had already promised on oath, to perform Jacob's burial rites in accordance with Jacob's instructions in Genesis 47:29-31, but we see that these instructions are here repeated in the presence of all the other sons, so that there may be no question regarding his desires in this respect. The Commentary points out that Jacob now drew his feet up into the bed to lie down, because he had been sitting upright while blessing his sons, and the particular words chosen for the Genesis account show that the patriarch departed from this earthly life without a struggle.

The Companion Bible makes the point that, as Jacob gathered his feet into the bed, so was his body gathered to his people. Of the words "yielded up the ghost" in verse 33 it says that the spirit going to God who gave it reminds us of the confirmation of other passages such as Ecclesiates 12:7 which says "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."

The Companion Bible also notes a rather interesting and indeed surprising fact which arises out of the short list of burials contained in verse 31. It states with reference to the mention of Abraham, that "The five previously buried there form an acrostic of the sixth. Isaac, Sarah, Rebekah, Abraham, Leah = Israel." In other words, the first letter of each name, if listed in that order, make up the name I-S-R-A-E-L!

It further refers us to Hebrews 11:13, which states "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." That passage continues: "For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city."

That is a most appropriate theme wherein to meditate as a continuation of this passage from Genesis. The universality of the experience of death down through the ages has not been a deterrent to the devotion of God's people to Himself, nor to the Biblical explanation for its existence. As we see if we turn to that book of Hebrews and read further in that eleventh chapter, we there find an exceedingly impressive roll of honour, and the accumulated evidence which the writer draws from the long list of the faithful, each of whom went through a variety of stress and challenge in life, and yet died holding fast to their faith in the promises.

After listing a number of these, the end of that chapter read:

"And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect."

In other words, We, who are "in Christ", are one family with those ancient Patriarchs and all of their believing descendants down through the ages. All of us, together, form that one "body of Christ" which He will receive in the Resurrection at His return. That is quite a thought to sustain us as we meet the varied challenges which we also face as we attempt to walk the Christian path as the days pass, prayerfully awaiting His return. May you find spiritual sustenance in these meditations. We shall continue our studies on our next programme.

31 January, 1993

IN SADNESS, HOPE

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Thus far, in our present series of Bible Studies, we have made our way through the Book of Genesis from the Call of Abram to the death of Jacob, surrounded by his sons and the rest of his family.

On our last programme, we read the description of the scene as recorded in the Bible. Before moving on, I think that I might insert at this point the equivalent passage found in the 56th Chapter of the non-Biblical Book of Jasher, starting at verse 10 of that reference because it may add something to amplify our understanding of the scene. It states:

And Jacob again commanded his sons on that day, saying, behold I shall be this day gathered unto my people; carry me up from Egypt, and bury me in the cave of Machpelah as I have commanded you.
Howbeit take heed I pray you that none of your sons carry me, only yourselves, and this is the manner you shall do unto me, when you carry my body to go with it to the land of Canaan to bury me.
Judah, Issachar and Zebulun shall carry my bier at the eastern side; Reuben, Simeon and Gad at the south, Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin at the west, Dan, Asher and Naphtali at the north.
Let not Levi carry with you for he and his sons will carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord with the Israelites in the camp, neither let Joseph my son carry, for as a king so let his glory be; howbeit, Ephraim and Manasseh shall be in their stead.
Thus shall you do unto me when you carry me away; do not neglect any thing of all that I command you; and it shall come to pass when you do this unto me, that the Lord will remember you favourably and your children after you forever.

