Q: I was rather astonished to realize, in reading Joshua 24, that they buried the bones of Joseph in Shechem instead of in the cave of Machpelah, where Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were buried... Do a word-search on Shechem and you'll find that it is a rather nefarious place. Why did they bury him there? I was also a little distressed to realize that Stephen, in the book of Acts, says that Abraham bought the land in Shechem, but Moses wrote that it was Jacob that bought land there. –Sarah P.
A: Welcome to the tension between the north and the south in Israel that we see in the division of the kingdom after Solomon and then again later in the tension between the Samaritans in the north and the Jewish people in the south in New Testament times. Those in the south wanted to ignore the claims of the north and vice versa.
Let’s begin with the burial place of the twelve patriarchs, the sons of Jacob. Acts 7:16 seems to indicate that the twelve sons of Jacob were buried at Shechem (the antecedent of “they were removed” in vs. 15 is “our fathers”). That the brothers were buried at Shechem certainly makes sense, as the children of Israel under Joshua came into possession of this area before they did of Hebron, and it seems logical that they would bury the others where Joseph was buried (Joshua 24:32)—though the Bible only mentions the bones of Joseph being brought along in the Exodus (Exo. 13:19). Nothing is said, except in this verse, about his brothers.