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Genesis 46:1 - 48:20


    46:1     CAME  TO  BEERSHEBA

From Hebron, to offer sacrifice where God had appeared to Abraham. Jacob desired God’s sanction, prior to his leaving the land of Promise. Beersheba, of course, was near the southern boundary of the land, and would, so to speak, be the "point of no return."

We find that God had appeared at Bethel (Genesis 28:13-15) and also in Laban’s service (Genesis 31:3) and when he left Shechem (Genesis 35:1,9-12) now God appears again in a vision, for the eighth and last time, so far as the record goes (Gen. 28:13;31:3;31:11;32:1;32:30;35:1;35:9;46:2). It is interesting to note that the narrative says that "God spoke unto Israel," but that He called him "Jacob." In the rest of the Book of Genesis, it seems that the two names are used indiscriminately and interchangeably (See Genesis 46:8 and 46:27; 47:27 and 47:28; 49:1,2,28,33).

There at Beersheba, God set Jacob’s mind at ease about going down to Egypt. Identifying Himself as indeed the God of his father Isaac, He also assured Jacob that He (El, the strong Creator and Sovereign of all men) would protect him and bless him in Egypt, even as He had in Canaan.

God’s purpose in leading him to Egypt was that He might there make of him "a great nation". Although the foundation of the nation had been established in the twelve sons of Israel, especially now that they had become unified in God’s will, their own descendants would need the discipline of living for a period in Egypt before they were really ready to assume their role in God’s economy.

The Egyptians felt themselves racially superior and were reluctant to mix and intermarry with foreigners, especially shepherds (Genesis 43:32; 46:34), a fact which has been clearly confirmed by students of Egyptian antiquities. Also, these people were culturally and intellectually the most advanced nation of the world at the time, so there was much of future value the children of Israel could learn in Egypt.

Thus, although they could profit much, both financially and culturally by associating with the Egyptians, they would be forced to dwell apart by themselves, developing their own peculiar culture, and in particular, learning to center their lives around the God of heaven and earth rather than the gods of the nations. All of this would forge them into a distinct and unique people, ready to receive and promulgate the laws of God and the great plan of God.

When Jacob’s time to die would come, it would be his beloved son, Joseph himself, who would perform the sacred duty of "laying his hand upon thine eyes," closing his eyes in death for his burial in Canaan.

The lists that follow give the names of Jacob’s sons and grandsons who went with him into Egypt. First the family


Reuben  Simeon  Levi  Judah  Issachar  Zebulun
Hanoch  Jemuel  Gershon  Er  Tola  Sered
Phallu  Jamin  Kohath  Onan  Phuvah  Elon
Hezron  Ohad  Merari  Shelah  Job  Jahleel
Carmi  Jachin  Pharez  Shimron
Zohar  Zarah

These names total thirty-one. However, Er and Onan died in Canaan, leaving only twenty-nine of Leah’s sons and grandsons who went to Egypt. Presumably, therefore, Leah also had four daughters or grand daughters, making a total of thirty-three (verse 15). One of these was of course, Dinah, whose unique contribution to Israel’s history (Gen. 34) warrants her name being given.

The two sons of Pharez, Hezron and Hamul, are also mentioned by name (verse 12), even though they could hardly have been born in Canaan. Pharez himself was born after his brother Shelah was a grown man (Gen. 38:14,29). Since Judah could not have been more than about forty-seven at this time, Pharez was still only a boy. The names of his sons are evidently included to point out that, so far as Judah’s inheritance was to be reckoned, they had taken the place of Er and Onan, who had died in Canaan.

It is also noted that Simeon’s son Shaul was the "son of a Canaanitish woman" (verse 10). This suggests that the wives of Jacob’s other sons (with the exception of Tamar) were not women of the Canaanites. Probably the other sons of Israel had married women who were descendants of Ishmael or Esau, or possibly of Keturah. Luzzatto explains that she was the daughter of Dinah, and because of her father, Shechem, she is called a ‘Canaanite woman’.

It is worth noting also that one of the sons of Levi, Kohath, was to become Moses’ ancestor. One of the grandsons of Judah, namely Hezron, was destined to be in the lineage of Christ.

