23 November 2023

Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30

'I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will bring you up again.' (v. 4)

Psalm 1


Following on from yesterday’s reading Joseph has encouraged his brothers to return to Canaan and bring their father, Jacob, with all his entourage, down to Egypt. The Egyptian Pharaoh has become aware of what is going on and encourages this migration, both with transport and with the promise of the best that the land of Egypt can offer.

This was not an easy journey for Jacob to make. Apart from anything else he was now an old man. Furthermore, at a time when the worship and influence of the divine was understood to be closely linked to certain defined places, he ran the risk of abandoning his God as well as his heritage by moving to alien territory. Thus Jacob went first to Beersheba, where his grandfather Abraham, had worshipped God and where Isaac, his father, had settled. In offering sacrifice there Jacob receives the reassurance that God is not limited to any particular place but will go before him into Egypt and, in due course, bring his descendants back to their homeland once more.

Thus the story of Joseph reveals yet another important theological insight. Wherever we may go, we do not stray beyond the limits of God’s influence, because God is already there before us.  Centuries later in their history, as the descendants of Jacob were taken into exile in Babylon, some wondered how they could sing the songs of their faith away from their beloved city (Psalm 137).  However their prophets, including Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Isaiah, could see that God was at work wherever they were.

Jacob and his substantial family thus migrated to Egypt. Unsurprisingly the reunion between Joseph and Jacob is once again highly charged emotionally but brings with it a gentle sense of completion for Jacob.


To Ponder:

  •  Jacob receives the important insight that even when he goes to unfamiliar places, God goes with him. What difference does it make to you to remember that, wherever you go, God is there?
  • Today’s passage is but one of the many examples of migration within the pages of Scripture. We might think of Jacob and his family as economic migrants. How does the welcome offered by Pharoah speak to us in today’s world? 


Help me to sense your presence, Lord, wherever I am and whatever I’m doing today. Amen.

Bible notes author

The Revd Donald Ker

Donald Ker is a supernumerary minister originally from the Methodist Church in Ireland. He now lives in Solihull, near Birmingham. He has served as a circuit minister, as a university chaplain, as Senior Tutor in Edgehill Theological College and as Superintendent Minister at Belfast Central Mission. Donald was also General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland for some years and its President in 2009/2010.

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