|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #50, 51, 52|
11 October, 1992
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
In recent broadcasts, we have been reading from the Book of Genesis and we had come to the portion of that source which recounts the course of events by which, for His own great purposes, Almighty God had selected and prepared the genealogical lineage of Jacob-Israel and his family. The descendants of that selected line were to become the Servant Nation called Israel after the new name of Jacob their clan Patriarch.
We had seen how Joseph, now the most eminent and powerful person, under Pharaoh, in the whole land of Egypt, the dominant power of the time, had arranged for the transfer of his whole family down to Egypt where food and multiplied blessings would be theirs during the remaining five years of famine, and throughout their generation.
We had arrived in the forty-sixth chapter, at the point wherein the Biblical account has just, for the record, made a formal listing of those approximately seventy individuals (the exact number depending upon which persons are being counted) who were thus transferred to Egypt. It is from this recorded listing of individuals, relatively few in number though they might appear at that time, that the future nation will eventually emerge.
The Biblical records periodically contain such accounts of family branches at times of national upheaval, in order to assist the later descendants of the tribes in establishing their genealogical lineage as children of Israel. We must regard this as important, for nothing in Holy Scripture appears casually or without significance. There is also a further extension to this aspect which ought not to be forgotten.
It is unfortunate that most who seek to present an abridged, simplified, and supposedly easily understood distillation of Biblical truth (often one designed to appeal to the younger people in Sunday School), tend to skip those portions which contain what they consider to be dry, rather meaningless and uninteresting lists of names of long-dead and frequently obscure members of the ancient families of Israel. They obviously do not realise that in extracting what we might all agree to be the more action-packed segments, (those which display aspects of human interest), and by avoiding the detailed genealogies, they are, in fact, omitting a very essential aspect of the whole account if our Biblical study is to honour the God of history.
These are not the genealogies of which Paul wrote in I Timothy 1:4, for they are not by any stretch of the imagination "endless", nor are they recorded with the intention that those concerned should count upon such relationship for their Salvation. The fact that they form a record preserved through thousands of years points us to an understanding that the very promises of the Almighty God Himself, and therefore His truthfulness, are established by those "dry-as-dust" genealogies, so they are not of the variety which Paul describes as "ministering questions, rather than godly edifying".
This is manifestly so because God has made promises to the patriarchs of certain peculiar blessings which are of great significance and these special promises specifically attach to Jacob's descendants alone. If the ability to trace the genealogical records were to be rendered impossible through a lack of such information, we could not hope to establish, with any certainty, the outworking of those promises.
To distinguish the lines of descent among the tribes of mankind in this manner is to claim no more than that the Almighty God has established His promises to the descendants whom He chose for certain tasks, and whom He consequently endowed with certain necessary equipment in the form of magnificent blessings. Such records reveal the honour and faithfulness of Almighty God. Thus, they ought never to be discarded in our studies of the Scriptures.
We now arrive at Genesis 46:28, and at this point Jacob is approaching the land which will become his home during the remaining years of his life. Let us pick up the account at verse 28 where Jacob, now re-named Israel, feels the need to gain detailed instructions as to the location of the actual settlement to which he and his family must now make their way.
28. And he sent Judah before him unto Joseph, to direct his face unto Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen.
29. 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.
30. And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive.
The choice of Judah to be the one who was to go ahead of the caravan in order to obtain more detailed knowledge of the particular arrangements being made for their arrival marks Judah as a leader among the brothers. Particularly following his personal commitment to take the place of the accused Benjamin as a bond-servant for life in the last of those tests whereby Joseph had sought to ascertain the possible repentance of his brothers over the matter of their having sold himself to slavery in Egypt those many years before, Judah has obviously become a tribal leader of importance.
The non-Biblical Book of Jasher lends great colour to this touching scene as the venerable Patriarch arrives and Joseph goes forth to meet him. Perhaps it will not be out of place to read an excerpt from that account to increase the details of the scene which is so briefly sketched in the Biblical account.
