11 When the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a grievous mourning by the Egyptians.” Therefore the place was named Abel-mizraim; it is beyond the Jordan. Genesis 50:11
Genesis ends with Pharaoh granting permission for Joseph to return to Canaan along with his brothers in order to bury Jacob. So a “great company” (verse 9) formed the funeral procession. Seventy members of Jacob’s family had moved to Egypt (see Genesis 46:27). The text doesn’t specify how many made up the household of Jacob 17 years later, when Jacob died (Gen 47:28); only that they all returned to Canaan, except for the children, their flocks, and their herds (see verse 8).
What I find most interesting is that within less than a generation, the sons of Jacob had so thoroughly assimilated into Egyptian culture that their own neighbors assumed they were Egyptians. Genesis 50:11 says that the inhabitants of the land looked at each other and commented on how loud “the Egyptians” were as they mourned. They had become indistinguishable from the culture that surrounded them–unrecognizable even to their former neighbors. I guess it really is true that you can’t go home again.
We started talking about this on Day 027. If the famine was over, why didn’t the sons of Jacob go back home? Now, we see that when they did return to Canaan, it was only for a visit. They left their children, their flocks, and their herds back in Egypt. There was no doubt they would return. Clearly, their hearts remained in the land that would eventually enslave them.
I’ve noticed something interesting about my dog. When I walk with her in the morning, I can unhook her leash and let her run free, but she will never go very far from me. She has been so conditioned to look to me to meet her needs that even when she is free, she always comes back. Often, when I first unhook her, she’ll grab the leash in her mouth; tugging and tearing and pulling, never realizing that she is no longer connected to it.
This is a great thing for my dog, because I’m a good pet owner. I love her and want her to stay close so I can take care of her. But what if I’m a bad pet owner? What if i’m abusive and mistreat her? I am afraid that conditioning would still win the day. I believe she would still come back, because she’s my dog.
Beloved, it doesn’t take long. For Jacob’s children, it only took seventeen years to become so comfortable with the culture that they were indistinguishable from it.
Tomorrow, we will begin reading about what happened when a Pharaoh who “knew not Joseph” arose in the land. We will see how the Egyptians made slaves out of God’s people. Understand this: it didn’t happen overnight. A godless culture usually doesn’t have to force anyone into slavery. Give us enough time, and we will sleepwalk into slavery ourselves.
Never stop longing for your true home. And if you have been set free from the dominion of darkness, then walk as children of the light (Col. 1:13; 1 Thess 5:5). Don’t keep pulling at what you’ve been set free from.