[b-hebrew] Canaan as the Original Homeland of the Hebrews: Part II

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Jun 26 10:56:46 EDT 2008

Yigal Levin:
You wrote:  “Note, by the way, that the same expression is used of Jacob 
(Gen. 49:33), who dies in Egypt.  Only much later is he brought to burial in 
Canaan.  So the 
 expression "he died and was gathered unto his fathers/people" is just that.”
Let’s examine that.
1.  Your statement that “Only much later” was Jacob “brought to burial in 
Canaan” is misleading.  Jacob died in Egypt and was mourned for 70 days in 
Egypt, just as an Egyptian pharaoh’s death would be mourned for 70 days in Egypt.  
“And the Egyptians wept for him threescore and ten days.”  Genesis 50: 3
Then immediately after the proper Egyptian mourning had been completed, which 
should not be characterized as being “Only much later”, Jacob’s body was 
taken all the long way to Canaan for the world’s grandest funeral and burial.
“And when the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph spoke unto the house 
of Pharaoh, saying:  'If now I have found favour in your eyes, speak, I pray 
you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying:  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 back. 'And Pharaoh said:  'Go up, and bury thy father, 
according as he made thee swear.'  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, [etc.].”  Genesis 50: 4-7
So promptly after the Egyptian mourning in Egypt was done, Jacob was taken 
for burial in Canaan.  Note that the text expressly states that Jacob had made 
Joseph promise that Jacob would be buried in Canaan, with Jacob knowing that 
Jacob would die in Egypt.
Now the phrase in question makes perfect sense:
“And when Jacob made an end of charging his sons, he gathered up his feet 
into the bed, and expired, and was gathered unto his [‘am’/]people[/ancestors].” 
 Genesis 49: 33
We know that Jacob dies in Egypt, but according to plan is buried in Canaan, 
so that Genesis 49: 33 can be properly interpreted as follows:
“And when Jacob made an end of charging his sons, he gathered up his feet 
into the bed, and expired [in Egypt], and was gathered unto his [‘am’
]/people[/ancestors] [in Canaan, where he was buried with his ancestors].”  Genesis 49: 33
2.  This theory can easily be tested by comparing the account of Joseph’s 
death.  Like Jacob, Joseph dies in Egypt.  But so unlike Jacob (and Isaac and 
Abraham), Joseph is not buried with his ancestors in Canaan, but rather Joseph is 
buried where he dies, in Egypt, where none of Joseph’s ancestors were buried 
(but where Joseph’s father had died).  Here is the textual account of Joseph’
s death and burial in Egypt:
“So Joseph died, being a hundred and ten years old.  And they embalmed him, 
and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.”  Genesis 50: 26
Note how very loudly the dog does not bark.  Joseph is not buried in Canaan.  
So the text does  n-o-t  state that Joseph was “gathered unto his [‘am’
How can you miss it?  The text is emphasizing that Joseph was  n-o-t  
gathered unto his ‘am’/people/ancestors, because that could only happen for a burial 
in Canaan, where all of Joseph’s ancestors (except Terakh) from time 
immemorial had been buried.  That phrase is not referring to where a person dies, but 
rather is referring to where the person is buried.
In the preceding line of text, Joseph had expressed his hope that Joseph 
would be buried (or perhaps re-buried) in Canaan:
“And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying:  'God will surely 
remember you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.'”  Genesis 50: 25
But then Genesis 50: 26 so glaringly does  n-o-t  say that Joseph was “
gathered unto his am/people/ancestors”.  The important implication of that final 
sentence in the text seems to be that Joseph was buried in Egypt, rather than 
Joseph being buried with his ancestors in Canaan.  Note how the last two 
sentences in the text are very important commentary on the very issue that you and I 
are discussing here.  Being the two last lines of text, that tends to suggest 
that the very issue you and I are discussing was of great importance to the 
author of the Patriarchal narratives.
3.  If the Hebrews are indigenous to Canaan and, per my view (not your view) 
are portrayed in the Patriarchal narratives as being indigenous to Canaan, 
then only a Hebrew who is buried in Canaan can be “gathered to his ‘am’
/people/ancestors”.  It matters not where the Hebrew dies.  No, the key is where the 
Hebrew is buried.  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (i) are each buried in the Valley of 
Hebron in Canaan, and (ii) are each expressly stated to be “gathered to his ‘
am’/people/ancestors”.  The fact that Jacob died in Egypt is irrelevant, as 
long as Jacob was buried in Canaan with his ancestors.  By sharp contrast, 
heroic Joseph dies and is buried in Egypt, so Joseph is not stated to be “
gathered to his ‘am’/people”.  That’s because Joseph was the one and only Hebrew 
who was buried in Egypt.
As I see it, the author of the Patriarchal narratives is choosing his words 
very carefully here.  Although you know Biblical Hebrew a lot better than I do, 
nevertheless I find myself unable to accept your assertion that “the 
expression ‘was gathered unto his fathers/people’ does sound redundant.  But that's 
simply because Hebrew tends to do that, where English is more word-thrifty.”  
Rather than being “redundant”, as you assert, I see that phrase as being 
extremely meaningful.  It is commenting on where a Hebrew is buried (not where the 
Hebrew died), and is expressly asserting that the Hebrew was buried where 
virtually all that Hebrew’s ancestors had been buried since time immemorial:  in 
Canaan.  Only the Patriarchs and Matriarchs are portrayed as being buried in 
the Valley of Hebron, but virtually  a-l-l  of their ancestors, for countless 
generations in the past, had been buried in Canaan, since the Hebrews were, and 
are portrayed in the Patriarchal narratives as being, indigenous to Canaan.  
On that reading, that phrase in the text makes perfect sense.
It seems to me that you’re fighting the text here.  If the Hebrews are 
portrayed as being indigenous to Canaan in the Patriarchal narratives (my view, not 
your view), then every one of these expressions makes perfect sense.  Each of 
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is stated to be “gathered to his ‘am’
/people/ancestors”, because each was buried in Canaan, where all of their ancestors (except 
Terakh) had been buried.  By sharp contrast, that phrase is not used regarding 
heroic Joseph, because Joseph not only died in Egypt, but the key is that 
unlike Jacob, Joseph was buried in Egypt.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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