Genesis 46
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 46 (J, E, P.) Jacob’s Descent into Egypt, and the Genealogy of his Family

  1–5.    Jacob at Beer-sheba (E).

  6, 7.    Jacob’s entry into Egypt (P).

  8–27.  The genealogy of Jacob (probably according to a list preserved by P).

  28–34.  Jacob’s meeting with Joseph (J, E).

And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.
1–5. Jacob at Beer-sheba

1. Beer-sheba] Cf. Genesis 21:31; Genesis 21:33; Genesis 26:33; Genesis 28:10. Jacob, in Genesis 37:14 (J), is described as dwelling at Hebron.

the God of his father Isaac] For this reference to the God of the father, cf. Genesis 26:24; Genesis 28:13; Genesis 31:53.

It is natural that Jacob would not leave his home without sacrificing to his God. He offers sacrifices at Beer-sheba, with which sanctuary Isaac had been especially connected; cf. Genesis 26:23-25. Either, therefore, according to E, Jacob resided at Beer-sheba, or he had left his home at Hebron (J) and was now on his way south, seeking at Beer-sheba to obtain Divine approval for the descent into Egypt. Isaac had been forbidden to go down into Egypt (Genesis 26:2). Other reasons have been suggested, e.g. thanksgiving for the life of Joseph, and fear of Joseph’s anger against his brethren; cf. Genesis 50:15.

And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I.
2. in the visions of the night] A generic plural for the phenomena of dreams. The versions give the sing. For the word, cf. Numbers 12:6; 1 Samuel 3:15; Daniel 10:7-8. For revelations granted at night, cf. Genesis 20:3, Genesis 28:12 ff.

Jacob, Jacob] The sentence, as it stands, is striking: “God said to Israel, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ ” The juxtaposition of the two names “Israel” and “Jacob” may indicate the fusion of the two narratives—J, which prefers “Israel,” and E, which prefers “Jacob.”

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:
3. I am God] Lit. “I am the Êl,” the name occurring in Genesis 31:13; Genesis 33:20; Genesis 35:1; cf. Genesis 16:13. LXX does not translate it. The Lat. gives fortissimus. It seems especially to be used of the Divine Being, the true God of Revelation, who had manifested Himself to Abraham and to Isaac.

fear not] These and the following words seem to indicate the reason of Jacob’s prayer and sacrifice at Beer-sheba. He needed reassurance at the thought of leaving his home and settling in Egypt in his old age.

there] Jacob’s family was to grow into a great people while they were still in Egypt (cf. Genesis 15:13-16).

I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.
4. I will go down] The promise of the Divine presence is the assurance of safety and blessing. God is no mere local god of Canaan. He will be with His people, where they are; whether in Mesopotamia (Genesis 31:13), in Palestine (Genesis 35:3), or in Egypt.

bring thee up again] i.e. from Egypt back into Canaan. The pronoun “thee” must surely be understood of the people descended from, and personified by, Jacob, and identified with his name. It does not predict his burial in Canaanite land. The words may best be illustrated from Genesis 50:24, and not from Genesis 50:13. They foretell the Exodus of the Israelites, not the burial of Jacob.

put his hand … eyes] The last tender office performed by the nearest relative. The promise is fulfilled; see Genesis 50:1.

And Jacob rose up from Beersheba: and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him.
5. Beer-sheba] Jacob’s home, as of his fathers, according to E (Genesis 21:31, Genesis 22:19).

the sons of Israel … Jacob their father] It is not often that the two names are found in such close collocation in the same clause; see note on Genesis 46:2. In all probability it betokens the work of editing and compiling the parallel narratives, of which J uses “Israel,” and E and P prefer “Jacob.”

6, 7 (P). P’s summarized account of the descent into Egypt. Observe the characteristic words “their goods which they had gotten”; “his seed”; “sons’ sons” and “sons’ daughters”; and the marked redundancy in style, similar to what is found in Genesis 12:5; Genesis 31:18; Genesis 36:6; which are all from the P narrative.

8–27 (P). We have here a list of “the names of the children of Israel which came into Egypt.”

(a) With certain variations and expansions, the list appears also in Numbers 26:5-51 (with the omission of Levi), and in 1 Chronicles 2-8. Moreover in Exodus 6:14-16 we find the same list, so far as relates to Reuben, Simeon, and Levi (Genesis 46:9-11).

(b) It cannot accurately be described either as a list of Jacob’s descendants, for it includes Jacob himself: or as a list of those who went down into Egypt, for it includes the names of Joseph and his sons, and the names of Benjamin’s sons.

