Burial rituals of Jacob and Joseph in the Hebrew Bible : its historical and theological implications
Guirguis, Youssry Lawandy Mikhael
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The Hebrew Bible (Gen 49:29-50: 14; 22-26; Exod 13: 17-22; Josh 24:29-33) records the burial rituals of Jacob and Joseph. Studies regarding Jacob and Joseph have focused mainly on their roles as patriarchs of faith. For Jacob, most studies focus on him stealing the birthright of Esau for "bread and stew of lentils" (Gen 25:34); the stealing of the blessing (27:30); the ladder in his dream (28:10-15); his episodes at Paddan-Aram (28:5-46:15); and his wrestling with the angel (32:22-32). For Joseph, studies generally concentrate on his dreams (37:1-11 ); his experiences when thrown into the pit (3 7 :24 ); and when in Egypt, his resistance of the temptation and events in the prison and in the palace (39:9, 20; 41:1-57). However, no study has been dedicated to Jacob and Joseph's oath, embalming, and burial in the land of Canaan. In other words, studies on the burial rituals of Jacob and Joseph are completely missing. The aim of this study is to comprehensively fill in this gap about the burial rituals of both patriarchs. To achieve this goal is the focal point of the exegesis of the study. The following exegetical tools are used: the structure of the ritual; form, order, and sequence of the ritual; required situation and context of the ritual; ritual space; ritual time; ritual objects; ritual roles of participants; ritual actions; and ritual sound and language. Ritual study is a good way to better understand a particular society, culture, and time period; in this case, ancient Egypt. Using ritual as a key, one can begin to unlock these ancient cultures and their written ritual expressions. A historical background analysis of the origin of embalming and burial rituals in ancient Egypt is presented in Chapter 2. The ancient Egyptians' religion and culture seemed inseparable. Knowledge concerning the death and burial rituals came from their religious beliefs. The belief that the body had two important and equal parts known as the Ba and the Ka made the ancient Egyptians excel in the art of embalming and mummification. Based on the abovementioned exegetical tools, Chapter 3 is comprised of Gen 49:29-50:14 and Chapter 4 includes Gen 50:22-26; Exod 13:17-22; and Josh 24:29-33. Both chapters show how the exegetical tools were used in the biblical text. The chapters aim at unearthing the customs of burial rituals of the ancient Egyptians and their written rituals expressions. The chapters point to Jacob and Joseph's practice of embalming in relation to inheriting the land of Canaan. Chapter 5 presents how the usage of these exegetical tools can furnish an understanding of the theology of burial rituals of Jacob and Joseph. One common theme appears in the funeral procession and burial rituals of Jacob and Joseph-burial in the land of Canaan. For Jacob, it was seen as a proto-Exodus; as for Joseph and his burial at Shechem, it foreshadowed Christ. As mentioned earlier, Jacob and Joseph's burials are different from the other burials in Genesis because they are concerned with the legitimacy of possessing the land of Canaan. Finally, Chapter 6 offers the summary, conclusions, and recommendations.