New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Gen 46:1 Israel travelled with all that he had- This could be read as disobedience to the commandment of Gen. 45:20 not to take their belongings with them because they would be given everything in Egypt. The power of petty materialism, clinging on to the old and familiar, is very strong, and with Jacob it got no easier with age. See on :6.

And came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father, Isaac- If these were in gratitude, then they were offered on the basis of faith in the word of Joseph. For he had not yet seen him himself. Jacob is still thinking in terms of God as being his father's God; only in his final blessing of his sons does he freely speak of this God as his personal God. We see therefore that the drive to spiritual maturity can take a lifetime, even a life as long as Jacob's. Those brought up believing in their parents' God may take a lifetime to make it real for themselves.

Gen 46:2 God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob! He said, Here I am- Jacob's old name was used because this was still how Jacob perceived himself- a liar, a twister, a grabber, rather than a ruler with God. And although the inspired commentary mentions his name Israel from God's perspective, he was addressed as Jacob. And with us likewise, God wishes us to believe in and identify with the new name and identity which He by grace has given us. And yet He so seeks relationship with us that He relates to us in more immature terms if that is still where we are, rather like the Lord using the language of demons in order to communicate with people. It's similar to Joseph's acceptance of his brethren despite them not quite getting there in terms of the repentance and spirituality which his plan had potentially enabled.

Gen 46:3- see on Gen. 31:54.

 He said, I am God- This is in response to Jacob's "Here I am" (:2). We see here something of the mutuality between God and man. The human "I am here" is met with the Divine "I am".

The God of your father- Jacob is still thinking in terms of God as being his father's God; only in his final blessing of his sons does he freely speak of this God as his personal God. And yet as noted on :2, God relates to people in the immature terms and at the immature positions they are at. He could have said "I am your personal God, the God of Jacob", but He instead goes along with Jacob's immature perceptions.

Fear not to go down into Egypt, for there I will make of you a great nation- This continues a theme noted throughout Gen. 45- the wonderful good news was almost too good to believe and accept. The brothers were warned not to give in to the temptation to try to remain in Canaan, but to come to Egypt. It seems Jacob too struggled with the degree of grace and even feared it. This is why people disbelieve the good news of the Gospel of grace. It's in a way too good to believe.

 Yet Jacob's nervousness of going down into Egypt was doubtless also due to his recollection of Abraham and Isaac's tales of spiritual woe concerning it. The double repetition of a name ["Jacob, Jacob"] is usually a rebuke; but for what? Possibly for still being influenced in his spirituality by the specter of his forefathers, rather than personally reflecting on the implications of God's word to Abraham, that his seed would have to live in a Gentile land for a period before they could be led into the promised land (Gen. 15:13). He is here assured that the prophetic purpose contained in the Abrahamic covenant was going to come true in the end- even if Jacob left the promised land. But the large seed Jacob would ultimately sire (and the genealogy in this chapter shows it had already had primary fulfilment) would inherit the promised land; they would have to come up out of Egypt. It was apparent that Jacob would not live to see this in his life, and so again he was driven to the hope of bodily resurrection.

Gen 46:4 I will go down with you into Egypt. I will also surely bring you up again- It was an Angel who led Israel back from Egypt, and so it was an Angel who was speaking to Jacob at this point, assuring him that he would go with Jacob into Egypt. But the words may be true of Jacob on a personal level; he was to be taken into Egypt and back up out of it by the Angel. There could also be a hint here at resurrection, a bringing up again, so that the dream of Jacob and Rachel bowing before Joseph could finally be fulfilled. See on:30.

Joseph will close your eyes- The suggestion could be that Jacob would be brought back up again from Egypt to Canaan, and then he would close his eyes in death with Joseph next to him. But this didn't happen- because Israel chose to remain in Egypt, and suffered for it. See on Gen. 45:7; 47:4,15. So often potentials are enabled, but are not realized because of human dysfunction and conservatism. The possibility of restoration from Babylon and the building of a temple complex as outlined in such detail in Ez. 40-48 would be another example. This suggested explanation would give an appropriate flow to the argument- the death of Jacob would then be associated with the Angel leading him back to Canaan, rather than introducing Jacob's death out of context. The LXX here has "Joseph shall put his hands on thine eyes", which was a form of blessing. This would be confirmation of the dream in which Jacob bowed before his son.