(c) There is an element of artificiality in the computation of the list. Thus the names of Er and Onan are only mentioned to be excluded from the total (Genesis 46:12). Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, is included in the list of thirty and three “souls of his sons and his daughters,” her name being the only female name up to that point. And Jacob himself is reckoned in the thirty-three.

(d) It should be noted, in the same connexion, that Leah’s sons are 32, and Zilpah’s 16; Rachel’s are 14, and Bilhah’s 7. Each concubine thus is credited with just half the number of sons that the real wife has. This arrangement is probably designed to assist the memory.

(e) The order which is followed in the list is that of the wives: (1) the sons of Leah (Genesis 46:8-15); (2) the sons of Zilpah (Genesis 46:16-18); (3) the sons of Rachel (Genesis 46:19-22); (4) the sons of Bilhah (Genesis 46:23-25).

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:
His sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt.
And these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons: Reuben, Jacob's firstborn.
And the sons of Reuben; Hanoch, and Phallu, and Hezron, and Carmi.
9. = Exodus 6:14; Numbers 26:5-6.

Hanoch] See Genesis 25:4, the name of a Midianite. Reuben took possession of Midianite land; see Joshua 13:21.

Hezron, and Carmi] The name of Hezron (= “enclosure”) occurs again Genesis 46:12. The town of Hezron is in S. Judah, Joshua 15:3; Joshua 15:25 (?). Hezron as grandson of Judah, 1 Chronicles 2:5. Carmi (cerem = “vineyard”), the name of a clan; note termination in -i. “Beth-haccherem” occurs in Nehemiah 3:14, Jeremiah 6:1 as the name of a district in Judah. Compare LXX in Joshua 15:59, where Carem is one of several names added by LXX. Carmi as (?) grandson of Judah, 1 Chronicles 2:7.

And the sons of Simeon; Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman.
10. The same as Exodus 6:15. In Numbers 26:12 ff., and in i Chron., Ohad is omitted, possibly through similarity to Zohar.

Jamin] In 1 Chronicles 2:27 Jamin is a descendant of Hezron, the son of Judah. “Jamin” = “right hand” (cf. Genesis 35:18), and the name indicates a Simeonite clan in the south of Judah.

Zohar] In Numbers 26:13, 1 Chronicles 4:24, Zerah. See Genesis 23:8, the father of Ephron, and Genesis 36:17.

the son of a Canaanitish woman] A note recording the tradition of a well-known case, in which the tribe of Simeon had assimilated a Canaanite clan. See Genesis 36:37.

And the sons of Levi; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.
11. Gershon] In 1 Chronicles 6:16, Gershom. In Exodus 2:22 Gershom is the son of Moses. In Numbers 3:17; Numbers 3:38, the family of Gershon, and the families of Kohath and Merari, were entrusted with the care of the sanctuary.

And the sons of Judah; Er, and Onan, and Shelah, and Pharez, and Zerah: but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan. And the sons of Pharez were Hezron and Hamul.
12. As Numbers 26:20 f.

Er … Onan] See Genesis 38:3-10. The note, in this verse, on their death is probably a later insertion for the purpose of harmonizing the numerical computation in Genesis 46:15.

Shelah] See Genesis 38:5.

Perez … Zerah] See Genesis 38:29-30.

Hezron] See note on Genesis 46:9.

And the sons of Issachar; Tola, and Phuvah, and Job, and Shimron.
13. As in Numbers 26:20 f.

Tola] The judge of this name in Jdg 10:1 is also “the son of Puah,” and of the tribe of Issachar, a resemblance which can hardly be accidental.

Puvah … Iob] In 1 Chronicles 7:1, Puah, Jashub. See Numbers 26:23-24. Observe that Iob (= Yôb) is a different name from Job (= ’Iyyôb) in Job 1:1 ff.

And the sons of Zebulun; Sered, and Elon, and Jahleel.
14. As in Numbers 26:26.

Elon] The judge of this name in Jdg 12:11 is also of the tribe of Zebulon.

