Genesis 45:16 - 46:27
November 2, 2008
On moving day, we take this step trusting that God is preparing the next one.
I. Provision for the move (Genesis 45:16-24)
II. Confirmation of the move (Genesis 45:25 - 46:4)
III. Inventory for the move (Genesis 46:5-27)
Moving Day. Almost all of us have had at least one moving day. I did a quick count on my fingers and found that in thirty years Gail and I have had just six moving days, probably low compared to some. I remember sitting with Gail amid a stack of boxes, wedding gifts, in the living room of our first apartment. I remember sawing our box spring in half to fit it up the stairs of first house; House hunting for the little yellow house in Illinois. The eerie feeling that someday this might all be too familiar as we looked for a house in Friendswood.
We had a moving day yesterday for the Olsons, from their Ike damaged house to the rental they’ll be living in for six months. Even though it was only a temporary move, it was still emotionally significant and a lot of work to pack up everything you need. You probably know moving day feelings: the leaving, the little griefs that tug whenever you leave a chapter of your life behind; the apprehension of settling in to a new place, meeting new people and new challenges. Maybe you remember things that happened on those days to confirm that the move was really from God. In fact one of the big things about moving is the question of God’s will. “God, is this really what you want me to do? Is this your plan for me, for us?”
That’s where we find Jacob in Genesis chapter 46. It’s moving day for Jacob. His heart’s desire is to make the move to Egypt. But it doesn’t seem like the plan God had laid out, and God knows Jacob needs confirmation of the direction he is to go. And then Jacob needs to trust that God is faithfully working out his covenant purpose. That’s where we are when we take any step of faith, and we need to remember the truth illustrated in these chapters, that on moving day, we take this step trusting that God is preparing the next one. When you and I move on following God, we have to trust he’s gone before us to prepare the next step of his plan, just as he had for Jacob.
I. Provision for the move (Genesis 45:16-24)
We begin in Egypt, with God’s provision for Jacob’s move. Genesis 45:16-24 When the news reached Pharaoh's palace that Joseph's brothers had come, Pharaoh and all his officials were pleased. 17Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Tell your brothers, 'Do this: Load your animals and return to the land of Canaan, 18and bring your father and your families back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you can enjoy the fat of the land.' 19"You are also directed to tell them, 'Do this: Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come. 20Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.'"
21So the sons of Israel did this. Joseph gave them carts, as Pharaoh commanded, and he also gave them provisions for their journey. 22To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five sets of clothes.
23And this is what he sent to his father: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and other provisions for his journey. 24Then he sent his brothers away, and as they were leaving he said to them, "Don't quarrel on the way!"
When we last left our story Joseph had just revealed himself to his brothers and been reconciled to them. He’d assured them that God had sent him ahead of them down to Egypt to preserve their lives. He’d formulated a plan to bring Jacob and all their wives and children down to Egypt and settle them in Goshen so that he can provide for them during the remaining five years of famine.
But you may recall that when Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, he wept so loudly all the palace heard him, and rumor reached Pharaoh’s household. Now Pharaoh seems to know the whole story about Joseph’s brothers: their arrival, their need, their relationship to Joseph. He may also have heard about Joseph’s promise, or possibly Joseph felt a need, despite his authority, to run this one by Pharaoh.
And Pharaoh does much more than send Joseph a bare approval. He himself sends word that “I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you can enjoy the fat of the land.” We can only attribute this generosity to the gratitude Pharaoh feels to God for revealing the famine by Joseph, and providing him to implement the solution.
By the way, one of the things I’ve been rabbit trailing on for weeks is the date of all this. There is little evidence in Egyptian archaeology to nail down the dates of the move to Egypt or even the Exodus. It appears, however, that the latter occurred around 1450 B.C. Given a 400 or 430 year sojourn, this would put Jacob arriving in Egypt in about 1850 B.C. This was during what is called the Middle Kingdom, a period of intense artistic and cultural activity under a number of strong Pharaohs.