Gen 46:5 Jacob rose up from Beersheba, and the sons of Israel carried Jacob, their father, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him- The impression is that it was Jacob who wanted to make a sacrifice at Beersheba, and when dad was done with his religious ritual, the rest of the family got him back in the wagon. This would be another indication of weakness in the brothers of Joseph, and evidence of their salvation and forgiveness by his grace alone. Perhaps there is significance in the idea that the wagons were sent to "carry him", but the rest of his family were carried in them; as if they were saved as Noah's family were, by association with the faithful, rather than necessarily being themselves very faithful. This impression is confirmed in :7 [see note there].

Their wives and little children, not just their sons but their daughters too, came into Egypt; further reason for thinking that the 66 or 70 counted as going down into Egypt refers to the heads of clans, large families, rather than being an exhaustive list of everyone who went down.

Gen 46:6 They took their livestock, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt--Jacob, and all his seed with him- As noted on :1, they took "their goods" with them, in disobedience to the commandment of Gen. 45:20 not to take their belongings with them because they would be given everything in Egypt. They desperately wanted to cling on to what they "had gotten", rather than accept the grace of all things being given to them.

Gen 46:7 His sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters, and he brought all his seed with him into Egypt- The mention of Jacob's daughters and granddaughters going with them confirms my comment on :26, that the list of 70 or 66 people here is not a total list but rather of those who later founded large family clans within their tribes. As noted on :5, the family were brought by Jacob into Egypt, they were saved by association with him, as Rahab's family were, rather than by their own faithfulness to the covenant. The large company were "all his seed" which had indeed become multitudinous, showing yet again that the promises which form the basis of the new covenant have a primary fulfilment.

Gen 46:8 These are the names of the children of Israel, who came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn- We wonder why Reuben is still mentioned as the firstborn when it had been given to Joseph (1 Chron. 5:1), who wore the robe of the firstborn, the coat of many colours, which provoked so much jealousy. Perhaps this had been cancelled when Joseph disappeared. I have suggested at several points in this chapter that the list we now have is not of all who came into Egypt (see on :26,27) but of those who became heads of large family clans within the tribes.

Gen 46:9 The sons of Reuben: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi- Hanoch [s.w. Enoch] was named after the son of Cain (Gen. 4:17) and means "initiated", rather hinting at unspirituality and paganism. At the time of Gen. 42:37, Reuben only had two sons. He may have produced two sons straight afterwards if he had other women in his life; but probably as noted on :18 and :21, there were unborn children included in this list because they were counted as still being "in the loins of" their ancestors.

Gen 46:10 The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman- "The sons of Simeon were Nemuel and Jamin... and Shaul" (1 Chron. 4:24); but Gen. 46:10 shows that Shaul was Simeon's son by a wrong, casual relationship. Yet this is not recorded in Chronicles, even though so many other weaknesses are. Surely this is to demonstrate how if God imputes righteousness for a repented of sin, there really is no record of this kept by Him. This and other such lessons from Chronicles only come from digging under the surface. The fact Simeon's relationship with a local Canaanite is mentioned may be because this was the exception rather than the rule amongst Jacob's sons. In this case, we are left to conclude that they like Isaac and Jacob had taken their wives from the monotheists amongst Abraham's distant relatives in Mesopotamia, and the women had been expected to follow Rebekah's example and leave their land and come and live in the land of promise. "Shaul" means 'asked for' and so it could be that Simeon had some particular desire for that son, and for all his failures at Shechem, he had asked God for a child and received it, although through a less than ideal relationship.

Gen 46:11 The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari- "Gershon" means 'expelled', maybe meaning that like Reuben he was expelled from the role of firstborn [he is mentioned first as if he was the firstborn]. This is a theme of the Genesis record. "Merari" means "bitter"; from these rather unpromising beginnings were to arise those who gave their lives to the service of God and His people. And we see similar transformation in the lives of so many.

Gen 46:12 The sons of Judah: Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez, and Zerah; but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan- "Shelah" means 'requested'; as observed with Shaul on :10, prayers for the child's existence were answered through a less than ideal relationship.

The sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul- "Hamul" means 'The one who was spared', which rather suggests he too had sinned like Er and Onan, but was spared by grace. Again, we hardly get a very positive spiritual impression of Jacob's family. They were saved by grace. There is a chronological query as to whether Judah was old enough to have had these two grandchildren whilst still in Canaan. I have suggested on :18 and :21 that there were unborn children included in this list because they were counted as still being "in the loins of" their ancestors.

Gen 46:13 The sons of Issachar: Tola, Puvah, Iob, and Shimron- "Iob" is LXX "Jashub", as in Num. 26:24.

Gen 46:14 The sons of Zebulun: Sered, Elon, and Jahleel- "Elon" means "oak", and this surely had idolatrous connections. Yet his brother Jahleel means "waiting upon God". So we have here an example of where spirituality can still flourish despite the culture, family and society of origin being unspiritual. Because spirituality is unique and the outcome of our personal relationship with God; we are not doomed to unspirituality because of our background or environment.

Gen 46:15 These are the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Paddan Aram, with his daughter Dinah. All the souls of his sons and his daughters were thirty-three- 33 excluding Dinah, which raises the question as to why she is mentioned here at all. Maybe because she went on to have some special significance in the family, despite her sins and faults of youth at Shechem. Perhaps she took over as the matriarch of the family after the deaths of Rachel and Leah.

Gen 46:16 The sons of Gad: Ziphion, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi, and Areli- "Arodi" is "wild ass man", a similar idea to the description of Ishmael in Gen. 16:12, who chose to go away from covenant relationship with God. We simply do not get a great impression of the family; and that is the point.

Gen 46:17 The sons of Asher: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi, Beriah, and Serah their sister. The sons of Beriah: Heber and Malchiel- The mention of women in this list is unusual, and I have suggested that the names are of those who became heads of family clans within the tribes. So the mention of Serah would mean that she became a head of family; although rare or unknown in the world around them, this was not totally unheard of in the Jacob family and we see in this the respect of women amongst them.

Gen 46:18 These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to Leah, his daughter, and these she bore to Jacob, even sixteen souls- Zilpah did not bear 16 children, but rather the grandchildren are counted to her, on the basis that a person is seen as existing "in the loins of their father" even if they have no actual existence at that point; see on :21.

Gen 46:19 The sons of Rachel, Jacob’s wife: Joseph and Benjamin- Again we have the fact that Joseph is mentioned in this list of those who came down with Jacob into Egypt, when Joseph was already there in Egypt. See on :20,21,26.

Gen 46:20 To Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him- The LXX adds: "There were sons born to Manasses, whom the Syrian concubine bore to him, even Machir. And Machir begat Galaad. And the sons of Ephraim the brother of Manasses, Sutalaam and Taam. And the sons of Sutalaam, Edom". This explains the LXX figure of 75 in :27 which Stephen quotes in Acts 7:14, so the LXX addition may be correct. However, we are left with the problem of how sons born in Egypt could be counted amongst those who came with Jacob into Egypt. I will suggest on :21 and :26 that we are not reading a literal list of everyone who came, but rather a list of those who developed into clans within the tribes.

Gen 46:21 The sons of Benjamin: Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim, and Ard- As noted on Gen. 44, Benjamin was hardly a child when the brothers came to buy corn. He was in his 20s, and according to the Hebrew text he had ten sons already, and presumably some daughters; perhaps suggesting that his father's favouritism and obsession with him had not been helpful morally, and had resulted in him having multiple relationships from a young age. However, the LXX lists only three sons, and makes the rest of the list the sons of Bela. And yet Benjamin would not have been old enough to have been a grandfather. So it could be that he had married a woman who had children of her own who became Benjamin's, or that he somehow adopted these children. There would have been a very large extended family around Jacob, and maybe these children were simply under the care of Benjamin. However, the genealogy in Num. 26:40 appears to support the LXX text here, with Ard and Naaman given as grandsons of Benjamin and not sons. We must remember that genealogies, numbers and dates are not used in Semitic languages in the strictly literalistic way in which they are in European languages. Heb. 7:10 can therefore argue that Melchizedek blessed Levi because he blessed Abraham, and Levi was a descendant of Abraham, "yet in the loins of his father". And this establishes Melchizedek as greater than Levi, and in turn, the priests descended from him. That argument may appear very stretched and even technically inaccurate to European ears. But it had absolute validity in Hebrew thought. And so the grandchildren of Benjamin, yet unborn, could be listed as being in existence when Benjamin went into Egypt, and even be numbered amongst the group at that time. This is why the grandchildren of the maids are counted as if they are the direct children of the maids; see on :9 and :18. We likewise read that Jacob brought his twelve sons out of Mesopotamia, including Benjamin (Gen. 35:24,26). But Benjamin was born later, in Canaan. But on this basis of being counted as "in the loins of" an ancestor, Benjamin could also be presented as having come out of Mesopotamia. If this kind of thing were better appreciated by Bible readers, it would be better understood that there was no personal pre-existence of the Lord Jesus in actuality, although He is spoken of as existing prior to His birth.

The simple truth is that Benjamin, the "little one" (Gen. 44:20), has more descendants listed to his name than any of the brothers. Is. 60:22 clearly alludes to this- "a little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation". It is the theme of the patriarchal family; the firstborns are deposed, the elder serves the younger, the weak become strong, the little one becomes mighty.

