23 November 2017Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30
“When Israel set out on his journey with all that he had and came to Beer-sheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.” (v. 1)
Psalm: Psalm 123
In the course of Joseph's story, his father Jacob has increasingly been referred to by the author as 'Israel' - the name given to him when he wrestled with God and demanded a blessing (Genesis 32:22-32). Jacob the individual is gradually beginning to melt into Israel the nation, foreshadowed by the genealogy that is sandwiched between these two passages.
This chapter seemingly faces in two different directions, reflecting on the past and giving hints about the future. On his way to Egypt to be reunited with his son, Jacob/Israel stops at Beer-sheba to offer sacrifices to God (verse 1). Beer-sheba is imbued with memories of his father, Isaac (Genesis 26:23-33). Here, God speaks to Jacob/Israel in the night, as God has done before (Genesis 28:11-17; 32:22-32). Perhaps as Jacob/Israel enters a land that God explicitly told Isaac not to enter (Genesis 26:2), he needs divine reassurance that God has gone before him and is with him, and that this is still a part of God's plan to make the descendants of Abraham into a great nation.
When Joseph and his father are finally reunited, some have suggested that it is strange that Joseph is the one to weep (verse 29) after Jacob/Israel has made abundantly clear his preference for Joseph and his grief at losing him (eg Genesis 37:34-35). Rabbinic tradition has suggested that this might represent a belated realisation on Jacob/Israel's part that his favouritism had resulted in disastrous consequences and had become a kind of idolatry (allowing anything else to take the place of God).
- When going through a time of significant change (eg moving house, changing job, starting a relationship) do you find yourself looking back as you look forward? Is there anything that helps you to do this?
- Bearing in mind the events that will follow in the book of Exodus, why do you think God leads Jacob/Israel's family into Egypt? Do you think this was the work of God? Why?