Chapter 46

  1. Jacob Leaves for Egypt

    • Israel (Jacob) set out for Egypt with everything he owned. When he came to Beer-sheba, he offered sacrifices to God.

    • That night God spoke to Israel in a vision. He said, “Jacob, Jacob! I am God. The God of your father. Don’t be afraid to go to Egypt, because I will make you a great nation there. I will go with you to Egypt and I will bring you back. You will die in Egypt, but Joseph will be with you.”

      • I like how the HCSB commentary sums up these events, “Jacob was overjoyed at seeing his beloved son Joseph, but still had serious misgivings about going to Egypt, and especially about staying there for any prolonged period. At Beer-sheba the Lord revealed two things to Jacob. First, it was God’s will that Jacob’s family and their descendants live in Egypt (Genesis 46:3) no matter what had happened in previous generations (Genesis 12:10-20; 26:2). Second, it would be Joseph, his long lost son, who would bury Jacob’s body, returning it to the promised land (Genesis 46:4). Beer-sheba was the place Jacob had left when he started for Haran many years earlier (Genesis 28:10).

    • So Jacob and his entire family with all of their cattle, all of his sons and their wives and children, loaded all of their possessions in the wagons that Joseph had sent with them from Egypt and they left Beer-sheba for Egypt.

  1. Jacob’s Family

    • The following are the names of Jacob and his descendants (the Israelites) that went into Egypt:

    • Leah’s sons and their families are listed first and verse 15 gives a subtotal of 33 people. Judah’s sons Er and Onan had died, so they are not included in the total. *Note: this subtotal includes Jacob.

    • Zilphah’s sons and their families are counted next and verse 18 gives a subtotal of 16 people.

    • Rachel’s sons and their families are counted next and verse 22 gives a subtotal of 14 people. * Note: this subtotal includes Joseph and his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh.

    • Bilhah’s sons and their families are counted next and verse 25 gives a subtotal of 7 people.

    • Verse 26 says that the total number of Jacob’s direct descendants, excluding his daughter-in-laws, that came to Egypt was 66. The number 66 does not include Jacob (because he isn’t a descendant of himself) or Joseph and his two sons (Ephraim and Manasseh) because they were already in Egypt (they didn’t have to come there).

    • Verse 27 then adds the subtotals together and gives the total number of Jacob’s household who came to Egypt as 70. (Even though Joseph and his two sons were already in Egypt, they apparently included in this total.)

    • Ok, time out!! You may have never noticed, but the total figure given for Jacob’s descendants who went to Egypt in Genesis 46:27 ( which is repeated in Exodus 1:5, and Deuteronomy 10:22) appears to be in direct contradiction with what Stephen says in Acts 7:12-14. Stephen says, “12 When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our forefathers on their first visit. 13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all.”

      • Notice the difference? The Old Testament says that Joseph’s family that went into Egypt numbered 70, while the New Testament says that there were 75. The majority of us probably would have never even noticed this (or cared if you did notice), but a whole lot of people get pretty bent out of shape over this. Many people who try to cast doubt on the reliability of the Bible use this as an example of an inaccuracy or inconsistency. I firmly believe that as Christians we should be able to offer explanations when someone poses these questions to us, so let’s talk about this a minute.

        – Let me say first, that although many of the supposed “contradictions” in the Bible can be explained and proven to not actually be contradictions at all when the proper context is applied, this one is not so easily solved. There are two primary schools of thought when it comes to making sense of this situation, each have their strengths and weaknesses, but within each are multiple variations (some pretty convoluted if you ask me). If you’re interested in reading a pretty comprehensive explanation of the theories, you can check out my blog post that addresses it: How Many of Jacob’s Descendants Went to Egypt- 70 or 75?