I should comment at this point that the non-Biblical Book of Jasher from which the present excerpt is taken thus presents, as if it were a prophetic preview, the Order of March taken some generations later in the Exodus encampments. As Jacob-Israel's Funeral March appears to have been conducted with Jacob's remains surrounded on all sides by the Tribal Patriarchs, it has been suggested that the entire camp of the Exodus generation thus moved across the land in the same relative positions to one another as they held when encamped, and that they thus advanced across the countryside on a wide front. The alternative possibility, of course, is that the Camp of Israel set forth tribe after tribe, taking up the march in procession as listed. Thus, with Judah leading, the four sides of the camp would be positioned to march in an orderly succession. We shall examine the matter again on a later programme. Taking up the account from the Book of Jasher once more, we read:

And you my sons, honour each his brother and his relative, and command your children and your children's children after you to serve the Lord God of your ancestors all the days,
In order that you may prolong your days in the land, you and your children and your children's children for ever, when you do what is good and upright in the sight of the Lord your God, to go in all his ways.
And thou, Joseph my son, forgive I pray thee the wrongs of thy brethren and all their misdeeds in the injury that they heaped upon thee, for God intended it for thine and thy children's benefit.
And O my son leave not thy brethren to the inhabitants of Egypt, neither hurt their feelings, for behold I consign them to the hand of God and in thy hand to guard them from the Egyptians; and the sons of Jacob answered their father saying, O, our father, all that thou hast commanded us, so will we do; may God only be with us.
And Jacob said unto his sons, so may God be with you when you keep all his ways; turn not from his ways either to the right or the left in performing what is good and upright in his sight.
For I know that many and grievous troubles will befall you in the latter days in the land, yea your children and children's children; only serve the Lord and he will save you from all trouble.
And it shall come to pass when you shall go after God to serve him and will teach your children after you, and your children's children, to know the Lord, then will the Lord raise up unto you and your children a servant from amongst your children, and the Lord will deliver you through his hand from all affliction, and bring you out of Egypt and bring you back to the land of your fathers to inherit it securely.
And Jacob ceased commanding his sons, and he drew his feet into the bed, he died and was gathered to his people.

The reference to the raising up of a servant through whose hand Israel would be delivered might well be accepted as applying to Moses who was, indeed, raised up by God to deliver the children of Israel from the Egyptian bondage, but in a deeper sense it may also apply to Jesus Christ. Moses, in Deuteronomy 18:15, said "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken."

In Acts 3, we find recorded the episode wherein Peter and John were about to enter the temple when a lame man who lay at the gate asked alms of them and instead, at Peter's word, received healing. In Acts 3:22, Peter quoted the passage from Deuteronomy 18:15 to the men of Israel who observed the healing of this lame man, and he applied it to Jesus Christ.

Today, we are continuing to observe the scene as Jacob has breathed his last, and we follow the Biblical record as it is found in Genesis 50. I shall comment as we read, beginning at verse 1:

1. And Joseph fell upon his father's face, and wept upon him, and kissed him.
2. And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel.
3. And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed: and the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days.

How often have we, ourselves, known the sadness of losing a loved one or a close friend to the stillness of death? It has been the common experience of mankind thoughout all generations and in all lands. At such times, we are so completely alone in one sense, yet not alone, ever, in another, for all mankind knows the same sorrow sooner or later.

Keil and Delitzsch express the thought that "The physicians are called his servants, because the reference is to the regular physicians in the service of Joseph, the eminent minister of state; and according to Herod. 2,84, there were special physicians in Egypt for every description of disease, among whom the Taricheuta, who superintended the embalming, were included as a special but subordinate class."

Of this passage which mentions that Jacob was embalmed, a notation in the Companion Bible points out that this explanation was a necessary inclusion in the account because "Israelites never embalmed." The embalming practices of Egypt included, as the New Bible Dictionary notes under the heading "Burial And Mourning", the removal of the vicera for separate preservation and the use of salt and linen to dehydrate the remains. In New Testament times, of course, the Israelite dead would probably be washed, anointed, and have spices enclosed when wrapping the body.

The New Bible Commentary, Revised, notes that "The associated religious beliefs, particularly the Egyptian idea of immortality, were not adopted with the Egyptian art of mummification. It was rather utilized in the interests of Jacob's postponed burial in Canaan, itself a testimony to Israel's own distinctive hope." We continue at verse 4:

4. And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh, saying, If now I have found grace in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying,
5. My father made me swear, saying, Lo, I die: in my grave which I have digged for me in the land of Canaan, there shalt thou bury me. Now therefore let me go up, I pray thee, and bury my father, and I will come again.
6. And Pharaoh said, Go up, and bury thy father, according as he made thee swear.