Here are listed the names of the sons and grandsons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid:


Ziphion  Eri  Jimnah
Haggi  Arodi  Ishuah
Shuni Areli Isui
Ezbon  Beriah

In addition, a daughter of Asher, Serah by name, and two sons of Beriah (therefore great-grandsons of Jacob)-Heber and Malchiel-are listed. These are presumably included in the list because they were the only great-grandsons of Zilpah that had been born prior to the move into Egypt. All of these names total sixteen (verse 18).

Next are given the names of the descendants of Rachel. These names add up to fourteen, as shown below:


JOSEPH                          BENJAMIN                  
Manasseh  Belah  Naaman  Muppim
Ephraim  Becher  Ehi  Huppim
Ashbel  Rosh  Ard

Last of all are given the names of the sons and grandsons of Rachel's maid, Bilhah:

DAN                                                NAPHTALI                    
Hushim  Jahzeel  Guni  Jezer  Shillem

There are seven names in this list.

These four families, as listed, add up to seventy names. This number does not include any of the wives of Jacob’s sons and grandsons (nor the husbands of his daughters and granddaughters), but only those who were of his own seed. Of these, however, only sixty-six actually "came with Jacob into Egypt," since Joseph, Manasseh, and Ephraim were already there when he came.

The number seventy seems to have been associated in a particular way with the nation of Israel ever since the time when these seventy apparently became its official founders. (Note Deuteronomy 32:8, which suggests that his number was tied to the seventy other nations of the world first established by God, as listed in Genesis 10). Note the following:

1. There are seventy "elders" (Numbers 11:16).
2. Seventy years of captivity (II Chronicles 36:21).
3. Seventy "weeks" determined on the people of Israel to finish the transgression (Daniel 9:24).
4. Seventy translators of the (LXX) Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek.
5. Seventy members of the Sanhedrin in the days of Jesus Christ.
6. Seventy "witnesses" to Israel sent by Christ (Luke10:1).

In Stephen’s speech in Acts 7:14 he says that there were seventy-five of Jacob’s kindred who were called into Egypt. This addition of five to the total in Genesis is usually explained by noting that Stephen referred to the Septuagint translation, which for some reason had added five of Joseph’s descendants through Ephraim and Manasseh to the list of Genesis 46.

As the Israelites approached Egypt, they knew they would be stopping in Goshen, according to Joseph’s instructions (Genesis 45:10), whereas Joseph’s headquarters were located farther south and west.

As soon as he heard his father was coming, Joseph hitched up his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet him. When they finally met, for the first time in over twenty-two years, the joy was almost unbearable. No words could be spoken at all, only tears of joy for he wept "a good while."

The Hyksos, or alien Shepherd-kings, thus seem to have acquired the native Egyptian dislike of foreigners in general and herdsmen in particular.


    47:3     WHAT  IS  YOUR  OCCUPATION?

When Joseph presented his brothers to Pharaoh, he naturally asked their business, to see how they might best fit into the Egyptian economy. As Joseph had instructed them, they announced boldly, though respectfully, that they and their fathers had always been shepherds. They also mentioned that they had come only to "sojourn" in the land, because of the famine in Canaan. They had no intention of laying permanent claim to any of Egypt.

Though Pharaoh was the more wealthy and powerful, Jacob clearly was the superior, for he "blessed Pharaoh." Melchizedek had blessed Abraham (Genesis 14:19), thus showing his superiority to Abraham, for "the less is blessed of the better" (Hebrews 7:7). A reading of the passage suggests that Pharaoh indeed sensed this, in Jacob’s presence. He seemed subconsciously to recognize he was speaking to a man of unusual spiritual depth and perception, a man who had known and walked with God for many years.

Jacob replied to Pharaoh’s inquiry on this point by stressing that, although he was indeed 130 years old, his days had been relatively few compared to his father and grandfather. Abraham had died at 175 and Isaac at 180, respectively (Genesis 25:7; 35:28). Although he did live another seventeen years (Genesis 47:28), he realized he could never hope to live as long as they had. Longevity of mankind was still, at that time, gradually decreasing from what it had been in antediluvian days. Also, no doubt, the many hardships and sorrows in Jacob’s life had taken their toll on his health.

