A better hope

Reflections on a trip to the museum...

Huw Williams | 22:15, Friday 23 November 2012 | Turin, Italy

We went to the Egyptian Museum on Tuesday; we've been meaning to visit for some time now, and we weren't disappointed. As any Torinese can tell you, it contains the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside Cairo, and when you see the collection, this fact doesn't surprise you.

Museo EgizioThere’s something about seeing history close up that causes us to hush and reflect. People take their time around the vast building, speaking in low voices and peering through glass panels at a host of historical treasures, many of which date back 5,000 years or more. The fact that so many of these artifacts are still with us to be admired, is of course down to the fact that people were buried with them.

I learned that many a Pharaoh would begin planning his funeral pretty much as soon as he came to power. Plans were drawn up for the burial chamber and as many of the gadgets as were necessary for the journey into the afterlife began to be accumulated.

Most of us live in the kind of luxury that the kings and queens of history would have envied.

I imagine that many a visitor strolling around the Museo Egizio with a satchel stuffed with designer sunglasses, electronic tablet and smartphone, raises an eyebrow at such quaint pagan thought. But the thought struck me that maybe our culture isn't that different. After all, no one accumulates gadgets and possessions like the secular West. Most of us live in the kind of luxury that the kings and queens of history would have envied. The ancient Egyptians began their hoarding under the awareness of the closeness of death, but doesn't ours' too? Doesn't the ticking clock drive our accumulation? Isn’t the only difference between their culture and ours’, the fact that they hoped that the fun was to start after death, while our culture hopes it might start before? The difference is fairly superficial, since for us as well as them it seems, he who dies with the most gadgets is best equipped to face death.

My history isn’t good enough, but presumably contemporary with some of these statues or temples or coffins or books of the dead or other burial paraphernalia we saw yesterday, someone very well acquainted with the ways of ancient Egypt died somewhat differently. Like the mummies we saw, he died and was buried in the Egyptian fashion, but with a better hope. I know that I wasn't looking at his embalmed body yesterday. You don't need to visit the Museo Egizio to read his words, just turn to the end of Genesis.

"Then Joseph said to his brothers, '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.' And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, 'God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.' So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt."

Oh, and don’t forget to drop by Hebrews 11 either:-

"By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones."

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