8 October 2015

Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30

“I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again; and Joseph’s own hand shall close your eyes.” (vv. 3-4)

Psalm: Psalm 105:1-15


'Israel' is the new name God had given to Jacob (Genesis 32:28) and which was subsequently used for the nation of his descendants which is promised in the verses quoted above. Old Testament thinking naturally oscillates between the importance of the individual and of the community, and we observe this in verse 4 where it is Jacob the individual who is going down to Egypt and will die there, but it is the nation that will be brought up again (in the story recorded in Exodus) some centuries later. Yet the final reference reverts to Israel the individual whose eyes at death will be closed by his son Joseph.

Verse 2 is not the first time God has chosen night-time to talk to Jacob (see Genesis 28:10-17 and Genesis 32:22-32), and what he says is very similar to other "Do not be afraid" oracles God spoke to Abraham (Genesis 15:1), Hagar (Genesis 21:17) and Isaac (Genesis 26:24). This speech of God primarily serves as an indication that God's great plan to create a people to be God's own is on track; there is no reason to suppose Jacob is fearful of the journey or anything regarding its outcome in that his chance to see his lost son again outweighs all other considerations.

Jacob sends Judah as the go-between to inform Joseph of their imminent arrival (verse 28), reminiscent of the way in which much earlier in his life he had sent advance parties to prepare for his meeting up with his long estranged brother Esau (Genesis 32:13 - 33:3). When father and son meet, touch and tears are exchanged, and the first words spoken were Jacob's affirming that he could now die in peace having seen his son again (verse 30) - compare Simeon's similar response on first seeing the infant Jesus (Luke 2:28-32). In fact Jacob would live another 17 years (Genesis 47:28), as long as he'd had with Joseph as a child before he'd been taken into slavery.

To Ponder

  • Do you have a life ambition which, once fulfilled, you would feel content for your life to reach its earthly end? If not, what do you feel would be necessary for you to achieve, or what milestone in life would you hope to reach, in order to be ready to die in peace, and why do you think that?
  • Jacob is doubtless eager to complete his journey and see Joseph but he makes space to pause and offer sacrifice on the journey (verse 1). How might you appropriately stop to worship in the context of significant moments in your life? What might be the value of doing so?
  • What have been the experiences in your life where touch and tears said it all?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Mosedale

Stephen Mosedale is a recently retired Methodist minister now living in Devon. He is enjoying the freedom that gives, whenever mood and weather dictsate, to walk on Dartmoor, photograph varied and ever-changing seascapes, or grow vegetables in the garden.