In Genesis 46, the entire family/nation of Israel moves to Egypt, where they will remain for a little over 400 years because God brought them there as part of His purpose and plan.
There are few things that the Bible is clearer on than the sovereignty of God. God decrees some things to happen and allows other things to happen, but nothing happens to us (or to anyone) that does not pass through the sovereign hand of God. Nothing that happens takes God by surprise. So, let’s look at this one incident – the nation of Israel moving to Egypt – through the lens of God’s sovereign grace.
God told Abraham it would happen generations earlier when He promised him a great nation:
Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. (Genesis 15:13-14)
Stephen reiterates this in his sermon in Acts 7:
And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, “and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.” (Acts 7:6-7)
Joseph clearly understood that it was God, not his brothers, who was responsible for him being in Egypt:
So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:4-8)
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20)
Joseph recognized that he and his family were in Egypt by the intentional will and purpose of God. This is easy to say here, because they are currently being saved from a famine. But as the quote from Genesis 15:13-14 above makes clear (and as anyone knows who has ever seen the movie The Ten Commandments), the nation of Israel will also be severely afflicted and harshly treated as slaves in Egypt before God again rescues them through Moses. The sovereignty of God can be both comforting and terrifying.
Here in Genesis 46, God appears to Jacob and tells him:
And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here am I.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” (Genesis 46:2-4)
When God tells Jacob that “Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes,” He is referring to the fact that Jacob will die in Egypt. (Genesis 49:33) This does not sound like an absentee, uninvolved God. God is clearly in control of everything that is happening.
- Pharaoh gave them the best land (Genesis 47:5-6)
- Joseph was able to use his position to take care of his family (Genesis 47:11-12)
- Because of Joseph’s brilliant administration during the famine, the Pharaoh’s government ended up owning all the wealth, livestock and property – and even the people – of Egypt. (Genesis 47:13-26) Of course, since Joseph was the Prime Minister and the second-highest official in that government, he was in a very good position to take great care of his family.
- The family of Israel multiplied greatly in terms of wealth and population during their early years in Egypt. (Genesis 47:27)