But the prosperity of Egypt brought in huge numbers of foreign sojourners like the Hebrews, and these eventually led to the downfall of centralized authority and to a period called the second intermediate period of Egyptian history. During this time many peoples multiplied on Egyptian territory, including the people of Israel. Egypt was in relative chaos as the Egyptians struggled for control of their own country. Eventually a strong alliance of Egyptian families rose to absolute power and expelled most of the foreigners among them. The Hebrews in Goshen appear to have been exempt from this expulsion, possibly because they were docile and valuable, until God called them out of the New Kingdom at the time of the Exodus.
So this Pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom is generous: “You are also directed to tell them, 'Do this: Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come. 20Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.'" Joseph is happy to comply. He gives carts and provisions, new clothes and lots of donkeys loaded down with good things and basic supplies.
Of course he gives Benjamin five times as much as anybody else, which may be yet another test. After he does so he tells the brothers ‘don’t argue on the way’; ‘don’t be jealous of Benjamin because he’s still the favored one. Don’t allow this prosperity to go to your head and start acting like a dysfunctional family again.’
We’ve all heard of people who could handle poverty but not riches. Lottery winners are a prime example. William "Bud" Post won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988: "I wish it never happened. It was totally a nightmare," he said. A former girlfriend sued him for a share of his winnings. A brother was arrested for hiring a hit man to kill him. Other siblings pestered him to invest in a car business and a restaurant in Sarasota, Fla. – both failed, further straining his relationship with his siblings. Within a year, he was $1 million in debt, and spent time in jail for firing a gun over the head of a bill collector. Post admitted he was careless and foolish. He declared bankruptcy and ended his life on $450 a month Social Security.
II. Confirmation of the move (Genesis 45:25 - 46:4)
This was Joseph’s concern as the brothers went off to move their father, wives, and children to Egypt. He and Pharaoh had provided for the move, but they couldn’t control what would happen in the family. Fortunately God could. Chapter 45 verse 27 to Chapter 46 verse 4 is the record of God’s confirmation of this move.
25So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. 26They told him, "Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt." Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. 27But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28And Israel said, "I'm convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die."
1So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. 2And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, "Jacob! Jacob!" "Here I am," he replied. 3"I am God, the God of your father," he said. "Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph's own hand will close your eyes."
Remember, Jacob’s been back in Canaan worrying about his sons, about Benjamin, with no information about what is happening. There were no cell phones; there was no postal service; he couldn’t know what they’d found. So everything they say is a shock: “Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt." Jacob was stunned. The word literally means ‘his heart stopped’. It’s a moment so shocking you can’t move or think, though Swindoll speculates that he actually had a small heart attack.
His next response is disbelief. “Yeah right, Joseph, whose bloody cloak has haunted me every day for these twenty two years is somehow alive, and has somehow come to be the ruler of Egypt? What do you take me for?”
The sons have to tell him everything Joseph said and show the evidence of their prosperity before the disbelief transforms itself: ‘the spirit of their father revived and he said “I'm convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”’
This is his heart’s desire, but he has to wonder if it’s God’s plan. He has to remember the command God gave Isaac not to go down to Egypt, and the promise that God would give the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants. So his first step is to pack up and go as far as Beersheba, the gateway city on the edge of Canaan. He probably starts at Hebron, about 20 miles north-east of Beersheba.
Both Abraham and Isaac had worshiped at Beersheba, and offered sacrifice there. Now Jacob does the same. He’s almost certainly seeking divine assurance that he can leave Canaan without forsaking God’s covenant. And God responds in a vision, the last recorded speech of God until his speaks to Moses from the burning bush.
God addresses Jacob by his old name, the name of weakness, and Jacob responds “Here I am,” the classic response of those willing to do God’s will. And God confirms the covenant and makes promises about the next steps: “I am God, the God of your father.” Father is singular there, probably because the only one God had told not to go to Egypt was Jacob’s father Isaac.
But now God says “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt.” So Jacob’s question is answered. But God adds “for I will make you into a great nation there.” This looks back to God’s covenant promise that he will make Abraham’s offspring a great nation, and it looks forward to the outcome of this sojourn in Egypt, the multiplication of Israel from a family of seventy to a nation of millions.
