Fatherhood Lessons from Genesis 23

One of my favorite passages that we tend to skip in the book of Genesis. We love Genesis. We love talking about the creation story and Adam and Eve and Abraham but maybe the most skipped chapter in Genesis could be Genesis 23. It’s got to be up there. Because it’s an entire chapter where Abraham tries to figure out where to bury his family. And I just encourage you guys to take a look at that because as we talk to families, every family has this conversation about what do we do when it’s time to think about how to bury the dead of our family. And today, as I’ve had conversations with families, the almost knee jerk reaction is, there can’t be a less important topic. Maybe just cremations, just like don’t hurt the environment, just forget about it. And if somebody starts to make a big deal out of how they’re going to be buried, it’s sort of considered almost narcissistic.

Like, what’s your problem? Do you feel like you have to be remembered? So I just want to call this out because this actually mattered to Abraham a lot. He thought about this. We have an entire chapter where you see Abraham as a father of a multi generational family line, really thought thoughtfully thinking this through. And the reason, you guys, he thought about this wasn’t because he was so adamant that as a selfish father he needed to be remembered, it really was because if you don’t craft some way for your descendants to remember the family line, then that story gets lost and your children are lacking your root structure. It’s not for you. It’s for them. It’s for your descendants that you’re thinking about what story are we going to tell? And this is not prescriptive. I don’t think this means that there’s a particular way to do this.

I don’t know the best way to do this. I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve looked into lots of ways to do this. Now, it’s funny, I just want to call this out too. Environmentally, so this is a big problem, right? We just start burying everybody. And then eventually there’s so much land taken over by our dead bodies. A lot of people have revolted against that. And I think that’s a serious problem. The way this was done in the Old Testament, which is really fascinating to me, and you see this in the gospels too, why Jesus was buried in a tomb was that in Old Testament times, the way they did this was they had a family tomb. And so inside of a tomb, so it was really easy in especially the area where Israel was, you’d carve out a tomb. It would be basically a really shallow cave.

And in the cave would be maybe three little slabs that would be built into the sides of the walls of the cave. And anytime somebody from your family died, you just lay them on the slab. You would roll the stone back and you let them decompose for five, 10, 20 years until somebody else dies and you’d roll a stone, you would take the bones that were left over in the slab, throw them underneath the slab and just put the new body. And that was sort of considered you were being gathered to your people. There’s even Hebrew sort of phrases that was, oh, that’s where we would go to die. And the cool thing about this is that one family cave would work for entire family for thousands of years. You weren’t just like sprawling into the countryside with all of your giant cemetery.

Very sustainable.

Yeah. It was very sustainable. I’m sure they were really worried about the environment back then, but this was a great way to do it because then you always knew when you went to that cave that, wow, great, great, great, great, great grandpa is in here. His bones. It’s like, again, it’s not because there were ghosts in there. The reason is it told a story about the family line. And I don’t know what the equivalent is to this. Honestly, you guys, I really, I’ve looked into this. Like I said, I’m fascinated by this topic. Not because I care about it for myself. I care about it for people that are going to come from our family years after we’re gone. Jeff, what are your thoughts about this?

Yeah, same thing. And I’ll just add on a quick few seconds at the end. I don’t think, we’re not prescribing anything. We’re not telling you to do anything. We’re not saying one is more scriptural than the other. We’re just saying sometimes me and Jeremy like to just be like, oh, that’s intriguing. Oh, why don’t we do that anymore? Why has that basically been common across all generations, all religions, all world kind of geographical locations, except for now? And if that tends to ring true, then I’m always like why? Nothing more to say there besides that. Just it’s fascinating, it’s intriguing, something to think about. One thing I will say. I do think there’s a couple different ways you can go with this. There’s family versions of what you just said. And then I also think the church has done this in a really beautiful way of like the new family.

So we see in scripture that the church is like the corporate family, the big family, that Jesus makes this new multiethnic tribe that only shares faith in Jesus as its ultimate kind of bond. And then what you start seeing for thousands of years post church is now that church communities are kind of buried together. That’s why a lot of churches have a lot of cemeteries next to them, old churches. Imagine how weird you would feel if you went to a mega church that looks like a warehouse, right, and has smoke and mirrors and electric guitar. And then next to it is a cemetery that’s like all the people that have ever, first of all, there’s a whole another podcast there of like, we don’t even think that people might be going to that church in a hundred years.

Because we don’t set up our churches to be multi generational, like they used to be. But yeah, I remember going to New York and I love Hamilton and I geek out on Hamilton and Trinity, it was the first Trinity or Trinity church where he was buried. Like I wanted to go to it and look at it. And it’s this really cool memorial. And I think at the core of all of that is storytelling. When you lean into this, the core of it is just like story. Another quick thing I would say, and we’ll end on this, is I had a friend who for his kids’ rites of passage when they were 13 years old, they go on this road trip and do all these different types of things with storytelling. And one of the parts on the storytelling trip is they go to their great grandpa’s grave, I think like in California or something. And that’s a moment to then tell a story, make a connection, et cetera. So I think that’s one legitimate reason why some of this stuff matters and why you should be thinking about it.

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