      • If you’re not interested in hearing all the details in the blog post, we’ll skip them and I’ll just go straight to my conclusion:

        • Stephen didn’t contradict the Old Testament at all because he was not referencing the Hebrew translation. Stephen was referencing the Greek translation (called the Septuagint or the LXX) that was used in his time by Jesus and the apostles. The Septuagint lists the number of Jacob’s descendants that went to Egypt as 75. If the fact that Jesus and His apostles didn’t primarily use the Hebrew bothers you, I hope you will read the short article, What Bible Did Jesus Use, which explains perfectly.

      • Now, I’m not saying that solves the problem by any means. Obviously that still leaves the question of which translation is actually correct. Again, if you’re interested in reading about all of that, check out my blog post I linked above. Otherwise, I’ll skip straight to my conclusion on that as well:

        • In this particular instance, there isn’t enough information available to determine which translation is correct. Furthermore, the Bible does not give enough information to come to a definitive conclusion about whether there were 70 or 75 total members of Jacob’s household who went to Egypt. It is important to note that both the Hebrew and the Greek agree that the total number of Jacob’s direct descendants, excluding his daughter-in-laws, excluding Jacob (because he isn’t a descendant of himself), and excluding Joseph and his sons (because they were already in Egypt and didn’t have to come there) was 66. The only discrepancy involves exactly how many (and which) descendants of Joseph are included in the total household tally in the Septuagint.

      • So, does this mean the Word of God contains an error? Well, not exactly. It means the Hebrew doesn’t include Joseph’s grandsons and great-grandsons for some reason, and that the Greek includes a more comprehensive list of Joseph’s descendants (but contains an error in the listing). Currently, we don’t have enough information to decide if the Hebrew is incorrect. The Septuagint, however, (due to the fact that it includes Joseph’s extended family for some reason-possibly because it is included in an older manuscript that we no longer have) contains an inconsistency that the Bible doesn’t give us enough information to solve. I like what Barnes says in his commentary regarding the whole dilemma, “The number of children of Israel is very particularly noted. But the Scripture lays no stress upon the number itself, and makes no particular application of it. It stands forth, therefore, on the record merely as a historical fact.” In other words, nothing else in the Bible is affected whether the number is 70 or 75.

      • So, how would we respond to a Bible skeptic who posed this question? I would explain that there are more than a few theories that indicate that Stephen was not contradicting the Old Testament at all. Admittedly, there is not enough information available to decide which theory is correct, but at the same time, there is not enough information to prove that some of these theories are incorrect either. I would also point out that (just as this example shows), there are minor copyist errors in numerals and small variations in Hebrew characters across Bible translations. However, none of these remove or alter doctrine in any way whatsoever.

3. Jacob Arrives in Egypt

    • When they got close to Egypt, Jacob sent Judah ahead to meet Joseph and get directions to the area in Goshen that they would live. When they arrived, Joseph went to Goshen in a chariot and met his father. When they finally came together, they hugged and cried for a long time. Jacob said, “Now that I have seen you and know that you’re alive, I am ready to die.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Joseph was seventeen when he had last seen his father (37:2); now he was 39.”

    • Joseph told his brothers and their families, “I’m going to tell Pharaoh that all of my family from Canaan have come to me. They are all shepherds. They raise livestock and have brought all of the flocks and herds with them. When Pharaoh asks you what your occupation is you must respond like this, ‘We, your servants, have raised livestock our whole lives.’ He will then let you live in the region of Goshen because the Egyptians despise shepherds.”

      • This may sound odd to us, but Guzik offers some cultural insight, “The Egyptians were agricultural in the sense of farming crops. They considered sheep unclean, and therefore detested shepherds.”

      • “Joseph used his knowledge of the Egyptians’ sense of ethnic superiority in favor of his family. Knowing that Egyptians considered shepherds “abhorrent” (46:34), Joseph emphasized this so that Pharaoh would send his people to Goshen, keeping them separate from the other people’s of Egypt. While they were in Canaan, the temptation to intermarry had threatened both the bloodline and the faith of God’s people. Living in Goshen would make it easier to preserve their distinctiveness.” (HCSB commentary)