Sacred Texts  Bible  Bible Commentary  Index 
Genesis Index
  Previous  Next 

Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Genesis Chapter 46

Genesis 46:1

gen 46:1

"So Israel took his journey (from Hebron, Gen 37:14) with all who belonged to him, and came to Beersheba." There, on the border of Canaan, where Abraham and Isaac had called upon the name of the Lord (Gen 21:33; Gen 26:25), he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac, ut sibi firmum et ratum esse testetur faedus, quod Deus ipse cum Patribus pepigerat (Calvin). Even though Jacob might see the ways of God in the wonderful course of his son Joseph, and discern in the friendly invitation of Joseph and Pharaoh, combined with the famine prevailing in Canaan, a divine direction to go into Egypt; yet this departure from the land of promise, in which his fathers had lived as pilgrims, was a step which necessarily excited serious thoughts in his mind as to his own future and that of his family, and led him to commend himself and his followers to the care of the faithful covenant God, whether in so doing he thought of the revelation which Abram had received (Gen 15:13-16), or not.

Gen 46:2-4

Here God appeared to him in a vision of the night (מראת, an intensive plural), and gave him, as once before on his flight from Canaan (Gen 28:12.), the comforting promise, "I am האל (the Mighty One), the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt (מרדה for מרדת, as in Exo 2:4 דּעה for דּעת, cf. Ges. 69, 3, Anm. 1); for I will there make thee a great nation. I will go down with thee into Egypt, and I - bring thee up again also will I, and Joseph shall close thine eyes." גּם־עלה an inf. abs. appended emphatically (as in Gen 31:15); according to Ges. inf. Kal.

Gen 46:5-7

Strengthened by this promise, Jacob went into Egypt with children and children's children, his sons driving their aged father together with their wives and children in the carriages sent by Pharaoh, and taking their flocks with all the possessions that they had acquired in Canaan.

(Note: Such a scene as this, with the emigrants taking their goods laden upon asses, and even two children in panniers upon an ass's back, may be seen depicted upon a tomb at Beni Hassan, which might represent the immigration of Israel, although it cannot be directly connected with it. (See the particulars in Hengstenberg, Egypt and the Books of Moses.))

Genesis 46:8

gen 46:8

The size of Jacob's family, which was to grow into a great nation, is given here, with evident allusion to the fulfilment of the divine promise with which he went into Egypt. The list of names includes not merely the "sons of Israel" in the stricter sense; but, as is added immediately afterwards, "Jacob and his sons," or, as the closing formula expresses it (Gen 46:27), "all the souls of the house of Jacob, who came into Egypt" (הבּאה for בּאה אשׁר, Ges. 109), including the patriarch himself, and Joseph with his two sons, who were born before Jacob's arrival in Egypt. If we reckon these, the house of Jacob consisted of 70 souls; and apart from these, of 66, besides his sons' wives. The sons are arranged according to the four mothers. Of Leah there are given 6 sons, 23 grandsons, 2 great-grandsons (sons of Pharez, whereas Er and Onan, the sons of Judah who died in Canaan, are not reckoned), and 1 daughter, Dinah, who remained unmarried, and was therefore an independent member of the house of Jacob; in all, therefore, 6 + 23 + 2 + 1 = 32, or with Jacob, 33 souls. Of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid, there are mentioned 2 sons, 11 grandsons, 2 great-grandsons, and 1 daughter (who is reckoned like Dinah, both here and Num 26:46, for some special reason, which is not particularly described); in all, 2 + 11 + 2 + 1 = 16 souls. Of Rachel, "Jacob's (favourite) wife," 2 sons and 12 grandsons are named, of whom, according to Num 26:40, two were great-grandsons, = 14 souls; and of Rachel's maid Bilhah, 2 sons and 5 grandsons = 7 souls. The whole number therefore was 33 + 16 + 14 + 7 = 70.

(Note: Instead of the number 70 given here, Exo 1:5, and Deu 10:22, Stephen speaks of 75 (Act 7:14), according to the lxx, which has the number 75 both here and Exo 1:5, on account of the words which follow the names of Manasseh and Ephraim in Gen 46:20 : ἐγένοντο δὲ οἱοὶ Μανασσῆ, οὓς ἔτεκεν αὐτῷ ἡ παλλακῆ ἡ Σύρα, τοὺ Μαχίρ· Μαχὶρ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν Γαλαάδ, υίοὶ δὲ Ἐφραΐ́μ ἀδελφοῦ Μανασσῆ Σουταλαὰμ καὶ Ταάμ. υίοὶ δὲ Σουταλαάμ. Ἐδώμ: and which are interpolated by conjecture from Gen 1:23, and Num 26:29, Num 26:35, and Num 26:36 (33, 39, and 40), these three grandsons and two great-grandsons of Joseph being reckoned in.)