Furthermore God makes the promise of faithfulness again. “I will go down to Egypt with you.” We spent one whole message reflecting on how God was with Joseph, yet God never actually spoke to Joseph this way. But he makes the promise to Jacob, and expands on it “and I will surely bring you back again.” In other words, this trip to Egypt is not derailing the covenant promises about the land of Canaan. God still intends to give Abraham’s offspring that land.
But God doesn’t say that Jacob himself will return alive to Canaan. In fact God’s words imply that Jacob will die in Egypt: “Joseph's own hand will close your eyes." It is still a Jewish custom to this day that a beloved son or close relative gently closes the eyes of the deceased. God is promising that his own presence, and that of his family, will be with him until death. He will die in peace.
But Jacob did return to Canaan. This promise was doubly fulfilled, because Joseph himself left Egypt and took Jacob’s body back to be buried in Canaan. In a larger sense, four hundred years later, Israel returned to Canaan as the multitude whom God miraculously rescued from Egypt. Jacob was the father of them all.
So what are we seeing here? Simply that on moving day, we take the step trusting that God is preparing the next one. This was explicitly true of Jacob, as God told him directly that going to Egypt was right, and that coming back was a sure part of the plan. God doesn’t probably speak to us that way, and yet he does give us assurance and promises that make it clear for all his children that he is preparing the next step.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Isaiah 43:5-7 “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. 6I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.' Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth-- 7everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” God is always working out his purpose and plan.
He promises to lead and guide: Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Isaiah 30:21 “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."” As we take this step we trust God to prepare the next one.
This is also the promise of the New Testament. Ephesians 1:11 “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” And Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” He is at work for our good and for his glory.
We may not hear God’s voice in the same way Jacob did. Even Joseph was not given that privilege. But we have the assurance that whether it’s in a move or some other milestone, we can take this step in trust, knowing that God is working out a larger eternal plan. So Jacob receives this promise, and he can take the next step in faith.
III. Inventory for the move (Genesis 46:5-27)
The author of Genesis uses this as an opportunity to take inventory of Jacob’s blessings, not his possessions, but his sons and daughters. Chapter 46:5-27: 5Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel's sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. 6They also took with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan, and Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt. 7He took with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters--all his offspring.
8These are the names of the sons of Israel (Jacob and his descendants) who went to Egypt: Reuben the firstborn of Jacob. 9The sons of Reuben: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron and Carmi. 10The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jakin, Zohar and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman. 11The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath and Merari.
12The sons of Judah: Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez and Zerah (but Er and Onan had died in the land of Canaan). The sons of Perez: Hezron and Hamul. 13The sons of Issachar: Tola, Puah, Jashub and Shimron. 14The sons of Zebulun: Sered, Elon and Jahleel. 15These were the sons Leah bore to Jacob in Paddan Aram, besides his daughter Dinah. These sons and daughters of his were thirty-three in all.
16The sons of Gad: Zephon, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi and Areli. 17The sons of Asher: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi and Beriah. Their sister was Serah. The sons of Beriah: Heber and Malkiel. 18These were the children born to Jacob by Zilpah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Leah--sixteen in all.
19The sons of Jacob's wife Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. 20In Egypt, Manasseh and Ephraim were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 21The sons of Benjamin: Bela, Beker, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim and Ard. 22These were the sons of Rachel, born to Jacob – fourteen in all.
23The son of Dan: Hushim. 24The sons of Naphtali: Jahziel, Guni, Jezer and Shillem. 25These were the sons born to Jacob by Bilhah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Rachel – seven in all.
26All those who went to Egypt with Jacob--those who were his direct descendants, not counting his sons' wives--numbered sixty-six persons. 27With the two sons who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob's family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all.
Notice the focus is on people, not possessions. This is a change for Jacob, who in years past had a long family struggle with Laban not so much for his daughters as for a rightful share of his possessions. But now the livestock and possession get less than a verse: the family gets twenty verses. “He took with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters--all his offspring.”
