1So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.
2And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, "Jacob! Jacob!"
"Here I am," he replied.
3"I am God, the God of your father," He said. "Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph's own hand will close your eyes."
5Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel's sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. 6They also took with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan, and Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt. 7He took with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters--all his offspring.
8These are the names of the sons of Israel (Jacob and his descendants) who went to Egypt:
Reuben the firstborn of Jacob.
9The sons of Reuben: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron and Carmi.
10The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jakin, Zohar and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman.
11The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath and Merari.
12The sons of Judah: Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez and Zerah (but Er and Onan had died in the land of Canaan). The sons of Perez: Hezron and Hamul.
13The sons of Issachar: Tola, Puah, Jashub and Shimron.
14The sons of Zebulun: Sered, Elon and Jahleel.
15These were the sons Leah bore to Jacob in Paddan Aram, besides his daughter Dinah. These sons and daughters of his were thirty-three in all.
16The sons of Gad: Zephon, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi and Areli.
17The sons of Asher: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi and Beriah. Their sister was Serah. The sons of Beriah: Heber and Malkiel.
18These were the children born to Jacob by Zilpah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Leah--sixteen in all.
19The sons of Jacob's wife Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin.
20In Egypt, Manasseh and Ephraim were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.
21The sons of Benjamin: Bela, Beker, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim and Ard.
22These were the sons of Rachel who were born to Jacob-- fourteen in all.
23The son of Dan: Hushim.
24The sons of Naphtali: Jahziel, Guni, Jezer and Shillem.
25These were the sons born to Jacob by Bilhah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Rachel--seven in all.
26All those who went to Egypt with Jacob--those who were his direct descendants, not counting his sons' wives--numbered sixty-six persons. 27With the two sons who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob's family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all.
Upon hearing the great news, brought by his sons, that Joseph was still alive: "Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac" (vs. 1). So, Jacob set out first, and then, sought God in the matter. Normally, this is not the proper order in which to do things. We should seek God first, no matter how promising the opportunity seems.
In defense of Jacob, though, it appears that he purposely wanted to seek God in Beersheba. Beersheba was where Jacob lived as a child, up until the time when, due to his own scheming, he was forced to flee to Haran to escape his brother Esau's anger. And so, where Jacob first left the promised land, there he seeks God in preparation for leaving the promised land for the last time.
So there, at his final farewell to the promised land, God renews the covenant with Jacob: "And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, `Jacob! Jacob!' `Here I am,' he replied. `I am God, the God of your father,' He said. `Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph's own hand will close your eyes'" (vss. 2-4). Many years before, the first words of promise that God spoke to Abraham were: "I will make you into a great nation" (Gen. 12:2). Here, God renews that promise, while at the same time reassuring Jacob that it was OK for him to go to Egypt. In fact, God tells Jacob that it is in Egypt that he will be made into a great nation. This may seem strange, at first, to a reader of the book of Genesis. In Genesis, God expends much effort (anthropomorphically speaking) bringing his chosen people to the promised land, keeping them in the promised land, and bringing them back when they wander out of the promised land. Now, under God's blessing and guidance, the entire family is moving out to dwell in Egypt. And then we are told that it is to be in Egypt that the family will be made "a great nation". Why would this be? Why weren't they made into a "great nation" in the promised land? Answer. Because God knew that they would become a much stronger, longer lasting nation, if they were born through strife and affliction. In the promised land, where they were getting comfortable, the chosen family was falling apart. In Egypt, they will forge a bond that will last thousands of years, right up to the present day. The suffering and affliction they experienced in Egypt continues even today to unify the Jewish people as a great nation.
It was no surprise to God that the people of Israel would experience affliction in Egypt. Many years before, God told Abraham: "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and ill-treated four hundred years" (Gen. 15:13). It's a good thing that Jacob did not remember this prophecy! He might have been hesitant to go down to Egypt! God, sparing Jacob sorrow, tells him that he will be made a great nation, but does not tell him how!
Israel was made a great and unified nation through strife. Do we not see the same thing in our lives? Consider the pain and struggling of childbirth. Is not the family made stronger by going through the pain of labor. The husband and wife draw close through this shared experience. The love for the new baby is greater after he enters into life through so much struggle. Beyond this, families invariably are drawn closer when any outside force inflicts them. Consider also the church. The church of Jesus Christ was also made stronger through affliction. The suffering that the early church experienced at the hands of Rome unified and purified the church. There are rarely hypocrites and false professors in a persecuted church. And so we see, though we do not like affliction and persecution, God can accomplish much good by allowing us to experience pain. In fact, God (pay attention) shows His love for us by allowing us to experience pain. True love has a larger view than temporary comfort. Every good parent knows this.
