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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 46

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 16-30

11. Israel’s move to Egypt 45:16-46:30

Joseph’s brothers returned to Jacob with news of Joseph’s survival and prosperity. Israel (Jacob) then moved to Egypt in response to Joseph’s invitation and God’s encouragement. The survival of Jacob’s family in Egypt through the famine recalls the survival of Noah’s family in the ark through the Flood.

Verses 1-7

God’s encouragement to move 46:1-7

The structure of chapters 46 and 47 is also chiastic. [Note: Wenham, Genesis 16-50, p. 439.]

A God appears to Jacob (Genesis 46:1-4)

B Jacob journeys to Egypt (Genesis 46:5-27)

C Joseph meets Jacob (Genesis 46:28-34)

D Joseph’s brothers meet Pharaoh (Genesis 47:1-6)

C’ Jacob meets Pharaoh (Genesis 47:7-10)

B’ Joseph cares for his family and Egypt (Genesis 47:11-26)

A’ Jacob prepares to die (Genesis 47:27-31)

Beersheba lay on the southern border of Canaan (Genesis 46:1). Jacob and his caravan stopped there to offer sacrifices to Yahweh. Earlier Abraham had planted a tamarisk tree there and called on the name of the Lord (Genesis 21:33). Isaac had also built an altar there and called on the Lord after God had appeared to him (Genesis 26:24-25). It was perhaps at this altar that Jacob now presented his sacrifices. Jacob must have had mixed feelings as he looked forward to seeing Joseph again. At the same time he realized he was leaving the land promised to his family by God. This move was as momentous for Jacob as Abram’s journey from Ur (Genesis 12:1-3), Jacob’s flight to Paddan-aram (Genesis 28:1-22), or his return to Canaan (Genesis 31:3-54), all of which God encouraged with visions.

"In addressing God as God of his father he was acknowledging the family calling, and implicitly seeking leave to move out of Canaan. His attitude was very different from that of Abram in Genesis 12:10 ff." [Note: Kidner, p. 208. Cf. Genesis 26:24; 28:13-15; 32:9.]

Jacob was probably aware of the prophecy that Abraham’s descendants would experience slavery in a foreign land for 400 years (Genesis 15:13). Consequently he must have found it even more difficult to cross into Egypt (Genesis 46:2-4). God revealed Himself to Jacob (the sixth time) here to assure Jacob that this move was in harmony with His will for Jacob and his family. This is one of four "do not be afraid" consolations that God gave in Genesis (Genesis 46:3; cf. Genesis 15:1; Genesis 21:17; Genesis 26:24).

God promised to make Jacob’s family a great nation in Egypt (cf. Genesis 12:2; Genesis 15:13-14; Genesis 17:6; Genesis 17:20; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 21:13-18). Because of the Egyptians’ disdain for Hebrew shepherds Jacob’s family was not in danger of suffering amalgamation into Egyptian life as they had been in danger of being absorbed into Canaanite life. The Israelites’ removal to Egypt was also a divine discipline. Jacob’s sons had failed to stay separate from the Canaanites so God temporarily removed them from the land He had promised them. Note the parallels with Esau’s migration to Seir (cf. Genesis 36:2-8 and Genesis 46:8 to Genesis 47:27).

God promised to go with Jacob into Egypt (Genesis 46:4). Egypt was the womb God used to form His nation. [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 574.] Though Jacob was leaving God’s land he was not leaving God behind. God further promised to bring Jacob back into the land. He did this by bringing his descendants back 400 years later and by bringing Jacob personally back for burial in the land (Genesis 50:1-21). Moreover God promised that Jacob would not die until he had seen Joseph, implying that Joseph would be present when Jacob died (Genesis 49:29-33). "Joseph will close your eyes" (Genesis 46:4) refers to a custom that Jews still practice. The eldest son or closest relative would gently close the eyes of the deceased. [Note: Sarna, Understanding Genesis, p. 313.]

"Jacob’s decidedly dysfunctional family is on the verge of coming together again in genuine community." [Note: Hamilton, The Book . . . Chapters 18-50, p. 593.]

