GENESIS 46:1 – 48:22 and MATTHEW 12:22–50
Jacob (Israel) is now about to go down to Egypt to be reunited with Joseph. He takes everything he has and comes to Beersheba (vs 2). It is at Beersheba where both Abraham and Isaac had encounters with the Lord in the past (Gen 21:23, Gen 26:25). It was about 16 miles removed from Hebron. God reiterates the promise to Jacob that he had made to Abraham (Gen 15:13). God told Abraham that his people would sojourn in a foreign land for four hundred years. Abraham made attempts to go to Egypt but it is actually being fulfilled through his seed.
Try to think of what must have been going through the mind of Jacob at this point. No doubt he was anxious to be able to see Joseph but in his old age he would much prefer to die and be buried in Canaan. Still, God had a purpose for this sojourn and it took great faith on Jacob’s part to uproot virtually everything, including family and move by faith to Egypt. This helps to give understanding to a Missions call. First, it must be God that is orchestrating the call. God did this many years before through Abraham (Gen 15:13). Second, we see how God is able to accommodate the fulfilment of the call. There is provision of Pharaoh’s wagons and food. God also went before them to prepare a ministry and work within that foreign land that enabled them to be sustained.
We also see that the timing of God is important. In verses 8-27 we see a listing of those who travelled down to Egypt. The total number mentioned is 70. This is a compilation of Jacob, his sons, Joseph and his two sons. In Acts 7:14 Stephen mentions the number as being 75. He figures in the wives as well as the handmaidens hence the discrepancy of the two figures. In verses 28-34 we have the reunion of Jacob with Joseph. One can only imagine the emotions of this moment. Before Joseph introduces Jacob and his family before Pharaoh he instructs them to tell Pharaoh that their occupation is in cattle. Shepherds were not favourably looked upon by Egyptians so Joseph, in his wisdom knew that this would help isolate his people (Israel) from the prevailing influence of the Egyptians.
Joseph understood Egypt, its culture as well as its potential in being a hindrance for the forthcoming period of sojourning in Egypt. This is instructive for us. Jesus prayed that we would not be taken out of the world but preserved while in it (John 17:15). This is also seen in Daniel. He prayed (along with his three friends) to not be defiled and tainted with the enticements of the world of his day (Dan 1:8). The result was that Daniel grew in wisdom, knowledge and understanding (Dan 1:17, 20). He also had ability to know dreams and interpret them. This enabled him to administrate in his capacity in the midst of a perverse environment. This is a key for us today.
We live in the midst of a corrupted environment but God can give the same grace, wisdom and revelation so that we too can administrate in the volatile days before us. We have to decide to be different and distinct. We must decide to be separate, to come out from among them while yet knowing how to live in the midst of them. This in reality is the 2-fold definition of holiness. 1) To be separated from the world, the flesh and the devil. 2) To be separated unto God. May God grant that we be Joseph’s and Daniel’s to the generation of our day.
In verses 1-10 Jacob (Israel) and his brothers are presented to Pharaoh. They convey their occupation as shepherds and herdsmen of cattle when asked of their profession; as Joseph had instructed them. They make request for pasture land which Pharaoh grants. Pharaoh goes to ask Joseph if there are men among his brethren who can also look after his own cattle. God is graciously providing prime pasture land for Joseph’s brethren while also giving them domestic employment on his behalf. This is favour and it is the kind of favour I believe we will see in these last days. Favour does not just happen. It is a God ordained process as seen in His working through the patriarchs. We also see that there is a great price to be paid in obtaining this kind of favour.
Jacob’s response to Pharaoh when asked about his age was to say that “few and evil have the days of the years of my life have been”. God is going to allow Jacob to live out his remaining years in peace and abundance. Joseph, as an abandoned, falsely accused and imprisoned foreigner is now in the position of the Prime Minister of all of Egypt. Only God can work in such a way. Obscurity, isolation and hiddenness are perhaps the most challenging prerequisites in walking the road to favour and fulfilment. It is here where our theology is tested, our friendships and associations are formed and where our hearts are revealed. We must allow God to hold us steady in the face of such challenges.
In verses 11-12 we see Joseph placing his brethren in Goshen. In verses 13-26 we see Joseph in his role as administrator over Egypt. The famine was now hitting hard and he was able to provide for the people by purchasing their cattle (16-17) and their properties for Pharaoh (vs 20). The people gladly did this due to the effects of the famine. Joseph was not heavy handed in his dealings with the people. He did not purchase the land of the Pharaoh’s priests and he instructed that 1/5 of the increase that was raised through the seed he provided be given to Pharaoh.
We see in Joseph good governance in the midst of a national crisis. He is respectful of certain Egyptian law while not yet compromising in his devotion to God. Once again we see some very valuable Missionary instruction from these accounts. The tendency of Missionaries (I know because we have done this) is to try and change everything within the foreign land which they are called too. The intentions may be good but oftentimes wisdom is not implemented. The Lord Jesus Christ took on considerable criticism in how he related to the world of His day. Jesus grew in wisdom and favour and so must we.
Luk 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
This chapter is a personal dialogue between Jacob and Joseph. The time of Jacob’s departure from the earth is at hand and he goes to great lengths to reiterate the promises that God had made to him while at Bethel (vs 3). He (Jacob) makes a statement that Joseph’s two sons will be Jacob’s. What this appears to imply is that the birthright that should have been Reuben’s is being given to Joseph who has now been given the double portion in having two sons. (Manasseh and Ephraim) He later prays over these two children of Joseph who will be reckoned as if they were sons of Jacob in the blessing. Reuben forfeited the birthright due to his incest with his father’s concubine. (Gen 35:22) Later we see Jacob desiring to pronounce a blessing over Ephraim and Manasseh. He still was overwhelmed that he was able to see Joseph but it was an added blessing in being able to see Joseph’s seed. It is interesting that as Jacob begins to pray he places his right hand of blessing upon the youngest (Ephraim). Joseph sought to intervene and direct his father to place his hand of blessing upon the eldest (Manasseh). In verse 19 Jacob mentions twice that he knew this and proceeded accordingly to first pray over Ephraim. This is an interesting twist in the deceitful manoeuvre that Rebekah and Jacob plotted together against Isaac (Gen 27:26-29). God did not need to utilize deceit in fulfilling His call upon Jacob, whom as the younger would have the supremacy over the elder.
Now, Jacob strongly discerns that the younger of his grandchildren (Ephraim) shall have the supremacy over Manasseh. This was a prophetic declaration. We come to know later on that Joshua, who represented a new generation of leadership, came forth from Ephraim. Jacob is now preparing to perform his last act in praying over his sons before he dies.
Matthew 12 – Read day 17 commentary