Did you know that mummies are mentioned in the Bible?
In Genesis 50:2-3, Joseph had physicians embalm his dead father, Jacob. Joseph was an Israelite working in a high position for the Pharaoh of Egypt, and embalming (or mummifying) was the usual way dead bodies were prepared for burial in that culture. Jacob’s mummified body was then taken back to his homeland in Canaan to be buried in a cave with his father, Isaac, and his grandfather, Abraham (Genesis 49:29-32, 50:12-14).
Later, when Joseph died, he was also embalmed (Genesis 50:26). Like his father, he made his family swear he would eventually be buried with his forefathers in Canaan: “’I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…. God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place’” (Genesis 50:24-25).
For reasons which aren’t explained, Joseph’s body was not taken to Canaan right away. Perhaps Joseph, as an old man, no longer worked for the Pharaoh or had any influence with him. Perhaps things were already changing in Egypt and Jacob’s large family were no longer treated as welcome guests in the land. Whatever the reason, Joseph’s family did not leave Egypt for over 400 years—not until God sent Moses to lead them back to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
It’s interesting to note that even after 400 years, the Children of Israel had not become assimilated into the people of Egypt. They were still an identifiable group with a common heritage and a family history handed down either orally or in written form. They knew where they were from. They knew they were aliens in the land of Egypt. They knew they had a promise to keep to return Joseph’s bones to rest with his fathers.
But when it came time to move forward, many found the challenges of going home a little too daunting, and they thought longingly of all the “comforts” they had left in Egypt (Exodus 14:10-12, 16:3, 17:3; Numbers 11:4-6, 14:2-4, 20:4-5). At times, it must have seemed to Moses that the only one among them who wasn’t complaining was the mummy. “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, ‘God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place’” (Exodus 13:19).
So, you see, this story had a mummy in it. It also has a moral.
God wants us to look forward, not back. He wants us to remember we are aliens in the kingdoms and nations of men and that our true home is the Kingdom of God. He wants us to let go of the “comforts” of this world we think we need and hold on to his promises. And if he has to make us “obnoxious” in our modern-day cultures to remind us of his calling, he will.
If that last thought intrigues you, I wrote a short book about it, called One Nation Under God: A Christian Argument in Favor of Separation of Church and State. You can find it at Amazon.com, where the Kindle version is only 99 cents for the next week!