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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 46

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

Verse 1


Jacob begins his journey to Egypt, comes to Beer-sheba, and

offers sacrifices to God, 1.

God appears to him in a vision, gives him gracious promises,

and assures him of his protection, 2-4.

He proceeds, with his family and their cattle, on his journey

towards Egypt, 5-7.

A genealogical enumeration of the seventy persons who

went down to Egypt, 8, c.

The posterity of Jacob by LEAH. Reuben and his sons, 9.

Simeon and his sons, 10.

Levi and his sons, 11.

Judah and his sons, 12.

Issachar and his sons, 13.

And Zebulun and his sons, 14.

All the posterity of Jacob by LEAH, thirty and three, 15.

The posterity of Jacob by ZILPAH. Gad and his sons, 16.

Asher and his sons, 17.

All the posterity of Jacob by ZILPAH, sixteen, 18.

The posterity of Jacob by RACHEL. Joseph and his sons,

19, 20.

Benjamin and his sons, 21.

All the posterity of Jacob by RACHEL, fourteen, 22.

The posterity of Jacob by BILHAH. Dan and his sons, 23.

Naphtali and his sons, 24.

All the posterity of Jacob by BILHAH, seven, 25.

All the immediate descendants of Jacob by his four wives,

threescore and six, 26

and all the descendants of the house of Jacob, seventy souls, 27.

Judah is sent before to inform Joseph of his father's coming, 28.

Joseph goes to Goshen to meet Jacob, 29.

Their affecting interview, 30.

Joseph proposes to return to Pharaoh, and inform him of the

arrival of his family, 31,

and of their occupation, as keepers of cattle, 32.

Instructs them what to say when called before Pharaoh, and

questioned by him, that they might be permitted to dwell

unmolested in the land of Goshen, 33, 34.


Verse Genesis 46:1. And came to Beer-sheba — This place appears to be mentioned, not only because it was the way from Hebron, where Jacob resided, to Egypt, whither he was going, but because it was a consecrated place, a place where God had appeared to Abraham, Genesis 21:33, and to Isaac, Genesis 26:23, and where Jacob is encouraged to expect a manifestation of the same goodness: he chooses therefore to begin his journey with a visit to God's house; and as he was going into a strange land, he feels it right to renew his covenant with God by sacrifice. There is an old proverb which applies strongly to this case: "Prayers and provender never hinder any man's journey. He who would travel safely must take God with him.

Verse 3

Verse Genesis 46:3. Fear not to go down into Egypt — It appears that there had been some doubts in the patriarch's mind relative to the propriety of this journey; he found, from the confession of his own sons, how little they were to be trusted. But every doubt is dispelled by this Divine manifestation.

1. He may go down confidently, no evil shall befall him.

2. Even in Egypt the covenant shall be fulfilled, God will make of him there a great nation.

3. God himself will accompany him on his journey, be with him in the strange land, and even bring back his bones to rest with those of his fathers.

4. He shall see Joseph, and this same beloved son shall be with him in his last hours, and do the last kind office for him.

Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes. It is not likely that Jacob would have at all attempted to go down to Egypt, had he not received these assurances from God; and it is very likely that he offered his sacrifice merely to obtain this information. It was now a time of famine in Egypt, and God had forbidden his father Isaac to go down to Egypt when there was a famine there, Genesis 26:1-3; besides, he may have had some general intimation of the prophecy delivered to his grandfather Abraham, that his seed should be afflicted in Egypt, Genesis 15:13-14; and he also knew that Canaan, not Egypt, was to be the inheritance of his family, Genesis 12:1; Genesis 12:6-7, &c. On all these accounts it was necessary to have the most explicit directions from God, before he should take such a journey.

Verse 7

Verse Genesis 46:7. All his seed brought he with him into Egypt. — When Jacob went down into Egypt he was in the one hundred and thirtieth year of his age, two hundred and fifteen years after the promise was made to Abraham, Genesis 12:1-4, in the year of the world 2298, and before Christ 1706.

