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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 46

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Genesis 46:0


Jacob Moves to EgyptJacob's Journey to EgyptJacob's Migration to EgyptJacob and His Family Go To EgyptJacob Leaves for Egypt
Genesis 46:1-4Genesis 46:1-7Genesis 46:1-4Genesis 46:1-2aGenesis 46:1-5
Genesis 46:5-7 Genesis 46:5-7Genesis 46:3-4
Genesis 46:6-7
Those Who Came to Egypt Jacob's Family
Genesis 46:8-27Genesis 46:8-15Genesis 46:8-27Genesis 46:8-15Genesis 46:8a
Genesis 46:8-15
Genesis 46:16-18 Genesis 46:16-18Genesis 46:16-18
Genesis 46:19-22 Genesis 46:19-22Genesis 46:19-22
Genesis 46:23-25 Genesis 46:23-25Genesis 46:23-25
Genesis 46:26-27 Genesis 46:26-27Genesis 46:26-27
Jacob Settles in Goshen(Genesis 46:28-12)Jacob and His Sons Settle in Egypt (Genesis 46:28-12)Jacob and His Family in Egypt (Genesis 46:28-12)Joseph Welcomes Them
Genesis 46:28-34Genesis 46:28-34Genesis 46:28-34Genesis 46:28-30Genesis 46:28-30
Genesis 46:31-34Genesis 46:31-34

READING CYCLE THREE (see Guide to Good Bible Reading)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. Jacob wants confirmation from YHWH that a move to Egypt is His will. This is possibly because

1. he remembered the family tradition about the enslavement of the Jews in Egypt, spoken to Abraham in Genesis 15:13-16

2. he was afraid because Isaac had been forbidden to go to Egypt

3. he was reluctant to leave the Promised Land itself

B. The footnotes of the NKJV (Nelson, 1982) list the name variations between this text and Numbers 26:0 and 1 Chronicles 4:0 and 7.

HERE NUMBERS/1 Chr. Jemuel, Genesis 46:10, Exodus 6:15Ohad, Genesis 46:10 (not in any other list) Jachin, Genesis 46:10 Zohar, Genesis 46:10 Puvvah, Genesis 46:13, Numbers 26:33 Iob/Job, Genesis 46:13 Ziphion, Genesis 46:16 Ezbon, Genesis 46:16 Arodi, Genesis 46:16 Huppim, Genesis 46:21 Hushim, Genesis 46:23 Jahzeel, Genesis 46:24 Shillem, Genesis 46:24 Nemuel, Numbers 26:12; 1 Chronicles 4:24 Jarib, 1 Chronicles 4:24Zerah, 1 Chronicles 4:24Puah, 1 Chronicles 7:1Jashub, Numbers 26:24; 1 Chronicles 7:1Zephon, Numbers 26:15, LXXOzni, Numbers 26:16Arod, Numbers 26:17Hupham, Numbers 26:39Shuham, Numbers 26:42Jahziel, 1 Chronicles 7:13Shallum, 1 Chronicles 7:13

C. There is an interesting summary of the different ways that YHWH revealed Himself in Genesis found in NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 354.

1. verbal, Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 13:14-17; Genesis 21:12-13; Genesis 22:1-2

2. visions, Genesis 15:1-6; Genesis 46:2-4

3. dreams, Genesis 20:3-7; Genesis 28:12-15; Genesis 31:10-13, Genesis 31:24; Genesis 37:5, Genesis 37:9

4. appearances/theophanies, Genesis 12:7; Genesis 16:7-14; Genesis 17:1; Genesis 18:1; Genesis 26:2, Genesis 26:24; Genesis 35:1, Genesis 35:9; Genesis 48:3

5. the Angel of the Lord, Genesis 16:7-13; Genesis 18:2, Genesis 18:16, Genesis 18:17-33; Genesis 21:17-19; Genesis 22:11-12, Genesis 22:15-18; Genesis 31:11, Genesis 31:13; Genesis 48:15-16

What is impressive for me is that God is trying to communicate in every way possible to this special family through whom He will reveal Himself to the whole world. God is communicating! God is revealing Himself!

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 46:1-4 1So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. 2God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, "Jacob, Jacob." And he said, "Here I am." 3He said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. 4I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes."