The wives of Jacob's sons are neither mentioned by name nor reckoned, because the families of Israel were not founded by them, but by their husbands alone. Nor is their parentage given either here or anywhere else. It is merely casually that one of the sons of Simeon is called the son of a Canaanitish woman (Gen 46:10); from which it may be inferred that it was quite an exceptional thing for the sons of Jacob to take their wives from among the Canaanites, and that as a rule they were chosen from their paternal relations in Mesopotamia; besides whom, there were also their other relations, the families of Ishmael, Keturah, and Edom. Of the "daughters of Jacob" also, and the "daughters of his sons," none are mentioned except Dinah and Serah the daughter of Asher, because they were not the founders of separate houses.

If we look more closely into the list itself, the first thing which strikes us is that Pharez, one of the twin-sons of Judah, who were not born till after the sale of Joseph, should already have had two sons. Supposing that Judah's marriage to the daughter of Shuah the Canaanite occurred, notwithstanding the reasons advanced to the contrary in Gen 38, before the sale of Joseph, and shortly after the return of Jacob to Canaan, during the time of his sojourn at Shechem (Gen 33:18), it cannot have taken place more than five, or at the most six, years before Joseph was sold; for Judah was only three years older than Joseph, and was not more than 20 years old, therefore, at the time of his sale. But even then there would not be more than 28 years between Judah's marriage and Jacob's removal to Egypt; so that Pharez would only be about 11 years old, since he could not have been born till about 17 years after Judah's marriage, and at that age he could not have had two sons. Judah, again, could not have taken four sons with him into Egypt, since he had at the most only two sons a year before their removal (Gen 42:37); unless indeed we adopt the extremely improbable hypothesis, that two other sons were born within the space of 11 or 12 months, either as twins, or one after the other. Still less could Benjamin, who was only 23 or 24 years old at the time (vid., pp. 200f. and 204f.), have had 10 sons already, or, as Num 26:38-40 shows, eight sons and two grandsons. From all this it necessarily follows, that in the list before us grandsons and great-grandsons of Jacob are named who were born afterwards in Egypt, and who, therefore, according to a view which we frequently meet with in the Old Testament, though strange to our modes of thought, came into Egypt in lumbis patrum. That the list is really intended to be so understood, is undoubtedly evident from a comparison of the "sons of Israel" (Gen 46:8), whose names it gives, with the description given in Num 26 of the whole community of the sons of Israel according to their fathers' houses, or their tribes and families. In the account of the families of Israel at the time of Moses, which is given there, we find, with slight deviations, all the grandsons and great-grandsons of Jacob whose names occur in this chapter, mentioned as the founders of the families, into which the twelve tribes of Israel were subdivided in Moses' days. The deviations are partly in form, partly in substance. To the former belong the differences in particular names, which are sometimes only different forms of the same name; e.g., Jemuel and Zohar (Gen 46:10), for Nemuel and Zerah (Num 26:12-13); Ziphion and Arodi (Gen 46:16), for Zephon and Arod (Num 26:15 and Num 26:17); Huppim (Gen 46:21) for Hupham (Num 26:39); Ehi (Gen 46:21), an abbreviation of Ahiram (Num 26:38); sometimes different names of the same person; viz., Ezbon (Gen 46:16) and Ozni (Num 26:16); Muppim (Gen 46:21) and Shupham (Num 26:39); Hushim (Gen 46:23) and Shuham (Num 26:42). Among the differences in substance, the first to be noticed is the fact, that in Num 26 Simeon's son Ohad, Asher's son Ishuah, and three of Benjamin's sons, Becher, Gera, and Rosh, are missing from the founders of families, probably for no other reason than that they either died childless, or did not leave a sufficient number of children to form independent families. With the exception of these, according to Num 26, all the grandsons and great-grandsons of Jacob mentioned in this chapter were founders of families in existence in Moses' time. From this it is obvious that our list is intended to contain, not merely the sons and grandsons of Jacob, who were already born when he went down to Egypt, but in addition to the sons, who were the heads of the twelve tribes of the nation, all the grandsons and great-grandsons who became the founders of mishpachoth, i.e., of independent families, and who on that account took the place or were advanced into the position of the grandsons of Jacob, so far as the national organization was concerned.

