When Jacob receives a vision, we get almost no insight into his reaction. Verse 2 states that Jacob said, “Here I am.” but that does not indicate whether he has experienced this type of vision frequently or if this is the first time since he saw the vision at Bethel when he was young (Genesis 28). It also doesn’t tell us how he reacted to the vision. We know that he made a sacrifice to God on that same day, but after seeing the vision, there was no obvious change in Jacob’s plan. Before the vision, he was moving his family to Egypt and after the vision, he continued to move his family to Egypt. To us, the story would read exactly the same if verses 2-4 were left out. It would read, “Jacob came to Beer-sheba, and then he left.” Yet the author of this passage clearly wanted us to read verses 2-4 otherwise, he would not have included it. Why do you think these verses are included? My first inclination is that sometimes God will speak to us just to tell us that the path we are following is the right one and we should stay our course. Nothing changes before or after, and we may not even experience a change in confidence that our course was correct. In my experience, most of the times when it seems like God is telling me something, it is that I need to change. Perhaps I am missing, and should be paying attention to, the times when he is saying, “Keep on moving.”
The name Serah, daughter of Asher jumps out at me. She is the only granddaughter of Israel that is listed. What makes her so important as to be listed among her brothers? It turns out that she has a rich tradition in the Jewish Midrash, a rabbinical text that expanded and commented upon the books of the Old Testament. The texts hold that she had a part in the Exodus story, correctly identifying Moses as the prophet who would save the Israelites from enslavement to the Egyptians. Most Christians view the stories of the Midrash to be parables with some amount of truth to them, however they were kept as oral tradition and contain various historical contradictions, leading it to be kept out of our modern day Bible. If you are interested in learning more about Serah, you can read a great, yet lengthy article here: https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/serah-daughter-of-asher-midrash-and-aggadah
Goshen is described as being the best farmland in the area around Egypt. Here again we see Joseph being extremely cunning. He secures the land of Goshen, which he knows to be good land, for his family by making his family appear dirty. He convinces Pharaoh that his family are detestable and should be kept away from the center of Egypt, and in doing so guarantees that his family will have room to grow both in wealth and in size. When Joseph tells his family to say that they are shepherds, it almost sounds like he is trying to get them to lie. For the most part, it is true that they are shepherds. The family does keep animals, but I am sure that not every member of his family is directly involved in the handling of animals. By having each and every one of them claim to be a shepherd, he ensures that the family is not split off into two groups, the clean and the detestable. As a bonus, the Israelites are even put in charge of Pharaoh’s own livestock, but based on what we have seen from Joseph so far, I am confident that he knew this outcome would be achieved.
Chapter 47 verse 25 is striking. The men of the region sell themselves into slavery to Pharaoh and all that is required of them is that they give 20% of their income to the government? Most working Americans pay more than that on their income alone, let alone sales taxes, property tax and the like. Still, I would rather be a “slave” to the American government paying taxes and having access to medical care that does not involve surrounding myself with feces or drinking potions made from dog blood as the ancient Egyptians would. If that statement has sparked your interest, read on here (see “Techniques” and “Healing”): http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/egyptians/magic_01.shtml
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+46-47&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be the final chapters of Genesis – 48-50 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan