As Israel (Jacob) travels to Egypt to meet his long-lost beloved son Joseph, he stops along the way at Beersheba and offers sacrifices to God. Interestingly, the Bible uses the names of Jacob and Israel interchangeably here. God speaks to him in a dream and tells him not to fear traveling to Egypt because his family will grow there. Israel was reluctant to go to Egypt because God had forbade settling there to Isaac back in Genesis 26:2. This message direct from God must have been immensely comforting for Israel, particularly due to the fact that Joseph would visit him at his deathbed: “…and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.” Things are looking great for Israel as he is carried to Egypt on gifted carts from Pharaoh, with the promise of Jacob, the blessing of God and the assurance that his family will grow.
Verses 8-27 compile the remarkable list of Israel’s family – remarkable because this is the family from which the entire nation of Israel would come. During our study of chapter 35, I included a list of Israel’s children and their respective mothers. I have reproduced it here again for chapter 46, with a few observations that follow.
Bore by Leah
Son 1: Reuben – Genesis 29
Son 2: Simeon – Genesis 29
Son 3: Levi – Genesis 29
Son 4: Judah – Genesis 29
Son 9: Issachar – Genesis 30
Son 10: Zebulun – Genesis 30
Daughter: Dinah – Genesis 30
Bore by Bilhah (Rachel’s handmaid)
Son 5: Dan – Genesis 30
Son 6: Naphtali – Genesis 30
Bore by Zilpah (Leah’s handmaid)
Son 7: Gad – Genesis 30
Son 8: Asher – Genesis 30
Bore by Rachel
Son 11: Joseph – Genesis 30
Son 12: Benjamin – Genesis 35
- Reuben, the factual firstborn, relinquished his privilege as firstborn through the sin he committed with his father’s handmaid Bilhah (Genesis 35:22)
- Most but not all of the marriages that took place within Abraham’s family were within the same family and did not include Egyptians or other foreigners; when God told the children of Abraham not to intermarry with the Egyptians, it was a way to preserve the holy bloodline
- Kohath, the son of Levi mentioned in verse 11 is the progenitor of the priestly family through which Moses and Aaron would come
- The total number of Israel’s family is 70, a significant number to Israelites indicating blessing; the number 7 itself in the Bible suggests a theme of completeness
When Joseph and Israel finally reunite, it is a humble event, with little dialog recorded, and Joseph weeping.
The chapter ends with Joseph instructing his brothers to present themselves as livestock caretakers to Pharaoh. The Egyptians found this occupation distasteful and would want to keep their distance from the children of Israel. Their proclaiming to be shepherds was not a falsehood by any means, but was a shrewd suggestion from Joseph which would ensure that the Egyptians kept their distance from Israel’s family, further preserving the holy bloodline at least for now.
Joseph’s reuniting with Israel seems anticlimactic due to the lack of dialog or detailed description. As readers of God’s Word, we can only fill in the blanks of the surrounding circumstances with our imagination. Israel and Joseph will share much in the coming chapters, so do not be disappointed at this seemingly lackluster reunion; there is still much to come.