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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Genesis 46

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XLVI.

God appears to Jacob at Beersheba. The descendants of Jacob are enumerated. He sends his son Judah before him into Goshen, and is met by Joseph.

Before Christ 1705.


Verse 1

Genesis 46:1. And Israel came to Beer-sheba, &c.— Though this was in his way from Hebron, as it lay in the most southerly parts of Canaan; yet he probably made choice of it, the rather, as both Abraham and Isaac had consecrated the place, and there received favourable answers from God. See ch. Genesis 21:33. Genesis 26:23, &c. In his devotion he had an eye to God as "the God of his father Isaac," that is, a God in covenant with him; for by Isaac the covenant was entailed upon him. He "offered sacrifices," extraordinary sacrifices, besides those at his stated times. These sacrifices were offered, 1. By way of thanksgiving for the last blessed change of the face of his family, for the good news he had received concerning Joseph, and for the hopes he had of seeing him. 2. By way of petition for the presence of God with him in his intended journey. 3. By way of consultation. Jacob would not go, till he had asked permission of Jehovah.


Verse 2

Genesis 46:2. And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night Probably the next night after he had offered his sacrifices. Those who desire to keep up communion with God, shall find that it never fails on his side. If we speak to him as we ought, he will certainly answer us. God called him by his name, by his old name, "Jacob, Jacob," to remind him of his low estate. Jacob, like one well acquainted with the visions of the Almighty, answers, "Here am I"—ready to receive orders.


Verse 3

Genesis 46:3. I am God, the God of thy father That is, I am what thou ownest me to be: thou shalt find me a God of divine wisdom and power engaged for thee; and thou shalt find me "the God of thy father," true to the covenant made with him.

Fear not to go down into AEgypt Which he might well have done, without this encouragement; not only because his forefathers Abraham and Isaac had in some degree been injured there, but because it had been foretold that their seed should be afflicted by the AEgyptians; an event which he might conceive would probably happen, if Joseph, their protector, should die before their return. He might also fear that, by this means, his posterity would be deprived of the land of Canaan; and, indeed, the encouragement which God gives him seems principally calculated to obviate this apprehension. I will there make of thee a great nation; I will go down with thee, to preserve and protect thee and thy family; and I will surely bring thee up again; that is, in thy posterity; for the Scripture frequently speaks of parents and children as one person.


Verse 4

Genesis 46:4. I will go down with thee into AEgypt Those who go where God sends them, shall certainly have God with them. And I will also surely bring thee up again.—Whatever low and darksome valley we are called into, we may be confident, if God go down with us, he will surely bring us up again to glory.

Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes Shall do the last tender office for thee of closing thine eyes; he shall survive thee; and thou shalt die in peace in his arms. The custom of closing the eyes of persons departed is very ancient; and they were usually the nearest and dearest friends who performed this last office. This descent into AEgypt was in the one hundred and thirty-seventh year of Jacob's life, two hundred and fifteen years after the promise made to Abraham, ch. Genesis 12:2-3. and in the year of the world two thousand two hundred and ninety-eight.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here Jacob removing to AEgypt, with some singular events in the way.

1st. His solemn sacrifice offered at Beer-sheba. It was a place where his fathers had enjoyed sweet communion with God; and he hoped there to enjoy the pretence of the God of his fathers. With thankfulness thus he acknowledges the past, and particularly his late mercies, and begs the continuance of Jehovah's blessing on his removal. Note; (1.) We must not neglect to worship God on a journey; as we need then peculiarly his care, we have a new cause to entreat his protection. (2.) Thanks for past mercies are an earnest of greater in store for us.

2nd. God graciously meets him there. Observe, If our communion with God be interrupted, we must lay it at the door of our sloth and negligence. He calls him by his name, with the most gracious condescension, and speaks to him in terms of heart-reviving confidence. He is his Covenant-God, and will take care of him. 1. He silences his fears. Many fears might be expected to attend such a change: fear for himself, an old man, and little able to bear the journey; fear for his family, lest they should be so well pleased with AEgypt as to forget Canaan; or, remembering Abraham's vision, fearing this land of plenty might become a house of bondage. But one word from God quiets all. Note; If God says, Fear not, we may well be at rest, whatever our difficulties are. 2. He encourages him with promises. His family shall increase; God's presence shall be with him; and he will surely bring him back again; his bones shall lie in Canaan, his seed return to this land of their possession, and Joseph shall close his dying eyes. Note; (1.) It is an unspeakable comfort to a servant of Jesus going down to the grave to have his promises to preserve him there, and bring him up thence on the resurrection-day. (2.) It is pleasing even in death, when filial piety is at hand to pay the last kind office to the beloved departing parent. It is a wish as natural as innocent, Ille meos oculos comprimat, Let him close my dying eyes.


