Genesis 45:16-46:27 ~ 20080713 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
7/13 Genesis 45:16-46:27 Leaving the Promised Land
We've just seen Joseph reconciled to his brothers. They have demonstrated a true change in character. From men who were hateful toward their father's favorite -plotting to kill their little brother and lie to their father, now they feel the weight of guilt for their sins, they have begun to fear God, they acknowledge that they deserve punishment and are willing to accept it, they are working together as a family, and Judah is even willing to step in and suffer as a substitute for his brother in order to see him safely returned to his father. Joseph sees in his brothers the fruits of true repentance and change. He is undone by Judah's demonstration of self-sacrificing selfless love toward their father and toward Benjamin. Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers, and he has assured them that he is not interested in using his position for revenge. Joseph, too, has been molded and shaped by his experiences. He has learned that God is in control of all things, and God was even at work in the evil plans of his evil brothers to bring about his good plans and gracious purposes. Three times he confirms to his brothers that it was God who had sent him to Egypt, and his suffering was God's grace in his life and a reason to thank and praise God. For the first time in over 15 years, the brothers talk with one another. For the first time ever, they can talk about what God has been doing in their lives, and experience true Christian fellowship and unity. But that unity is not complete. Jacob is still in Canaan and has no idea what has just transpired; he's no doubt worrying and wondering if he has lost forever his youngest son. Joseph has given instruction to his brothers to hurry and bring his father to Egypt.
Joseph had told his brothers to bring their father to Egypt. Now the Pharaoh has heard the news that his key official, who has already proven his worth through the first two years of famine, has re-united with his brothers, and he has family in Canaan suffering from the famine. We are told that this news was pleasing to the Pharaoh. He and his servants were glad to hear it. A royal welcome was prepared. The best of the land of Egypt was offered to this important family. Joseph was second only to Pharaoh in the land, and yet Pharaoh could still tell Joseph what to do when it came to generosity toward his family. Joseph was commanded by the Pharaoh to extend extravagant hospitality to his family. Wagons from Egypt would be sent to transport their father and the women and children. They would not need to bring any of their stuff, the Pharaoh of Egypt would give them whatever they needed.
Remember when the brothers were invited to Joseph's house for lunch, and they were terrified that he would make them his slaves and steal their donkeys? Not only do they get to keep their donkeys, but they get a gift of ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten more female donkeys loaded with provisions. They are even given wagons to transport their families. And they all get a change of clothes. Remember when they had thrown Joseph in the pit? They had taken his special coat that his father had given him, dipped it in goat's blood, and sent it to their father for identification. It was clothing that had been involved in their sin against Joseph and his father. Then in the last chapter, they had torn their clothes as an expression of grief over the situation with Benjamin. Now Joseph gives them all a change of clothes. Benjamin, Joseph's full blood brother, again is given an honored position and shown the special love of his brother with three hundred shekels of silver and five changes of clothes. And Joseph's parting word to his brothers is 'do not quarrel on the way'. This could have to do with the favoritism that he showed Benjamin, but they have already proven their willingness to suffer in his place in spite of his favored position. They are on their way home with the news that Joseph is alive and well in Egypt. They are going to have to confess what they had done. They will have to tell their father about the coat dipped in blood. And there will be a temptation to argue and assign levels of guilt. Reuben has already complained to the brothers in Joseph's hearing that he had wanted to rescue Joseph, but they wouldn't listen. There is to be no arguing of this kind on the way home. Their joy of reconciliation and the good news of salvation for the family is not to be overshadowed by a discussion of who did what.
The brothers arrive home and blurt out the good news. Joseph is still alive! He is ruler over all Egypt! This is a good news message that should bring joy. This is more than Jacob could have asked or imagined. Instead it is met with numbness of heart and disbelief. Old Jacob had an unbelieving heart. He thought that his sons were playing a cruel trick on him. What a mean thing to do to their grieving dad - to toy with his emotions like that. Jacob had believed the lie and was led to conclude the worst from the evidence of the blood-soaked coat; now he refused to believe the truth that was declared openly and with clarity. The brothers had never stated 'Joseph is dead', but Jacob had concluded that:
Now the brothers, who are eyewitnesses of Joseph and his glory in Egypt say 'Joseph is still alive' and their message is met with unbelief. We should not be too surprised when the message of the good news is met with initial unbelief or numbness of heart. Indeed it seems too good to be true!
