The prosperity of the Israelites in Egypt (Ex 1:1-1:7)

These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.  The total number of descendents of Jacob was seventy.  Joseph was already in Egypt. Then Joseph died, and all his brothers, and that whole generation.  But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific.  They multiplied and grew exceeding strong, so that the land was filled with them.”

This book will talk about the leaving or Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. Thus it begins with a list of those who went to Egypt, the eleven sons of Israel with their households, since Joseph was already there.  A complete list of the individuals involved can be found in Genesis, chapter 46.  This list has only 70 males since they did not count women and children. The first generation of the twelve sons of Israel all died out, but the Israelites multiplied and grew exceeding strong so that there were a lot of them in Egypt.  All this sounds good so far.  It also brings up the question as to how the sons of Israel developed into tribes if there were so many of them.

Jacob adopts and blesses the two sons of Joseph (Gen 48:1-48:22)

“After this Joseph was told, ‘Your father is ill.’  So he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.  When Jacob was told, ‘Your son Joseph has come to you,’ he summoned his strength and sat up in bed.   Jacob said to Joseph, ‘God Almighty (El Shaddai) appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, `I am going to make you fruitful, and increase your numbers.  I will make of you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your offspring after you for a perpetual possession.’  Therefore your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine.   Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are.  The offspring born to you after them shall be yours.   They shall be recorded under the names of their brothers with regard to their inheritance.  For when I came from Paddan, Rachel, to my sorrow, died in the land of Canaan on the way, while there was still some distance to go to Ephrath.  I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).’”

Joseph was told that his father was ill.   Joseph then took his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and went to Jacob, who had renewed strength when they came.  Jacob explained that in the land of Luz, El Shaddai had appeared to him and promised him perpetual offspring.  Jacob then claimed the two sons of Joseph as his just like Reuben and Simeon.  They would share in his inheritance.  This seems strange since Joseph had much more wealth than Jacob.  He explained that Joseph’s mother Rachel was buried near Bethlehem.

“When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, ‘Who are these?’  Joseph said to his father, ‘They are my sons, whom God has given me here.’  He said, ‘Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them.’  Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see well.  So Joseph brought them near him.  He kissed them and embraced them.   Israel said to Joseph, ‘I did not expect to see your face, and here God has let me see your children also.’   Then Joseph removed them from his father’s knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.  Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right, and brought them near him.  But Israel stretched out his right hand laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands, for Manasseh was the firstborn.  He blessed Joseph, and said, ‘The God before whom my ancestors Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all harm, bless the boys.  In them let my name be perpetuated, and the name of my ancestors, Abraham and Isaac.  Let them grow into a multitude on the earth.’”

As Israel, instead of Jacob, wanted to know who the two young boys were, he blessed them, saying to Joseph that he had not expected to see his face, but now he sees his grandchildren.  Apparently the children were not that old, but they both ere over twenty years old since they were born before the famine.  There then is some sort of adoption ceremony with Joseph holding the children in his right and left hands, but Israel crossed his hand so that his right hand was on the younger Ephraim.  He blessed both the children so that his name and that of his father and grandfather might be perpetuated.

“When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him.  So he took his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head.  Joseph said to his father, ‘Not so, my father!  Since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand upon his head.’  But his father refused, and said, ‘I know, my son, I know.  He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great.  Nevertheless his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.’  So he blessed them that day, saying, ‘By you Israel will invoke blessings, saying, God make you like Ephraim and like Manasseh.’   So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.  Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘I am about to die, but God will be with you, and will bring you again to the land of your ancestors.  I now give to you one portion more than to your brothers, the portion that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.’”

Then Joseph and his father got into a fight about how the oldest son should get the right hand blessing.  Israel said that the younger brother will be greater than the oldest as he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.   In fact, he wants them to get an extra portion of the inheritance, so that Ephraim and Manasseh come to be treated as equal to the other 11 brothers.  Besides they will also get an inheritance from Joseph.  Israel wants them to return to the land of their ancestors, Canaan.

The first meeting of Joseph and his brothers (Gen 42:1-42:24)

“When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, ‘Why do you look at one another?’  I have heard,’ he said, ‘that there is grain in Egypt.  Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.’  Thus ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt.  But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother, Benjamin, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might come to him.  Thus the sons of Israel were among the other people who came to buy grain, for the famine had reached the land of Canaan.”

Jacob sent his sons to Egypt because of the great famine.  So ten of his sons, not Benjamin, went to Egypt like the rest of the area. Thus they repeat the trip of Abraham in going to Egypt because of a famine, in this so-called wonderful land of Canaan.

Joseph was governor over the land.  It was he who sold to all the people of the land. Joseph’s brothers came, and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.  When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them. ‘Where do you come from?’ he said. They said, ‘From the land of Canaan, to buy food.’ Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him.  Joseph also remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them. He said to them, ‘You are spies.  You have come to see the nakedness of the land.’  They said to him, ‘No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man.  We are honest men.  Your servants have never been spies.’  But he said to them, ‘No, you have come to see the nakedness of the land.’  They said, ‘We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan.  The youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more.  But Joseph said to them, ‘It is as I have said to you.  You are spies.  Here is how you shall be tested.  As Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here!  Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, in order that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. Or else, as Pharaoh lives, surely you are spies.’  He put them all together in prison for three days.”

Joseph had said in his dream that his brothers would bow down before him.  Although Joseph recognized his brothers, he treated them like strangers and was very harsh with them.  He accused them of being spies.  They did not recognize him, since it had been 13 years since they last saw him and he had an Egyptian name.  He wanted to know where they were coming from.  They explained that they were 12 brothers, with one dead and one at home.  Joseph wanted them to bring their youngest brother.  They would all go to jail until one brother left and returned with the younger brother.

 “On the third day Joseph said to them, ‘Do this and you will live, for I fear God.  If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here where you are imprisoned.  The rest of you shall go and carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me.  Thus your words will be verified, and you shall not die.’  They agreed to do so.  They said to one another, ‘In truth, we are paying the penalty for what we did to our brother.  We saw the anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen.  This is why this anguish has come upon us.’  Then Reuben answered them, ‘Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy?  But you would not listen.  So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.’  They did not know that Joseph understood them, since he spoke with them through an interpreter.  He turned away from them and wept.   Then he returned and spoke to them.   He picked out Simeon and had him bound before their eyes.”

After three days in jail, Joseph said that he would keep one brother until the others returned with the youngest brother.  They said to themselves that they were paying the penalty for what he had done to Joseph.  Reuben remarked that he had told them so, when it happened.  Joseph spoke with them through an interpreter so that they did not know that he heard them.  However, he turned away from them and wept. He decided to keep Simeon and tied him up right before their eyes.