Gen 46:22 These are the sons of Rachel, who were born to Jacob: all the souls were fourteen- Yet this includes Ephraim, Manasseh and Joseph, who were already in Egypt. This supports my suggestion on :26 that we do not have here a list of every individual who came from Canaan to Egypt, but rather a list of the family clans which would later develop.

Gen 46:23 The son of Dan: Hushim- "Hushim" means "hasty", not a particularly spiritual characteristic. As noted earlier, Hebrew names are not necessarily birth names, but the names by which people came to be known, reflective of their personalities or experiences. However he is called "Shusham" in Num. 26:42, "humble". So maybe his over hasty actions humbled him in due course.

Gen 46:24 The sons of Naphtali: Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer, and Shillem- "Jezer" means "image", "Guni" means "painted with colours", both suggestive of idolatry, bearing in mind as noted on :23 that Hebrew names are how the person came to be known according to his personal history.

Gen 46:25 These are the sons of Bilhah, whom Laban gave to Rachel, his daughter, and these she bore to Jacob: all the souls were seven- The Biblical record is very careful to draw a distinction between Jacob's proper wives, and Bilhah and Leah, even though they were understood as his wives even by Rachel and Leah, as well as society (Gen. 30:4,9). Jacob cared for them, had children by them, and had a lifelong relationship with them. But still the inspired record sees a difference between that, and marriage. We need to bear that in mind as we consider what Biblical marriage means in our world.

Gen 46:26 All the souls who came with Jacob into Egypt, who were his direct descendants, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were sixty-six- The manuscripts differ, from 66 to 70 to 75. Some of this can be accounted for by various inclusive or exclusive reckonings of the wives, or the LXX adding in some children of Manasseh to the list in :20, which Stephen quotes in Acts 7:14. However, "all the souls" is clearly not a literal reference to 'all the people' because nearly all of the people mentioned are males, and we know from:7 that Jacob's daughters and granddaughters came with them too. We therefore conclude that those listed are those who went on to have independent families, which in turn became clans within the tribes of Israel. 

"His direct descendants" is literally as AV "who came out of his loins", or his thigh. This is the same word used of how Jacob was touched and wounded in his thigh the night he wrestled with the Angel, and therefore he limped on his thigh (Gen. 32:25,31,32). And here we have the consistent paradox developed in this whole record- out of weakness and inferiority comes blessedness. The blessing of a large seed were fulfilled through many children as it were coming out of his injured loin- a reminder for the rest of his life of God's grace and his weakness. All the attempts to count up the direct descendants of Jacob and make them match 66 are in my view failing to see the more essential point- that they all came from his injured, delicate thigh.

Gen 46:27 The sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two souls. All the souls of the house of Jacob, who came into Egypt, were seventy- See on :20; if the LXX addition in :20 is accepted then we have 75; Stephen in Acts 7:14 and the LXX say 75. This could also be because the 75 includes the wives of Jacob's sons. Judah's wife was dead (Gen. 38:12). Joseph was already in Egypt, making 65 who went into Egypt "besides Jacob's sons' wives" (:26). This plus ten wives would make 75.

The figure of 70 is not, it seems to me, strictly literal. It is to match the 70 Gentile nations of the eretz listed in Gen. 10; their bounds were set according to the number of Israel's children (Dt. 32:8). The potential plan at this time was that they would all die out during the famine, and be replaced by the 70 clans of Jacob's family; who having been miraculously preserved from death in Egypt would then re-enter Canaan and possess it. See on Gen. 45:7,10.

Gen 46:28 He sent Judah before him to Joseph, to show the way before him to Goshen, and they came into the land of Goshen- We wonder why this was necessary, seeing that Judah and the brothers had twice made this journey. Why the need to as it were send a herald before him? It rather recalls how Jacob had sent such messengers before him to make peace with Esau. We wonder if Jacob feared meeting Joseph, seeing he had disbelieved his dreams, and insisted he would never bow down to him. Indeed almost his last words to Joseph had been of rebuke concerning his dreams. This unnecessary fear of Joseph is quite a theme of the record; it reflects the difficulty we have in believing in grace, forgiveness and salvation. This is the essential, subconscious reason why people do not believe the Gospel of grace; not because of any real intellectual barriers. Such barriers are but excuses, a making respectable of our inner lack of faith and barrier against grace, our pride in refusing to resign our trust in our strength and works as a basis for salvation.

