Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.XLVI.
EMIGRATION OF ISRAEL AND HIS SONS INTO EGYPT.
(1) Israel . . . came to Beer-sheba.—Though Jacob, in the first tumult of his joy, had determined upon hastening to Egypt, yet many second thoughts must have made him hesitate. He would call up to mind the boding prophecy in Genesis 15:13, that the descendants of Abraham were to be reduced to slavery, and suffer affliction in a foreign land for four hundred years. It might even be a sin, involving the loss of the Abrahamic covenant, to quit the land of Canaan, which Abraham had expressly forbidden Isaac to abandon (Genesis 24:8). Isaac, too, when going into Egypt, had been commanded to remain in Palestine (Genesis 26:2). Jacob therefore determines solemnly to consult God before finally taking so important a step, and no place could be more suitable than Beersheba, as both Abraham and Isaac had built altars there for Jehovah’s worship (Genesis 21:33; Genesis 26:25), and, moreover, it lay upon the route from Hebron to Egypt.
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, the God of thy father.—Heb., I am the El, the Elohim of thy father. This is the last revelation given to Jacob, nor is any other supernatural event recorded until the vision of the burning bush (Exodus 3:4). It is brief, clear, and decisive, and every clause is weighty. Jacob is to migrate into Egypt, his race is to grow there into a nation, so that the stay there would be long; God’s presence and blessing will accompany and remain with them, and finally will bring them back to the promised land. For himself, too, there is the promise that Joseph will tend his sick bed and be with him at his death.
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) Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.—Both among the Jews and Greeks it was the duty of those nearest in blood to close the eyes of a deceased relative. The promise conveyed the assurance that Jacob would die peacefully, surrounded by his friends. For the fulfilment see Genesis 1:1.
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:(6) Their goods.—These are not the vessels spoken of contemptuously by Pharaoh (Genesis 45:20), but their personal property, of which they would naturally have much which they would not be willing to leave behind. Abraham had brought large wealth with him from Haran (Genesis 12:5), some of which may have even come from Ur-Chasdim, and much had been gathered since. The patriarchs would leave their household stuff behind, but all valuables, and the records of their house, and their tôldôth, they would carefully carry with them.
They . . . came into Egypt.—For a full account of the scene depicted on the tomb of Khnum-hotep at Beni-hassan, and which at one time was identified with the arrival of the sons of Jacob, see Tomkins, Times of Abraham, 110-114.
His sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt.(7) His daughters.—See Note on Genesis 37:35.
(8) These are the names of the children of Israel which came into Egypt.—This document, consisting of Genesis 46:8-27, is one that would be of the highest importance to the Israelites, when taking possession of Canaan, being as it were their title-deed to the land. Accordingly we find that it is drawn up in a legal manner, representing as sons some who were really grandsons, but who took as heads of families the place usually held by sons. We next find that it represents them as all born in Canaan, not in a natural sense, but as the rightful heirs of the country. Technically every head of a family was born in Canaan, and thus the danger was obviated of an objection to the possession of this rank being accorded to one born in Egypt. As a matter of fact Pharez (Genesis 46:12) was an infant when taken down into Egypt. (See Genesis 38:29, and Excursus on Chronology of Jacob’s life.) It is difficult enough to find time sufficient for his birth in the interval between the return from Padan-Aram, and the descent into Egypt; for the birth of his two sons, Hezron and Hamul, there is no space whatsoever. In Genesis 46:21 Benjamin has ten sons assigned him, but he was at most about thirty years of age when he went into Egypt, and some of these sons are expressly said elsewhere to have been his grandsons. Commentators have indeed endeavoured to show that Benjamin might have been a few years older, but they do this by upsetting their own conclusions previously arrived at; and there is no process which so legitimately produces scepticism as the re-statement by commentators of the facts so marshalled on each occasion as to suit the apparent exigencies of the passage before them, but in a manner irreconcilable with previous difficulties.