These be the sons of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob in Padanaram, with his daughter Dinah: all the souls of his sons and his daughters were thirty and three.
15. in Paddan-aram] The statement that the foregoing were the names of those born in Paddan-aram (i.e. before Jacob’s return into Canaan) cannot be understood literally. It illustrates the artificial lines upon which the genealogies were drawn up in the P narrative.

his daughter Dinah] The mention of Dinah is very probably due to an interpolation.

thirty and three] The names of the male descendants in Genesis 46:9-14 give a total of thirty-three, in which apparently Er and Onan were, at first, reckoned, but not Dinah. The mention of “his daughters” is therefore superfluous, and possibly a gloss. Later, however, Er and Onan were excluded, and the names of Jacob himself and Dinah added, in order to make up the figure.

And the sons of Gad; Ziphion, and Haggi, Shuni, and Ezbon, Eri, and Arodi, and Areli.
16. sons of Gad] A different enumeration is found in 1 Chronicles 5:11-17.

Ziphion] In Numbers 26:15, Zephon. Zaphon a Gadite city, Joshua 13:27.

And the sons of Asher; Jimnah, and Ishuah, and Isui, and Beriah, and Serah their sister: and the sons of Beriah; Heber, and Malchiel.
17. Ishvi] This name, omitted in Num., is probably due to the erroneous repetition of “Ishvah.”

Serah their sister] Notice the solitary mention of a female descendant in the younger generation.

Heber, and Malchiel] It is tempting to compare Ḥeber = “confederate” (1 Chronicles 4:18), with the Ḥabiri, and Malchiel with Milkili, the name of a prince of Southern Canaan in the Tel-el-Amarna tablets.

These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to Leah his daughter, and these she bare unto Jacob, even sixteen souls.
The sons of Rachel Jacob's wife; Joseph, and Benjamin.
And unto Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him.
20. unto Joseph] Cf. Genesis 41:50-52. LXX adds to this verse “and there were born the sons of Manasseh which the concubine, the Syrian, bare unto him, Machir; and Machir begat Gilead. And the sons of Ephraim the brother of Manasseh were Soutalaam and Taam, and the sons of Soutalaam Edem.” LXX, therefore, here records five additional names.

And the sons of Benjamin were Belah, and Becher, and Ashbel, Gera, and Naaman, Ehi, and Rosh, Muppim, and Huppim, and Ard.
21. the sons of Benjamin] The mention of Benjamin’s sons in a list purporting to be a record of those who came with Jacob into Egypt is of course irreconcilable with the narrative. But it illustrates the separate origin of these lists of names (connected with P) from the general narrative preserved by J and E. The difficulty experienced by the ordinary reader was possibly felt in very early times. The LXX gives Benjamin three sons, Bela, Chobor, and Ashbel; six grandsons, sons of Bela, viz. Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, and Huppim; and one great-grandson, Ard, the son of Gera. If this list was the original form of the genealogy, it may have been modified, in order to get rid of the strange statement, that Benjamin’s grandsons and great-grandsons went down with Jacob into Egypt. Another version is given in Numbers 26:38-40.

Becher] In LXX Χόβωρ. Cf. 2 Samuel 20:1, Sheba, the Bichrite.

Gera] Omitted in Numbers 26. In Jdg 3:15 the “judge” Ehud, the Benjamite, is the son of Gera; and in 2 Samuel 16:5 Shimei, of the family of Saul, the Benjamite, is the son of Gera.

Ehi] In Numbers 26:38, Ahiram, omitting Rosh.

Muppim] In Numbers 26:39, Shephupham; in 1 Chronicles 7:12, Shuppim. Ehi, Rosh, Muppim are probably textual variations of Ahiram and Shephupham.

Ard] = 1 Chronicles 8:3, Addar. In Numbers 26:40 Naaman and Ard are “sons of Bela.”

These are the sons of Rachel, which were born to Jacob: all the souls were fourteen.
And the sons of Dan; Hushim.
23. sons] Only one name is given. No list of Danites appears in 1 Chronicles 2-8.

Hushim] In Numbers 26:42, Shuham. Hushim in 1 Chronicles 8:8 belongs to Benjamin.

And the sons of Naphtali; Jahzeel, and Guni, and Jezer, and Shillem.
These are the sons of Bilhah, which Laban gave unto Rachel his daughter, and she bare these unto Jacob: all the souls were seven.
All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob's sons' wives, all the souls were threescore and six;
26. souls that came with Jacob] The rendering of the margin, souls belonging to Jacob that came, is preferable. “With Jacob” (as LXX and Lat.) follows Genesis 46:7, but does not translate the Heb.

threescore and six] These and the words in the following verse before “threescore and ten” have the appearance of a gloss. In the preceding list the sons and daughters of Leah were thirty-three (Genesis 46:15), the sons of Zilpah sixteen (Genesis 46:18), the sons of Rachel fourteen (Genesis 46:22), and the sons of Bilhah seven (Genesis 46:25); the total of these is seventy. The number, therefore, of sixty-six must be regarded as the result of deducting four persons, presumably Er and Onan, and the “two souls born to Joseph in Egypt” (Genesis 46:20).

