Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Genesis Chapter 46 ~ Israel Goes to Egypt

Genesis Chapter 46

Jacob's Family from Canaan to Egypt

Jacob/Israel came with everything he had to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of His father Isaac (vs. 1). God spoke to him in visions of the night saying, "Jacob, Jacob." Jacob said, "Here I am." (vs. 2) God said, "I am God, the God of your father, don't be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes." (vs. 3-4)

His sons carried him, their little ones, and their wives in the wagons Pharaoh sent. They brought livestock and goods from Canaan, and all Jacob/Israel's offspring to Egypt.

Here's the list of Jacob/Israel and his descendants who came to Egypt:


All Jacob's descendants who came into Egypt numbered 66 (vs. 26). Three were already in Egypt: Joseph, Manasseh, and Ephraim. Further, it seems this leaves out Jacob too. So, the total of Jacob's house that came to Egypt (including Joseph, his two sons, and Jacob himself) was 70 (vs. 27; cf. Exod. 1:5; Deut. 10:22). [1] 

Jacob & Joseph Meet
Jacob had sent Judah ahead to Joseph to show the way to Goshen. Joseph prepared his chariot and went to meet Israel in Goshen. He presented himself to him and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while (vs. 29). Israel said to Joseph, "Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive." (vs. 31) Joseph told his brothers and Jacob's household, "I will go up and tell Pharaoh and will say to him, 'My brothers and my father's household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. And the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock, and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have.' When Pharaoh calls you and says, 'What is your occupation?' you shall say, 'Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,' in order that you may dwell in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians." (vs. 31-34)

Reflections on Genesis 46

(1) Back from the Dead
Do you remember what happened in Genesis 22? That's where God asked Abraham to offer up/kill his son Isaac, the one through whom God promised He would establish His covenant. Here's how Hebrews 11:17-19 described what was going on in Abraham in that event: "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, 'Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.' He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back." 

(2) Response of Worship
Isaac never died. Similarly, here again, we see another picture of a father figuratively receiving his son back from the dead, Jacob and Joseph. And what's Jacob's response to this news of his son being alive? It's similar to Abraham's (Genesis 22:13). He worships by offering sacrifices to Yahweh (vs. 1). Ask yourself this question, when you receive incredible news does it cause you to worship God?

(3) God Speaks
Then God speaks to Jacob, reassuring him that this is part of His plan to fulfill His covenantal promise to make Israel into a great nation. God strengthens Jacob's faith in what He tells him, and Jacob steps out in full assurance and confidence with his 70 descendants from Canaan to Beersheba to Goshen, in Egypt. Nothing happens outside of God's permission. 

This is instructive for us. We must pursue God's Word to evaluate what we should do. This doesn't mean we will hear God's audible voice like Jacob. No, we have His Word in the Bible. We should consult it. When we step out in faith, it's not because we have a dream or have convinced ourselves of a feeling of "inner peace" through our own opinions, but in asking God for wisdom in prayer, in seeking what His Word has to say about our circumstances, and seeking counsel from others who know God's Word about how they think God's Word would address us (even though counsel is sometimes hard to take, and sometimes it's wisely not followed). I'm not saying always "go against your gut", but I would say that just because your "gut" tells you something, it doesn't mean it's in line with God's Word. Friends, test the spirits: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1) Following your conscience is important, and in God's common grace we can still discern what is wise through our "gut", but we should be like Jacob here. Let our decisions be driven by God's Word, the Bible, not necessarily what our hearts and others tell us.

(4) The Land
God is doing something specific in this event in a "salvation-historic" sense. He is setting up a grand scene through which He will display His glory in saving His covenant people from Egypt, and instituting the Mosaic covenant in Exodus. This can be clearly seen in His promise to bring Israel back out of Egypt again (vs. 3-4). Further, God won't abandon His people. God is moving history to the next point in which more shadows and types will be set up to point to Jesus Christ as the Messiah.

This being said, there is a parallel to the Christian life here as Israel goes from a land of famine to the verdant land of Goshen. We can step out in full faith, assurance, and confidence in what God has called us to do, namely, repent and believe in Christ, knowing that His strong arm will bring His covenant people from this broken and fallen world to be in the most lush land imaginable. Through Jesus' perfect life, substutionary death, and powerful resurrection we can have hope that God will bring us to the verdant land that Goshen only foreshadowed, that the Promised Land was only a dim reflection of: Heaven. The "city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:10) Eternity in the blessed joy and pleasure of God's favor because of Christ forever. With our Savior forever.
[1] NOTE: First, the Bible does not contradict itself in adding up these descendant numbers. However we conclude that Moses came to these numbers it doesn't change the fact that the Scriptures are trustworthy, true, and without error (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21). Second, I believe that Jacob was intended to be included in the count with Leah's children, and in the final count of 70 who went down to Egypt. I believe the following theories of how Moses arrived at the number of 70 descendants are not likely: (1) That Asenath was Dinah's daughter by Shechem, (2) that Moses' mother, Jochebed, was an unborn infant when Jacob's descendants migrated to Egypt, (3) that there was some unborn infant that was counted, (4) that the list included another son of Dan, or lastly, (5) that the Holy One of Israel was included in the number. You can clearly see how I think the numbers add up by the way I counted above. Third, another issue related to this is that Stephen, in Acts 7:14, said Jacob's descendants included 75 people in all. Also, the Septuagint reads 75 descendants at Genesis 46:27 and Exodus 1:5, but keeps Deuteronomy 10:22 at 70 people. Stephen and the Septuagint may have been thinking of Jacob's family at a later date, not necessarily the specific number at the time that they actually moved from Canaan to Egypt. I. Howard Marshall tries to show this specifically (Marshall, 146-7). I'm not fully convinced by his math. These texts do not contradict each other. Both the Septuagint and Stephen are correct on the number; however, the Hebrew text of 70 is the exact number of Jacob's descendants at the time of their migration.

No comments: