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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 46

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-7


Genesis 46:1. Beersheba.] This was the frontier town, where Abraham and Isaac had acknowledged God (Genesis 21:33; Genesis 26:24-25).

Genesis 46:4. I will also surely bring thee up again.] “This does not refer to the bringing up of Jacob when dead, to be buried in Canaan,—for there was in that no Divine interposition,—but to the bringing up his descendants at the Exodus, which is ever said to have been God’s act, with His mighty hand and outstretched arm.” (Alford).—And Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes. Shall perform the last act of filial piety in closing the eyes of his father.



I. It was the second stage in the Covenant History. The call of Abraham was the first stage. At first, God dealt with the individual and with his seed. But the time had now come when the family is to be raised to a nation. As a nation it is to return to the promised land, and there to be trained to act a wonderful, and altogether singular part in the world’s history. “Israel was God’s illuminated clock set in the dark steeple of time.”

II. It was the fulfilment of the Divine plan. Jacob’s migration to Egypt was the accomplishment of prophecy (Genesis 15:13). The Church is to be brought into the midst of heathendom to show that it is destined to conquer the world. The bringing down of Jacob’s family into Egypt had an important bearing upon the future history of Israel. It tended to separate them from the nations of the world and to preserve them as a holy people. Had they remained in Canaan, they would have been in danger of being corrupted by the people of the land. They might have been altogether destroyed by wars attempted while they were yet immature. In the course of time they would have mixed with the surrounding nations by inter-marriage, and thus have learned their vices. But in Egypt, they were kept parted from heathendom by a double barrier.

(1). Their race.

(2). Their reputation as an impure caste. (Genesis 46:34.) Dwelling in a fruitful soil, well adapted to their peculiar industry, they had every means of becoming prosperous. It was also part of the Divine plan to discipline the people by affliction. Egypt was to be the house of their bondage under cruel taskmasters. Trial was to develop their strength. They were only to be made perfect through suffering. It takes long years of painful discipline to train a great nation.

III. It was entered upon with due solennity. When Jacob had arrived at the frontier town, he “offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.” (Genesis 46:1.) Thus he recognises the family covenant. He remembered the word which the Lord spake to Abraham. (Genesis 15:13.) He saw how wonderfully Joseph’s dreams were realised by the events of Providence. Therefore he saw that it was the will of God that he should go down to Egypt. He comes to the place where Abraham and Isaac before him had acknowledged God. (Genesis 21:33; Genesis 26:24-25.) Before he crosses the boundary, he will seek to know the perfect will of the Lord. He had assurance from Joseph, he had fair proof that all would be well; yet he will not take the final step until he has sealed his covenant relation with God. He longed to see Joseph, but his feelings were under the control of religion. He was going into an unknown and dangerous world, and he must commend himself to God by a special act of devotion.

IV. It had the approval of God. “God spake unto Israel.” (Genesis 46:2.) This was a great crisis in the history of the Church at which we might expect God to appear. God has always appeared in some special act or word in every great crisis of His people’s history. As to Jacob—

1. He found God as he had sought Him. “I am God, the God of thy father.” The Name used reveals the Omnipotent God, the Mighty One who is able to fulfil His covenant engagements, and who could bring Jacob safely through all his difficulties present and future. Israel had found his God faithful in all His gracious dealings, and he believed that he should still see the same loving kindness and truth for the time to come.

2. The will of God is clearly made known. “Fear not to go down to Egypt.” He was distinctly assured that it was God’s will that he should go there.”

3. The protection of God is promised. “Fear not—I will go down with thee into Egypt.” (Genesis 46:3-4.) The “I” is emphatic. Jacob had many reasons for fear. He was an old man now, far advanced in years. He was leaving the promised land, and going to a heathen country with the known prospect before him of centuries of affliction for his family. But he has no need to fear, for all is in the hands of God.

4. The purpose of God is declared. “I will there make of thee a great nation.” “I will surely bring thee up again.” This was, indeed, a bright prospect, and well fitted to encourage the faith of the patriarch. And God has fulfilled this word, for He has endowed the nation of Israel with an inextinguishable life. Balaam was struck with this when he said, “Who can count the dust of Jacob.” And God promised that he would bring Jacob up again. We are to understand this, of course, of his descendants, who were to be brought up from Egypt at the great Exodus. This event is ever spoken of as the mighty act of God. Thus, not merely one was selected, as of old, to receive the word of the Lord and to witness his power, but all the family, now expanded to a nation, were to be included in the chosen seed. And so the promise of Redemption was working itself clearer. This nation was to persist through human history for the salvation of mankind.


Genesis 46:1. It is both wise and pleasant for us to avail ourselves of the remembrance of our pious ancestors when we plead with God for special mercies. It is sweet to a devout mind to be able to say, “He is my God, and I will exalt Him; my father’s God, and I will build Him an habitation.”—(Bush.)

Jacob’s halt at Beer-sheba furnishes a proof of the distinction between human certainty and that derived from the Divine assurance. Thus John the Baptist knew already of the Messianic mission, before His baptism, but it was not until the revelation made at the baptism that he received the Divine assurance which he needed as the forerunner of Christ. In our day, too, this distinction is of importance for the minister of the Gospel. Words of Divine assurance are the proper messages from the pulpit.—(Lange.)

Genesis 46:2. The Most High here called him by his first and ordinary name, “Jacob,” perhaps to put him in mind of what he was in himself. He was now indeed honoured with a very glorious title, but he must not forget that he was only Jacob when God met with him in his early days. The address which God here makes to his servant undoubtedly had reference to Jacob’s design in offering the sacrifices, which was to obtain some clear testimony of the Divine approbation of the step he was about to take.—(Bush.)

Genesis 46:3. Cause of fear he might see sufficient; but God would have him not to look down upon the rushing and roaring streams of miseries that ran so swiftly under him and his posterity, but steadfastly fasten upon His power and providence. He loves to perfect His strength in our weakness; as Elijah would have the sacrifice covered with water, that God’s power might the more appear in the fire from heaven.—(Trapp.)

Genesis 46:4. That was as good security as could be. For if Cæsar could say to the fearful pilot in a terrible storm, “Be of good cheer, thou carryest Cæsar and Cæsar’s fortunes;” how much more may he presume to be safe that hath God in his company! A child in the dark fears nothing while he hath his father by the hand.—(Trapp.)

The Lord does not say that he would bring him up again as soon as the years of the famine were ended. Indeed, the contrary might be inferred from the very words of the promise; for he was to remain there till he had become a great nation; and it cannot be supposed that he expected to live until the promise was accomplished. It was to be in the person of his seed that Jacob was to be brought up to possess the earthly inheritance.—(Bush.)

Genesis 46:5. “The sons of Israel carried Jacob their father.” A debt of kindness which was justly owed to Jacob from his sons. They were little children at the time of his last journey, and he prayed and wrestled with God for them when they were in danger, and used all possible means to appease their enraged uncle, and moved slowly along the road as the women and children were able to bear. Now Jacob was himself a child in strength, and his vigorous children recompensed their father’s tender care by their care of him on the journey.—(Bush.)

The word “rose up” is emphatical, and imports that his heart was lightened. As when he had seen God at Bethel, he “lift up his feet,” and went on his way lustily. (Genesis 29:1.)—(Trapp.)

Genesis 46:6. In taking all his substance, as well as his kindred, he would cut off occasion from those who might be disposed, at least in after times, to reproach the family with having come into Egypt empty-handed, and to throw themselves upon the bounty of the country.—(Fuller.)

Genesis 46:7. Only one daughter is named in the list, and one granddaughter. There may have been other daughters and granddaughters, who, if they married to Egyptians, or other strangers (or for other reasons) would not be included in the genealogical list, as “mothers in Israel.”—(Jacobus.)

Verses 8-27


Genesis 46:8-28. And these are the names of the children of Israel, etc.] “Catalogue of Jacob’s sons, grandchildren, and great-grand children who went down into Egypt. The children are ranged according to their mothers. In Genesis 46:27, the LXX make the whole number who went down to Egypt to be 75. This reckoning is followed by Stephen (Acts 7:14), who as a Hellenistic Jew naturally goes by the LXX. The list is probably neither complete nor accurate, and must be regarded rather as a formal than as an historical document.” (Alford).—“If Stephen here quoted the LXX, he was accountable only for the correctness of his quotation, and not for the error which had crept into his authority. This was immaterial to his present purpose, and it was not the manner of the sacred speakers to turn aside from their grand task to the pedantry of criticism.” (Murphy).



This catalogue of “the names of the children of Israel” is instructive from several points of view.

I. It marks the commencement and gives the outlines of the nation’s history. We have here the first draft of those lines of history along which this nation of Israel was to move. The list here given shows the separation of the tribes, and gives us a clear view of the people’s increase. We have here the promise of a great nation.

II. It marks the tribe of the Messiah. Our Lord was to spring from the tribe of Judah. This notes God’s redemptive purpose in this history, how God designed thereby to bring His First Begotten into the world.

III. The names are significant. Thus the names of Reuben’s sons signify—teacher, distinguished, beautiful one, noble one. These express a sanguine hope. Also the names of Levi’s sons signify—expulsion of the profane, congregation of the consecrated, practiser of discipline. These are the leading principles and proper characteristics of priestly rule. We hasten rapidly over biblical names, but much instruction may be gathered from them.

IV. The facts connected with some of the names are suggestive. Thus Dinah, though condemned to a single life, is yet reckoned among the founders of the house of Israel in Egypt. This points to the elevation of woman, and to the idea of female inheritance. Again, Judah was the father’s minister to Joseph. By his faithfulness, strength, and wisdom he rises in the opinion of his father. His distinguished place in the annals of the nation comes out, at length, in the grandeur of that prophetic word which declares God’s loving purpose in this great history. (Genesis 49:10).

V. The number of the names is also suggestive. “It is remarkable that it is the product of seven, the number of holiness; and ten, the number of completeness. It is still more remarkable that it is the number of the names of those who were the heads of the primitive nations. The Church is the counterpart of the world, and is to be the instrument by which the kingdom of the world is to become the kingdom of Christ. When the Most High bestowed the inheritance on the nations, ‘when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the sons of Israel.’ (Deuteronomy 32:8). This curious sentence may have an immediate reference to the providential distribution of the human family over the habitable parts of the earth, according to the number of His church, and of His dispensation of grace; but at all events it conveys the great and obvious principle, that all things whatsoever, in the affairs of men, are antecedently adapted with the most perfect exactitude to the benign reign of grace already realised in the children of God, and yet to be extended to all the sons and daughters of Adam.”—(Murphy).


Genesis 46:8-27. Compared with the families of Abraham and Isaac, these names appear to be numerous, and afford a prospect of a great nation; yet compared with those of Ishmael and Esau, they are but few. Three and twenty years ago there was “a company of Ishmaelites,” who bought Joseph; and as to Esau, he seems to have become a nation in a little time. We see from hence that the most valuable blessings are often the longest ere they reach us. The just shall live by faith.—(Fuller).

The full people of Israel consisted of twelve sons, and seventy souls; and the Christian Church consisted of twelve apostles, and seventy disciples.—(Ross).

Verses 28-34


Genesis 46:8-28. And these are the names of the children of Israel, etc.] “Catalogue of Jacob’s sons, grandchildren, and great-grand children who went down into Egypt. The children are ranged according to their mothers. In Genesis 46:27, the LXX make the whole number who went down to Egypt to be 75. This reckoning is followed by Stephen (Acts 7:14), who as a Hellenistic Jew naturally goes by the LXX. The list is probably neither complete nor accurate, and must be regarded rather as a formal than as an historical document.” (Alford).—“If Stephen here quoted the LXX, he was accountable only for the correctness of his quotation, and not for the error which had crept into his authority. This was immaterial to his present purpose, and it was not the manner of the sacred speakers to turn aside from their grand task to the pedantry of criticism.” (Murphy).

Genesis 46:29. And presented himself unto him.] The word is commonly used for Divine appearings. Knobel thinks that it is used here as according with the royal pomp with which Joseph was invested.—

Genesis 46:34. Thy servants’ trade hath been about cattle.] “This would be the sufficient ground on which the district of Goshen would be granted to them, as keeping them more by themselves, and out of contact with the Egyptian people.” (Jacobus.)



In which two things are to be noticed.