Verse 7

Genesis 46:7. His daughters As he had only one daughter, we must suppose that his daughters-in-law are here meant; see ch. Genesis 37:35. Bishop Warburton, according to his usual manner, observes, that "the promise God had 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 mean time, therefore, they were necessitated to reside among idolaters, and to reside unmixed: but whoever examines their history will see that the Israelites ever had a violent propensity to join themselves to Gentile nations, and to practise their manners. God, therefore, in his infinite wisdom, brought them into AEgypt, 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 AEgyptians 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 AEgypt 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 AEgypt, arises a new occasion to adore the footsteps of Eternal Wisdom, in his dispensations to his chosen people." Divine Legation, vol. 3: p. 415.


Verse 8

Genesis 46:8. Jacob and his sons Jacob himself is to be reckoned in the number of those who went into AEgypt, as in Genesis 46:10 the sons of Simeon include Simeon, with his sons; and so of the other patriarchs.


Verse 10

Genesis 46:10. Jachin, 1 Chronicles 4:24 he is called Jarib. The same is to be observed of several others here named, it being common to give different names to the same person, and to pronounce the same name differently.


Verse 12

Genesis 46:12. The sons of Pharez were Hezron, &c.— As Pharez could not be above ten years old when Jacob went into AEgypt, I approve of St. Augustine's interpretation of the words came into AEgypt, Genesis 46:8 which he supposes to include the whole time that Jacob lived in AEgypt, which was seventeen years; during which time Pharez may well be supposed to have had these two sons.


Verse 15

Genesis 46:15. These be the sons of Leah, &c.— That is, the sons, together with their offspring, as the context plainly shews. When it is said, all the souls were thirty-three, Jacob is plainly reckoned among the number.


Verse 20

Genesis 46:20. Unto Joseph in the land of AEgypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, &c.— Here the LXX adds: "Manasseh had sons, whom his concubine, a Syrian, bore: Machir. And Machir begat Gilead. The sons of Ephraim, Manasseh's brother: Sutalaam and Taam, and the sons of Sutalaam, Edom." None of this is in the Hebrew or Samaritan Pentateuch; and the putting it in here must have been an interpolation; for Moses is here reckoning up the names and the number of the persons who went down at this time to AEgypt, or were in being then in AEgypt. Now Joseph himself was then in AEgypt, and his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim; but their children, or grandchildren, here named in the LXX, could not be then born; for Joseph was at this time thirty-nine years old, as was shewn before; and it was after the age of thirty that he married. In nine years time he had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, as in the Hebrew; but no grandsons by them, much less a great-grandson, as in the LXX. Somebody, in very early times, found these grandchildren of Joseph mentioned in 1 Chronicles 7:14-20. (where they are mentioned as the chief of the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim in their several times, but not as having been in being at the going down into AEgypt,) and inserted that mention of them in the margin of some copies of Genesis in the Septuagint, which afterwards came into the text. This insertion was either the cause or the consequence of another difference at 1 Chronicles 7:27 of the number of the souls of Jacob's family: either somebody, finding the number in the LXX, added these five to make up that number; or else, somebody finding these five, increased the number, which is in Hebrew seventy, to seventy-five. Wall.


Verse 27

Genesis 46:27. All the souls—which came into AEgypt, were threescore and ten In the former verse, all the souls which came with Jacob into AEgypt, and out of his loins, we are told, were threescore and six; add to these Jacob himself, Joseph and his two sons, and you have the number of threescore and ten. Concerning the difference in calculation in this verse and in Acts 7:14 the authors of the Universal History observe, "That it may be accounted for in this manner:—St. Stephen follows the first number of Moses, viz. sixty-six, out of which he excludes Jacob and Joseph and his two sons; to which he adds nine of their wives; for Judah's wife was already dead; and Benjamin is supposed to be still unmarried, and Joseph's wife out of the case: so that if we add these nine wives, who, though not of Jacob's blood, yet belonged to his family and to Joseph's kindred, (which is the expression St. Stephen makes use of,) to the number of sixty-six, it will amount to seventy-five."


Verse 28

Genesis 46:28. Sent Judah—to direct his face unto Goshen Judah, having acted a principal part in this transaction, was dismissed to Joseph, to inform him of his father's arrival, and, as it is in the Hebrew, to prepare before him Goshen, or in Goshen, i.e.. according to Onkelos, to prepare a place for his residence in Goshen, to receive directions from Joseph in what part of Goshen he should dwell. The LXX has it, Unto Joseph, to meet him at Heroopolis [' Ηρωων πολις ] in the land of Rameses. And Joseph made ready his chariots, and went up to meet Israel his father at ' Ηρωων πολις (Heroopolis). "The land of Rameses," says Wall, "seems to be another name for the land of Goshen; (ch. Genesis 47:6; Genesis 47:11) and the city to be some city in that land, of which the translators, at Alexandria, knew the name. Josephus, reciting this passage, says, that Joseph met his father καθ' 'Ηρωων πολιν at Heroopolis, as it is in the LXX. And this, by the way, shews that he drew his abridgment of the Sacred History, in many places, from the LXX, and not from the Hebrew; for the name in Hebrew would not have been a Greek name, as this plainly is. It is much more likely that they should appoint the place of meeting at some city, or particular place, than in a country at large."


