Genesis 46



Jacob Goes to Egypt (46:1–34)

1–4 Jacob and his family set out for Egypt, stopping to worship at Beersheba, where Abraham and Isaac had also worshiped (Genesis 21:33; 26:23–25).

God spoke to Jacob in a vision and confirmed that he should go down to Egypt. At one time God had told Jacob’s father Isaac not to go down to Egypt (Genesis 26:2), but here God tells Jacob to go. The times and purposes differ, but whatever God says must be obeyed. This time God’s purpose was to make [Jacob] into a great nation there (verse 3), which was a confirmation of God’s original promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:2). And then God repeated His earlier promise to Jacob that He would be with him (Genesis 28:15) and that He would bring him back again to Canaan, the “promised land” (verse 4).

Here we see the next stage in the unfolding of God’s plan. God had already revealed to Abraham that his descendants would be enslaved in a foreign land (Egypt) for four hundred years but that afterward they would come out with great possessions (Genesis 15:13–14). Now God was once again confirming to Jacob the promise that his descendants would be brought back again to Canaan—a foretelling of the great deliverance to be described in the book of Exodus. However, Jacob himself would not be brought back alive; he would die in Egypt. Afterward, his body would be carried back to Canaan and buried in the cave near Mamre where Abraham and Isaac had been buried years earlier (Genesis 50:12–13).

5–7 After the vision, Jacob and his family continued on their journey to Egypt. Contrary to Pharaoh’s advice (Genesis 45:20), they brought with them their possessions and also their livestock.

8–27 In this section we are given the names of Jacob’s sons and grandsons who made the journey to Egypt. We are told that sixty-six direct descendants of Jacob made the journey131 (verse 26). If one adds Jacob himself and Joseph and his two sons born in Egypt, the total number of Jacob’s family that settled in Egypt (excluding daughters-in-law) comes to seventy persons132 (verse 27). Seventy seems like a very small number compared with God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would be like the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5; Deuteronomy 10:22). But God has no problem multiplying numbers. No matter how small our number, no matter how tiny our offering, God will multiply it (Isaiah 60:22). Indeed, there is only one number God can’t multiply: zero.133

28–30 A joyful reunion took place in Goshen between Joseph and his father Jacob. The great sorrow Jacob had endured for so many years had ended, and now he felt ready to die. The Lord had said to him: “Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes” (verse 4)—a promise to Jacob that he would indeed be able to die in peace.

31–34 The Egyptians detested shepherds (verse 34); the highly civilized Egyptians preferred not to mix with rustic country folk. This contempt on the part of the Egyptians would work to the advantage of Jacob’s family, because once it was known they were shepherds they would be left to themselves in the countryside around Goshen, where they could prosper and multiply without being exposed to the idolatry of Egypt.