Joseph selected a tract in the best part of this land, as Pharaoh had authorized, a region known as Rameses. The storehouse cities Pithom and Raamses (Exodus 1:11) were later to be built in this area. This region seems to have been bordered on the west by the Nile, since the Israelites "did eat fish freely in Egypt" (Numbers 11:5). According to Psalm 78:12, their property must have included "the field of Zoan," which was on one of the outlet channels of the Nile fairly near the sea. In general it was close to Egypt’s northeast corner, more or less isolated from the bulk of the Egyptian population, which tended to concentrate more to the south and west.

Joseph saw to it that his family had enough food. He had to ration it out, even to them, because of the years of famine he knew were still coming.

FOR  THE  MONEY  FAILETH    Genesis 47:15 

Though Joseph presumably asked a fair price for the grain, it was only a matter of time until they had spent all their savings on food. For reasons already discussed, it would have been wrong simply to give away the grain; so Joseph worked out a barter system, allowing them to exchange their horses, cattle, and other animals for food.


This kept the people going another year, but finally all their animals were gone too. Both the money and animals became the property of Pharaoh, or, in effect, owned by the central government. This arrangement actually benefited both the people and the animals, since they would have been unable to keep the animals alive during the famine.

BUY  US  AND  OUR  LAND  FOR  BREAD    Genesis 47:19

When they reached this state, the people came to Joseph with a new proposal of their own. Evidently some sort of meeting had been held and spokesmen elected to contract with Joseph on their behalf. They had nothing left which might be marketable except their own lands and their own labor. The people therefore desired to dedicate themselves and their land for service to Pharaoh in return for food on a regular basis, as well as seed with which to sow their lands.


There was one noteworthy exception to these arrangements, however. The priests who administered the Egyptian religious system had extensive land holdings of their own, and they did not turn any of these over to Pharaoh. In effect, Egypt had an official state religion, and the members of its hierarchy were essentially state employees. Thus, they received an ample allocation of grain for their own needs in return for their services, and it was unnecessary for them to sell their lands. Scripture stresses that this exception came about on orders of Pharaoh himself. Their portion of grain was that "which Pharaoh gave them." Pharaoh was persuaded that the government had to support its religious leaders.


Some people have felt that this was a scheme of Joseph not only to get wealth but also to enslave the people. However, it was their proposal, no Joseph’s, and whatever gain was involved accrued to Pharaoh, not to Joseph. It is true that it created with amounted to a feudalistic economy, but the alternative-that of placing everyone on a dole system-would have destroyed personal and national morale, would have bankrupted the government, and probably would have culminated in social anarchy. The stores of food would soon have been depleted and mass starvation would have followed.

In order to expedite distribution of grain and seed, and to best utilize the labor purchased in this manner, Joseph relocated many of the people, moving them nearer the various cities where the storehouses were situated. Presumably these people were employed in some form of productive work. The system certainly left something to be desired in terms of human freedom; but a centralized bureaucracy is preferable to mass starvation and anarchy, especially when the bureaucracy is administered intelligently and unselfishly, as it was by Joseph. The people had learned to trust Joseph, and he left them with their self-respect.

THOU  HAST  SAVED  OUR  LIVES    Genesis 47:25

As far as the rest of the people were concerned, Joseph fulfilled his part of the contract with them, providing seed for their lands and food for their households. It was agreed that the people would continue to work their own lands, using seed furnished by the government, and they could keep for their own use 80 percent of what they produced, with 20 percent going to Pharaoh. In effect, this amounted to a permanent annual income tax of 20 percent of gross income. This is not excessive in terms of present-day standards, especially since these farmers had no rent to pay, no cost of investment or upkeep, in fact nothing except their own personal expenses.