And then the author of Genesis gives the family tree, divided up by which wives had which sons. Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah were the children of Leah. Their offspring are mentioned, in one case down to the fourth generation, the sons of Perez, son of Judah, son of Jacob. The total is thirty-three. The NIV actually lists thirty-four, but many early versions don’t list Ohad the son of Simeon.
Gad and Asher, along with one sister, Serah, are the children of Zilpah; she and Jacob have sixteen offspring in all.
Joseph and Benjamin were the only sons of Rachel. Joseph had two sons in Egypt, and Benjamin had ten sons. The Hebrew grammar that introduces Benjamin’s sons is different than the rest of this list and implies that most or all of them were born after the move to Egypt.
Dan and Naphtali are the sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah, and together they have five sons. So the total is sixty six, not counting Jacob, Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim. When these are added in the total is seventy.
The point of all this is that from God’s point of view as a covenant keeping God, it’s the people that are important, not the possessions. God knows the descendants of these folks will be slaves in Egypt and have nothing. He’ll take care of possessions on the other end. But it’s the people who are important, both as a large number when compared to the bare start of Abraham and Isaac, and as a small number compared to the millions who will come out in the Exodus. These people are the key, the bridge, the link, the covenant family that will become the covenant nation.
And that’s the point for us when we are faced with moving. We too need to do inventory, not of possessions, but of relationships. It’s the family around us that is important from God’s point of view. It’s the community of the church, both the local church and the larger church, that has value in our lives. It’s the relationships we take with us, and the relationships that we leave behind and especially the relationships that God intends for the future that are our real possession, worth everything else. Judah and the brothers and Joseph himself and now even Jacob have shown that they value relationships more than stuff, more even than personal honor or freedom.
So, on moving day, we trust that God is preparing the next steps We look for his provision, for his confirmation, we take inventory his way, and we step out in faith, into a plan we’re sure, from Scripture, is governed by a sovereign God. I want to close by sketching a few examples of how this is true in all the arenas of our lives.
Probably the great example is weddings and marriages. We have the wedding, but that leads to the long joy and the long commitment of the marriage. The wedding is moving day, the marriage is all the next steps God walks us through.
We expect God to show up for the wedding, but as with Jacob, he promises that he will be with us in the marriage as well, in life together as a couple.
Same thing with any graduation, except maybe those kindergarten graduations I’ve been hearing about lately. At a graduation we commemorate the faithful completion of a phase. Graduation is moving day. But then we launch our children out on a career or a further education or into a work world which is a series of next faithful steps for them. God has been faithful thus far, and God will lead to the end.
In sickness, we have the surgery or we take the treatment, but that’s just moving day. The next step is the recovery, and possibly the adjustment of our lives to a new normal. God is with us in the crisis moment, but also n the perseverance and endurance that lies on the other side, and he promises wisdom and comfort to the sick.
In temptation, we fight the battle and flee, and that’s moving day, moving into a new set of resolutions, resolves and into a new level of dependancy. But we have to keep trusting and keep that resolve in all the next steps that follow. God’s faithfulness now is intended to lead us into God’s faithfulness then.
Then there are hurricanes. There were a lot of things moving that day, but what we didn’t know was that the one night of wind would lead to dozens of days of recovery. We consciously took that moving day with God - now we have to trust him that all the steps of caring for people in the aftermath are also part of his plan.
And of course, moving itself is like this. There is the high excitement of moving day, the confirmations and challenges of what God has been planning, but then there are all the next steps after that first one, the settling in, the mourning of relationships lost, the working toward intimacy in relationships found, the learning of what always seems to be a new culture. Gail says that it takes a full year to begin to feel comfortable in a new place. And we’ve only moved in the U.S.
Imagine how Jacob felt. He’d spent his life in the backwaters of Canaan and Haran. The whole world was a backwater compared to the Middle Kingdom in Egypt. But he had God’s confirmation and he had God’s promise and he had taken Godly inventory, so that on moving day he could be confident that this step was a step toward the fulfillment of God’s good purpose. He could say to God - lead on.
Lead on, O King eternal; we follow not with fears. For gladness breaks like morning where’er thy face appears. Thy cross is lifted o’er us; we journey in it’s light. The crown awaits the conquest: lead on, O God of might.