|Topical Bible Study||July 1950|
GOD’S PLAN IN THE BOOK OF GENESIS
Jacob Moves to Egypt
Jacob was now at a good old age, but was ready, inspired by the hope of Seeing Joseph, his long lost son, to venture the difficult journey to Egypt. He stopped at Beer-sheba, which was on the southernmost border of Canaan, to offer sacrifices to the Lord, the God of his fathers. He doubtless felt the need of establishing this contact with his God before venturing too far into an experience of which the outcome was so veiled and uncertain.
And now, even as when he fled from Esau, the Lord assured him of his guidance and blessing. God had warned Abraham of the dangers of going down into Egypt (Gen. 15:13,14), and had forbidden Isaac to go there. (Gen. 26:2) However, the Lord assured Jacob that he wanted him to go into the land of Pharaohs, that he would go with him, and that in Egypt he would make of him a great nation. Under the circumstances, this assurance must have meant a great deal to Jacob.
Prior to the death of Jacob, God dealt with him, with his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham, as individuals; but in Egypt, as this promise indicates, the twelve sons of Jacob together with their families were to be recognized by God as a nation, and thenceforth to be dealt with on a national basis. This promise of the Lord, therefore, establishes the transition in the plan of God from the patriarchal age to the Jewish age.
Seemingly Jacob’s age made it necessary for him to ride in one of the “wagons” furnished by Pharaoh, in company with the women and children.
So far as God’s plan is concerned this is a relatively unimportant listing of the children and grandchildren of Jacob. The total is made significant by its comparison with the great number of Israelites who left Egypt at the time of the Exodus. By that time the “three score and ten souls” had increased to the point where they were referred to “as the stars of heaven for multitude.”—Deut. 10:22
That these children and grandchildren should be designated “souls” which came out of the loins of Jacob is quite in keeping with the scriptural understanding of what constitutes a soul, but out of harmony with the generally accepted idea that when each human being is born an “immortal soul” is secretly and miraculously implanted somewhere within his body, and when that body dies, this “soul” escapes.
Here we learn, on the contrary, that the “souls” of Jacob’s children were in his loins, the term soul, as elsewhere, simply denoting a living, sentient being. These beings are symbolically represented as being in the loins of Jacob because he was their progenitor.
Probably there have been few happier meetings of father and son than that experienced by Jacob and Joseph. After so many years of separation from his father, Joseph literally “wept for joy” when they met, and Jacob said to his son, “Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive.” Jacob expected to mourn over the loss of Joseph until he died, but now he could cease mourning and die in peace.
Joseph continued to show his wisdom in dealing with difficult problems. He instructed his father and brethren how to answer Pharaoh’s questions as to their occupation, when they were presented to him—that they were herdsmen. Joseph knew that if the Egyptians learned this, it would tend to keep his people separate from them, which was what he desired. Besides, the land of Goshen, although within Egyptian territory, seems to have been inhabited largely by non-Egyptians. Since it was a rich section and desired by Joseph for his people, this also may have had a hearing on this strategy.
PRESENTATION TO PHARAOH
Inasmuch as Pharaoh had previously instructed Joseph to send for his father and family, and had even provided wagons in which to help make the journey from Canaan to Egypt, it was fitting that representatives of his people be presented to Pharaoh that he might have an opportunity to make them officially welcome in the land. Having previously instructed his brethren in what to say when questioned by the king, this meeting turned out very satisfactorily.
The “best of the land” was officially assigned to the Hebrew children by Pharaoh, and he requested that if any of Joseph’s family were qualified they should be made rulers over his cattle. In this Pharaoh also acted wisely, for if Joseph’s people were experienced herdsmen, his own cattle would be much better off in their care than in the care of Egyptians, especially when by nature they despised such an occupation.
Joseph then presented his beloved father, Jacob, to Pharaoh and according to the record, Pharaoh asked Jacob but one question; namely, his age. The patriarch was somewhat apologetic, for while he was then 130 years of age he evidently felt that he appeared much older. As an explanation he said that his life had been filled with evil: a reference, no doubt, to his many sorrows, beginning when he fled from Esau and including his loss of Joseph over a period of so many years. Yet withal the Lord had blessed him, and now particularly at the end, by permitting him to be reunited with his beloved son, Joseph. While Jacob lived for seventeen years after this, he still came short twenty-eight years of living to Abraham’s age.
And Jacob “blessed” Pharaoh: We are not to suppose from this that the patriarch performed any special ceremony over Pharaoh. Probably the thought merely is that he wished him well, perhaps even going so far as to express the equivalent of what we have in mind today when we say, “God bless you.” Certainly, under the circumstances Jacob would feel most kindly toward Pharaoh, and naturally would like to see him prosper, for the patriarch’s own welfare and that of his family were now dependent upon the peace and prosperity of Egypt and her king—at least for the time being.
This might be comparable to the instructions given in the New Testament that we should pray for kings and those in authority that we, as the Lord’s people, might prosper spiritually and be at peace. (I Tim. 2:2) Throughout all the ages during which the preparatory features of God’s plan have been developing, his people have been his special care; and the lives of others have been overruled by him only as they may have had a bearing on the lives of his own people, or in the outworking of his plan. However, this has not always been in order that they might have a tranquil and prosperous life; for the Lord in his wisdom often permits his people, for their testing and development, to have severe trials. Nevertheless he cares for them, both in joy and in sorrow, as was abundantly demonstrated in all the experiences he permitted to come to Jacob.
