Genesis 45:16–46:27: A Nation Going Down to Egypt
Now that Joseph has revealed his identity, the narrative shifts in a major way through the end of Genesis. The drama and tension of Joseph’s conflict with his brothers has been resolved, and now reconciliation can take place. Still, there is more going on in this section of the Bible than a simple family reunion. As we see Joseph’s brothers bring their father, Jacob, back to Egypt, along with his entire household, we are seeing the migration of a nation. At this point, the nation is still small. Nevertheless, this passage is portraying the nation for what it is: a new humanity through which God will restore the corrupted humanity. Thus, Jacob is a new Adam, and, through Israel, God is creating a new humanity.
1) Why does Jacob have a difficult time believing that Joseph is, indeed, alive? How does Jacob’s heart foreshadow the unbelief of Israel, especially to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Do we still need a “spirit…revived” in order to believe in Jesus? How does this passage demonstrate Jacob’s faith as the turning point for the nation of Israel, as they follow the path set out for them by God? How will God use this nation for the redemption of the whole world?
2) Why must Jacob gain explicit authorization from God before leaving the promised land to go to Egypt? Where have we seen the patriarchs flirt with heading to Egypt before this point? How did those situations work out for them? Why did God insist that his people remain in Canaan up to this point? Why does God send them to Egypt now? How has Joseph served as the bridge between the people of God and their journey to Egypt?
3) Remember that God told Abraham many years before this that his descendants would spend four hundred years afflicted in a foreign land (Gen. 15:13). We have seen much suffering already in the life of Joseph; how will the rest of Joseph’s extended family suffer in Egypt? Why does God let his people suffer so much, and for so long, in Egypt? What will God do through his interactions with Pharaoh in the Exodus story? How does this story set up that story?
4) What do you make of the math in the list of Jacob’s descendants headed down to Egypt in Genesis 46:8–27? Why do you think that the numbers used are difficult to account for? How do these numbers serve a literary and theological purpose by their association with the seventy descendants of Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, in Genesis 10? How does that association portray this people as a new human race in the midst of a sinful, corrupted, and dying human race?