The Companion Bible notes of Joseph that "He could not speak before, for, in mourning, Egyptians never shaved, and Joseph, therefore, was not presentable." We find similar comments in other references. The New Bible Commentary says "Diplomatic considerations, or possibly disqualification from appearance in the royal court by reason of his mourning, explain Joseph's indirect approach to Pharaoh." Keil and Delitzsch note that "Joseph required the royal permission, because he wished to go beyond the border with his family and a large procession. But he did not apply directly to Pharaoh, because his deep mourning (unshaven and unadorned) prevented him from appearing in the presence of the king."

7. And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,
8. And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father's house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen.
9. And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company.

In our next Bible Study, we shall be examining further of this and the succeeding passages of Scripture. As our time is about gone, let me leave with you some meditations. We all face death as the normal, expected terminal point in the course of life. It is a common experience which all eventually share. The essential point to remember, however, is that Jesus stated most clearly in John 11:25-26, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" Jesus then proceeded to prove that these were not idle words, by raising Lazarus from death in front of all those who had gathered to mourn his passing!

Thus we know that those who avail themselves of Christ's miraculous promise are the recipients of a mighty expectation through His words, namely, that death is not final where The Almighty God, the Creator of life, chooses to impart life anew to His creatures. May all who hear choose that life!

7 February, 1993

STATE FUNERAL

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our present series of Bible Studies is designed to develop from the Book of Genesis, some understanding concerning God's Great Plan for the universe and the historic unfolding of that plan down through the centuries. The Plan, as we have been discovering through reading the Book of Genesis, involves the promise of God and its subsequent fulfilment in the development of one line of descent from Adam and Eve, one family, which was to become a people, a nation and a constellation of nations.

From the call of the Patriarch Abram, it has descended through Isaac and then Jacob-Israel and his tribal descendants. In that line of descent will be born Jesus Christ as Saviour and Redeemer, and also, we of the British-Israel-World Federation believe, the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon world of today.

We have now come to Chapter 50, the last chapter of Genesis, and we are, in a sense, continuing to imagine ourselves as silent, if sympathetic, onlookers seeing the grief of Joseph and his whole family at the death of their father, the aged Patriarch and Prophet, Jacob-Israel.

Under Pharaoh, Joseph, is presently the highest government official in the land of Egypt, and thus a personage of national importance, so the death of his father has occasioned more than a little stir among the court and populace of that land.

The funeral will not follow the customary form among Joseph's Hebrew ancestors, for there will, of necessity, be some delay in transporting the remains to the burial site, designated in Genesis 49:30 as "In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a burying place."

Joseph has designated the order of physicians we might term "embalmers", to prepare Jacob's body as the customary period of official mourning is proceeding for transportation of the remains, possibly in desert heat, will require some time. Let us read the Biblical account beginning at Genesis 50:7.

7. And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,
8. And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father's house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen.
9. And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company.
10. And they came to the threshingfloor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan, and there they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation: and he made a mourning for his father seven days.
11. And when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning in the floor of Atad, they said, This is a grievous mourning to the Egyptians: wherefore the name of it was called Abelmizraim, which is beyond Jordan.
12. And his sons did unto him according as he commanded them:
13. For his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a buryingplace of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre.

The non-Biblical Book of Jasher adds a number of details which appear consistent with this account. It describes how the Egyptian women gathered with Asenath to mourn, and how even some of Canaan came to do the same. Let it not be forgotten that Joseph's governance under God's providence had protected not only the Egyptian populace, but also those of other surrounding nations from the worst effects of the famine years.

This reference states that, as a result of Pharaoh's strict command, "all the servants of Pharaoh, and the elders of his house and all the elders of the land of Egypt went up with Joseph, and all the officers and nobles of Pharaoh went up as the servants of Joseph, and they went to bury Jacob in the land of Canaan."

