June 4, 2017

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

PART IV: JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN (Gen. 37:1-50:26)

 

 

Topic #E: THE MIGRATION INTO EGYPT. Gen. 46:1-47:21                                                   

 

Lesson IV.E.1: The Departure from Canaan. (Gen. 46:1-7)                                      

 

 

Genesis 46:1-7 (KJV)

 

 1 And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.

2 And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I.

3 And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:

4 I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.

5 And Jacob rose up from Beersheba: and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him.

6 And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him:

7 His sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt.

 

 

Introduction

 

This Chapter contains the details of Israel's journey to Egypt. And there has never been a journey undertaken with more clear and accurate views of the divine Providence. Compelled by famine, invited by his son, and encouraged and directed by his GOD, the snowy-haired Patriarch sets out with a confident expectation of embracing a long lost child. He takes all his family with him, arrives at the place where they are to meet, and beholds his son; and then we will listen to the conversation between Joseph and his father.

 

 

 

Commentary

 

 1 And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.

 

 “And Israel took his journey with all that he had,” that is, his household (his family including the servants) and his possessions; but in compliance with Pharaoh‘s recommendation, he left his heavy furniture behind. In contemplating a step as important as that of leaving Canaan, which at his time of life he might never revisit, the pious patriarch would ask God for guidance and counsel. With all his anxiety to see Joseph, he would rather have died in Canaan than leave it without the consciousness of carrying the divine blessing along with him.

This holy man is compelled by a possible world-wide famine to leave the land of Canaan and to go into Egypt at his son’s invitation, but before he leaves he plans to offer a sacrifice to the Lord, for the purpose of testifying that the covenant which God had made with his fathers was confirmed and ratified by him. For, though he was accustomed to taking part in the external worship of God, there was yet a special reason for this sacrifice. And, no doubt, he had at that time considerable need of God’s support, for he feared that his faith could fail, since he was about to be deprived of the inheritance promised to him, and of the sight of that land which was the type and the pledge of the heavenly country, spoken of by his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham.

Don’t you think it might have dawned on him that he had up till then been mislead by a vain hope? Therefore, by renewing the memory of the divine covenant, he applies a suitable remedy against falling from the faith. For this reason, he offers a sacrifice on the very boundaries of that land, as I have just said; that we might know it to be something more than usual. And he presents this worship to the God of his fathers; to testify that, although he is departing from that land, into which Abraham had been called; yet he does not in so doing cut himself off from the God in whose worship he had been educated. 

 

“And [Israel] came to Beersheba.”This place appears to be mentioned, not only because it was on the way from Hebron, where Jacob resided, to Egypt, where he was going; but because it was a place consecrated by both Abraham and Isaac and there they received favorable answers from God, a place where God had appeared to Abraham (Genesis 21:33), and to Isaac (Genesis 26:23), and where Jacob is encouraged to expect a manifestation of the same goodness. He chooses therefore to begin his journey with a visit to Beersheba, and since he was going into a strange land, he feels it is right to renew his covenant with God by sacrifice. There is an old proverb which applies strongly to this case: "Prayers and provender never hinder any man's journey. He who would travel safely must take God with him.”

In his devotion he thought of God as “the God of his father Isaac,” that is, a God in covenant with him; for by Isaac the covenant was passed on to him. He "offered sacrifices," extraordinary sacrifices, besides those at his stated times. These sacrifices were offered:

  1. By way of thanksgiving for the last blessed change in the make-up of his family, for the good news he had received concerning Joseph, and for the hopes he had of seeing him.
  2. By way of petition for the presence of God with him during his intended journey.
  3. By way of consultation. Jacob would not go, till he had asked for Jehovah’s permission.  

