Interestingly and ironically Egypt is the final destination for Jacob and his sons. It is in Egypt that Israel finds salvation but it is also here that the nation will one day be held in captivity as slave. At the onset one may think this journey to Egypt was a mistake because of the impending slavery that would happen years down the road. I have also noted that Egypt represents the pagan world at the time. Why would Jacob (AKA Israel) want to leave the Promised Land and go to a Pagan country? If you recall Egypt has really never been a place where Jacob and his family have had good experiences. His grandfather Abraham had bad two experiences in Egypt. So why go?
As Jacob leaves he goes to Beersheba and inquires of worship God and inquires of the Lord as to whether he should or should not go. On the surface going down doesn’t seem like a great idea because there has been a lot of heartache in Egypt.
Nevertheless the Lord meets with Jacob in a vision at night and He assures him that he should go. Once again God speaks through a vision or dream. He first tells him not to be afraid to go Egypt because this journey is part of God’s greater plan to make him a great nation. Then he informs Jacob that He will be with him on this journey. This journey is part of God’s grand plan. The stay would be temporary but not easy. The journey would initially be the Salvation of Israel. The famine was getting worse and would continue to get worse and if Jacob does not go to Egypt chances are he and his family would perish. Death was not an option and not part of God’s plan. God had a plan and yes this plan did include eventual slavery, a mass exodus (God’s glory), a lot of death, years of wandering in the wilderness, the giving of the Law and this would force Israel to have complete dependence and obedience to God throughout these years.
Eventually Jacob, his family, their livestock, their goods and all they acquired in the land of Canaan left for Egypt with the Lord’s blessings.
In verses 8 – 25 there is a list of all Jacob’s children and their offspring. The sons mentioned and their ancestors in these verses make up the 12 tribes of Israel. These 12 brothers (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulon, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan) and their ancestors would go on to become the great and powerful nation (Israel) that God promised he would make them.
There were seventy who entered Egypt. This did not include wives of the brothers, and servants; they were only flesh and blood relatives. Seventy is a sacred number. Seventy has a sacred meaning in the Bible that is made up of the factors of two perfect numbers, seven (representing perfection) and ten (representing completeness). Now there are 70 men who made up what would become the complete and perfect nation of God’s chosen people called Israel.
Reunion with Joseph – In verse 29 Joseph and Jacob finally meet and embrace after a long time. The father has immense joy in reuniting with his son. His son who he thought was dead is alive and well. It is at this reunion Jacob said he could now die in peace. He was an elderly man and just holding his son in his arms was enough to make everything complete. For many years Jacob thought his son dead, he hears he is alive and now he holds his son in his arms. I can think of no better way for a heart broken man to finish out the remaining years of his life. Not only do we see that this reunion was a way to help Jacob die peacefully but we also see in God’s perfect plan as He has used Joseph in a powerful way to bring salvation and life to Israel.
Joseph then coaches his family as to what to say to Pharaoh when they meet with them. Joseph want to ensure Pharaoh that they are not here seeking employment or food and that they will maintain their identity as shepherds. They have their own livestock and livelihood so they will not be a burden to the Egyptian people. They are to inform Pharaoh that they are shepherds and Joseph tells them that shepherds are an abomination. Some have suggested that this was Joseph’s way of preserving the identity of God’s people. They would be considered lower class citizens and the Egyptians would have nothing to do with them. This would free up the Israelites to be separate from the culture. They would not be forced to lose their identity and conform to the Egyptian way of life. It could be a way of Joseph saying that you will be an abomination for your own sake. You will be preserved and not tainted by the worldly ways of Egypt.
After meeting with Pharaoh he was delighted and gave them the choice land of Goshen and invited them to become the men who would be in charge of Pharaoh’s livestock. Once again we are seeing Israel blessed because of Joseph.
This story has so much for us to take home with us today. Joseph’s life is a picture of what the Christian life can look like. In this account I see three things that can be brought to our attention.
- God has a perfect plan – This statement should be nothing new for us since I have talked about it numerous times. It certainly serves as a reminder that God has everything under control. Since the beginning of Joseph’s story (and time for that matter) God already had mapped out what he was going to do. No doubt there were many difficult moments and trying times but God was forming and fashioning Joseph for this very time. We are reminded in the New Testament “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ESV). These should be words of comfort for all of us. No matter where you are in life, God’s perfect plan will be fulfilled for your joy and his glory.
- There will be joy when we reunite with the Father – The reunion of father and son is a glimpse of what it will be like when we reunite with the Father in heaven. 2 Corinthians 5:6 – 9 says, “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” And I John 3:1 – 3 says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” So hold fast my fellow brothers and sisters this life is not all we have. God has prepared an eternity for you and me to share in his glory and to be conformed to his image. It will be a homecoming like no other. This is our redemption, this is our destiny.
- Be separate from the world – As Christians we are called to be in the world but not of the world. This simply means that we are to not allow the world to influence us. We must be separate from the world. Romans 12:2 says, “ Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” As believers we are to maintain our identity as followers of Jesus Christ. We should be known and recognized as who we belong to by the way we love one another and how have devoted our lives to serving the Father.