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Genesis Chapter Forty-six


Genesis 46

Chapter Contents

God's promises to Jacob. (1-4) Jacob and his family go to Egypt. (5-27) Joseph meets his father and his brethren. (28-34)

Commentary on Genesis 46:1-4

Even as to those events and undertakings which appear most joyful, we should seek counsel, assistance, and a blessing from the Lord. Attending on his ordinances, and receiving the pledges of his covenant love, we expect his presence, and that peace which it confers. In all removals we should be reminded of our removal out of this world. Nothing can encourage us to fear no evil when passing through the valley of the shadow of death, but the presence of Christ.

Commentary on Genesis 46:5-27

We have here a particular account of Jacob's family. Though the fulfilling of promises is always sure, yet it is often slow. It was now 215 years since God had promised Abraham to make of him a great nation, 2; yet that branch of his seed, to which the promise was made sure, had only increased to seventy, of whom this particular account is kept, to show the power of God in making these seventy become a vast multitude.

Commentary on Genesis 46:28-34

It was justice to Pharaoh to let him know that such a family was come to settle in his dominions. If others put confidence in us, we must not be so base as to abuse it by imposing upon them. But how shall Joseph dispose of his brethren? Time was, when they were contriving to be rid of him; now he is contriving to settle them to their advantage; this is rendering good for evil. He would have them live by themselves, in the land of Goshen, which lay nearest to Canaan. Shepherds were an abomination to the Egyptians. Yet Joseph would have them not ashamed to own this as their occupation before Pharaoh. He might have procured places for them at court or in the army. But such preferments would have exposed them to the envy of the Egyptians, and might have tempted them to forget Canaan and the promise made unto their fathers. An honest calling is no disgrace, nor ought we to account it so, but rather reckon it a shame to be idle, or to have nothing to do. It is generally best for people to abide in the callings they have been bred to and used to. Whatever employment and condition God in his providence has allotted for us, let us suit ourselves to it, satisfy ourselves with it, and not mind high things. It is better to be the credit of a mean post, than the shame of a high one. If we wish to destroy our souls, or the souls of our children, then let us seek for ourselves, and for them, great things; but if not, it becomes us, having food and raiment, therewith to be content.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Genesis


Genesis 46

Verse 1

[1] And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.

And Israel came to Beer-sheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac - He chose that place in remembrance of the communion which his father and grandfather had with God in that place. In his devotion he had an eye to God as the God of his father Isaac, that is, a God in covenant with him, for by Isaac the covenant was entailed upon him. He offered sacrifices, extraordinary sacrifices, besides those at his stated times. These sacrifices were offered, 1. By way of thanksgiving for the late blessed change of the face of his family, for the good news he had received concerning Joseph, and the hopes he had of seeing him. 2. By way of petition for the presence of God with him in his intended journey. 3. By way of consultation. Jacob would not go on 'till he had asked God's leave.

Verse 2

[2] And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I.

And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night — (Probably the next night after he had offered his sacrifices.) Those who desire to keep up communion with God, shall find that it never fails on his side. If we speak to him as we ought, he will not fail to speak to us. God called him by his name, by his old name, Jacob, Jacob, to mind him of his low estate. Jacob, like one well acquainted with the visions of the Almighty, answers, Here am I - Ready to receive orders. And what has God to say to him?

Verse 3

[3] 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:

I am God, the God of thy father — That is, I am what thou ownest me to be: thou shalt find me a God of divine wisdom and power engaged for thee: and thou shalt find me the God of thy father, true to the covenant made with him.

Fear not to go down into Egypt — It seems though Jacob, upon the first intelligence of Joseph's life and glory in Egypt, resolved without any hesitation I will go and see him, yet upon second thoughts he saw difficulties in it. 1. He was old, 130 years old; it was a long journey, and he was unfit to travel. 2. He feared lest his sons should be tainted with the idolatry of Egypt, and forget the God of their fathers. 3. Probably he thought of what God had said to Abraham concerning the bondage and affliction of his seed. 4. He could not think of laying his bones in Egypt. But whatever his discouragements were, this was enough to answer them all, Fear not to go down into Egypt.

Verse 4

[4] I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.

I will go down with thee into Egypt — Those that go where God sends them shall certainly have God with them.

