These are the generations of Jacob. There is Reuben. He had four sons. There is Simeon. He had six sons. There is Levi. He had three sons. There is Judah. He had five sons. There is Issachar. He had four sons. There is Zebulun. He had three sons. There is Gad. He had seven sons. There is Asher. He had four sons. There is Dan. He had one son. There is Naphtali. He had four sons. There is Joseph. He had two sons. Then there is Benjamin. He had ten sons. And two of those sons must have been twins: Muppim and Huppim.
Genesis 46 has three parts. There is Genesis 46:1-4. Then there is Genesis 46:5-27. And then there is Genesis 46:28-34. These three parts seem to be about this family, Jacob and his descendants moving to Egypt. It was at least seventy people and all of their stuff making this move, together, to Egypt. So, this was no small feat. And it kind of ends with all these people waiting to be told where they can put down all of their stuff.
And this family had to be excited. They were moving to Egypt by the personal invitation of Pharaoh himself. And with the promise that the best of Egypt awaits them – the best shopping; the best restaurants; the best homes, the best technology, all the best for them. All but one person was excited. And for this one person the whole journey stopped. His name was Jacob.
So Israel Took His Journey
Listen to Genesis 46:1. “So Israel took his journey.” Genesis 46 is not really about this family, all seventy plus of them, moving to Egypt. Genesis 46 is really and simply just about Jacob. Notice that in verse one that this is called his journey. And notice that word journey. This particular word for journey is used twelve times in Genesis. And most of the time, actually about seven times, it is used about Jacob’s journey. And so, we can say that Genesis 46 is not just about Jacob, but is really about Jacob’s journey. In his journey, Jacob came to Beersheba (Genesis 46:1-4). In his journey, Jacob left Beersheba (Genesis 46:5-27). And in his journey, Jacob came to Egypt (Genesis 46:28-34).
As soon as his journey begins, it stopped. Why does his journey stop? It is important to remember that the day before the journey, Jacob was pretty excited to get going. He just heard that Joseph his beloved son was alive! For twenty some years, he had lived thinking his son was dead. And then in learning that his son was alive, his soul had been revived. His soul had been revived not simply because his son was alive, but his soul had been revived because Jacob realized that God’s will, God’s plan, God’s purpose had not been thwarted. And it took being reminded of who God is.
And the next day, the wagons packed, the home locked and the keys handed over to the new owner, the family headed out. I am sure as soon as they pulled out of the driveway someone forgot something. And as soon as they got out of the neighborhood, someone had to go to the restroom. And as soon as they pulled onto the highway, someone asked, “Are we there yet?” And as soon as they got started again, Jacob said stop. His boys were puzzled. He asked for help to get out of the wagon and was eased onto the ground. Jacob got his bearings, moved a little further, and stopped.
Israel Took His Journey to Beersheba
Keep listening to Genesis 46:1. “So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba.” Stop there. Jacob took his journey first to Beersheba. And of course we are wondering, why has he stopped in Beersheba? Jacob’s grandfather had once stopped in Beersheba. Listen to Genesis 21:33. “Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.” Besides planting a tree, notice what Abraham did at Beersheba. He worshiped and prayed.
Jacob’s father had also once stopped in Beersheba. “From there he went up to Beersheba. And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, ‘I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.’ So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 26:23-25). Isaac did not plant a tree like his dad, but like his dad he, too, called upon the name of the Lord at Beersheba. He worshiped and prayed at Beersheba. And notice that God spoke to Isaac at Beersheba and said, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”
So, why had Jacob stopped at Beersheba? I think, in part, it has to do with his grandfather and his father, for at Beersheba he stopped and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. This is like saying that my dad’s God is my God, we share in fellowship with the same God! So, at Beersheba, Jacob, too, prayed and worshiped. May we keep in mind that this was an old man?
And God Spoke To Israel On His Journey
And while at Beersheba and on his journey, God spoke to Jacob. Listen to verse two. “And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night.” Notice that word visions. It is plural and in Hebrew a plural can have one of two meanings. It can mean more than one, quantity, or it can mean to convey the greatness or intensity of something, hence quality. It seems likely that this here is not more than one vision, but instead it is about the quality of the vision. This is an intense and great and wonderful and beautiful vision! Vision means to see. So, Jacob was to see something great and wonderful and beautiful. It is important to know that in the Bible, a vision is a revelation of God, it is God speaking to man, and we have this vision now in the written word. And it is as great and wonderful and beautiful as when Jacob first heard it!