Genesis 46:1 "So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba" Apparently, from Genesis 37:14, he had lived in Hebron all this time and now he was going to stop at this southern city about 25 miles south of Hebron, the site of a special well. Genesis 46:1 and 26:33 are two different etymologies for the term "Beersheba" (BDB 92). This place had unique patriarchal associations with Abraham (cf. Genesis 21:31-33; Genesis 22:19) and Isaac (cf. Genesis 26:24-25; Genesis 28:13).

Jacob took everything he had accumulated (cf. Genesis 46:5-7). His move to Egypt was a permanent relocation for him.

"and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac" It is interesting that sacrifices are usually offered after God appears to the patriarchs in a vision, but here Jacob wants confirmation from God concerning his move to Egypt.

This is possibly because

1. he remembered the family tradition about the enslavement of the Jews in Egypt, spoken to Abraham in Genesis 15:13-16

2. he was afraid because Isaac had been forbidden to go to Egypt

3. he was reluctant to leave the Promised Land itself

The phrase "the God of his father Isaac" is not showing lack of personal belief in God on Jacob's part, but is an emphasis on the ancient, covenantal God who called Abraham out of Ur and gave him descendants in the Promised Land of Canaan.

Genesis 46:2 "God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night" Though Joseph is a significant person in the latter chapters of Genesis, God never speaks to him directly in a vision as He does to the Patriarch Jacob. Therefore, it is more proper to divide these latter chapters of Genesis into a larger section which deals with the life of Jacob. This is the last patriarchal night vision by God.

"Jacob, Jacob" This was a sign of affection (cf. Genesis 22:11).

"Here I am" This is a common idiomatic response to God's addressing someone (cf. Genesis 22:1, Genesis 22:7, Genesis 22:11, Genesis 22:18; Genesis 27:1, Genesis 27:18; Genesis 31:11; Genesis 37:13; Genesis 46:2).

Genesis 46:3 "I am God, the God of your father" This is the covenantal title (cf. Genesis 26:24; Genesis 28:13; Genesis 43:23). It literally says "the El, the Elohim of your father." El (BDB 42) is the general name for God in the ANE, which comes from the root "to be strong" and the PLURAL form (Elohim, BDB 43) of it, which is used so often in the early parts of Genesis to describe God as creator. See Special Topic: Names for Deity.

"do not be afraid to go down to Egypt" Some see the fear (BDB 431, KB 432, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense) as being related to

1. the family tradition relating to Abraham's vision in Genesis 15:13-16

2. Isaac being forbidden to go to Egypt (Genesis 26:2)

3. a fear of leaving the Promised Land.

There are several messages from God that contain this word, Genesis 15:1; Genesis 21:17; Genesis 26:24; Genesis 46:3.

"for I will make you a great nation there" This is new information not previously shared with Abraham or Isaac. It shows the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2; Genesis 17:4, Genesis 17:6, Genesis 17:20; and Genesis 18:18 in which He described the descendants of Abraham as being like the stars of heaven, the sand of the sea, and the dust of the earth.

God's presence with Jacob's family will cause them to multiply rapidly (cf. Exodus 1:0), as His presence with Jacob in Haran caused Jacob's spotted and colored animals to increase in numbers rapidly. Numerical growth was one sign of God's blessing. This rapid increase is what precipitates the problem with Egypt's later government (i.e., Seti I; Rameses II).

Genesis 46:4 "I will go down with you into Egypt" God's personal presence is His greatest promise. It shows the initiating redemptive character of God (cf. Genesis 26:3, Genesis 26:24; Genesis 28:15; Genesis 31:3; Psalms 23:4; Psalms 139:7-12). This grammatical structure (clause) is emphatic in Hebrew (as is the next)! It also shows YHWH is not limited to Canaan. He is a universal God (i.e., Deuteronomy 32:8).

"I will also surely bring you up again" God has promised the land of Canaan to the Patriarchs, but Jacob is permanently relocating to Egypt. This is the divine promise that the Israelites will return to Canaan (cf. Genesis 15:16; Genesis 28:15).

"and Joseph will close your eyes" This apparently is a Hebrew idiom describing the presence of loved ones at the time of death (cf. Genesis 50:1), often associated with this act of closing the eyelids with one's hand at death.