 

“And offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac,” whom Isaac honored and served, and who had constantly protected and provided for Isaac, and confirmed his covenant with him. He mentions Isaac rather than Abraham, partly for Isaac’s honor, to show that though Isaac was much inferior to Abraham in gifts and graces, yet God was no less Isaac’s than Abraham’s God, and therefore would be his God also, in spite of his unworthiness; and partly for his own comfort, because Isaac was Jacob’s immediate parent, and had transferred the blessing of the covenant from Esau to Jacob, and the validity of that translation depended upon Isaac’s interest in God.

 

2 And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I.

 

“And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night. He appeared to Jacob in a vision as he lay upon his bed at night (Probably the next night after he had offered his sacrifices.), and spoke to him in an articulate voice. Those who desire to keep up communion with God will find that He never fails on his side. If we speak to him as we ought to, He will not fail to speak to us.

At first the prospect of God paying a personal visit to Jacob had filled the patriarch with unmingled joy. But, upon further consideration, many difficulties appeared to lie in the way. He may have remembered the prophecy given to Abraham (Genesis 15:13{1]) that his posterity was to be afflicted in Egypt and also that his father had been expressly told not to go (Genesis 26:2{2]); he may have feared that idolatry could contaminate his family and that they may eventually forget the land of promise and stop worshiping the true God.. These doubts were removed by the vision, and an assurance given him of great and increasing prosperity.

 

“And said, Jacob, Jacob,” not “Israel,” the more honorable name God had given him, but Jacob, his old name, putting him in mind of his former low estate, in contrast to what God would make him. And notice that He says his name twice, either out of love and affection for him; or rather, in order to enliven him, at least to awaken his attention to what he was about to say to him.

 

“And he said, here am I,” Jacob, like one well acquainted with the visions of the Almighty, answers, “Here am I” signifying his readiness to listen to Him, and to obey him in whatsoever He should command him to do.

And what has God to say to him?

 

3 And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:

 

“And he said, I am God, the God of thy father.”His father is Isaac, who was now dead, and who is the person mentioned, because in him Abraham’s seed was to live-on, and in his line the promise both of the land of Canaan, and of the Messiah, was passed-on from one generation to another. And from him Jacob received the blessing; and this might be a confirmation of that given to him by God, Jehovah, who here calls himself “his God,” and so He is able to carry out whatever he should promise him; and his father's God, would show him favor, as he had to Isaac.

“I am the El, the Elohim of thy father,” is how this would appear in Hebrew. This is the last revelation given to Jacob, and there is not any other supernatural event recorded until the vision of the burning bush (Exodus 3:4). It is brief, clear, and decisive, and every clause is weighty. Jacob is to migrate into Egypt, where his race is to grow into a nation; the stay there would be long and difficult; but God’s presence and blessing will accompany them and remain with them, and finally will bring them back to the Promised Land. For himself, too, there is the promise that Joseph will tend his sick bed and be with him at his death.

 

“Fear not to go down into Egypt.” It appears that there had been some doubts in the patriarch's mind concerning the wisdom of this journey; he found, from the confession of his own sons, how little they were to be trusted. But every doubt is dispelled by this Divine manifestation.

  1. He may go down confident that no malicious evil will threaten him.
  2. Even in Egypt the covenant shall be fulfilled, God will make of him there a great nation.
  3. God himself will accompany him on his journey, be with him in the strange land, and even bring back his bones to rest with those of his fathers.
  4. He shall see Joseph, and this same beloved son shall be with him in his last hours, and do the last kind office for him. Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.

It is not likely that Jacob would have in any way attempted to go down to Egypt, if he had not received these assurances from God; and it is very likely that he offered his sacrifice (v. 1) merely to obtain this information. There was an earlier time of famine in Egypt, and God had forbidden his father Isaac to go down to Egypt when there was a famine there (Genesis 26:1-3{2]); besides, he may have had some general intimation of the prophecy delivered to his grandfather Abraham, that his seed would be afflicted in Egypt (Genesis 15:13-14){3]); and he also knew that Canaan, not Egypt, was to be the inheritance of his family (See Genesis 12); and then, he might fear it would be too great a journey for him in his old age, or he die on the way and not see his son. On all these accounts it was necessary to have the clearest directions from God, before he would take such a journey.