And I will surely bring thee up again — Tho' Jacob died in Egypt, yet this promise was fulfilled, 1. In the bringing up of his body to be buried in Canaan. 2. In the bringing up of his seed to be settled in Canaan. Whatever low and darksome valley we are called into, we may be confident if God go down with us, he will surely bring us up again. If he go with us down to death, he will surely bring us up again to glory.

And Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes — That is a promise that Joseph should live as long as he lived, that he should be with him at his death, and close his eyes with all possible tenderness. Probably Jacob, in the multitude of his thoughts within him, had been wishing that Joseph might do this last office of love for him; and God thus answered him in the letter of his desire. Thus God sometimes gratifies the innocent wishes of his people, and makes not only their death happy, but the very circumstances of it agreeable.

Verse 7

[7] His sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt.

All his seed — 'Tis probable they continued to live together in common with their father, and therefore when he went they all went; which perhaps they were the more willing to do, because, tho' they had heard that the land of Canaan was promised them, yet to this day they had none of it in possession. We have here a particular account of the names of Jacob's family; his sons sons, most of which are afterwards mentioned, as heads of houses in the several tribes. See Numbers 26:5, etc. Issachar called his eldest son Tola, which signifies a worm, probably because when he was born he was a little weak child, not likely to live, and yet there sprang from him a very numerous off-spring, 1 Chronicles 7:2. The whole number that went down into Egypt were sixty-six, to which add Joseph and his two sons, who were there before, and Jacob himself, the head of the family, and you have the number of seventy. 'Twas now 215 years since God had promised Abraham to make of him a great nation, Genesis 12:2, and yet that branch of his seed, on which the promise was entailed, was as yet increased but to seventy, of which this particular account is kept, that the power of God in multiplying these seventy to so vast a multitude, even in Egypt, may be the more illustrious. When he pleases, A little one shall become a thousand.

Verse 30

[30] And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive.

Now let me die — Not but that it was farther desirable to live with Joseph, and to see his honour and usefulness; but he had so much satisfaction in this first meeting, that he thought it too much to desire or expect any more in this world.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Genesis



46 Chapter 46


Verses 1-7

Genesis 46:1-7

And Israel took his Journey with all that he had

Israel’s journey into Egypt




1. The Lord appeared to His servant, when he had offered up his sacrifices to Him.

2. The very gracious manner in which the Lord addressed His servant in this vision.

3. The Lord gave to His servant words of wise and kindly counsel, just what was suitable in the circumstances in which he was placed.


The migration of Jacob’s house to Egypt




IV. IT HAD THE APPROVAL OF GOD. God has always appeared in some special act or word in every great crisis of His people’s history. As to Jacob--

1. He found God as he had sought Him. “I am God, the God of thy father.” The Name used reveals the Omnipotent God, the Mighty One who is able to fulfil His covenant engagements, and who could bring Jacob safely through all his difficulties, present and future. Israel had found his God faithful in all His gracious dealings, and he believed that he should still see the same loving kindness and truth for the time to come.

2. The will of God is clearly made known. “Fear not to go down to Egypt.” He was distinctly assured that it was God’s will that he should go there.

3. The protection of God is promised. “Fear not--I will go down with thee into Egypt.”

4. The purpose of God is declared. “I will there make of thee a great nation.” “I will surely bring thee up again.” (T. H. Leale.)

The family migration


1. Jacob offers sacrifice.

2. God renews the promise.


III. THE ABODE IN GOSHEN. Why was Joseph so anxious to establish his father’s family in Goshen? Joseph felt that there were many dangers incident to the sojourn of the “Hebrews,” his kinsfolk, in Egypt.

1. The danger of quarrels. The Egyptians might become jealous of the foreigners in their land. The Hebrews might, perhaps, presume too much on the favour shown by Pharaoh to Joseph and Jacob.

2. The danger from heathenism. There was much idolatry and animal worship in Egypt. The “ magicians” and their arts might corrupt the minds of the children of Israel, and prevent them from the worship of the one true God.

3. The danger of his kin kinsmen forgetting Canaan as the land where their lot as a nation was fixed by God. He did not want them to be Egyptianized. They must, as far as possible, be kept a “separate” people. (W. S. Smith, B. D.)