Verses 5-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 46:5-7 5Then Jacob arose from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob and their little ones and their wives in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. 6They took their livestock and their property, which they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and came to Egypt, Jacob and all his descendants with him: 7his sons and his grandsons with him, his daughters and his granddaughters, and all his descendants he brought with him to Egypt.

Genesis 46:7 "his daughters and his granddaughters" Scholars have wondered if this means that there were more daughters than Dinah, or if this refers to his daughters-in-law.

Verses 8-27

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 46:8-27 8Now these are the names of the sons of Israel, Jacob and his sons, who went to Egypt: Reuben, Jacob's firstborn. 9The sons of Reuben: Hanoch and Pallu and Hezron and Carmi. 10The sons of Simeon: Jemuel and Jamin and Ohad and Jachin and Zohar and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman. 11The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 12The sons of Judah: Er and Onan and Shelah and Perez and Zerah (but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan). And the sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul. 13The sons of Issachar: Tola and Puvvah and Iob and Shimron. 14The sons of Zebulun: Sered and Elon and Jahleel. 15These are the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Paddan-aram, with his daughter Dinah; all his sons and his daughters numbered thirty-three. 16The sons of Gad: Ziphion and Haggi, Shuni and Ezbon, Eri and Arodi and Areli. 17The sons of Asher: Imnah and Ishvah and Ishvi and Beriah and their sister Serah. And the sons of Beriah: Heber and Malchiel. 18These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to his daughter Leah; and she bore to Jacob these sixteen persons. 19The sons of Jacob's wife Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. 20Now to Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him. 21The sons of Benjamin: Bela and Becher and Ashbel, Gera and Naaman, Ehi and Rosh, Muppim and Huppim and Ard. 22These are the sons of Rachel, who were born to Jacob; there were fourteen persons in all. 23The sons of Dan: Hushim. 24The sons of Naphtali: Jahzeel and Guni and Jezer and Shillem. 25These are the sons of Bilhah, whom Laban gave to his daughter Rachel, and she bore these to Jacob; there were seven persons in all. 26All the persons belonging to Jacob, who came to Egypt, his direct descendants, not including the wives of Jacob's sons, were sixty-six persons in all, 27and the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt were two; all the persons of the house of Jacob, who came to Egypt, were seventy.

Genesis 46:10-24 These verses are very similar to the list in Numbers 26:0 and 1 Chr. 4-7. These other two lists have variant spellings and, in some cases, variant names. See Contextual Insights, B. I believe that it can be explained by oral tradition or that people during this period of time often had two different names.

Genesis 46:10 "Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman" There has been much discussion about why this person would have been included. It is obviously not normative. Rashi says that it refers to Dinah's child, sired by Shechem (cf. Gen. R. 80).

Genesis 46:12 Verses 10-27 are supposed to be a list of all the people who came with Jacob to Egypt, but the naming of two of Judah's children who were already dead (i.e., Er and Onan, cf. Genesis 38:7, Genesis 38:10) shows that this list was added from another time. Not that it is inaccurate, but just not part of this context.

Genesis 46:13 "Iob" Many commentators have assumed that this should be spelled "Job"(BDB 398, ויוב), but in 1 Chronicles 7:1 and Numbers 26:24 his name is "Jashub" (BDB 1000, וישׁוב).

Genesis 46:15 "all his sons and his daughters numbered thirty-three" Verses Genesis 46:15, Genesis 46:18, Genesis 46:22, and 25 all list the sum total of the different divisions of Jacob's family.

1. In Genesis 46:15 we have the sons and daughter of Leah

2. In Genesis 46:18 we have the sons of Leah's maiden, Zilpah

3. In Genesis 46:22 we have the sons of Rachel

4. In Genesis 46:25 we have the sons of Rachel's maiden, Bilhah

The combined total of these groups appears in Genesis 46:26 as "sixty-six persons" and in Genesis 46:27 as "seventy."

There has been much discussion as to how these two numbers relate to the list. Some say the number "seventy," plus the daughter, Dinah, of Genesis 46:15, equals "seventy-one" minus Er and Onan of Genesis 46:12, as well as subtracting Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 46:27). Others have asserted that the "sixty-six" of Genesis 46:26, plus Jacob, Joseph and his two sons, equals "seventy." It is interesting that in Acts 7:14 Stephen mentions seventy-five persons. However, this number comes from the Septuagint, which apparently lists five of Joseph's grandchildren. See Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pp. 378-379; Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 521-522.

