1 And Joseph fell upon his father’s face, and wept upon him, and kissed him. 2 And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel. 3 And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed: and the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days.
Joseph commits his father’s body to be embalmed by the physicians of Egypt. We have never heard of any other patriarch having his body embalmed, but here it would be necessary if the remains were to make the long journey back to the cave of Machpelah without turning rancid.
It is interesting that these early Israelites accepted the embalming process, as the Jewish law forbids it. Perhaps this law was not in force at the time of Jacob, or perhaps this was considered an acceptable exception. In either case, the period of seventy days that Jacob is mourned for matches perfectly with the Egyptian custom, as reported by Herodotus in his Histories. Thus, Jacob was to be buried with his Hebrew fathers, but his funeral preparations were decidedly Egyptian.