And God says to Jacob, “Jacob, Jacob.” The wonder of this vision begins with the reminder that God knows Jacob’s name, that it is to say, God knows – he repeats his name – God really knows who Jacob is. “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” (Psalm 139:1). Keep watching. It keeps getting better and better. Jacob says, “Here I am.” Now verse three. “I am God.” God calls out his own name! It is all to say, the calling out of both names, that there is a personal relationship here, between God and Jacob. I know his name and he knows mine.
Now, why did Jacob stop? Why did Jacob stop and worship and pray? Listen to what comes next in verse three. “Do not be afraid.” It is the same thing that God said to Isaac at Beersheba all those years ago. Jacob stopped because he was afraid.
Why Was Jacob Afraid?
In Genesis 46, Jacob was old. And being old, he was closer to death on this day than he was yesterday. Remember, he just said in Genesis 45:28, that he wanted to go and see Joseph “before I die.” So, was Jacob afraid that he was not going to make it to Egypt? Probably not, although that sounds really reasonable. But how does he go from revived to afraid?
I think Genesis 15 is helpful. This was not at Beersheba, but it came on a night that Abraham was afraid. God spoke to Abraham when he was afraid, too. Listen to Genesis 15:1. “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’” Then as the sun was going down, “a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him” (15:12). By the way the word afraid both in Genesis 15 and Genesis 46, is the kind of fear that makes you pull your covers over your head. You want to hide. Now listen to Genesis 15:13. “Then the Lord said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.’”
First, who are Abraham’s offspring? It is these seventy plus people who just left their home! And what does God say about these descendants? They will sojourn in a land not theirs, be slaves there and be afflicted there. Jacob was leading his descendants to…Egypt, a land not theirs, to be strangers there. Could it be that Jacob is seeing for certain, knowing for certain Genesis 15:13 on his journey? And so, he was afraid. He was leaving his home. He was leaving his home and will die in Egypt. And then he was leaving his family to live in Egypt. God has promised that they will not leave Egypt for four hundred years. And he just experienced with Joseph that God’s will and plan and purpose will not be thwarted. What was Jacob to think? So, God specifically says that Jacob should not be afraid to go down to Egypt. Why? It is because there, even in the midst of affliction, he will make Jacob into a great nation.
This reminds me of 1 Peter, written to sojourners, those living in a land not their own. And Peter writes to them to not be afraid for, “by God’s power [you] are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:5-7). This is the point of going to Egypt!
And Joseph’s Hand Shall Close Your Eyes
Listen to how this part ends. It is about Jacob finishing his journey. Realize, when he started his journey as a young man, he did so on foot, but with these words, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (28:15). That was at the start of the journey. This is the finishing of the journey. “I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes” (Genesis 46:4).
Partly here is God’s care for a father who is afraid as his journey is being finished. The last sight Jacob will behold is God’s fulfilled promise. Joseph will be the one to close his eyes. But what God promised at the beginning, God continues to fulfill at the finish. I will be with you and I will bring you up again (See 1 Corinthians 15).
And it leaves us with a big question. How are you finishing? We are not to think of the finish when we are old and getting close to the finish. It is because for each of us the finish will come. And each of us do not know when that finish will come. Each of our journeys are not all the same distance. And so, what is holding your view on the finish?
Listen again to Genesis 46:3. “I am God.” Listen again to Genesis 46:4. “I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again.” The Hebrew name for God here is really easy to remember. It is the name El and literally means mighty. So, the view to hold on the finish is that God is mighty. And he says to Jacob, I am with you. In Isaiah 7:14, there is the promise of one to come whose name is Immanuel, which we often translate as “God with us.” But deeply means, “God who is mighty is with us.” The Gospel of Matthew begins with a promised birth. Listen to Matthew 1:21-23. “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” And when this child is born they call him…Jesus. Who is Jesus? He is “God who is mighty is with us.” He is the one who spoke to Jacob.
Oh, and the Gospel of Matthew ends with the words of Jesus. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (28:20). So, again, how are you finishing? By the way, after these words, Jacob got up and finished.