“And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him:” (Genesis 46:6)
We can only imagine the overwhelming excitement that filled Jacob’s soul as the news that Joseph was alive began to sink in. It had been more than twenty years since Jacob had beheld his son’s face; and by this time, any remaining inkling of hope that Joseph had been able to limp away from the supposed encounter with wild beasts had long since faded away. Jacob’s incredulity at the report of Joseph’s survival is recorded in Genesis 45:26, and it is only when he personally looks upon the finest wagons of Egypt, laden with the best of that nation’s precious commodities and parked in front of his own house, that the details of his other sons’ account begin to ring true (v. 27).
With the prospect of seeing into Joseph’s eyes once more before his own life leaves him, Jacob is filled with a motivation which energizes him beyond anything else. Joseph, his beloved Joseph, first son of the only woman he has ever truly loved, is alive! No journey is too great nor any distance too far if Joseph, alive and well, is waiting at its end. Yet one thing causes a delay in the trip; something is brought to Jacob’s mind that is of even greater import than his anticipated reunion with his son. As the caravan of Jacob and his family enters the land of Beer-sheba, he takes the time to offer sacrifices to God. “The God of his father Isaac“, Genesis 46:1 states. Perhaps it was the sight of the well which his father’s servants had dug so long ago, or maybe it was the altar itself which Isaac had erected near the spot (Gen. 26:25) that brought a great sense of God’s presence to Jacob.
Beer-sheba, the place where Jacob’s grandfather Abraham had planted a grove in honor of God Almighty after his covenant with Abimelech (Gen. 21:33); Beer-sheba, the place where God appeared to his father, Isaac, saying: “Fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake” (Gen. 26:24). The gravity of these words must have hit home as Jacob pondered them, for he had in his company the entirety of that seed (except Joseph who was already in Egypt). And now, Jacob was marching this entire family straight into the land of Egypt. Was this the will of God or had Jacob acted impetuously? What about another time when the Lord had appeared to Isaac and told him directly to not go into Egypt during another time of famine (Gen. 26:2)? What about all of the trouble that had come upon his grandfather Abraham as a result of doing exactly what he himself was doing right now (Gen. 12:10-20)? Most importantly, what would be the fate of the seed of Jacob, this precious family of descendants for whom and through whom God had promised so much to Abraham and Isaac?
“And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:” (Genesis 46:3)
God appeared to Jacob in a dream and reassured him of the propriety of this journey into Egypt. God Himself is never-changing, but His timing is a factor wherein we must be obedient. What was not in the will of God for those a generation or two ago might be exactly what God has in store for us (and vice-versa!). Sin is sin in all ages and is never acceptable, but as to the specific direction which God wants us to go and the exact place where He wants us to be differs from age to age and from person to person. The Apostle Paul, for instance, was forbidden by the Spirit of God to travel into certain regions during his missionary journeys which would later be opened up to future missionaries (Acts 16:6-7). It was wrong for Paul to go there, but right for others. It was not God’s will for Abraham and Isaac to journey into Egypt, but it was God’s will for Jacob and his sons.
Genesis 46:6 tells us that all of Jacob’s seed accompanied him into Egypt. Lest we suspect that this expression is merely hyperbole, verses 8 through 25 go on to gives us an exact register of the names of each and every individual who went. We may not have a manifest giving the details of all of the material possessions the family brought with them, but we do have a complete list of travelers. To us, this may amount to little more than a roll of strange-sounding, sometimes difficult to pronounce foreign names. But the fact that the Spirit of God inspired the writer of Genesis to take the time and space to list each and every name is a wonderful reminder of God’s great love for and interest in each one of us. Nobody was left behind to fend for themselves back in Canaan, they all came along on the trip to Egypt. Every last one of them. We are insured of this by the detailed list given. If such attention was given and care taken to make sure that not one of the 67 individuals of the family of Jacob was left behind in Canaan, we know that God will not leave a single one of us belonging to His family behind. For every 100 sheep belonging to the Great Shepherd, 100 will finish the journey with Him (Luke 15:4-7).