And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation. — Genesis 46:2-3
A few years ago, it seemed the Lord was leading me to change jobs. I wanted to work for the same company if possible, but in a different capacity. At the time, I did not know where the path was going, just that God was somewhere out in front. For two weeks I worked at another job site in town, and then was sent out of town to a job that required commuting each day. In order to get to work on time, I had to leave home long before sunrise and did not get back until quite late. I began to wonder if I had misunderstood God’s directions, and prayed for reassurance.
Early one morning, I was driving along listening to the song “It Is Well with My Soul.” As the music flooded my car, the words of the first verse, “When peace like a river attendeth my way,” registered deeply in my heart. When I glanced out the window, the river off in the distance was so peaceful it looked like a mirror. I had driven that way many times but did not ever remember seeing it so calm. A full moon was setting in the west and it reflected perfectly on the water. At that moment, God’s Spirit witnessed to me that it was well with my soul, and I was following His will.
While our situation in life may not parallel or equate to Jacob’s, there may come times when change makes our future seem unsure and even frightening. Perhaps Jacob felt that way in our text today as he faced the prospect of moving to Egypt. Undoubtedly, he yearned to see Joseph, the son he had presumed was dead, but to do so he would have to leave all that was familiar and travel to a distant country with another language and culture. He was elderly at this time and could not be sure that he would ever see his homeland again.
When Jacob left his home in Hebron, he wanted to know the will of God so he traveled to Beersheba. It was a place that had great spiritual significance for him, as both his father and grandfather had called on God there and received answers. To an onlooker, the famine in Canaan and Pharaoh’s invitation to move might have seemed strong indicators of the Lord’s will. Still, Jacob wanted assurance in his own heart. As he sought the Lord, God made His will clear to Jacob. He told him he was to travel to Egypt, that He would bless him there, that his descendants would return to the land of promise, and that he would pass from this life attended by Joseph in Egypt.
When new situations face us, experiencing a certain degree of anxiety about change is a normal reaction. However, we must not let fear paralyze us. It is encouraging to remember that the Lord of all the earth knows our names and our personal needs. He will always be there to take care of us!
Today’s Scripture passage describes Pharaoh’s invitation for Joseph’s family to move to Egypt, Jacob’s sons’ return to Canaan with the news that Joseph was alive, and the family’s move to Egypt.
After Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, he gave them instructions and facilitated the move of all their families to Egypt. The phrase, “See that ye fall not out by the way” (Genesis 45:24), was a caution for them not to revert to their old habits of quarreling amongst themselves.
Leaving Hebron for Egypt was a major change in Jacob’s life. He was 130 years old and had been living in the land promised by God to Abraham, Isaac, and himself. As he left this homeland, he built an altar and worshiped the Lord at Beersheba. The assurance that God himself gave Jacob provided full endorsement of the move. Genesis 46:8-27 lists Jacob’s family at that time.
The land of Goshen, an area about forty miles long and nine hundred square miles total, was a fertile valley located in the northeast part of the Nile Delta. While somewhat separated from the main portion of Egypt, it was close to where Joseph’s home was located, and was prime property for raising cattle and sheep. Since Egyptians had no regard for shepherds, the geography provided separation from the Egyptian populace and helped preserve Israel’s own culture. It was in Goshen that Joseph and his father met for the first time in twenty-two years. Jacob indicated that seeing Joseph again made his life complete.
In order for Jacob’s family to stay in Egypt, it was necessary for them to have official permission. Joseph carefully instructed five of his brothers on the best approach to use when they appeared before Pharaoh, and they made it clear that they were only in Egypt temporarily — to “sojourn” (Genesis 47:4).
Ordinarily, the Nile River flooded during the summer and the nutrients deposited in the soil during the flood made the land fertile for producing crops. But in these years of famine, flooding did not occur. The people bought grain from Pharaoh via Joseph, first by using their money. Then they gave their herds, their land, and finally themselves, becoming servants of Pharaoh in order to live. At the end of the famine, Joseph instituted a rental or taxation program requiring the people to pay twenty percent of their crop yield to Pharoah.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The early history of the chosen race
6. Jacob’s journey into Egypt (45:16 — 47:27)
a. Pharaoh’s request for Jacob (45:16-28)
b. The sojourn of Jacob (46:1-34)
(1) The vision at Beersheba (46:1-4)
(2) The arrival in Egypt (46:5-7)
(3) The number of Jacob’s sons (46:8-27)
(4) The encounter with Joseph (46:28-34)
c. The settlement of Jacob in Goshen (47:1-12)
d. The economic policy of Joseph (47:13-26)
e. The increase of Jacob’s family (47:27)
At times, the future seems unsure, and we do not know which step to take next. When we ask for direction, God will help us know the path that we are to follow.