Doubtless the last years of Jacob and his family in Canaan were rather lean ones, and this may be the reason special emphasis is given to the fact that when they finally were settled in Goshen, it is said that “Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren.” When Jacob arrived in Goshen he evidently was quite weak, and, as he thought, ready to die. Actually, however, he lived seventeen years after this, and perhaps it was due partly to the fact that being properly nourished, his ebbing strength was temporarily renewed.
Joseph, in addition to loving God and his own people, was also a loyal servant of Pharaoh, as displayed in this progressive method by which he virtually made slaves of all the Egyptians—slaves, that is, to the central government of Egypt in which Pharaoh ruled supreme. We cannot suppose, however, that Joseph acted with any other motive than was for the best interests of all concerned. Certainly, had it not been that the Lord had revealed to him the facts concerning the seven years of plenty to be followed by seven years of famine, and gave him wisdom to meet the situation, probably most of the Egyptians would have perished. Thus in reality they owed their lives to him.
And from this standpoint, it may be that we can draw a lesson concerning the manner in which the antitypical Joseph, that is, Christ, will deal with all mankind during the Millennium. But first of all, as with Joseph, Christ gives life to his own people, his brethren, the church, providing them with the best—even the “high calling” of God.
Then, with the church co-operating, the whole world will be provided with the Bread of Life, but not unconditionally. No, the world in the next age, even as the Egyptians in Joseph’s time, will eventually have to give up everything and place themselves wholly at the mercy of The Christ in order to secure the Bread of Life which the antitypical Joseph will be able to give to them.
Jacob and his family prospered exceedingly in the land of Goshen, and increased rapidly in number. Later, this brought trouble upon them when a new Pharaoh, “which knew not Joseph,” came to the throne. (Exod. 1:8) Nevertheless, while Joseph lived, his people were protected, and the Lord’s blessings upon them were manifested for the most part in ways of pleasantness.
When he had been in Egypt seventeen years, Jacob realized that he had about reached the end of his life, so he sent for Joseph and secured an oath from him that he would take his body back to Canaan to the burial ground purchased by his grandfather Abraham. We may understand from this an evidence of Jacob’s belief that his people were not to remain in Egypt forever, but that God would fulfill his promise and give them the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession—a promise which soon will be fulfilled on a much grander scale than Jacob probably realized.
EPHRAIM AND MANASSEH BLESSED
Jacob was now about to die, and a messenger sent word to Joseph, who quickly came to the bedside of his aged father and brought his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, with him. On this solemn occasion Jacob had the Lord uppermost in his mind and heart, and related to Joseph the covenant he made with him at Luz, or Bethel. This was when Jacob fled from Esau and he was favored with that wonderful vision of the ladder reaching from earth to heaven with the Lord standing at the top of the ladder and angels ascending and descending upon it.—Gen. 28:10-13
This was a renewal of the covenant which God had made with Abraham, including the promise to bless all the families of the earth, although Jacob did not mention this feature of it to Joseph. Perhaps this was because Joseph’s tribe was not to be the one from which the Messiah, the promised “seed,” would come.
According to Genesis 29:1 (margin), after Jacob was given that vision and the Lord renewed the Abrahamic covenant with him, he journeyed on, “lifting up his feet.” The thought evidently is that of renewed hope and confidence; and this assurance was still his, even though now he was about ready to die. He could no longer “lift up his feet,” but his heart was light and full of faith.
Jacob blessed the two more numerous, and that in their sons of Joseph and adopted them as his own sons and made them heads of tribes. Jacob indicates that in some way these two sons of Joseph were to take the places of his own sons Reuben and Simeon; although they are in the list of the spiritual tribes of Israel in Revelation 7, where Manasseh is substituted for Dan. Ephraim’s chief blessing as the adopted son of Jacob seems to have been in the fact that his tribe received the largest and choicest portion of the land when Canaan was divided under the leadership of Joshua.
Jacob’s blessing of his two grandsons reminds us in some ways of his own experience when receiving the parental blessing of Isaac, in that, as it turned out, the firstborn was given second place and his younger brother was put in the position of the firstborn. This, however, was not due to a deception, for Joseph, realizing that his father’s eyesight was failing, took precautions to place the boys before him in the proper positions according to their ages. But Jacob deliberately ignored this in giving them his blessing.
When Joseph saw that Jacob was blessing Ephraim as the firstborn instead of Manasseh he endeavored to interfere, supposing it to be wrong, or as the margin states, an “evil.” However, Jacob explained vigorously that he knew what he was doing. He explained that while Manasseh would become the head of a great tribe, or people, the tribe of Ephraim would become much relationship to each other the two would be known as Ephraim and Manasseh.
There is no indication in the Scriptures just why this change was made, and apparently the only reason was that Jacob, by prophetic vision, knew that the tribe of Ephraim would become the larger of the two; and when Canaan would be divided among the tribes, his would receive a large and choice portion.
Nothing was more sure to Jacob, when on his deathbed, than the fact that his people would be brought out of Egypt and into the Land of Promise. “Behold I die: but the Lord shall be with you,” he said to Joseph, “and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.” Although the covenant with Abraham emphasized God’s purpose to bless all the families of the earth through his “seed,” the land which God promised in that covenant seemed often to be the major consideration in the minds of the Israelites, although Jacob did not forget the other feature of the covenant, as we shall see later in connection with his blessing upon Judah.
Jacob did not attempt to assign portions of Canaan to all of his sons but he did indicate an extra portion which he wished Joseph to have, and when, many long years later, the tribe of Joseph was given its portion, Jacob’s bequest was honored. And not only so, but appropriately enough, Joseph’s bones were buried on this plot of ground. See Joshua 24:32 and John 4:5.