Joseph’s family come into Egypt a little more than two years after the famine began (Genesis 45:11), and so were there during the last five years of the famine. Even during the famine, however, they began to prosper in Egypt. Also, their own numbers rapidly multiplied. With an initial number of five people (Jacob and his four wives), they had already become a clan of, say, one hundred people (that is, the seventy mentioned in Genesis 46:27 plus the wives of the sons and grandsons who accompanied them into Egypt). This growth had taken place in approximately fifty years, representing an average increase of over 6 percent each year. With a population of one hundred when they entered Egypt and over two million when they left (the census of Numbers 1:46 counted over 600,000 men older than twenty years of age), this large growth rate must have continued. A growth of 5 percent annually, for example, would increase the population from one hundred to two million in only 215 years.

After seventeen years, when Jacob was 147 years old, the time finally came when he must die. Jacob called Joseph to his side one day, when he knew he could not last must longer, and asked him to promise that he would bury him back in Canaan, where his parents and grandparents were buried.

AND  HE  SWARE  UNTO  HIM    Genesis 47:31

Joseph took a solemn oath that he would indeed do as his father asked. In gratitude for this assurance, Israel, who evidently had been sitting up in bed, bowed himself against the bed’s head and offered a prayer of worship and thanksgiving to God. This was, according to Hebrews 11:21, a true act of faith on Jacob’s part. In this reference in Hebrews, the "bed’s head" is called "the top of his staff," following the Septuagint (LXX) translation. It may be that Jacob supported himself by both his staff and the bed’s headboard, as he was very old and feeble by this time. It took all his remaining strength to raise himself and to utter the prophetic words of chapters 48 and 49, but he received both his strength and his inspiration by faith, still trusting in the absolute certainty that, though he himself would not live to see it, God would give his seed the land of Canaan and that, someday, all nations would be blessed through him.


Even after Jacob had discussed his forthcoming burial with Joseph, he still continued to live for a time. During this time he thought often of the future. He knew God’s promises centered in his twelve sons and their descendants. Someday, through one of these tribes, the Savior would come. As he meditated and prayed, the Lord gradually revealed to him something of the future of each of the twelve tribes.

Jacob’s own insights were further supplemented by the direct illumination of the Holy Spirit, so that he could, with perfect accuracy and confidence, predict the futures of the twelve tribes.

WHO  ARE  THESE?    Genesis 48:8

When the two sons approached their grandfather, Israel embraced and kissed them, tearfully expressing thanksgiving that God had allowed him to see not only Joseph again, but even Joseph’s sons. It is noteworthy that Joseph, even in his exalted position as second ruler in the kingdom, still found it appropriate to bow down before his father. Long ago, he had dreamed a dream, which he had understood at the time to signify that someday his father and mother, as well as his brothers, would do obeisance to him (Genesis 37:9,10). That dream had come to pass, as far as his brothers were concerned, but not so far as his parents were concerned.

BLESS  THE  LADS    Genesis 48:16

First, Jacob invoked a general blessing on Joseph and his sons. At this point, Joseph noted that Jacob’s right hand was on Ephraim and his left hand on Manasseh. It is worth noting again how often God bypassed the oldest son in favor of a younger. The point is that God’s choice is for spiritual reasons, not chronological.

I  KNOW  IT,  MY  SON    Genesis 48:19

His decision was not arbitrary but was based on prophetic knowledge of the futures of the tribes that would begin with these two young men. Israel assured Joseph that Manasseh would indeed become a great people, but that nevertheless Ephraim would become greater, a veritable "multitude" of peoples. Ephraim, of course, eventually became the dominant tribe in the northern kingdom, after the division in the days of Jeroboam (I Kings 12:19,25).


Jacob concluded his benediction by promising Joseph that God would be with him and bring even him again back to the land of his fathers. Joseph did indeed return there to bury his father (Genesis 50:7), and eventually he himself would be buried there, but Jacob had primary reference to the return of his descendants to inhabit the land. He then mentioned a very special tract of ground, which he himself had conquered from the Amorites. This was apparently not a large tract, and is nowhere else referred to (except possibly John 4:5), but represented to Jacob a taken that God would eventually give his descendants all the land. Of this tract, he deeded to Joseph a double portion.


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