Page images



Jacob first dwelt on the glorious promises of God to himself, especially at Bethel; and he then made tender mention of the death of Rachel, for whose dear sake he proposed to give her beloved son, Joseph, a strong mark of his regard, namely, to bestow upon him, through his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, a double portion, in that rich inheritance yet in reserve for his posterity. As Jacob could not see clearly, he had not observed that Manasseh and Ephraim were present, but, at length, he perceived that there were some persons with Joseph, and being told who they were, he desired them to be brought nearer, that he might bless them.

In causing his sons to kneel before their reverend grandfather, Joseph placed the eldest, Manasseh, opposite his right hand, and Ephraim opposite his left. He evidently expected that Manasseh would receive the chief blessing; but Jacob crossed his hands, placing the right upon the head of Ephraim, and when Joseph attempted to rectify what he imagined might be a mistake, his father persisted, assuring him that he acted by the Divine direc

and he then bestowed upon Ephraim, prophetically, the larger blessing, which was enjoyed by his tribe in succeeding ages.

After this, Jacob, feeling that the hour of his death approached, called all his sons together, that he might predict to them, severally, what should befal their families in their latter days. He did this, by Divine inspiration, in a noble poem, the most ancient which has been preserved in any language; and in which he prophetically described the several characters of his sons, and the distinguishing features of their future possessions, in language alternately tender, pathetic, and stern, and replete with beautiful and natural imagery. See Gen. xlix.

Jacob concluded his predictions by repeating the charge which he had already given to Joseph separately, concerning his burial in the family sepulchre. Then, as if the exertion had been too much for his waning strength, he laid himself down on the bed, and softly yielded up the ghost. The affection which Joseph entertained for his venerable father was strikingly displayed at his death. He fell upon his lifeless form, wept over it, kissed it, and commanded Egyptian physicians to embalm the body; and, after a mourning of seventy days, attended by all the state officers and principal nobility of Egypt, he carried his remains into Canaan, and buried them in the cave of Machpelah.

The funeral of Jacob was, in all that concerned the paraphernalia of the occasion, a purely Egyptian ceremony. As related, the body of the venerable patriarch was embalmed by the physicians of Egypt; mourned over by the people for seventy days; and, finally, conveyed to its place of repose with Abraham and Isaac, by a magnificent escort of chariots and horsemen. The artist, catching this idea, has accordingly represented the ceremony as Egyptian. The mourning cavalcade is depicted, as it may be supposed to have been seen, descending one of the precipitous defiles of Northern Arabia. In the front is discerned the funeral car drawn by horses richly caparisoned, and surrounded and followed by the servants of Pharoah, in company with the Hebrew mourners. The authorities from whence the artist has derived his ideas, may be found in the many sculptures, paintings, and drawings on papyri, which exhibit the death, the judgment, the passage of the soul across the great lake, and various Egyptian funeral ceremonies.

The sacred historian, describing the funeral of Jacob, says, that it consisted of a very great company, and that they mourned for the deceased“ with a great and very sore lamentation.” Doubtless, however, the sons of Jacob did not mourn as those without hope. In the midst of his prophetic address to them the aged saint breathed this aspiration to the Almighty: “I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord;” and they could not fail to remember his words, and to derive comfort from them in their sorrows. Reader, so live that you may use such language, as well for your own comfort, as the consolation of those who, one day, will mourn over you.

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »