While these chapters come on the heels of faithfulness and joy in the covenant family, there is yet a formidable obstacle to be overcome. Within the narrative of Genesis it is hard to overstate the significance of the land of Canaan for the patriarch family. Consider that Abraham was staunchly opposed to Isaac leaving the land of Canaan when the heir needed a wife (24.6-7; 2); as a grown man Isaac received the promise that his descendants would inherit the land (26.1-3); and Jacob had received three previous manifestations of God—in each God promised him the land of Canaan (28.10-22; 31.1-3; 35.1).
God’s word to Jacob at the beginning of Genesis 46 thus met the patriarch in a crisis; even though the famine was severe—and his son had a position of prominence in prosperous Egypt—Jacob was concerned about leaving the land of promise. The grammar of the text is reflexive, emphasizing that God would take Jacob down to Egypt, cause him to prosper, and bring him back—for His own interests (vv. 3-4). By His word of promise God emphatically bolstered Jacob’s faith; God, as it were, had a personal interest in the events of the Patriarchal family.
The bulk of Genesis 46-47 details the degree to which God’s word reassured Jacob in a time of crisis. Jacob and his family stepped out in faith, away from Canaan; Gen 46.8-27 is the record of the faithful ones who trusted that God would bless them outside of the covenant land. This is the first genealogy of what will be completed in Numbers 26—the census of those who came out of Egypt and were headed into Canaan, in conquest. Thus, the Old Testament records the names of those who left Canaan and settled in Egypt, and those who left Egypt to take Canaan.
Genesis 47 is an arrangement of three scenes in a ‘sandwich’ format: one issue is introduced followed by a seemingly unrelated issue, and then the author returns to the first issue—the understanding of which is advanced by the middle section. In this case, the blessed situation of the patriarchal family is introduced and then advanced in light of the severity of the famine affecting all other peoples. God was faithful to His word and the patriarchal family prospered in Goshen, they “acquired property in it and became fruitful and very numerous” (v. 27), while even the natives placed themselves in servitude to Pharaoh.
These chapters show that God was able to bless His people even outside of the land of Canaan. While it is difficult to know the degree to which this was understood by the Jews of Jesus’ day, the storyline of Scripture reveals that their allotment within the Roman Empire gave them no small sense of security. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead—and Jesus’ popularity began to rise—John records that “the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, ‘What are we going to do since this man does many signs? If we let Him continue in this way, everybody will believe in Him! Then the Romans will come and remove both out place and our nation’” (11.47-48). The paradigm of Judaism cannot be separated from the inheritance of Canaan; how different from Jesus’ post-resurrection words to His disciples:
“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28.18-20).
*For a complete list of references, please see scripturestoryline.com