 

“For I will there make of thee a great nation,” which He did in spite of the hardships Israel’s seed had to bear, yet the more they were afflicted, the more they multiplied; and their increase in Egypt was vastly greater than it had been in a like space of time before entering Egypt. In the space of two hundred fifteen years before their descent into Egypt, they had become no more than seventy persons (Exodus 1:5-7{4]), while in the same number of years in Egypt, they became 600,000, besides children (See Genesis 46:27{5]; Exodus 12:37{6]).

 

4 I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.

 

“I will go down with thee into Egypt. When the LORD said this, it was enough to silence all of Jacob’s fears; for if the presence of God went with him to protect and defend him, to bless and bring him prosperity, and to direct, support, and comfort him, he had nothing to fear from any quarter. Those that go where God sends them shall certainly have God with them.

 

“And I will also surely bring thee up again is sometimes taken as a promise that he would be buried in the land of Canaan, which had its fulfillment when his corpse was carried out of Egypt to Machpelah, and there to be entombed. But it might refer to a future time when he LORD will bringing up the children of Israel (his posterity) from Egypt, for which Jacob might be thankful. Since Jacob could not expect to live till this promise was realized, he must have seen that it was to be accomplished only by his posterity.

Whatever lonely and shadowy valley we are called into, we may be confident that if God goes down with us, he will surely bring us up again. If he goes with us down into the valley of the shadow of death, he will surely bring us up again to glory.

 

“And Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes is a promise that Joseph would live as long as he lived, that he would be with him when he died, and close his eyes with great tenderness; this was a custom and was done by the living to the dead. It used to be done by the nearest relatives and friends, though now it is commonly done for us by strangers, or those that are not our kin. Now by this expression Jacob was assured that Joseph was alive, and that he would live to see him, and that Joseph would outlive him, and do this last act for him; and, by this he had the good news told him that Joseph would remain after his death, to sustain and support his sons, and his sons’ sons, all the years that he would live after him.

It is likely that Jacob had been wishing that Joseph might be the one to do this last act of love for him; and God answered his desire to the letter. From this we know that God sometimes gratifies the innocent wishes of His people, and makes not only their death a happy occasion, but the very circumstances of it pleasant.

 

5 And Jacob rose up from Beersheba: and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him.

 

“And Jacob rose up from Beer-sheba,” to cross the border and settle in Egypt.

By using the words “rose up,” Moses seems to imply that Jacob received new vitality from the vision. For although the former promises were not forgotten, yet the addition of the recent memorial at Beersheba came most opportunely, for now he, bearing the land of Canaan in his heart, might endure his absence from it with composure.

 

“And the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him.” However refreshed and invigorated in spirit he was made by the memorial at Beer-sheba, he was now weighed down by the infirmities of old age; and, therefore, his sons went through all the trouble and work of preparing to resume their journey. When they left Beersheba, the feeble old patriarch, with the wives and children, were transported in slow and leisurely stages, in the Egyptian wagons sent for their comfort.

When it is said that he took with him all that he had acquired, or possessed in the land of Canaan (v. 1), it is probable that his servants and handmaids were brought along with his cattle.  But, you may have noticed that upon his departure from Beersheba, no mention is made of them, and then, a little afterwards, when Moses lists the head of each tribe, he says that only seventy souls came with him. Should anyone say that Jacob had been compelled to liberate his slaves on account of the famine, or that he lost them through some adversity unknown to us, the speculation is unacceptable; for it is inconceivable that Jacob, who had been an industrious head of a family, and had abounded in the earthly blessings of God, would have become so entirely destitute that not even one little servant remained with him.