The brothers didn't just let it go. Oh well, I guess dad doesn't believe us. And who can blame him, after all, we haven't been fully trustworthy in the past. I guess we'll just stay and starve in Canaan. They were fully persuaded of the truth of the good news that they brought to their father, so they persisted with their testimony. They presented the evidence to the truth of their story, tangible hard real evidence, and it says 'the spirit of their father Jacob revived'. Something that had been dead for over twenty years was awakened. Jacob, who had lost hope and vision for the future, who was merely subsisting, grieving, waiting for death, was given a fresh sense of hope for the future. Joseph is alive! I will see him before I die! Something deep inside him was reborn. Notice his new, God given name is used here. The one who has been 'at the heels' is now 'striving with God'; 'God is striving for him'
Israel, probably living in Hebron, packs up and heads south to Egypt. He gets to Beersheba, which is on the southern border of the promised land. This is where his grandfather Abraham had worshiped; where his father Isaac had built an altar and worshiped God.
Jacob here pauses to worship. Years before, when there was a famine, Abram his grandfather had without hesitation and without prayer headed to Egypt and got himself into a lot of trouble.
Now Israel, headed to Egypt during famine, stops to worship and consult the God of his father. Jacob had left the promised land once before, when he was running for his life from his brother. God had met him and promised to be with him and to bring him safely back to the land.
God had been faithful to keep his promise. 20 years later, God brought him safely back to the land.
Now Jacob was on the border, ready to leave the promised land again. I wonder if the prophecy given to his grandfather made him hesitate:
Jacob's long lost son was ahead waiting for him, but he stopped to worship and seek the Lord. I think Israel is here putting God in front of his own favorite son. Israel is truly putting God first!
God spoke to Israel. God gave him the clear direction that he was seeking. It is interesting that God here refers to him as 'Jacob'. When God changed Abram's name to Abraham and Sarai's name to Sarah, when Jesus changed Saul's name to Paul, from then on each was known exclusively by their new name. But God changed Jacob's name to Israel, and God himself here calls him by his old name. God had given him a new name, a new character, a new identity, but Jacob often still operated under his old identity and acted according to his old character. God assures him with his own identity. 'I am God. I am still in control. I am still sovereign. I am the same yesterday, today and forever. I have been faithful in the past and I will continue to be faithful. I am the God of your father.' And then he assures him of his promises. 'I promised to be with you and to make you into a great nation, and I will do it. I will never leave you. I will be with you in Egypt. I am not limited to the land of Canaan. I will make you into a great nation in the land of Egypt. And I will return you to the promised land. He promises his presence. And he confirms his hopes. Joseph's hand will close your eyes. Joseph is alive. You will see him before you die. Joseph himself will personally care for your body after you die.
Everyone is packed up and headed to Egypt. No-one is left behind. The whole tribe is moving. Now we have the family tree, categorized by the wives and their servants:
There is some evidence that Ohad son of Simeon is a scribal insertion, so if he is left out the count would be accurate at 33 (Waltke, p.575). Then we have the descendants of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid:
Next we have Rachel's sons:
Finally, the descendants of Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid:
Ephraim and Manasseh who were born in Egypt, and Er and Onan who died in Canaan are probably the ones not included in the sixty-six. We have 12 sons, 1 daughter, 52 grandsons, 1 granddaughter, and 4 great-grandsons listed as the seed of the nation that God would make out of Israel in Egypt. It started as a promise to a childless man with a barren wife. God continues to fulfill his promises in unexpected ways. God is God. God is bringing about his plans and purposes in the lives of his people. He has effected transformation in this rowdy band of brothers. Jacob has been given new life by the good news that his son, who was dead to him, is alive and reigning. Rather than being torn from him, he was sent ahead by God to bring salvation to the people. God was through him blessing the nations of the earth with bread.
We can't help but see Jesus in this story! Jesus, the only son of the Father, sent by God to suffer, and through his sufferings to bring about reconciliation and transformation and rescue from certain death. Oh believe! Believe that he is good and is doing good to you, even through the difficult circumstances! Trust Jesus! Put God first, even when the choice seems desperate and the consequences devastating. Seek God first; seek his honor, his righteousness. You will be made happy in ways you never would have dreamed to imagine!