Verse 8

Verse Genesis 46:8. These are the names of the children of Israel — It may be necessary to observe here,

First, that several of these names are expressed differently elsewhere, Jemuel for Nemuel, Jachin for Jarib, Gershon for Gershom, c. compare Numbers 26:12; 1 Chronicles 4:24. But it is no uncommon case for the same person to have different names, or the same name to be differently pronounced; Genesis 25:18; Genesis 25:18.

Secondly, that it is probable that some names in this list are brought in by prolepsis or anticipation, as the persons were born (probably) during the seventeen years which Jacob sojourned in Egypt, see Genesis 46:12.

Thirdly, that the families of some are entered more at large than others because of their peculiar respectability, as in the case of Judah, Joseph, and Benjamin; but see the tables under verse Genesis 46:20. Genesis 46:20; Genesis 46:20.

Verse 12

Verse Genesis 46:12. The sons of Pharez were Hezron and Hamul. — It is not likely that Pharez was more than ten years of age when he came into Egypt, and if so he could not have had children; therefore it is necessary to consider Hezron and Hamul as being born during the seventeen years that Jacob sojourned in Egypt, Genesis 46:8; Genesis 46:8: and it appears necessary, for several reasons, to take these seventeen years into the account, as it is very probable that what is called the going down into Egypt includes the seventeen years which Jacob spent there.

Verse 20

Verse Genesis 46:20. Unto Joseph - were born Manasseh and Ephraim — There is a remarkable addition here in the Septuagint, which must be noticed: Εγενοντο δε υἱοι Μανασση, οὑς ετεκεν αυτῳ ἡ παλλακη ἡ Συρα, τον Μαχιρ· Μαχιρ δε εγεννησε τον Γαλααδ. Υἱοι δε Εφραιμ αδελφου Μανασσῃ, Σουταλααμ και Τααμ. Υἱοι δε Σουταλααμ, Εδεμ· These were the sons of Manasseh whom his Syrian concubine bore unto him: Machir; and Machir begat Galaad. The sons of Ephraim, Manasseh's brother, were Sutalaam and Taam; and the sons of Sutalaam, Edem. These add five persons to the list, and make out the number given by Stephen, Acts 7:14, which it seems he had taken from the text of the Septuagint, unless we could suppose that the text of Stephen had been altered to make it correspond to the Septuagint, of which there is not the slightest evidence from ancient MSS. or versions. The addition in the Septuagint is not found in either the Hebrew or the Samaritan at present; and some suppose that it was taken either from Numbers 26:29, Numbers 26:35, or 1 Chronicles 7:14-20, but in none of these places does the addition appear as it stands in the Septuagint, thought some of the names are found interspersed. Various means have been proposed to find the seventy persons in the text, and to reconcile the Hebrew with the Septuagint and the New Testament.

A table given by Scheuchzer, extracted from the Memoires de Trevoux, gives the following general view:

The twelve sons of JACOB with their children and grandchildren.
Reuben and his four sons . . . 5
Simeon and his six sons . . . 7
Levi and his three sons . . . 4
Judah and his seven sons and grand-sons . . . 8
Issachar and his four sons . . . 5
Zebulun and his three sons . . . 4
Total sons of JACOB and LEAH 33
Gad and his seven sons . . . 8
Asher and his seven sons and grand-sons . . . 8
Total sons of JACOB and ZILPAH 16
Joseph and his two sons . . . 3
Benjamin and his ten sons . . . 11
Total sons of JACOB and RACHEL 14
Dan and his son . . . 2
Naphtali and his four sons . . . 5
Total sons of JACOB and BILHAH 7

Total sons of Jacob and his four wives 70

"To harmonize this with the Septuagint and St. Stephen, Acts 7:14, to the number sixty-six (all the souls that came out of Jacob's loins, Genesis 46:26) add nine of the patriarchs' wives, Judah's wife being already dead in Canaan, (Genesis 38:12), Benjamin being supposed to be as yet unmarried, and the wife of Joseph being already in Egypt, and therefore out of the case: the number will amount to seventy-five, which is that found in the Acts." - Universal History.