Emigrate, but not without God

History repeats itself, and this old story fits into multitudinous modern instances. But not always is sufficient heed given to the sacrificing at Beer-sheba; and the point I make now is, that in all such changes we should seek, above all things else, the companionship of God. Nothing will harm us anywhere if God is with us, and we cannot have the highest good if we go even into the fairest Goshen on the continent without Him. Horace Greely, long ago, set the fashion of saying, “Go West, young man, go West”; and there is wisdom in the advice, provided it be conjoined with the admonition, “But don’t go without your God.” Perhaps some here are meditating on the propriety of their pushing away into the places where the labour market is not overstocked, and the opportunities are far better than they are in a comparatively crowded city such as this. Nor do we say a word against the project. Go, by all means, if you are not afraid to work; but remember the sacrifice at Beer-sheba, and don’t go without your God. Too many have done that, and have gone to ruin. But take Him with you, and He will be “your shield and your exceeding great reward.” (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Verse 3-4

Genesis 46:3-4

And He said, I am God, the God of thy father, fear not to go down into Egypt

Divine assurance vouchsafed to Jacob

Not the invitation of Pharaoh, not the urgent message of Joseph, not even the warmth of his own love alone, carried Jacob out of Canaan.
These furnished the occasion and the impulse, but the head of the covenant people did not leave the Land of Promise without the warrant of his covenant God. There were four promises.

1. “I will make of thee a great nation,” a promise which ran far into the future. A people great in numbers, greater in their influence on all the earth to the end of time, should be formed of his seed, and formed in Egypt.

2. “I will go down with thee.” Over every circumstance of the future, nearer and more remote, the Living and Almighty. God would watch.

3. “I will also surely bring thee up again.” The old promise of the land would not be changed. For the purpose of forming the nation which should possess the land, were they now being taken into Egypt; when the nation had been formed according to God’s promise, He would bring them back.

4. “And Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.” Long before the nation was formed, Jacob’s time to die should come; but when it came it would be accompanied with this tender consolation, the loving touch of Joseph’s hand on the eyelids he could no longer move. That was to be his last sensation. And it would convey to him far more than the joy of his son’s love; it would be the pledge that his soul was passing into the hands of the faithful Redeemer who had given this promise so long before. Thus it was by faith that Israel went into Egypt, consciously led by the hand of God. (A. M.Symington, D. D.)

Verses 8-27

Genesis 46:8-27

And these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt

The catalogue of the children of Israel



III. THE NAMES ARE SIGNIFICANT. Thus the names of Reuben’s sons signify: “teacher,” “distinguished,” “beautiful one,” “noble one.” These express a sanguine hope. Also the names of Levi’s sons signify: “expulsion of the profane,” “congregation of the consecrated,” “practiser of discipline.” These are the leading principles and proper characteristics of priestly rule. We hasten rapidly over Biblical names, but much instruction may be gathered from them.

IV. THE FACTS CONNECTED WITH SOME OF THE NAMES ARE SUGGESTIVE. Thus Dinah, though condemned to a single life, is yet reckoned among the founders of the house of Israel in Egypt. This points to the elevation of woman, and to the idea of female inheritance. Again, Judah was the father’s minister to Joseph. By his faithfulness, strength, and wisdom he rises in the opinion of his father. His distinguished place in the annals of the nation comes out, at length, in the grandeur of that prophetic word which declares God’s loving purpose in this great history (Genesis 49:10).

V. THE NUMBER OF THE NAMES IS ALSO SUGGESTIVE. “It is remarkable that it is the product of seven, the number of holiness; and ten, the number of completeness. It is still more remarkable that it is the number of the names of those who were the heads of the primitive nations. The Church is the counterpart of the world, and it is to be the instrument by which the kingdom of the world is to become the kingdom of Christ. When the Most High bestowed the inheritance on the nations, “when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the sons of Israel” (Deuteronomy 32:8). This curious sentence may have an immediate reference to the providential distribution of the human family over the habitable parts of the earth, according to the number of His church and of His dispensation of grace: but, at all events, it conveys the great and obvious principle, that all things whatsoever, in the affairs of men, are antecedently adapted with the most perfect exactitude to the benign reign of grace already realized in the children of God, and yet to be extended to all the sons and daughters of Adam. (T. H. Leale.)