In God's renewal of the covenant, note the four promises to Jacob. The first is the covenant promise: "I will make you into a great nation there." The second is a promise of God's presence in the land of suffering: "I will go down to Egypt with you." The third is a promise that the nation will return out of the land of suffering: "I will surely bring you back again." The fourth is a personal promise to Jacob that he will dwell with Joseph his son until the day of his death: "And Joseph's own hand will close your eyes."
In response to the promises of God, Jacob set out (once again) for Egypt, taking all of his family and all that he owned (see vss. 5-7). In verses 8 through 27, Moses (the author of Genesis) enumerates the members of Jacob's family up to that time. There were "seventy in all" (see vs. 27) that made up the seed of the nation of Israel. Some four-hundred years later, when the nation of Israel left Egypt, "there were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children" (Ex. 12:37). God was certainly faithful to his promise: Israel was made a great nation.
46:28Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, 29Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.
30Israel said to Joseph, "Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive."
31Then Joseph said to his brothers and to his father's household, "I will go up and speak to Pharaoh and will say to him, `My brothers and my father's household, who were living in the land of Canaan, have come to me. 32The men are shepherds; they tend livestock, and they have brought along their flocks and herds and everything they own.' 33When Pharaoh calls you in and asks, `What is your occupation?' 34you should answer, `Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did.' Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians."
47:1Joseph went and told Pharaoh, "My father and brothers, with their flocks and herds and everything they own, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in Goshen." 2He chose five of his brothers and presented them before Pharaoh.
3Pharaoh asked the brothers, "What is your occupation?"
"Your servants are shepherds," they replied to Pharaoh, "just as our fathers were." 4They also said to him, "We have come to live here awhile, because the famine is severe in Canaan and your servants' flocks have no pasture. So now, please let your servants settle in Goshen."
5Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Your father and your brothers have come to you, 6and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. And if you know of any among them with special ability, put them in charge of my own livestock."
7Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in and presented him before Pharaoh. After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, 8Pharaoh asked him, "How old are you?"
9And Jacob said to Pharaoh, "The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers." 10Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from his presence.
11So Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses, as Pharaoh directed. 12Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father's household with food, according to the number of their children.
For twenty years, Jacob thought that his favorite son Joseph was dead. Now, almost like a dream, Jacob finally sees his son again: "As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time" (vs. 29). Jacob's response to the flood of emotion at this meeting: "Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive" (vs. 30). Jacob's joy overwhelmed him.
Joseph had already planned where his family would settle. Joseph reconnoitered Goshen and found it to be perfect for his family because it would allow them to prosper, and it would keep the Egyptian culture away from them. Goshen was an area in the eastern part of the Nile delta (towards the Sinai penninsula) suitable for tending livestock. Joseph encouraged his brothers to emphasize the fact that they had been tending livestock for generations (see vss. 31-33). For some reason (as Moses tells us), "shepherds [were] detestable to the Egyptians" (vs. 34). This would serve the Israelites well. The Egyptians would leave them alone, giving the Israelites an opportunity to build themselves as a nation. Many times it is beneficial to be detested by the world. It keeps us separate, sanctified, away from temptation. "So the Lord often permits us to be despised or rejected by the world, that being liberated and cleansed from its pollution, we may cultivate holiness."
Ironically, though their settling in Goshen was beneficial to the building of the nation of Israel, their localized settlement made it easier later for the Egyptians to enslave them. Moreover, it was the success and fruitfulness of the Israelites that spurred the Egyptians in their jealousy and fear of the Israelites to enslave them (see Ex. 1:6-13). But alas, this was all a part of God's plan for the nation of Israel.
Joseph, with five of his brothers, presented his plan to Pharaoh (see vss. 47:1-4). Pharaoh was gracious: "Pharaoh said to Joseph, `Your father and your brothers have come to you, and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. And if you know of any among them with special ability, put them in charge of my own livestock'" (vss. 5-6). This was, of course, a different Pharaoh than the one who was later to enslave the Israelites (see Ex. 1:8). The many years of faithful service by Joseph quite clearly endeared him to this Pharaoh. We should all follow Joseph's example and be faithful as we serve our employers, whether they be believers or non-believers. Our faithful service is a testimony to God's faithfulness.
Pharaoh also treated Jacob graciously as he was brought before him. Moses points out twice that "Jacob blessed Pharaoh". This is in keeping with the biblical principle that "the lesser person is blessed by the greater" (see Heb. 7:7). And indeed (though Pharaoh did not realize it), despite the fact that Pharaoh was the leader of (arguably) the most powerful nation in the world at the time while Jacob was a shepherd, Jacob in the scheme of things, as well as in God's eyes, was a greater man.