Interesting details are added. It says of Jacob's bier that it "was of pure gold, and it was inlaid round about with onyx stones and bdellium; and the covering of the bier was gold woven work, joined with threads, and over them were hooks of onyx stones and bdellium. And Joseph placed upon the head of his father Jacob a large golden crown, and he put a golden sceptre in his hand, and they surrounded the bier as was the custom of kings during their lives."

The Book of Jasher adds details concerning "all the troops of Egypt", and the "mighty men of Joseph" and many others who accompanied the funerary procession as mourners. The funeral procession, moving a certain distance day by day, along a path strewn with "myrrh and aloes and all manner of perfume", took an inland route. Keil and Delitzsch suggest that this was done because such a large procession, accompanied by a military escort, was likely to meet with difficulties if the direct route through the country of the Philistines had been chosen.

At the threshing floor of Atad, east of the Jordan, we are told of the thirty-one kings of Canaan who also assembled there to mourn with Joseph. We are told that only the immediate family members of Jacob crossed over the Jordan River to the actual burial site in Canaan.

A serious confrontation with Esau's descendants over the ownership of that burial cave, leading to bloodshed, is recounted at this point in the Book of Jasher, but it does not appear in the Biblical account. It seems, therefore, that this continuation did not enjoy the authority of inspiration as the Scriptural account was compiled.

With regard to the Biblical passage, perhaps we might now consider some of the commentaries. Concerning the words which mean "I hewed out" in verse 5, The New Bible Commentary, Revised, tells us that "Jacob had prepared a place for his burial in the cave Abraham purchased." It says that "The exodus of Jacob according to Joseph's request amid the honour of Egypt was a pledge of Israel's later departure with Egypt's treasures, following Moses' negotiations with Pharaoh." Similarly the entrance of Jacob into Canaan from across the Jordan "witnessed to and found its counterpart in Israel's conquest of the land under Joshua." This reference further explains that the burial "registered before the eyes of the Canaanites Israel's continuing claims in their land."

Appendix 187 in the Companion Bible points out that there were two distinct purchases by Abraham and Jacob for the purpose of burying their dead: one a field with a cave (Machpelah) at the end of it, which was bought by Abraham of Ephron the Hittite for 400 shekels of silver, in Genesis 23:16-18; the other "a parcel of a field" which was bought by Jacob of the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for 100 pieces of money, in Genesis 33:18-19. In the latter were buried Joseph and the other sons of Jacob who died in Egypt, as we find in Joshua 24:32.

A possible explanation is supplied by that Appendix in that, while Abraham probably bought both parcels of land, the eighty-five years between the death of Abraham and the appearance of Jacob at Sychem, might have allowed the title to lapse or become obscure, and hence Jacob may have had to pay something by way of forfeit to make good his claim.

We are nearing the end of today's study, so I shall simply read a portion of the remaining passage from Genesis 50, starting at verse 14, and add a few comments.

14. And Joseph returned into Egypt, he, and his brethren, and all that went up with him to bury his father, after he had buried his father.
15. And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.
16. And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,
17. So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.
18. And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.
19. And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?
20. But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
21. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

Here, once again, we find Joseph's brothers, worrying about what Joseph may do to them following Jacob's removal from the scene through death. Even after all the past seventeen years of care and blessing which they have enjoyed under Joseph's protection in Egypt they still have not relinquished their sense of guilt, and their fear of Joseph for what they did in selling him into slavery as a youth so long ago.

It seems that, all along, they have been depending for their sense of security upon Jacob's presence among them. They had not even now, developed sufficient confidence to trust Joseph's own manifest love and his steadfast character. Perhaps they were expecting Joseph to do what they might have done in his position. If so, this manifest fear would appear to evidence the superiority of Joseph's character. It shows that Jacob-Israel's blessing upon Joseph was imparted upon the one most deserving of the honour by reason of that character.

Although it seems that today's prevailing social norms tend to dismiss any sense of guilt in the Biblical context, it is possible that there may yet be some who, with feelings of unworthiness, find it difficult to trust in the goodness and mercy of God. We may find a valuable lesson in this aspect of today's study. We shall leave further comment until our next programme.

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