Dr. Hales' method is more simple, and I think more satisfactory: "Moses states that all the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt which issued from his loins, (except his sons wives,) were sixty-six souls, Genesis 46:26; and this number is thus collected: -

JACOB'S children, eleven sons and one daughter . . . 12
Reuben's sons . . . 4
Simeon's sons . . . 6
Levi's sons . . . 3
Judah's three sons and two grandsons . . . 5
Issachar's sons . . . 4
Zebulun's sons . . . 3
Gad's sons . . . 7
Asher's four sons, one daughter, and two grandsons 7
Dan's son . . . 1
Naphtali's sons . . . 4
Benjamin's sons . . . 10



"If to these sixty-six children, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren, we add Jacob himself, Joseph and his two sons, the amount is seventy, the whole amount of Jacob's family which settled in Egypt.

"In this statement the wives of Jacob's sons, who formed part of the household, are omitted; but they amounted to nine, for of the twelve wives of the twelve sons of Jacob, Judah's wife was dead, Genesis 38:12, and Simeon's also, as we may collect from his youngest son Shaul by a Canannitess, Genesis 46:10, and Joseph's wife was already in Egypt. These nine wives, therefore, added to the sixty-six, give seventy-five souls the whole amount of Jacob's household that went down with him to Egypt; critically corresponding with the statement in the New Testament, that 'Joseph sent for his father Jacob and all his kindred, amounting to seventy-five souls.' The expression all his kindred, including the wives which were Joseph's kindred, not only by affinity, but also by consanguinity, being probably of the families of Esau, Ishmael, or Keturah. Thus does the New Testament furnish an admirable comment on the Old." - Analysis, vol. ii., p. 159.

It is necessary to observe that this statement, which appears on the whole the most consistent, supposes that Judah was married when about fourteen years of age, his son Er at the same age, Pharez at the same, Asher and his fourth son Beriah under twenty, Benjamin about fifteen, and Joseph's sons and grandsons about twenty. But this is not improbable, as the children of Israel must all have married at a very early age, to have produced in about two hundred and fifteen years no less than six hundred thousand persons above twenty years old, besides women and children.

Verse 28

Verse Genesis 46:28. He sent Judah before him unto Joseph — Judah was certainly a man of sense, and also an eloquent man; and of him Joseph must have had a very favourable opinion from the speech he delivered before him, Genesis 44:18, c. he was therefore chosen as the most proper person to go before and announce Jacob's arrival to his son Joseph.

To direct his face unto Goshen — The land of Goshen is the same, according to the Septuagint, as the land of Rameses, and Goshen itself the same as Heroopolis, 'Ἡρωων πολις Heroonpolis, the city of heroes, a name by which it went in the days of the Septuagint, and which it still retained in the time of Josephus, for he makes use of the same term in speaking of this place. Genesis 46:34.

Verse 29

Verse Genesis 46:29. And Joseph made ready his chariot — מרכבתו mercabto. In Genesis 41:43, we have the first mention of a chariot, and if the translation be correct, it is a proof that the arts were not in a rude state in Egypt even at this early time. When we find wagons used to transport goods from place to place, we need not wonder that these suggested the idea of forming chariots for carrying persons, and especially those of high rank and authority. Necessity produces arts, and arts and science produce not only an increase of the conveniences but also of the refinements and luxuries of life. It has been supposed that a chariot is not intended here; for as the word מרכבה mercabah, which we and most of the ancient versions translate chariot, comes from רכב rachab, he rode, saddling his horse may be all that is intended. But it is more likely to signify a chariot, as the verb אסר asar, which signifies to bind, tie, or yoke, is used; and not חבש chabash, which signifies to saddle.

Fell on his neck — See Genesis 45:14.

Verse 30

Verse Genesis 46:30. Now let me die, since I have seen thy face — Perhaps old Simeon had this place in view when, seeing the salvation of Israel, he said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, &c., Luke 2:29.