Genesis 46:17 "and their sister Serah" Inclusion of this daughter shows that the list is meant to be inclusive. It may be that more sons were born into this family than daughters.

Genesis 46:20 Joseph has two sons by an Egyptian woman. These two sons will be adopted by Jacob as his own, thus bringing the total number of sons to thirteen.

It seems that Joseph was given the double inheritance usually reserved for the firstborn, but he was not given the head position in the family. This was reserved for Judah, Leah's fourth son. These unusual decisions signal God's leadership in the covenant family!

Ephraim will become the largest, most powerful tribe in northern Canaan, while Judah will become the largest and most powerful tribe in the south.

The LXX has an extended list of descendants connected to this verse. Some scholars think it was purposely omitted by the MT because of Deuteronomy 32:8 (UBS, Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, p. 70).

Genesis 46:21 "The sons of Benjamin" Benjamin's sons seem to be listed here, but when one compares this with 1 Chronicles 7:6, there are only three sons mentioned. Some commentators have asserted that the others listed here are grandsons (cf. Numbers 26:38-40; 1 Chronicles 7:6ff; 1 Chronicles 8:1ff).

Genesis 46:26 "his direct descendants" This list is somewhat confusing because

1. it lists the names of sons who died earlier

2. some of the names are plural and seem to be names of later tribal clans

3. Benjamin, in Genesis 46:21, is said to have ten sons instead of the more traditional three

Verses 28-34

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 46:28-34 28Now he sent Judah before him to Joseph, to point out the way before him to Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen. 29Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; as soon as he appeared before him, he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a long time. 30Then Israel said to Joseph, "Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive." 31Joseph said to his brothers and to his father's household, "I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, 'My brothers and my father's household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me; 32and the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock; and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have.' 33When Pharaoh calls you and says, 'What is your occupation?' 34you shall say, 'Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,' that you may live in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians."

Genesis 46:28 "he sent Judah before him to Joseph" There is some confusion in the MT. The Revised Standard Version, following the Septuagint, says "to appear before him in Goshen." This could imply

1. that Judah was to show Joseph the way to their father in the land of Goshen

2. that he was to appear before Joseph in the land of Goshen

It does establish Judah's leadership of the family.

Genesis 46:29 "his chariot" There were at least three kinds of these two-wheeled, animal-drawn "chariots."

1. a cart pulled by oxen, cf. Genesis 45:21

2. a war chariot with some metal for armor. Some held one person, but others were a bit larger and held two; most were pulled by horses (for speed), cf. Exodus 14:7

3. a ceremonial chariot seen in much Egyptian wall art, decorated and pulled by horses. It was a status symbol (as were the white donkeys in Palestine), cf. Genesis 46:29

Genesis 46:34 "for every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians" Some have seen this as

1. the urban Egyptians being antagonistic against semi-nomadic herdsmen

2. the Egyptian reaction to the Hyksos, or "Shepherd Kings" who ruled them during the l7th dynasty and who were basically Semitic, not Egyptian. Josephus mentions this in his Antiquities of the Jews 11.7.5 (Hengstenberg asserts that the Israeli national consciousness was protected by Egyptian exclusiveness and their abhorrence of herdsmen).

3. the Egyptians' worship of the bull, therefore, anyone who ate beef would be abhorrent to them (cf. Genesis 43:32; Exodus 8:26, much like Hindus today)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did Joseph dismiss his Egyptian servants in Genesis 45:1?

2. Explain the significant theological principle uttered by Joseph in Genesis 45:5-9.

3. Explain the meaning of the terms "Jacob" and "Israel" and how these are used in the Scriptures.

4. Why does God appear to Jacob in visions, but not to Joseph?

5. Why does the list in Numbers 26:0 and 1 Chr. 4-6 differ from the list of descendants mentioned in Genesis 46:8-27?

6. What are the problems connected with the number "seventy" found in Genesis 46:27?

7. How did God use the Egyptian's hatred of shepherdsin the 1ife of the sojourning Israelites?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Genesis 46". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/genesis-46.html. 2021.
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