Jan. 16 Reading: Genesis 46-47 Commentary

Below is our Genesis 46-47 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.

Key Verse(s):

“I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.” (Gen. 46:3-4)

Genesis 46 – Jacob Heads to Egypt

commentaryJacob’s journey to Egypt to reunite with Joseph begins with an interesting event. While at Beersheba, Jacob offers sacrifices to God. That night, God appears to him in a vision (v. 2).

It’s implied that Jacob was experiencing fear. How do we know that? Because in the vision, God told him “…do not fear…” (v. 3).

What could Jacob have been afraid of? After all, he was going to see Joseph. He should have been happy.

Perhaps he was afraid of physically being able to complete the journey at his age. Maybe he was worried about being called out on his own favoritism of Joseph (Gen. 37) and how that had driven a wedge between Joseph and his brothers. He might have thought tension still existed between the brothers and that would boil over once they got to Egypt.

But perhaps another clue to his fear is seen in God’s statement:

“I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.” (Gen. 46:3-4)

So it appears from this that Jacob was afraid to leave Canaan. After all, it was the land God promised. Would he ever return? Would God continue to be with him in a foreign land? Could God keep His promises? God seems to speak to those fears in this vision.

From Few Would Come Many

Genesis 46 gives us the names of all who went to Egypt from Jacob’s family. It seems unimportant until you understand the bigger picture.

A listing of Jacob’s sons is given, along with their sons who went on the journey. The listing is given according to their birth mothers (Leah, Zilpah, Rachel and Bilhah). It’s notable that Simeon (like Judah – see Gen. 38) had also married a Canaanite woman (v. 10). Judah’s sons by his Canaanite wife Shua (Er and Onan – who God killed) are mentioned again (v. 12). And Dinah’s name (Gen. 34) also resurfaces here (v. 15).

But what really stands out is the total number of migrants: “All the persons of the house of Jacob who went to Egypt were seventy” (v. 27).

In the future, God would indeed keep his promise to Jacob. Israel would dwell in Egypt for the next 430 years. 70 members of Jacob’s family went into Egypt. But when they returned to Canaan during the time of Moses, most scholars believe their total numbers exceeded 2 million people (see the census numbers of Numbers 1 and Numbers 26).

Genesis 47 – Land for Jacob’s Family

The reunion in Egypt is a happy one. It fulfills Jacob’s life. He declares in Gen. 46:30 that he is now ready to die since he had again seen the face of Joseph. But death wasn’t immediate. We find out later that he would live another 17 years in Egypt.

Joseph instructs his brothers to request of Pharaoh that they settle in the land of Goshen. Goshen was a fertile area, suitable for shepherds. Pharaoh agrees to this arrangement and even tells Joseph to select brothers to serve as chief herdsmen over Pharaoh’s livestock.

Additionally, Pharaoh is pleased to meet Jacob. What stands out from their interaction is that before leaving, Jacob blesses Pharaoh. In a sense, he is fulfilling the promise of God’s covenant with Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him. At this moment, Egypt is being blessed by the presence of Abraham’s descendant Joseph.

Joseph Manages the Famine

God had brought Joseph into a position of power for just a time as this. It all points back to God’s providence. God knew this would happen and needed someone in place to save His people. He places people in just the right place at just the right time to accomplish His plan.

Pharaoh charged Joseph with managing the supplies during the famine. He came up with some brilliant strategies to keep the people fed year in and year out. Gen. 47:13-25 describe them in this order:

  1. Strategy 1: He sold the grain collected during the seven plentiful years to the people for money (vv. 13-14).
  2. Strategy 2: When the money ran out, he sold them bread in exchange for the people’s livestock (vv. 15-17).
  3. Strategy 3: When the livestock ran out, the people sold their land to Pharaoh and sold themselves (as servants to Pharaoh) in exchange for bread (vv. 18-20). Additionally, it was required that Pharaoh receive one-fifth of all the harvested fields from that point forward.

Did the people mind this? It doesn’t seem like it. Instead we see gratitude (v. 25). Joseph has saved their lives and they are thankful. (Later though in the book of Exodus, the fact that Pharaoh owned all the land and taxed the people a percentage of the harvest would lead to gross abuse of power.)

Questions to Consider:

What are you afraid of? Are you open to hearing God in moments of fear and anxiety? Can you trust God today that he has a plan for your life tomorrow, even though you may not know what the future holds? How has God helped you manage through a crisis? 

What other points would you want to know about in our Genesis 46-47 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.