Genesis 46 Study Notes


46:1-4 Jacob, referred to here by his covenant name Israel, had God speak to him in a vision. Calling the elderly patriarch’s name twice—a practice in the Bible reserved for special revelatory moments (cp. 22:1; Ex 3:4)—God, the God of Jacob’s father made four important remarks to Jacob. First, he commanded Jacob not to be afraid to go down to Egypt because he would go down with him. Second, God affirmed the generations-old promise to make Abraham’s family line—represented through Jacob—a great nation, even in Egypt. Third, he promised to bring Israel’s descendants back. Finally, God promised that Jacob’s beloved son Joseph would close the patriarch’s eyes—i.e., be present at Jacob’s death.

46:5-7 Encouraged by God’s words, Jacob/Israel left Beer-sheba in one of the wagons Pharaoh had sent for the two-hundred-plus-mile journey.

46:8-27 Not counting Jacob or his four wives, the list of those who came to Egypt contains the names of seventy-one people descended from Jacob/Israel. Since the list contains seventy-one descendants, the significance of the numbers sixty-six and seventy are debated. The total of sixty-six may be based on the fact that Jacob’s daughter Dinah was not included; Er and Onan died before they could come to Egypt (38:7,10); and Manasseh and Ephraim were born in Egypt (41:50-52). Perhaps Dinah was not counted because she produced no children. Acts 7:14, reflecting the Septuagint, states seventy-five people went to Egypt; this number includes five more of Joseph’s descendants: three grandsons and two great-grandsons (Nm 26:29,35-36).

46:28-30 As the group made its way to Goshen, Jacob sent his son Judah ahead to make arrangements for the long-awaited reunion between the clan leader and his most-beloved son. Leaving his duties at the royal court, Joseph traveled by chariot to Goshen to meet his father Israel. The meeting was satisfying to both parties, as Joseph at last threw his arms around his father, hugged him, and wept for a long time. For his part Jacob/Israel satisfied himself that Joseph was still alive, thus extinguishing twenty years of grief. Jacob was now content that he could die in peace, though he would live an additional seventeen years in Egypt (47:28).

46:31-34 Joseph now turned his attention to his brothers and the rest of his father’s family. Anticipating tensions caused by cultural differences between Egyptians and Hebrews, Joseph informed his brothers of a plan that would guarantee them the right to settle in the land of Goshen. First, he himself would inform Pharaoh that his father’s family had arrived and that his family members were shepherds, an occupation considered detestable to Egyptians. Then he would arrange for Pharaoh to meet with his family. If Pharaoh asked about their occupation, they were to inform him that they and their fathers were men of livestock. Receiving this confirmation, Pharaoh would then issue a land grant to Jacob’s clan, permitting them to reside in the eastern Nile Delta.