The passage from which I would like to draw quotations is found starting at Chapter 55:6 in that Book of Jasher. That reference says: "And it came to pass when they came near Egypt, Jacob sent Judah before him to Joseph that he might show him a situation in Egypt, and Judah did according to the word of his father, and he hastened and ran and came to Joseph, and they assigned for them a place in the land of Goshen for all his household, and Judah returned and came along the road to his father. And Joseph harnessed the chariot, and he assembled all his mighty men and his servants and all the officers of Egypt in order to go and meet his father Jacob... ."
The account proceeds to tell us that on the next day "Joseph went forth with all Egypt a great and mighty host, all dressed in garments of fine linen and purple and with instruments of silver and gold and with their instruments of war with them. And they all went to meet Jacob with all sorts of musical instruments, with drums and timbrels, strewing myrrh and aloes all along the road, and they all went after this fashion, and the earth shook at their shouting. And all the women of Egypt went upon the roofs of Egypt and upon the walls to meet Jacob, and upon the head of Joseph was Pharaoh's regal crown, for Pharaoh had sent it unto him to put on at the time of his going to meet his father. And when Joseph came within fifty cubits of his father, he alighted from the chariot and he walked toward his father, and when all the officers of Egypt and her nobles saw that Joseph had gone on foot toward his father, they also alighted and walked on foot toward Jacob."
"And when Jacob approached the camp of Joseph, Jacob observed the camp that was coming towards him with Joseph, and it gratified him and Jacob was astonished at it. And Jacob said unto Judah, who is that man whom I see in the camp of Egypt dressed in kingly robes with a very red garment upon him and a royal crown upon his head, who has alighted from his chariot and is coming toward us? and Judah answered his father, saying, he is thy son Joseph the king; and Jacob rejoiced in seeing the glory of his son."
"And Joseph came nigh unto his father and he bowed to his father, and all the men of the camp bowed to the ground with him before Jacob. And behold Jacob ran and hastened to his son Joseph and fell upon his neck and kissed him, and they wept, and Joseph also embraced his father and kissed him, and they wept and all the people of Egypt wept with them."
"And Jacob said unto Joseph, now I will die cheerfully after I have seen thy face, that thou art still living and with glory. And the sons of Jacob and their wives and their children and their servants, and all the household of Jacob wept exceedingly with Joseph, and they kissed him and wept greatly with him. And Joseph and all his people returned afterward home to Egypt, and Jacob and his sons and all the children of his household came with Joseph to Egypt, and Joseph placed them in the best part of Egypt, in the land of Goshen."
The scene must have been one of the greatest emotion. Just to imagine the intense feelings described herein is to partake, even thousands of years later in our own day, in one of the happiest events of the Old Testament. It might even further enhance our sense of imaginary participation if we remember that this event is a prophetic enactment of that which will occur at the Second Advent, for we read, in I Thessalonians 3:13, the words "To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints."
That touching and exquisitely happy occasion of re-union between Joseph, established with the pomp and glory of Egypt, and his aged and longing father, the Godly Patriarch, Jacob is one which has come down to us through the millennia as one of the most moving of all time, and perhaps we ought to leave our study for today at that point, remembering that we also have the prospect of a similar, but even greater day of re-union with loved ones, and with Our Lord if we qualify through His Grace as kinsmen of our Redeemer.
18 October, 1992
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
On our last programme, we watched, in our imagination, alongside the multitudes of dignitaries and the massed crowds of the expectant Egyptian populace as the aging Patriarch, Jacob, and his long separated favourite son, Joseph, now chief minister to Pharaoh, came into each other's embrace, weeping with joy. The scene would have been one long remembered by all who observed it or who participated on that most memorable of days, and, truth to tell, we can only share it by the ancient printed words of Scripture.
That ancient word yet speaks to our hearts even now because those who experienced the emotions of that day were real people, like ourselves; people who faced the stresses and strains of life in all its varied stages and parts; people who loved and longed for sight of one another. This word of Scripture speaks to us as kinsfolk, and we are for that fleeting moment as we read and contemplate the scene, joined in heart to each of them, and perhaps to one another as we share the imagined sight of the tear-filled joy as the father, Jacob, embraced Joseph, his favourite son, the eventual holder of the birthright in Israel.
Now we must pick up the threads of the Biblical account, beginning at Genesis 46:31:
31. 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;
32. 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.
33. And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation?
34. 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.
With reference to that passage, and in particular to the word "abomination", the Companion Bible contains a short but pertinent note. It states: "Apepi, the Pharaoh of Joseph, was one of the Hyksos, or shepherd kings. Joseph's advice would commend his brethren to Pharaoh...and keep them separate from the Egyptians. It was a race prejudice, not a class prejudice."
As we see, the famine had not yet killed the cattle and sheep which Jacob's clan had brought with them down into Egypt, so we must assume that it was not, as yet, of such an extreme nature as to totally destroy all life. However, the threat hovering over the populace of that part of the world, including Canaan, during the forthcoming five years of famine would certainly have meant the loss of most if not all of the flocks and herds, so the salvation offered by Joseph extended even to those poor dumb beasts, as well as to his family. We might, by extension, express the thought that it is thus that Almighty God treats with the whole ecology of His world.
Let us now continue with the Biblical account as it is presented to us in Genesis 47:
1. Then Joseph came and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen.
2. And he took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh.
3. And Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers.
4. They said moreover unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come; for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan: now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen.
5. And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee:
6. The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.
Of the area called Goshen, the Companion Bible notes "The land east of Memphis, suitable for grazing, called `the field of Zoan'. Zoan (or Tanis) mentioned in the Inscriptions as containing non-Egyptian inhabitants and Semites." This area was, in fact, at the gateway to Egypt from the North-East, and should any threat of war later arise, it would have been of strategic importance to the Egyptian Government of the day to see that it was not in the hands of potential opponents. The fact that Jacob's clan was permitted to take up residence there would support the view that the reigning Pharaoh was indeed one of the Hyksos dynasty, and favourably disposed towards the settlement of those of somewhat kindred origins.
The New Bible Commentary, Revised, in connection with the events presently being considered, has this to say: "Israel, blessed and blessing. As Pharaoh opened the door of blessing to Israel (47:6), blessing was returned upon his house through the pronouncement of Jacob (47:7, 10) and Joseph's continuing wise administration... Later, a reversal of Egyptian policy towards Israel would bring God's judgments upon them."
Regarding the arrangements which Joseph made, it has this to say: "Joseph's programme for Jacob's household was calculated to protect them from Egypt's pagan influences. But he skilfully effected this without offence to the Egyptians by arranging for Pharaoh to act to separate the Israelites out of regard for Egyptian prejudice... In both Joseph's preparatory audience with Pharaoh...and that of his brothers...their occupation as shepherds and their present location in the pastures of Goshen were so stressed as virtually to put the desired decision in Pharaoh's mouth... Pharaoh's favour extended to the appointment of capable Israelites to officialdom." Let us once again pick up the account at verse 7:
7. And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.
8. And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou?
9. And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.
10. And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.
Several observations come to mind as we review that passage. In connection with that reference by Jacob to "The years of my sojourning" that same reference, The New Bible Commentary, Revised, explains: "Jacob's assessment of his life is not a complaint...but a soberly accurate account. In common with Abraham and Isaac he was a stranger in Canaan, his life orientated to a future city of God... but his alien residency in Canaan was even more troubled and his life-span (as he correctly anticipated) briefer than theirs. Moreover, he must die as a sojourner outside the promised land."
The exceptionally long life-spans of the earlier patriarchs listed in Scripture appear to many modern readers to be much too long to be accepted without question, but we ought to note that Jacob's words before Pharaoh here confirm them. We may have something further to say about the length of Jacob's life later. Continuing at verse 11:
11. And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded.
12. And Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to their families.
We should note that the name "Land of Rameses", here applied to Goshen is given in anticipation of that later usage. The geographical names of localities have frequently been changed over the years, and the use of the word "Rameses" in this passage was inserted much as we might seek to relate to modern people the locality of some ancient country or city by using the name by which it is presently known.
Our time is about up, but I want to leave with you some meditations which arise out of today's reading. If the incidents in the lives of Jacob, Joseph, and the rest of the Israel clan bear, as they do, the marks of a prophetic enactment, staged by The Almighty God for the benefit of later generations, and most especially that of our own generation in the Latter Days, there must be embedded within this whole incident, and the reading and meditation connected thereto, a mighty blessing for those who will pause, and centre their attention upon it.
God's Holy Word is written for a specific purpose, and it is certainly not to be vaporised on the wind. It is to be read, prayed over, digested, and used to strengthen our spiritual lives, especially today, perhaps more than at any other time in the past. For we of the British-Israel-World Federation believe that the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon nations in the world today, the British Commonwealth, the United States of America, and related kindred peoples of the same stock are the modern expression of those clans, the Tribes of ancient Israel, and as the descendants of those tribes, we should contemplate the potential therein.
We see that, just as Jacob was brought, in the care of Joseph, and presented before Pharaoh, we are to appear before The Almighty God, in the presence of the holy angels, and with us at that great presentation we will expect to find the personage of Jesus Christ our King of kings and Lord of lords, if indeed He IS our King and Lord! Surely, the wise will understand that the time for our commitment to that relationship is now, at the time when Salvation and Redemption are offered freely to His people.
Let us renew our commitment to those claims which Jesus Christ has every right to make upon our lives, and thus prepare to enjoy that glorious day of presentation to Our God.
25 October, 1992
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
We have traced the Genesis account of the Patriarchs as they and their families, under the guiding hand of Almighty God, have been moved into Egypt, there to begin that expansion into a great nation which God, in His prophetic word, had promised. Joseph, sold as a slave, has risen to the highest office under Pharaoh by God's providential care, being thus created God's liaison officer for the clan. Thus placed, Joseph has been the means of phenomenal blessing to all the land of Egypt through the seven years of plenty and into the first two of the seven famine years that were to follow. He has become an outstanding national figure, and the arrival of the rest of his family has stirred the nation as the story of his life in the Genesis account testifies.
Joseph had planned well. Pharaoh has agreed to allow the Clan of Israel to settle in the lush fields of Goshen, in the north-east corner of the Nile delta. On our last programme we read the account in the first 12 verses of Genesis 47 in which Joseph has presented a representative group of five of his brothers, and his aged father, Jacob, before Pharaoh.
We followed the account as Pharaoh inquired about their tribal occupation and learned that their family had traditionally been shepherds. Pharaoh had welcomed their tribe, saying to Joseph "The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle."
Jacob had been presented before Pharaoh, and blessed him, and Jacob's evident age had drawn the natural question from that monarch which he had answered in the words "The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage." Again Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before him.
Following this, Joseph had placed his family in what the Bible calls "the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded." Joseph arranged that his father and the other members of his family should have bread sufficient for all.
This plenty was Joseph's gift to his relatives, but the next verses show us that the Egyptians were not quite so blessed as the years of famine came and went. Verse 13 says "And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine."
The method by which Joseph apportions the national supply of grain to the Egyptian populace is then explained in the passage which follows. It was not to be as a free gift, as was the gift of Goshen to the family of Israel. It was to be made available, but at the cost of much that was Egypt, as we shall see as we read the passage, starting at verse 14.
14. And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought: and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh's house.
15. And when money failed in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? for the money faileth.
16. And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail.
17. And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year.
18. When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him, We will not hide it from my lord, how that our money is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle; there is not ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands:
19. Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate.
20. And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh's.
21. And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof.
22. Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands.
Now, with the years of famine upon them, this sale of grain to the Egyptians may seem quite unfair and even verging on a form of extortion, but we must remember that this famine was so extensive and severe that it was threatening to take the populace away in death, and it was only by Joseph's God-given wisdom in preparing the nation ahead of time that this had not happened already.
It was true that, during those previous seven years of plenty, as Genesis 41:34 explains, the Egyptians had been ordered to place the surplus of their grain harvest, "the fifth part of the land of Egypt", in the hands of Pharaoh's officers, and we must stop to reason through the situation. What would have been the probable result during those years of tremendous surplus? Probably the withdrawal of much of the excess grain had kept those supplies of grain from flooding the market, and consequently the price to be obtained through grain sales during those years of plenty would have been appreciably higher than it might otherwise have been. Those Egyptians who were provident had no doubt profited much more than they might otherwise have done, through Joseph's wise administration.
The famine was oppressive, however, and even the Egyptians who might have saved something from the former years had at last been forced to seek grain for their money, then for their cattle and property and finally even their land and their own bodies in service to Pharaoh. Verse 23 continues:
23. Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land.
24. And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.
25. And they said, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's servants.
26. And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh's.
By contrast, we find the Israelites in the land of Goshen blessed exceedingly as they received sustenance without such cost by Joseph's personal provision. Not surprisingly, we may understand that two results followed. First, the Israelite families were enabled to enlarge as God had planned for them to do. Secondly, we might expect the contrasting treatment of Israel and Egypt during those years of famine to form the pre-conditions upon which a later generation of Egyptians could rationalise their own general resentment against those privileged Israelites who had enjoyed the blessing of governmental approval in the previous generation. The results would become manifest in the following generation, but this too would all be part of God's great master-plan for His people, and also for the ultimate benefit of the entire world of later millennia. The Biblical account continues:
27. And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly.
Joseph's own kinsfolk, on the one hand, were receiving tribal protection as a free gift through the authority of Joseph, their God-appointed protector, being the most highly placed officer in the whole land of Egypt under Pharaoh. The Egyptian populace, on the other hand, were receiving a much more limited blessing of mere survival.
While we might think this situation highly unfair, I think that we may glimpse in this contrast between those blessings which came to Israel, and those granted to Egypt a hint of a prophetic enactment of truth. It pertains to the nature of the dispositions and gifts of God.
At the time of Christ's return there will be those who could not expect to earn the blessings of God's favour by their own merits, but who, by the mighty Grace of God Himself, are blessed beyond measure, and one might say, beyond all accounting by human methods of reckoning because they are treated as kinsmen to Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer. Then, if this picture is correct, there will be others, I believe, who may survive, but in a much lesser state of blessing, being accounted simply as those who benefit by reason of God's willingness to dispense blessings to them in measure according with their station.
I shall leave it to our listeners to ponder the possibility which I have here suggested. If we are to make the best use of the hours and years which may remain to us, we ought to be seeking to recognize that "kinship-relationship" which will shower blessings upon us as a free gift at His appearing, rather than to survive in a state of mere servitude because we were not so recognized. The choice, if we correctly understand God's magnificent offer, is yet ours to select if God's Holy Spirit thus moves us. May each listener make the correct choice to be one so treated.
In John 6, after the account of the miraculous feeding of the multitude by Jesus with the five barley loaves and two small fishes, we read of those who followed Jesus to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, seeking bread. The account reveals that they are descended of those who ate manna in the wilderness, and Christ explains that they ought to be seeking the Bread of Life. He states in verse 37: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." Surely the wise will take note and understand!
RETURN TO BIBLE STUDY
RETURN TO B.I.W.F. HOME PAGE