The genealogical table of the twelve patriarchs is thrice given in Holy Scripture: here, in Numbers 26, and in 1 Chronicles 1-8. See also Exodus 6:14-16, where only Reuben, Simeon, and Levi are given.
And the sons of Reuben; Hanoch, and Phallu, and Hezron, and Carmi.(9) Reuben has four sons: Hanoch, Phallu, Hezron, Carmi. In these the genealogies all agree.
And the sons of Simeon; Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman.(10) Simeon has six sons, namely
Jewish tradition represents Shaul as being really the son of Dinah by a Canaanite father, Shechem, but as adopted by Simeon to save his sister’s honour, yet with a note that he was of half Canaanitish blood.
And the sons of Levi; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.(11) Levi has three sons: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.
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) Judan has five sons, of whom Er and Onan die prematurely. The names of the other three are Shelah. Pharez, and Zarah (spelt correctly Zerah in Numbers 26:20; 1Chronicles 2:4). So also the right spelling is Pherez, and not Pharez. In 1Chronicles 4:1 Judah has five sons: Pharez, Hezron, Carini, Hur, and Shobal, and Shelah is also mentioned there in Genesis 46:21, but see Note there.
And the sons of Issachar; Tola, and Phuvah, and Job, and Shimron.(13) Issachar has four sons:
And the sons of Zebulun; Sered, and Elon, and Jahleel.(14) Zebulun has three sons: Numbers 26:26.
No genealogy of the tribe of Zebulun is given in the Book of Chronicles.
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) All the souls . . . were thirty and three.—That is, six sons, twenty-three grandsons, two great grandsons, Dinah, and Jacob himself. The other daughters and granddaughters are omitted.
And the sons of Gad; Ziphion, and Haggi, Shuni, and Ezbon, Eri, and Arodi, and Areli.(16) Gad, the eldest of the sons of Zilpah, has seven eons:
In 1Chronicles 5:11-15 only the registration of the Gadites is given in the time of King Jotham.
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) Asher has four sons:
The sister is everywhere Serach, though called Serah here, and Sarah in Numbers. The three documents all agree in the names of Heber and Malchiel, sons of Beriah.
These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to Leah his daughter, and these she bare unto Jacob, even sixteen souls.(18) Sixteen souls.—That is, Gad and his seven sons, Asher and his four sons, the two grandsons and Serach.
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) Manasseh and Ephraim.—In these names all the documents agree.
And the sons of Benjamin were Belah, and Becher, and Ashbel, Gera, and Naaman, Ehi, and Rosh, Muppim, and Huppim, and Ard.(21) Benjamin has ten sons:
(given as grandson)
(given as grandson)
(given as grandson)
(given as grandson)
Thus in Numbers Benjamin has only five sons, but Naaman and Ard are also heads of families, and are described as sons of Bela. In Chronicles Benjamin is first described as having three sons, among whom appears Becher with numerous descendants, though omitted elsewhere, and then as having five sons, one of whom, Nohah, has a name completely different from any of those in the other three documents. And not only is Bela described as the father of Gera, Naaman, Muppim (called Sheplmphan), Huppim (called Huram), and Ard (called Addar): but also of Abihud, Abishua, Ahoah, and another Gera.
These are the sons of Rachel, which were born to Jacob: all the souls were fourteen.(22) All the souls were fourteen.—Made up of Joseph and two sons, and Benjamin and ten sons.
And the sons of Dan; Hushim.(23) Dan has one son, Hushim, called Shuham in Numbers 26:42. No genealogy of this tribe is given in Chronicles.
And the sons of Naphtali; Jahzeel, and Guni, and Jezer, and Shillem.(24) Naphtali has four sons:
These are the sons of Bilhah, which Laban gave unto Rachel his daughter, and she bare these unto Jacob: all the souls were seven.(25) All the souls were seven.—Made up of Dan and one son, and Naphtali and four sons.