Verses 28-34

Genesis 46:28-34

They came into the land of Goshen

The settlement of the children of Israel in Goshen



1. He determines to announce their arrival to Pharaoh (Genesis 46:31).

2. He gives instructions to his brethren (Genesis 46:32; Genesis 46:34). (T. H. Leale.)

Jacob and Joseph


1. The occasion on which it was given. Jacob having heard that Joseph was alive, was anxious to see his son once more. Felt he could hardly leave the promised land except he had Divine permission. He went as far as he dared--to Beer-sheba, in the extreme south, and there offered sacrifice unto the God of his father. Then it was, in a vision, that the promise was spoken. Divine mercy and condescension, responding to the father’s desire. “Like as a father pitieth his children,” &c.

2. The nature of it.

3. Practical effect of it. In the strength of the encouragement it imparted, Jacob, 130 years old, sets out for Egypt.

II. A FATHER’S MESSENGER. Judah. He had taken a chief part in the separating of father and son, and we now see him most active in bringing about the meeting. Those who have done wrong may not be able to undo the wrong they have done, but should, if possible, make reparation. Recall the activity of Judah all through the history. His intercession for Benjamin, &c. There seems to have been a radical change in him.

III. A HAPPY MEETING. Jacob and Joseph. Some twenty-two years had passed since they had seen each other. It was no prodigal’s return. Jacob would have been glad to see Joseph under any circumstances, but how great his pride at finding him thus exalted. Jacob, as a God-fearing man, had no need to be ashamed of the progress of his son.

IV. AN HONEST COUNCILLOR. Joseph to his brethren. They were not to disguise their calling; although the Egyptians abandoned it. They were to begin in their new home on the right principles, were to be true and honest. How many resort to unmanly concealments of humble extraction and lowly avocations when away from home. Honesty always right, and therefore the best policy. In this case the effect is evident. The Israelites were located by themselves. Their exodus the more easy and practicable when the time came. Had they been spread through the country, their collection and departure had been most difficult. Learn:

1. To seek God’s guidance in all our movements.

2. To look for the fulfilment of promise in an honest obedience.

3. Endeavour to repair results of past sins. Restitution and reparation.

4. Let conduct in absence of parents be such as to render the meeting happy.

5. Begin life on right principles. Honour, truth, honesty. (J. G. Gray.)

Duty and filial piety combined

A beautiful combination of official duty and filial piety! The whole land of Egypt is suffering from famine. Joseph is the controller and administrator of the resources of the land. He does not abandon his position and go away to Canaan; but he gets the chariot out and he must go part of the road. “I know I am father to Pharaoh and all his great people. I shall not be away long; I shall soon be back again to my duties. I must go a little way to meet the old man from home.” Yes, I don’t care what our duties are, we can add a little pathos to them if we like; whatever we be in life, we can add a little sentiment to our life. And what is life without sentiment? What are the flowers without an occasional sprinkling of dew? It may be a grand thing to sit on high stool and wait till the old man comes upstairs. But it is an infinitely grander thing, a “lordlier chivalry,” to come off the stool and go away to meet him a mile or two on the road. Your home will be a better home--I don’t care how poor the cot--if you will have a little sentiment in you, a little tenderness and nice feeling. These are things that sweeten life. I don’t want a man to wait until there is an earthquake in order that he may call and say, “How do you do?” I don’t want a man to do earthquakes for me. Sometimes I want a chair handed, and a door opened, and a kind pressure of the hand, and a gentle word. And as for the earthquakes, why--wait until they come. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Kindness to parents

The biographers of Abraham Lincoln, say: “He never, in all his prosperity lost sight of his parents. He continued to aid and befriend them in every way, even when he could ill-afford it, and when his benefactions were imprudently used.” (One Thousand New Illustrations.)

Not ashamed of parentage

Joseph, a prince, was no whir ashamed of the poor old shepherd, before so many of his compeers and other courtiers, that accompanied him, and abominated such kind of persons. Colonel Edwards is much commended for his ingenuous reply to a countryman of his, newly come to him, into the low countries, out of Scotland. This fellow, desiring entertainment of him, told him, my lord his father and such knights and gentlemen, his cousins and kinsmen, were in good health. “Gentlemen,” quoth Colonel Edwards to his friends by, “believe not one word he says; my father is but a poor banker, whom this knave would make a lord, to curry favour with me, and make you believe I am a great man born.” The truly virtuous and valorous are no whir ashamed of their mean parentage. (J. Trapp.)

──The Biblical Illustrator