Verses 8-27

Israel’s household’s move to Egypt 46:8-27

This section contains a list of the individuals in Jacob’s family about the time he moved to Egypt. As in chapter 31, when he left Paddan-aram, this move was also difficult for Jacob. Moses recorded a total of 70 persons (Genesis 46:27; cf. Exodus 1:5). The 66 referred to in Genesis 46:26 excluded Jacob, Joseph, Ephraim, and Manasseh, or perhaps Er and Onan (Genesis 46:12) and Ephraim and Manasseh. Stephen said there were 75, but he must have added Joseph’s three grandsons and two great-grandsons (Acts 7:14). These five were born later, as were some or all of Benjamin’s 10 sons (Genesis 46:21), in all probability.

". . . according to a view which we frequently meet with in the Old Testament, though strange to our modes of thought, [they] came into Egypt in lumbus patrum [i.e., in the loins of their father]." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 1:371.]

"It [Genesis 46:8] means: shortly after the children of Israel had come to Egypt there were to be found those seventy fathers from whom were derived the seventy clans that were the prevailing clans throughout Israel’s early history." [Note: Leupold, 2:1115.]

This was the humble beginning of the great nation of Israel.

"It can hardly go without notice that the number of nations in Genesis 10 is also ’seventy.’ Just as the ’seventy nations’ represent all the descendants of Adam, so now the ’seventy sons’ represent all the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-the children of Israel. Here in narrative form is a demonstration of the theme in Deuteronomy 32:8 that God apportioned the boundaries of the nations (Genesis 10) according to the number of the children of Israel. Thus the writer has gone to great lengths to portray the new nation of Israel as a new humanity and Abraham as a second Adam. The blessing that is to come through Abraham and his seed is a restoration of the original blessing of Adam, a blessing which was lost in the Fall." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 225.]

Verses 28-30

Israel’s reunion with Joseph 46:28-30

This reunion recalls Jacob’s former meeting with Esau (Genesis 32:3). In both situations after a long period of separation Jacob sent a party ahead to meet his relative.

"The land of Goshen, where the Hebrews lived, adjoined Avaris-now known to have been sited at Tell el-Dab’a (not at Tanis, as so many textbooks wrongly aver)." [Note: Kitchen, The Bible . . ., p. 76. ]

This opinion rests on belief in a late date for the Exodus in the thirteenth century B.C., however, and may not be correct.

Jacob had said that the loss of his sons would bring him to his grave in mourning (Genesis 37:35; Genesis 42:38). Joseph’s "resurrection" had enabled his father to die in peace. Similarly the resurrection of a greater Joseph has allowed many to face death with courage and hope (cf. Philippians 1:21-26; 1 Peter 1:3).

Joseph encouraged his family to be completely honest with Pharaoh (Genesis 46:34). Dishonesty long plagued Jacob’s family, but now Joseph led them out of this destructive behavior.

Believers should respond to divine providence by making their decisions in response to the initiative of His wise leaders. They should do so with confidence in His promises and dependent on His continuing guidance and provision.

God’s provision of land and food for Israel 46:31-47:12

The major purpose of this section is probably to show how God sustained and blessed Jacob’s family in Egypt during the remaining five years of the famine (cf. Genesis 46:12-13). It is also to demonstrate how He partially fulfilled His promises to the patriarchs to make them a blessing to the whole world (Genesis 46:25) as well as fruitful and numerous (Genesis 46:27).

12. Joseph’s wise leadership 46:31-47:27

As a result of Joseph presenting his family members to Pharaoh, they received the best of Egypt’s land. Jacob blessed Pharaoh in return for his goodness. In the years that followed, Joseph bought almost all of Egypt for Pharaoh, saved the Egyptians’ lives, and furthered Israel’s prosperity and blessing. Through him all the nations near Egypt also received blessing (cf. Genesis 12:3).

Verses 31-34

Egyptians loathed shepherds because agriculture was the basis of Egyptian society and the Nile River sustained it (Genesis 46:34). The Egyptians organized their fields carefully and controlled them relatively easily. The comparative difficulty of controlling sheep, goats, and cows led the Egyptians to think of those who cared for these animals as crude and barbaric. [Note: See Keil and Delitzsch, 1:374-75, and my note on 43:32.] Probably too the more civilized Egyptians distrusted any nomadic peoples. [Note: Wenham, Genesis 16-50, p. 445. ] This resulted in the Israelites living separate from the Egyptians where they increased and developed a distinct national identity and vocation as God had promised.

"Rameses III is said to have employed 3,264 men, mostly foreigners, to take care of his herds." [Note: Ibid., p. 446.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Genesis 46". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/genesis-46.html. 2012.
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