Genesis 46:1–47:31

February 4th, 2020| Topic: aBeLOG, Genesis | 0

Genesis 46:1–47:31

Agents of divine blessing, obediently trusting God for blessing in their own lives, extend God’s blessing to others.

Divine promises—of presence, of return, of greatness of nation, and to be unafraid (46:2–4)—all encourage the patriarch Jacob in his decision to leave Canaan. What is interesting in God’s word of exhortation is that he promises to make Jacob “a great nation there,” in Egypt, in a foreign land (46:3). That would also remind Jacob that this move was not a brief, temporary excursion, but a long-term transfer, almost a womb for the future nation of Israel. But it would also be the tomb for Jacob, albeit temporary, for he would die there; God’s promise to “bring him up” (46:4) would be fulfilled only upon Jacob’s mortal remains. In any case, God’s promise is, as always, guaranteed! The personal pronoun, “I,” that God uses is emphatic and so is the rest of the structure of that sentence, emphasizing that God himself would act: “I—I will go down with you to Egypt, and I—I will surely bring you up again” (46:4).

The family of Jacob that relocated to Egypt is noted to have seventy members (46:27). The same figure, incidentally, is also used as a round number for large groups in the OT. The genealogical scheme has several instances of the number 7 and its multiples. In other words, the generation is full and complete. This is clearly divine blessing and fulfillment of divine promises.

Family bonds are quite prominent in the next section, 46:28–47:12, as the story continues—the blessings of reconciliation echo in this section: “his father” (46:29, 31; 47:7, 11, 12[×2]); “my father” (46:31; 47:1); “his brothers” (46:31; 47:2, 3, 11, 12): “my brothers” (46:31); “your father and your brothers” (47:5, 6). In God’s amazing grace, all the earlier negative experiences have now been overridden by this positive one. And, in response, Jacob joyfully anticipates passing away in peace (46:30).

In sum, God’s faithfulness to Jacob and his family is demonstrated in his blessing of the tribe as they move and settle and multiply in Egypt as “sojourners” (47:4). God would create a “great nation” out of this chosen family, through whom the age-old patriarchal promises of God would come to pass, blessing the rest of humanity,

Emphasizing the role of humans as agents of divine blessing is the remarkable “appearance” of Joseph before his father (46:29). Elsewhere in the patriarchal accounts such “appearances” are always predicated of deity; this is the only instance of “appearance” being used of an encounter between two humans. Joseph is the mediator of divine blessing to all around him. However, soon we see that it is not only Joseph who is the agent of God’s blessing, but Jacob, too, who conveys God’s blessing upon Pharaoh, not once, but twice (47:7, 10). Divine blessing falls not only upon the agent of such blessing, but also upon all those associated with that agent.

The final part of the pericope concerns the effect of the famine upon the Egyptians, themselves (47:13–26), in contrast to Jacob’s family that is protected and living in reasonable comfort (47:11–12, 27). The contrast underscores the blessing of God upon Jacob’s family, amidst the dire situation of the famine that sorely affected the Egyptians (47:13–26). But blessing by the agency of Joseph also comes to these afflicted ones: ultimately Joseph feeds not only his family (47:12), but also the Egyptians (47:17). The latter explicitly acknowledge that Joseph has saved their lives, using terms usually reserved for deity (47:25). All that to say, 47:13–26, is both a contrast to the blessing of Joseph’s family, and an expression of divine blessing upon the Egyptians themselves, at the hands of Joseph (and Jacob). All is well that ends well!

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