Gen 46:29 Joseph prepared his chariot, and went up to meet Israel, his father, in Goshen. He presented himself to him, and fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while- At the end, Jacob as it were had come to repentance. Joseph falls on his neck and weeps for him, just as the Father does to the repentant prodigal. Jacob's neck had once been covered with animal skin in the deceit of his father Isaac (Gen. 27:16), and Esau too had wept on that same neck, the neck which had been used to deceive and rob Esau (Gen. 33:4). And now Joseph weeps upon it too, after Jacob has again sent an ambassage ahead of him to Joseph as he did to Esau (see on :28). These otherwise strange connections with Jacob's neck would have served to show him that through his acceptance of the spiritual seniority of his great son Joseph, he had indeed been forgiven of all this miserable past.

Gen 46:30 Israel said to Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen your face- Jacob's desire to die at that point is rather a denial of the possibility presented in :4 [see note there] that Jacob could survive the famine in Egypt and then return to Canaan to die.

That you are still alive- It may be that Jacob considered Joseph to be the special Messianic seed (which he was, in type), and this would explain his profound joy on seeing Joseph alive and his children, for this would have meant that the promises concerning the seed, as he understood them, had been proved true (46:30; Gen. 48:11). See on Heb. 11:21. There are many echoes  of Christ which seem to have no specific purpose apart from to confirm us in our enthusiasm to constantly see the spirit of Christ in this record (here with Lk. 2:29,30).

Gen 46:31 Joseph said to his brothers, and to his father’s house, I will go up, and speak with Pharaoh, and will tell him- "Tell" is better 'to disclose / tell him frankly and openly'; and the information in view was that of :32, that the family were the shepherds whom Egypt despised.

‘My brothers, and my father’s house, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me- "Come [to me]" is the same word used by Jacob in objecting to the interpretation of Joseph's dream as meaning that he must "come" to his son and bow before him (Gen. 37:10). There is no record of Jacob bowing to Joseph, although indeed he does "come" to him; perhaps here Jacob didn't do quite as he should have done. Or maybe Joseph's weeping on his neck made it impossible for him to immediately do so. See on Gen. 47:5.

Gen 46:32 These men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock, and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have’- As noted on :31, Joseph was advocating absolute honesty about the awkward situation in front of Pharaoh. The shepherds had a reputation for dishonesty and being of the lowest caste, according to Egyptologists. But Joseph thinks that total honesty about this is best. And that was the policy he had sought to elicit from his brothers, through all his questions to them about their family. The Egyptians considered goats and sheep to be unclean and unfit for sacrifice; and yet Jacob's large family were coming with herds of these very things, appearing for all the world some reincarnation of the Hyksos shepherd kings who had entered Egypt by the same route in a previous generation. Again, the Pharaoh was being asked to invert all his former prejudices and religious beliefs, and accept these newcomers. And he does so, to his credit, and even asks these despised people from the lowest Egyptian caste to be the managers of his cattle.

Gen 46:33 It will happen, when Pharaoh summons you, and will say, ‘What is your occupation?’- Just as Joseph had fired questions at his brothers when they first came to Egypt, so it would be normal for the king to ask them such questions. The similarity between this and their earlier interviews with Joseph was to give them a chance to demonstrate that they had indeed learnt the lesson- of the need for absolute truthfulness, however much it might seem to risk upsetting our material and secular intentions.

Gen 46:34 That you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we, and our fathers:’ that you may dwell in the land of Goshen- Joseph can see that out of apparent evil, again, good would come. If they were truthful- and the very existence of their flocks of sheep and goats would mean that truth would out in the end anyway- then they would be allowed to live in Goshen, which was somehow separate from the rest of Egypt.

For every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians- This may have been a reaction against the Hyksos invaders, or shepherd kings, who had come like Jacob from the north and done much damage to Egypt in the previous generation. But shepherds were in any case culturally despised by Egyptians. Seeing one tended to be born and raised in or for a certain occupation, this was a significant factor in how society defined people in the ancient world. People were stereotyped according to occupation. Remember how the sailors asked of Jonah: "What is your occupation? And whence do you come? What is your country? Of what people are you?" (Jonah 1:8). Hence it is recorded that every shepherd was despised by the Egyptians. Silversmiths and tent makers (leather workers?) tended to club together in community (Acts 18:3; 19:24-27). In the first century Mediterranean, shepherds were especially despised- and again, this stereotype was overturned by shepherds being chosen to receive news of the birth of God's Son and being the first to come and offer homage; Jesus describing Himself as the good shepherd, in a society where no shepherd could be "good"; and the leaders of the early church being described as spiritual "shepherds". Pharaoh came to learn this; for he is eventually keen to make these despised "shepherds" the pastors of his own flocks.