Verse 34

Genesis 46:34. Every shepherd is an abomination, &c.— Various reasons have been assigned by the learned why shepherds were held in abomination by the AEgyptians. There are so many proofs that shepherds, in general, were not abominable to the AEgyptians, that the expression, it is thought by some, should be taken in a limited sense, and the words of Moses confined only to foreign shepherds. See ch. Genesis 47:6; Genesis 47:17. "The AEgyptians," Herodotus tells us, "were divided into seven classes, one of which consisted of shepherds." But it is as difficult to account for the reason why foreign shepherds were thus abominable. It has been frequently supposed by commentators, that this abomination arose from the irruption of some Phoenician shepherds into AEgypt, who committed horrid devastations in the country, set up a kingdom called the pastoral kingdom, and kept the AEgyptians long in a state of abject slavery. But it appears very doubtful whether this pastoral kingdom was erected till after the time of Joseph. Many of our ablest chronologers are of opinion that this irruption of the shepherds happened not till long after Moses had brought Israel out of AEgypt. Many, with greater reason, have supposed that this abomination of shepherds, or keepers of herds and flocks, arose from their feeding upon their flocks and cattle, and offering them in sacrifice, which was contrary to the religion of AEgypt. Hence these animal sacrifices are called the abomination of the AEgyptians, Exodus 8:26. This appears the most probable solution; though, after all, possibly the word abomination need not be taken in its strictest sense, as if they held them impious or profane; for it sometimes signifies no more than to loath, heartily to contemn; Job 19:19.; see ch. Genesis 43:32.; and therefore the whole meaning may be, that the AEgyptian people, and particularly those who lived about the court, disdained to converse with shepherds, as they held their employment to be mean and despicable. The expression being so general seems to confirm this opinion, every shepherd, as well of their own nation as foreigners: for though the AEgyptians might abominate foreign shepherds, either from a remembrance of former servitude, or from superstition because they fed of their flocks, or offered them in sacrifice, it is not very probable that they could have the same reason for abominating their own shepherds, nor that Pharaoh would suffer any of his subjects, far less the keepers of his flocks, to offer in sacrifice, or eat, the flesh of those animals, which were the objects of religious worship. Herodotus tells us, that swine herds (one species of those who kept cattle) were so abominable in the eyes of their countrymen in AEgypt, that they were not allowed to enter their temples: none would either give them their daughters or take theirs in marriage; but they were obliged to marry among themselves. Houbigant renders this passage, Nam aversantur AEgyptii omnes gregum pastores, "for the AEgyptians disdain or have an aversion to all keepers of flocks." Besides these opinions, some have advanced, that this aversion to shepherds arose from their being generally addicted in those parts to robbery; they were a kind of outlaws, who lived upon the borders of their country, and there were guilty of constant incursions and thefts, which way of life made them abominable. Whatever opinion we embrace, it has the appearance of great generosity in Joseph, as Bishop Patrick remarks, not to conceal from Pharaoh the quality of his family, though such kind of men were under a very ill character. He hoped they would distinguish themselves from such vile shepherds as had made the name odious; and if they did not gain the love of the AEgyptians, they would be the more secure of the love of God, by not learning their evil manners and superstitions, from which they would be preserved by having no conversation with them.

REFLECTIONS.—We have in this chapter, 1. The happy meeting of Jacob and Joseph. Judah having informed him of his father's arrival, Joseph's chariot is made ready, and he goes to meet him. Joseph's filial reverence and love equal Jacob's exultation: they embrace and weep for joy, while now the aged patriarch thinks he has lived long enough, since he has seen this happy day, and is content to die. Note; (1.) However the son may be advanced, it is his duty to reverence his parents, and not to grow above his own house. (2.) No joys here are without allay: when we embrace in heaven, the joy being perfect, every tear will be wiped from our eyes. (3.) He is a happy man who can say with comfort, When God pleases, let me die.

2. His instructions how to behave before Pharaoh. He wished them to settle near Canaan, because they must return there again. He desires not to introduce them at court, lest they be infected with the idols of AEgypt, or exposed to the envy of the natives; besides, he would keep them united in a family, and employed in their own profession. Goshen, in all respects, suited this design. Note; (1.) High places are slippery; we should rather keep at a distance from advancement than court it. (2.) An honest calling is no disparagement to ourselves or our relations.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 46:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/genesis-46.html. 1801-1803.

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Saturday, July 4th, 2020
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13
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