I. The wise policy of this step.

1. In the choice of a leader. Jacob sent Judah before him unto Joseph. (Genesis 46:28.) And he was qualified beyond his three brothers for this important mission. It was proper that he should receive from Joseph the necessary orders before entering the country. For Egypt was a well-ordered and organized kingdom, and it could not be permitted that a wandering tribe should pass the borders without ceremony.

2. In the choice of this particular place. They were shepherds, and Goshen was best fitted for pasture. Here they would be isolated from Egyptian society; for there were elements belonging to the two nations which rendered them mutually repulsive. The idolatries of the Egyptians would be abhorred by the worshippers of the true God, and “every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians.” Religious aversion is the strongest of antipathies. Surely it was Divine wisdom which led Joseph thus to place the house of Israel under the protection of Egyptian contempt. He caused them to accept a humble position, which while it ministered to their temporal prosperity, at the same time promoted their spiritual prosperity as a holy nation.

II. The behaviour of Joseph. In the peculiar circumstances of the case, this was most suitable and dignified.

1. He determines to announce their arrival to Pharaoh. (Genesis 46:31.) This was proper in itself, as well as a necessary formality. The rights of place and rank should be respected.

2. He gives instructions to his brethren. (Genesis 46:33-34.) They must enter upon the necessary formality of an introduction to the king. Joseph gives them instructions what to answer, and in so doing is careful to keep them clear of the snares of Egypt. Joseph was a statesman but he had learned that truth is the highest policy; an open, but dignified frankness, the highest wisdom.


Genesis 46:28. Judah had acquitted himself well in a former case of great delicacy, and this might recommend him in the present instance. He who could plead so well for his father shall have the honour of introducing him. It is fitting too that the father of the royal tribe, and of the Messiah, should not be the last in works of honour and usefulness, but rather that he should have the pre-eminence.—(Fuller.)

Genesis 46:29. The intermission of comforts hath this advantage, that it sweetens our delights more in return than was abated in the forbearance. God doth oft-times hide away our Joseph for a time, that we may be more joyous and thankful in his recovery. This was the sincerest pleasure that Jacob ever had, which therefore God reserved for his eye. And if the meeting of earthly friends be so unspeakably comfortable, how happy shall we be in the light of the glorious face of God our Heavenly Father! of that our blessed Redeemer, whom we sold to death by our sins, and which now, after all that noble triumph, hath all power given Him in heaven and earth!—(Bp. Hall).

Genesis 46:30. He feels so happy that he thinks of nothing but dying. Perhaps he thought he should die soon: having enjoyed as much as he could desire in this world, it was natural now to wish to go to another. Yet Jacob did not die for seventeen years; a proof this, that our feelings are no certain rule of what shall befal us.—(Fuller.)

Because thou art yet alive. If this were so great a matter to Jacob, what should it be to us, that Christ was dead and is alive; yea, that He ever lives to make request for us.—(Trapp.)

Genesis 46:31-32. Joseph was loved for his own sake. The greatness of his character was too well established to be affected by the knowledge of any facts connected with his family.

It is observable with what “meekness of wisdom” Joseph demeaned himself in this affair. Most men in similar circumstances would have been for introducing their relations as speedily as possible into posts of honour and profit, lest they should disgrace him. But Joseph is more concerned for their purity than for their outward dignity. He sought to secure them a place as free as possible from the evil influence to which they would be exposed in a court.—(Bush.)

Genesis 46:33-34. Joseph says in effect, “I will go before you, and will tell the king that you are shepherds, and have been so all your lives, and your fathers before you. This will prevent any proposals for raising you to any posts of honour in the state. And when you come before the king, and he shall ask you of your occupation, then do you confirm what I said of you; and as the employment of a shepherd is meanly accounted of in Egypt, and those that follow it are despised, and reckoned unfit for the higher offices of the state, this will determine the king to say nothing to you on the subject, but to grant you a place in Goshen.”—(Fuller.)

Thus began already in the house of Jacob, at its entrance into Egypt, that reproach of Christ which Moses afterwards esteemed greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. This antipathy of the Egyptians towards the shepherd-people was a fence to them, as was afterwards the law of Moses.—(Ross.)

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 46". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/genesis-46.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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