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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 46

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-7


Verses 1-7:

When the name "Israel" is used, it refers to Jacob as the head of the theocratic family. When the name "Jacob" is used, it refers to him as the individual descendant of Isaac and Abraham.

It was as Israel, the head of the theocratic family, that Jacob began his trek to Egypt. Many difficulties awaited him. At this time, he had received no direct instruction from God that he should take his family to Egypt. However, God’s dealings with Joseph, Pharaoh’s invitation, and the remaining famine years indicated that this was the time of which God had spoken to Abraham (Ge 15:13-15) when his seed must leave the Land of Promise and become strangers and slaves in another land. Two things must take place before the Chosen People could then return to their land: (1) the "iniquity of the Amorites (must become) full," and (2) the family of Israel must become a nation.

The first of these two conditions was yet in the future. It was evident that to remain in Canaan would hinder the development of the second. Palestine was at that time divided among various independent tribes. As the family of Israel grew in number, there would be strong pressures to amalgamate with the peoples of the Land, or to engage in warfare with them.

The greatest threat would be to their commitment to Jehovah. The sensuality of the Canaanites’ religious practices would appeal to the flesh nature, and there would also be strong temptation for Jacob’s sons to intermarry with them and become involved in their idolatrous practices. There would be no such threat in Egypt. The sons of Israel were shepherds, and as such were "an abomination to the Egyptians" (Ge 43:32). This would keep them separate socially, politically, and religiously. Although Israel would enjoy the benefits of Egypt’s prosperity and the protection of their power, the Chosen People would be effectively isolated in their own community. They would be free to observe their own religion and follow their own customs.

In addition, Israel would be in Egypt not as permanent residents, but as sojourners. Their stay there was to be temporary, lasting only until the Divine purpose was fulfilled.

Jacob and his party stopped in Beer-sheba on their way to Egypt. There where God had evidenced His presence on numerous prior occasions, He once more appeared to Jacob and reassured him of His direction in this move. God identified Himself as "God, the God of thy father," or "El, the Elohim of thy father." This is the name describing the power of God. It assured Jacob of safety during his sojourn in Egypt, and the ultimate fulfillment of the Divine promise to return Israel to their Land.

Following the stop-over in Beer-sheba, Jacob and his entire family proceeded on their journey to Egypt, with complete assurance of God’s leading. This shows how God vouchsafes His guidance in the lives of His children in every age. He uses various means to make His will known; His Word, the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the counsel of others, and circumstances. We need to be receptive to His direction.

Verses 8-15

Verses 8-15:

The list of Israel’s sons who "came into Egypt" includes some who were likely born in Egypt, as well as Joseph and his two sons who were already there. It is likely that Benjamin’s children were also born in Egypt, although they are included in this list.

The present verses list the sons of Leah, which she bore to Jacob. Dinah is also included, although it is not customary to list the daughters in the genealogical record. Also listed are Er and Onan, both of whom died before Israel left Canaan for Egypt.

The danger of inter-marriage with the Canaanite inhabitants of the land is evident, in the notation of the Canaanite wife of Simeon.

The number of Jacob’s children and grandchildren by Leah is 33, including Er and Onan. The Scriptures imply that there were daughters in addition to those names listed. This number does not include the sons’ wives.

Verses 16-18

Verses 16-18:

This is the listing of the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid. Included in the list is the name of a daughter, Serah. There are 16 listed, but this number does not include the wives of Gad and Asher.

Verses 19-22

Verses 19-22:

Ard. These are the sons of Rachel which were born to Jacob: all the souls were fourteen."

Joseph’s sons were born in Egypt, of his wife Asenath. They are included in the list of the "seventy" who accompanied Jacob to Egypt.

It is likely that at least some of Benjamin’s children where born in Egypt, the youngest of Jacob’s twelve sons. The record lists ten sons as Benjamin’s. From 1Ch 7:15 we learn that Benjamin had at least one daughter, Maachah, who married Machir, grandson of Manasseh.

The number of Jacob’s children by Rachel, including grandchildren, is fourteen. This does. not include the wives, nor the daughters.

Verses 23-25

Verses 23-25:

Of all Jacob’s wives, Bilhah gave him the fewest number of children. Only seven names are listed. The Scriptures give no explanation for this. It is suggested that this may have been a judgment upon Bilhah, for the incestuous relationship she had with Reuben (Ge 35:22; 1Ch 5:1).

Verses 26-27

Verses 26, 27:

There appears to be a contradiction between Moses’ account (verse 27) and that of Stephen (Ac 7:14). Verse 27 places the number of those accompanying Jacob to Egypt as 70; Stephen gives the number as 75. From Stephen’s account appears that the number of Joseph’s family was nine, instead of four. Three different sets of numbers appear: 66, 70, and 75. There is no contradiction in these numbers, if properly interpreted. 1) The first number, 66, does not include Jacob, Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh. 2) The second, number, 70 includes these four 3) The third number, which Stephen used, is 75, and it includes the five grandsons of Joseph This demonstrates how the seeming contradictions of Scripture fade away when the facts are properly, understood, in context.

Verses 28-34

Verses 28-34:

Verse 28 indicates the leadership role Judah had begun to assume. It is likely that his noble intercessory prayer on Benjamin’s behalf (Ge 4:18-34) had come to Jacob’s attention. This endeared him greatly to the aged patriarch.

Jacob sent Judah ahead to contact Joseph for directions to the region in Egypt where the family would settle. This was Goshen, in the northeast section of the Nile delta. It is not a large district, having an area of about 900 square miles. Because of irrigation it is considered the best land of all Egypt, ideal for agriculture and animal husbandry. Also, it is the district of Egypt nearest the Land of Canaan. The meeting of Joseph and Jacob was filled with emotion. The powerful Egyptian lord became the lad Joseph, as he fell on his father’s neck and wept "a good while." The joy of the reunion more than compensated for the years of separation.

Joseph instructed Jacob in what he should say when he met with Pharaoh. He was to be careful to inform Pharaoh that his occupation was that of shepherd, as his family before him had been. This would insure that Israel would be segregated from the Egyptians socially, politically, and religiously. There would be no danger of wholesale intermarriage with the Egyptians, and thus corrupting the faith-line. There would be no danger of political entanglements to tie them to Egypt when time came for the nation to return to their Land. Arid there would be a minimum of temptation to partake of the idolatry prevalent in Egypt.

God’s plan for the development of the Chosen Family into the Chosen Nation was moving along on schedule. The only way this could have been accomplished was exactly the way God directed, as He moved in the lives of all the characters.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Genesis 46". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/genesis-46.html. 1985.
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