My father made me swear, saying, lo, I die
Having reason to believe he should not live long, he sent for Joseph, and took an oath of him to do as follows; this Joseph would have observed to Pharaoh, to show the necessity of his application to him, and the reasonableness of his request. The words of dying men are always to be regarded; their dying charge is always attended to by those who have a regard to duty and honour; but much more when an oath is annexed to them, which among all nations was reckoned sacred: in the grave which I have digged for me in the land of Canaan, there
shalt thou bury me;
it was usual with persons in their lifetime to prepare graves or sepulchres for themselves, as appears from the instances of Shebna, Joseph of Arimathea, and others, and so Jacob provided one for himself; and when he is said to "dig" it, it is not to be supposed that he dug it himself, but ordered it to be dug by his servants, and very probably this was done at the time he buried Leah. Onkelos renders it, "which I have bought", possessed or obtained by purchase; and so the word is used in ( Hosea 3:2 ) but the cave of Machpelah, in which Jacob's grave was, was not bought by him, but by Abraham; for to say, as some Jewish writers F8 suggest, that he bought Esau's part in it with a mess of pottage, is without foundation; it is better to take the words in the first sense. And now, since it was Jacob's desire, yea, his dying charge, to be buried in the grave he had provided for himself, the mention of this to an Egyptian king could not fail of having its desired effect; since the Egyptians, as the historian F9 says, were more careful about their graves than about their houses: now therefore let me go up, I pray thee;
to the land of Canaan, which lay higher than Egypt; and bury my father;
there, in the grave he has provided for himself: and I will come again:
to the land of Egypt; this he would have said, lest it should be thought he only contrived this to get an opportunity of going away to Canaan with all his wealth and riches.
F8 R. David Kimchi Sepher Shorash. rad. (hrk) Ben Melech in loc.
F9 Diodor. Sic. Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 47.