Verse 34

Verse Genesis 46:34. Thy servants trade hath been about cattle — "The land of Goshen, called also the land of Rameses, lay east of the Nile, by which it was never overflowed, and was bounded by the mountains of the Thebaid on the south, by the Nile and Mediterranean on the west and north, and by the Red Sea and desert of Arabia on the east. It was the Heliopolitan nome or district, and its capital was called ON. Its proper name was Geshen, the country of grass or pasturage, or of the shepherds, in opposition to the rest of the land which was sown after having been overflowed by the Nile." - Bruce. As this land was both fruitful and pleasant, Joseph wished to fix his family in that part of Egypt; hence he advises them to tell Pharaoh that their trade had been in cattle from their youth: and because every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians, hence he concluded that there would be less difficulty to get them quiet settlement in Goshen, as they would then be separated from the Egyptians, and consequently have the free use of all their religious customs. This scheme succeeded, and the consequence was the preservation both of their religion and their lives, though some of their posterity did afterwards corrupt themselves; see Ezekiel 20:8; Amos 5:26. As it is well known that the Egyptians had cattle and flocks themselves, and that Pharaoh even requested that some of Joseph's brethren should be made rulers over his cattle, how could it be said, as in Genesis 46:34, Every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians? Three reasons may be assigned for this:

1. Shepherds and feeders of cattle were usually a sort of lawless, free-booting banditti, frequently making inroads on villages, c., carrying off cattle, and whatever spoils they could find. This might probably have been the case formerly, for it is well known it has often been the case since. On this account such persons must have been universally detested.

2. They must have abhorred shepherds if Manetho's account of the hycsos or king-shepherds can be credited. Hordes of marauders under this name, from Arabia, Syria, and Ethiopia, (whose chief occupation, like the Bedouin Arabs of the present day, was to keep flocks,) made a powerful irruption into Egypt, which they subdued and ruled with great tyranny for 259 years. Now, though they had been expelled from that land some considerable time before this, yet their name, and all persons of a similar occupation, were execrated by the Egyptians, on account of the depredations and long-continued ravages they had committed in the country.

3. The last and probably the best reason why the Egyptians abhorred such shepherds as the Israelites were, was, they sacrificed those very animals, the ox particularly, and the SHEEP, which the Egyptians held sacred. Hence the Roman historian Tacitus, speaking of the Jews, says: "Caeso ARIETE velut in contumelia AMMONIS Bos quoque immolatur, quem AEgyptii APIM colunt." "They sacrifice the ram in order to insult Jupiter Ammon, and they sacrifice the ox, which the Egyptians worship under the name of Apis." Though some contend that this idolatry was not as yet established in Egypt, and that the king-shepherds were either after the time of Joseph, or that Manetho by them intends the Israelites themselves; yet, as the arguments by which these conjectures are supported are not sufficient to overthrow those which are brought for the support of the contrary opinions, and as there was evidently an established religion and priesthood in Egypt before Joseph's time, (for we find the priests had a certain portion of the land of Egypt which was held so sacred that Joseph did not attempt to buy it in the time of the famine, when he bought all the land which belonged to the people, Genesis 47:20-22,) and as that established priesthood was in all likelihood idolatrous, and as the worship of Apis under the form of an ox was one of the most ancient forms of worship in Egypt, we may rest tolerably certain that it was chiefly on this account that the shepherds, or those who fed on and sacrificed these objects of their worship, were an abomination to the Egyptians. Calmet has entered into this subject at large, and to his notes I must refer those readers who wish for farther information. Genesis 43:32.

ON the principal subject of this chapter, the going down of Jacob and his family into Egypt, Bishop Warburton, in his Divine Legation of Moses, makes the following judicious refections: "The promise God made to Abraham, to give his posterity the land of Canaan, could not be performed till that family was grown strong enough to take and keep possession of it. In the meantime, therefore, they were necessitated to reside among idolaters, and to reside unmixed; but whoever examines their history will see that the Israelites had ever a violent propensity to join themselves to Gentile nations, and practise their manners. God therefore, in his infinite wisdom, brought them into Egypt, and kept them there during this period, the only place where they could remain for so long a time safe and unconfounded with the natives, the ancient Egyptians being by numerous institutions forbidden all fellowship with strangers, and bearing besides a particular aversion to the profession of the Israelites, who were shepherds. Thus the natural dispositions of the Israelites, which in Egypt occasioned their superstitions, and in consequence the necessity of a burdensome ritual, would in any other country have absorbed them into Gentilism, and confounded them with idolaters. From the Israelites going into Egypt arises a new occasion to adore the footsteps of Eternal Wisdom in his dispensations to his chosen people."

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Genesis 46". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/genesis-46.html. 1832.
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