The Plan of God in the Book of Genesis—Part 32

Jacob Moves to Egypt


VERSES 1-7  “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 God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I.
“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:
“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.
“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 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:
“His sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt.”

Jacob was now at an advanced age, but was ready to see his long lost son, and to venture the difficult journey to Egypt. He stopped at Beersheba, 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.

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 the 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.

Jacob’s great age made it necessary for him to ride in one of the wagons furnished by Pharaoh, in company with the women and children.

VERSES 8-27  “And these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn.
“And the sons of Reuben; Hanoch, and Phallu, and Hezron, and Carmi.
“And the sons of Simeon; Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman.
“And the sons of Levi; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.
“And the sons of Judah; Er, and Onan, and Shelah, and Pharez, and Zerah: but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan. And the sons of Pharez were Hezron and Hamul.
“And the sons of Issachar; Tola, and Phuvah, and Job, and Shimron.
“And the sons of Zebulun; Sered, and Elon, and Jahleel.
“These be the sons of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob in Padanaram, with his daughter Dinah: all the souls of his sons and his daughters were thirty and three.
“And the sons of Gad; Ziphion, and Haggi, Shuni, and Ezbon, Eri, and Arodi, and Areli.
“And the sons of Asher; Jimnah, and Ishuah, and Isui, and Beriah, and Serah their sister; and the sons of Beriah; Heber, and Malchiel.
“These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to Leah his daughter, and these she bare unto Jacob, even sixteen souls.
“The sons of Rachel Jacob’s wife; Joseph, and Benjamin.
“And unto Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him.
“And the sons of Benjamin were Belah, and Becher, and Ashbel, Gera, and Naaman, Ehi, and Rosh, Muppim, and Huppim, and Ard.
“These are the sons of Rachel, which were born to Jacob: all of the souls were fourteen.
“And the sons of Dan; Hushim.
“And the sons of Naphtali; Jahzeel, and Guni, and Jezer, and Shillem.
“These are the sons of Bilhah, which Laban gave unto Rachel his daughter, and she bare these unto Jacob: all the souls were seven.
“All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were threescore and six;
“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.”

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 in 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.

VERSES 28-34  “And he sent Judah before him unto Joseph, to direct his face unto Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen.
“And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while.
“And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive.
“And Joseph said unto his brethren, and unto his father’s house, I will go up, and shew Pharaoh, and say unto him, My brethren, and my father’s house, which were in the land of Canaan, are come unto me;
“And the men are shepherds, for their trade hath been to feed cattle; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have.
“And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation?
“That ye shall say, Thy servants’ trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians.”

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 too may have had a bearing on his strategy.

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Dawn Bible Students Association
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