On no other hypothesis can we explain the fact, that in the time of Moses there was not one of the twelve tribes, except the double tribe of Joseph, in which there were families existing, that had descended from either grandsons or great-grandsons of Jacob who are not already mentioned in this list. As it is quite inconceivable that no more sons should have been born to Jacob's sons after their removal into Egypt, so is it equally inconceivable, that all the sons born in Egypt either died childless, or founded no families. The rule by which the nation descending from the sons of Jacob was divided into tribes and families (mishpachoth) according to the order of birth was this, that as the twelve sons founded the twelve tribes, so their sons, i.e., Jacob's grandsons, were the founders of the families into which the tribes were subdivided, unless these grandsons died without leaving children, or did not leave a sufficient number of male descendants to form independent families, or the natural rule for the formation of tribes and families was set aside by other events or causes. On this hypothesis we can also explain the other real differences between this list and Num 26; viz., the fact that, according to Num 26:40, two of the sons of Benjamin mentioned in Gen 46:21, Naaman and Ard, were his grandsons, sons of Belah; and also the circumstance, that in Gen 46:20 only the two sons of Joseph, who were already born when Jacob arrived in Egypt, are mentioned, viz., Manasseh and Ephraim, and none of the sons who were born to him afterwards (Gen 48:6). The two grandsons of Benjamin could be reckoned among his sons in our list, because they founded independent families just like the sons. And of the sons of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim alone could be admitted into our list, because they were elevated above the sons born to Joseph afterwards, by the fact that shortly before Jacob's death he adopted them as his own sons and thus raised them to the rank of heads of tribes; so that wherever Joseph's descendants are reckoned as one tribe (e.g., Jos 16:1, Jos 16:4), Manasseh and Ephraim form the main divisions, or leading families of the tribe of Joseph, the subdivisions of which were founded partly by their brothers who were born afterwards, and partly by their sons and grandsons. Consequently the omission of the sons born afterwards, and the grandsons of Joseph, from whom the families of the two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, who were elevated into tribes, descended, forms only an apparent and not a real exception to the general rule, that this list mentions all the grandsons of Jacob who founded the families of the twelve tribes, without regard to the question whether they were born before or after the removal of Jacob's house to Egypt, since this distinction was of no importance to the main purpose of our list. That this was the design of our list, is still further confirmed by a comparison of Exo 1:5 and Deu 10:22, where the seventy souls of the house of Jacob which went into Egypt are said to constitute the seed which, under the blessing of the Lord, had grown into the numerous people that Moses led out of Egypt, to take possession of the land of promise. From this point of view it was a natural thing to describe the seed of the nation, which grew up in tribes and families, in such a way as to give the germs and roots of all the tribes and families of the whole nation; i.e., not merely the grandsons who were born before the migration, but also the grandsons and great-grandsons who were born in Egypt, and became founders of independent families. By thus embracing all the founders of tribes and families, the significant number 70 was obtained, in which the number 7 (formed of the divine number 3, and the world number 4, as the seal of the covenant relation between God and Israel) is multiplied by the number 10, as the seal of completeness, so as to express the fact that these 70 souls comprehended the whole of the nation of God.

(Note: This was the manner in which the earlier theologians solved the actual difficulties connected with our list; and this solution has been adopted and defended against the objections offered to it by Hengstenberg (Dissertations) and Kurtz (History of the Old Covenant).)

Genesis 46:28

gen 46:28

This list of the house of Jacob is followed by an account of the arrival in Egypt.

Gen 46:28

Jacob sent his son Judah before him to Joseph, "to show (להורת) before him to Goshen;" i.e., to obtain from Joseph the necessary instructions as to the place of their settlement, and then to act as guide to Goshen.

Gen 46:29

As soon as they had arrived, Joseph had his chariot made ready to go up to Goshen and meet his father (ויּעל applied to a journey from the interior to the desert or Canaan), and "showed himself to him there (lit., he appeared to him; נראה, which is generally used only of the appearance of God, is selected here to indicate the glory in which Joseph came to meet his father); and fell upon his neck, continuing (עוד) upon his neck (i.e., in his embrace) weeping."

Gen 46:30

Then Israel said to Joseph: "Now (הפּעם lit., this time) will I die, after I have seen thy face, that thou (art) still alive."

Gen 46:31-32

But Joseph told his brethren and his father's house (his family) that he would to up to Pharaoh (עלה here used of going to the court, as an ideal ascent), to announce the arrival of his relations, who were מקנה אנשׁי "keepers of flocks," and had brought their sheep and oxen and all their possessions with them.

Gen 46:33-34

At the same time Joseph gave these instructions to his brethren, in case Pharaoh should send for them and inquire about their occupation: "Say, Thy servants have been keepers of cattle from our youth even until now, we like our fathers; that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination of the Egyptians." This last remark formed part of Joseph's words, and contained the reason why his brethren should describe themselves to Pharaoh as shepherds from of old, namely, that they might receive Goshen as their dwelling-place, and that their national and religion independence might not be endangered by too close an intercourse with the Egyptians. The dislike of the Egyptians to shepherds arose from the fact, that the more completely the foundations of the Egyptian state rested upon agriculture with its perfect organization, the more did the Egyptians associate the idea of rudeness and barbarism with the very name of a shepherd. This is not only attested in various ways by the monuments, on which shepherds are constantly depicted as lanky, withered, distorted, emaciated, and sometimes almost ghostly figures (Graul, Reise 2, p. 171), but is confirmed by ancient testimony. According to Herodotus (2, 47), the swine-herds were the most despised; but they were associated with the cow-herds (βουκόλοι) in the seven castes of the Egyptians (Herod. 2, 164), so that Diodorus Siculus (1, 74) includes all herdsmen in one caste; according to which the word βουκόλοι in Herodotus not only denotes cow-herds, but a potiori all herdsmen, just as we find in the herds depicted upon the monuments, sheep, goats, and rams introduced by thousands, along with asses and horned cattle.

Next: Genesis Chapter 47