"So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, 'Jacob, Jacob.' And he said, 'Here I am.' He said, 'I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes.'" (
Jacob Prepares to Leave His Home
This certainly wasn't the first time Jacob had heard from God. He had heard God speak to him when he left Beersheba, headed toward Haran, when he slept at Luz (later, Bethel). He also heard God speak on other occasions, but never did God call him by name twice as He did here.
We might wonder about this entire situation. Looking at this passage is kind of like reading the third or fourth book in a series rather than the first. You can't get the context or the whole story! So we need to review a bit.
The immediate context involves Jacob's sons going to Egypt, twice, to buy food. Remember there was a severe famine in those days, and if the sons of Jacob hadn't gone there, we don't know how they would've acquired food—or what else might have transpired by not going to Egypt. Jacob probably remembered the story of Abraham and the headaches he endured for many years when he had gone down to Egypt. Abraham was still alive for some of Jacob's lifetime: He was 100 when Isaac was born and 160 when Isaac and Rebekah had Esau and Jacob. So for 15 years, Jacob could have learned much from Abraham. I can only guess what some of the conversations might have been: listening to how Abraham had lived in Ur of the Chaldees ("Where was that, Grandpa?"), the raid to rescue Lot ("Tell me about how you saved them, Grandpa!"), and other events, too.
Skimming Jacob's life, we can remember the years he spent with his Uncle Laban; the births of his children; the various journeys that got him where he was at this time. Jacob probably remembered the altars he had built in his own lifetime, the pillar at Bethel or Luz, at Shechem, the second or actual altar at Bethel, and now this one in Beersheba.
He remembered Joseph, whom he thought had been killed by a wild beast and certainly had no idea he had gone from being a slave in Egypt to one of the most powerful men in the world, the prime minister of Egypt. As mentioned, the brothers had gone to Egypt to buy grain and only recently learned Joseph, whom they had sold into slavery, had saved their lives!
Now, Joseph tells them the famine isn't over and won't be for another several years. He's told them, "Get Dad and the rest of the family, get packed up and get ready to settle in the land of Goshen. Then you'll be able to provide for your families until the famine is over. It's already in place. Just get Dad and the rest of our family, get back, and don't waste any time doing it!"
Imagine Jacob's reaction when he got that message! Joseph seemingly thought of everything: He sent wagons for the family's property, plus 20 donkey-loads of food—some of the best Egypt had to offer. Moses wrote, "They told him, saying, 'Joseph is still alive, and indeed he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.' But he was stunned, for he did not believe them" (
Let's read the next several verses:
"Then Jacob arose from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob and their little ones and their wives in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. They took their livestock and their property, which they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and came to Egypt, Jacob and all his descendants with him, his sons and his grandsons with him, his daughters and his granddaughters, and all his descendants he brought with him to Egypt."
We could find a parallel here between this last earthly journey of Jacob's life with the first recorded journey of Abraham's: Both were going to a land they knew little about (Canaan and Egypt); both had started with little but were blessed with much (
At any rate, Jacob went south, perhaps walking in the same steps Abraham took many years before. Just imagine, the wagons were loaded with their belongings, all the property they had acquired, all the people. In a few generations, the descendants of these very people would be coming back to reclaim their Promised Land. We don't know how long it took, but
Eventually they reached the border of Egypt. and they found a familiar face waiting for them! We can read this in these next verses:
"Now he sent Judah before him to Joseph, to point out the way before him to Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen. Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father, Israel; as soon as he appeared before him, he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a long time. Then Israel said to Joseph, 'Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive. Joseph said to his brothers and to his father's household, 'I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, "My brothers and my father's household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me; and the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock; and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have." 'When Pharaoh calls you and says, "What is your occupation?" you shall say, "Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers," that you may live in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians'" (
This speaks well of Joseph, who never lost his faith though he was a stranger in a strange land and married to a pagan, the daughter of an Egyptian priest (we never read whether Asenath ever became a believer in the God of Joseph). Joseph had become one of the most powerful men in the world, the prime minister of Egypt, but he never forgot his father and brothers. I can imagine Joseph driving that chariot as fast as he could because he was going to greet his father! Remember, Joseph hadn't seen Jacob in 20 years or longer, and his appearance probably had changed considerably through the years. Regardless, even if Joseph was dressed in full Egyptian clothing and regalia and all the associated items for his position, he probably thought, "That's my dad" coming, and nothing was going to stop him from meeting his family!
What a reunion that had to be! All the bad feelings were gone. They rejoiced in the goodness of God in keeping them all safe up to this point. This and the rest of the text give us a couple of additional pictures:
First, there couldn't have been a greater contrast between the south—the Negev as some call it, the southern part of Palestine or Israel—and the land of Goshen, located in the Nile delta. Plenty of food and water was there in Goshen, ready for Joseph's family for as long as they needed. As beautiful or pleasing to the eyes as Goshen must have been, it wouldn't and couldn't hold a candle to what is waiting for us in heaven. We can see a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, going before us to prepare a much better place than anything this world can offer. True, this earth has many places that are breathtaking, but none come close to the glories of heaven. For us as believers, that's our end, our destination; and all the saints before us—and best of all, our Lord Jesus—will be there waiting for us! Oh, Lord, hasten the day.
Finally, this was only for Joseph's family and by extension, Jacob's family. There were plenty of needy families all over the world then as now, but they didn't get this special privilege. Even so, this promise, this blessing, and all that is waiting in heaven is only for God's children. Many think they're going to get there by doing something, not doing something, saying something or not…The list goes on, but there is only one way to reach heaven: That is by faith, personal faith, in Jesus Christ.
I hope you have received the gift of salvation, becoming part of God's family. If not, let me encourage you to make that decision today.