Note that “sixty-six” is just double that of Leah’s children, thirty-three. Another computation, excluding Er and Onan, and including Dinah, would make Leah’s children “thirty-two,” just double Zilpah’s.

And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.
27. threescore and ten] LXX gives “threescore and fifteen,” which is followed in Acts 7:14. The additional five persons were the three grandsons and two great-grandsons born to Joseph in Egypt. Cf. Genesis 50:23; Numbers 26:28 ff.

The number “seventy” being a sacred number is secured, though at the cost of some adjustment.

And he sent Judah before him unto Joseph, to direct his face unto Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen.
28. Judah] Jacob selects Judah as the brother who would be most certain to have secured the affection of Joseph.

to shew the way … Goshen] The meaning is obscure. According to the English version, Judah was to act as an outrider, or advanced guard, to shew Jacob the route into Goshen. Another interpretation is “that he, Joseph, might give instructions to him, Judah,” before Jacob’s arrival. The versions represent a slightly different reading: Judah is sent ahead to arrange “that he (Joseph) should appear before (Sam., Syr. Pesh.), or ‘come to meet’ (LXX συναντῆσαι) him” (Jacob).

Goshen] See note on Genesis 45:10. The LXX here expands “Goshen” into “at Heroopolis into the land of Rameses” (καθʼ Ἡρώων πόλιν εἰς γῆν Ῥαμεσσῆ), probably a duplicate rendering; cf. Genesis 47:11.

Heroopolis (modern Tel el-Maskhuta) is the same as “Pithom,” a town at the eastern extremity of the Wady-el-Tumilat, built by the Israelites (Exodus 1:11) for the Pharaoh of the oppression, Rameses II.

28–34. Jacob’s Meeting with Joseph (J, E)

This passage follows upon Genesis 46:1-5.

And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while.
29. wept] The description of the meeting between Joseph and Jacob is in accord with the general representation of Joseph’s warm and emotional nature. Cf. Genesis 45:1; Genesis 45:14. “A good while,” i.e. at first neither of them can speak.

And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive.
And Joseph said unto his brethren, and unto his father's house, I will go up, and shew Pharaoh, and say unto him, My brethren, and my father's house, which were in the land of Canaan, are come unto me;
31. go up] Joseph speaks of the residence of Pharaoh as a place to which he must “go up.” The metaphor is probably taken from the idea of ascent to the residence of royalty; cf. “high station,” “people of eminence.” The words contain no geographical significance in the sense of “up the Nile.”

And the men are shepherds, for their trade hath been to feed cattle; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have.
32. the men are shepherds] These words are followed by what may be a gloss, “for they have been keepers of cattle” (probably drawn from Genesis 46:34). If not a gloss, “shepherds” must include herdsmen, and “cattle” be used here quite generally of flocks and herds. In Genesis 47:3 “thy servants are shepherds”: but in Genesis 47:6 Pharaoh makes them “rulers over my cattle.”

And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation?
That ye shall say, Thy servants' trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians.
34. that ye may dwell] Joseph’s purpose is thus somewhat elaborately explained in these verses (31–34), in order to place on record how the Israelites came to occupy the fertile district on the eastern frontier of Egypt, most suitable for their own development, and most favourable to them at the crisis of the Exodus. The shrewdness and wisdom of Joseph are made to account for their occupation of Goshen.

Goshen] LXX ἐν γῇ Γέσεμ Ἀραβίᾳ, as in Genesis 45:10.

every shepherd is an abomination … Egyptians] This statement seems hardly to be justified by what we know of the ancient Egyptians. Probably the word “shepherd” here, as in Genesis 46:32, is used loosely so as to include “herdsman.” Moreover, the strong dislike of the Egyptians for the Asiatic nomads on their eastern frontier may well have contributed to this feeling. The tending of cattle and swine in Egypt was associated with a low class of people dwelling in the swampy northern regions of the Delta. For the word “abomination,” cf. Genesis 43:32 and Exodus 8:26. The writer’s note, contained in this verse, may have been inaccurate, and yet have faithfully recorded his impression as to the cause which would account for the sons of Jacob being assigned to a fertile region on the east of the Delta.

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