 

6 And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him:

 

“And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan;not furniture, but precious things. They took their goods with them—these are not the vessels spoken of contemptuously by Pharaoh (Genesis 45:20), but their personal property, of which they would naturally have much of and would not be willing to leave behind. Abraham had brought his wealth with him from Haran (Genesis 12:5), some of which may have even come from Ur-Chasdim{8], and much had been gathered since. The patriarchs would leave their household stuff behind, but all valuables, and the records of their house, and their tôldôth{7], they would carefully carry with them.

Some interpreters add, by way of explanation, “and in Mesopotamia”; much of Jacob's substance was still there, though the greatest part was acquired in Canaan, and so that is put for his entire property. One interpreter, Jarchi, supposes that Jacob gave all that he acquired in Padanaram to Esau for his part in the cave of Machpelah, and therefore mention is only made of his substance in Canaan; but there is no basis for any such additions or suppositions, since the text only speaks of the substance of Jacob's sons, and what they had was obtained only in Canaan, and they were very young when they arrived there. All that they brought with them was their property, and they were not obliged to leave it behind for strangers. Though they were told not to cherish their stuff, yet they were not willing to live off of others, but as much as they could, to be independent of others; and they were determined that in the future they would not be upbraided by those who would say they came into Egypt poor and destitute of everything.

 

“And came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him”; arriving safe and well. Afterwards, in Genesis 46:8-27, details are given.

 

7 His sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt.

 

“His sons, and his sons' sons with him⸺His eleven sons, and their sons, his grandchildren.

 

His daughters, and his sons' daughters would be his own daughter Dinah, and his daughters in law, the wives of his sons; for they came with him into Egypt, according to Genesis 46:5.

 

“And all his seed brought he with him into Egypt; none were left behind in Canaan, neither son nor daughter. No mention is made of servants, though no doubt many came along with him. The intention of the historian is to give an account of Jacob's children, who they were, and their number when they came into Egypt, so that their increase, over time, might be observed.

 

 

Scripture and Special Notes

 

[1} “And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years” (Genesis 15:13).

[2} “And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar. And the Lord appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father” (Genesis 26:1-3).

[3} “And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance” (Genesis 15:13-14).

[4} “And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already. And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them” (Exodus 1:5-7).

[5} “And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten” (Genesis 46:27).

[6} “And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children” (Exodus 12:37).

The total number that left Egypt can be calculated as follows. Effective men, 20 years old and upward 600,000; two-thirds of whom we may suppose were married, in which case their wives would amount to 400,000. These, on an average, might have 5 children less than 20 years of age, an estimate which falls considerably short of the number of children each family must have averaged in order to produce from 75 persons, in A. M. 2298, upwards of 600,000 effective men in A. M. 2494, a period of only 196 years. The Levites who probably were not included among the effective men, 45,000. Their wives, 33,000. Their children, 165,000. The mixed multitude, probably not less than 20,000. Total 3,263,000

Besides a multitude of old and infirm persons who would be obliged to ride on camels and asses, etc., and who must, from the proportion that such bear to the young and healthy, amount to many thousands more! Exclude even the Levites and their families, and upwards of three millions will be left.

"In Numbers 3:39; the male Levites, aged one month and upwards, are reckoned 22,000, perhaps the females did not much exceed this number, say 23,000, and 500 children, under one month, will make 45,500."  

[7} This Tôldôth is the history of Jacob’s descendants, and especially of Joseph. So the Tôldôth of the heaven and earth (Genesis 2:4) gives the history of the creation and fall of man; the Tôldôth of Adam was the history of the flood; and, the Tôldôth of Terah was the history of Abraham (Genesis 28:10). This Tôldôth, therefore, extends to the end of Genesis, and is the history of the removal, through Joseph’s instrumentality, of the family of Jacob from Canaan into Egypt, as a step preparatory to its growth into a nation.

[8} Ur Chasdim is the city where Avram was born and where Nimrod rules his kingdom from.

 

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