Excepting Benjamin, the other genealogies do not offer any great difficulties; for variations in the spelling of names are too common to cause surprise, and names would be omitted whenever in later times the family had ceased to have a representative. Thus, probably, no member of the tribe of Dan returned from the Captivity with an authenticated genealogy, and therefore no mention of them is made in the book of Chronicles. The utter confusion in the genealogy of Benjamin is the natural result of the ruinous war narrated in Judges 20, 21; but when that tribe produced a king, the utmost care would be taken to remedy, as far as possible, the destruction of documents caused by that struggle; and the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 8 is the royal pedigree of King Saul.
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) All the souls were threescore and six.—This total is obtained by omitting Jacob, Joseph, and Joseph’s two sons. If we include these, the whole number becomes threescore and ten, as in Genesis 46:27. In the LXX. the names of five grandsons are added to Genesis 46:20, and thus the total is made seventy-five, as quoted by St. Stephen in Acts 7:14.
(28) To direct his face unto Goshen.—Joseph does not bring his brethren into the narrow and populous Nile Valley which formed Egypt proper, because they could not have maintained there an isolated mode of life. But this was indispensable for them if they were to multiply into a nation fit to be the guardians and depositories of a growing revelation, until the fulness of the time should come, when the world would be ready to receive the perfect knowledge of God’s will. As the Egyptians were an agricultural people, and hated sheep and shepherds (Genesis 46:34), the Israelites would run no danger of being absorbed by them so long as they continued to devote themselves to their old pursuits. As Goshen was admirably suited for a pastoral life, they would remain there as distinct and separate from the rest of mankind as they had been in Canaan.
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) He fell on his neck.—Most of the versions and commentators understand this of Joseph throwing himself on Jacob’s neck, but Maimonides says that a son would not take so great a liberty with his father. The Authorised Version seems to understand it of Jacob, and this gives the best and most natural sense. The preceding words literally are, and he appeared unto him: that is, came into his presence; whereupon Jacob fell on his neck, and wept there “again and again.”
And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive.(30) Now let me die.—Heb., I would die this time (Genesis 2:23), after I have seen thy face, &c. Calmly will Jacob wait for death now that the great longing of his soul has been satisfied.
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.—As Joseph’s object was to keep his brethren isolated in Goshen, he instructs them not to conceal their occupation, because Pharaoh on knowing it would not wish them to dwell in Egypt itself.
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) For every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians.—This is probably a remark of the narrator, and it is confirmed by the monuments, which generally represent shepherds as unshaven and ill-dressed. Necessarily the Egyptians had sheep and cattle (Genesis 47:16-17), and even Pharaoh had herds (Genesis 47:6); but the care of them was probably left by the peasantry to the women and children, while the men busied themselves with the cultivation of their fields. We need not go far to seek for the cause of this dislike. The word “abomination,” first of all, suggests a religious ground of difference; and not only did shepherds probably kill animals worshipped in different Egyptian districts, but their religion generally was diverse from that of the fixed population. But next, men who lead a settled life always dislike wandering clans, whose cattle are too likely to prey upon their enclosed land (see Note on Genesis 4:8), and who, moving from place to place, are usually not very scrupulous as to the rights of property. Such nomades, too, are generally lower in civilisation, and more rude and rough, than men who have fixed homes. The subjugation of Egypt by the Hyksos was possibly subsequent to the era of Joseph; but we now know from Egyptian sources that there was perpetual war between Egypt and the Hittites, and probably raids were often made upon the rich fields on the banks of the Nile by other Semitic tribes dwelling upon its eastern frontier; and as all these wore regarded as shepherds, there was ground enough for the dislike of all nomades as a class, even though the Egyptians did not disdain to have cattle themselves. But as the land in the Nile Valley was arable, the cattle kept would only be such as were useful for agriculture, whereas they formed the main wealth of the Israelites.