Summary: Jacob had been told his favorite son, Joseph, had been killed many years before this incident took place. Then he received some very good news that changed everything for him!
Introduction: Jacob had believed Joseph, his favorite son, had been killed many years before. Now he not only heard the news, but saw proof, Joseph was alive. This was some of the best news Jacob had ever heard!
1 The good news when he heard about Joseph being still alive
Text: Genesis 45:25-28, KJV: 25 And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father, 26 And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not. 27 And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived: 28 And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.
For the background, Jacob had sent his sons to Egypt, twice, in order to buy food. Joseph had explained to Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt, that there were seven years of plenty but seven years of severe famine to follow. All this happened exactly as Joseph had said (see Genesis 41 for the backstory) and now it appears quite a bit of the area near Egypt, even as far away as Canaan, was suffering from a famine. Jacob’s sons went once, then a second time, and that leads to this next chapter of Jacob’s life.
In the first part of Genesis 45, Joseph showed his brothers he was really their brother whom they had sold 20 or so years ago. Apparently none of them thought they would ever see each other again so imagine the surprise when they were reunited!
And that wasn’t all. Joseph informed his brothers that more famine was to come—it wasn’t over yet by a long shot—in fact, five more years of the famine were to come (Gen. 45:11). Joseph then encouraged them to go back to Canaan, get Jacob and all the others, and then come down to Egypt and settle there.
The brothers did so and can you imagine the shock on Jacob’s face when he saw what his sons brought back! They had left with pack animals (donkeys or mules, probably) to carry the grain, but now they’re coming back with all that plus wagons! This might have been too much for Jacob, as Moses recorded that “Jacob’s heart fainted” and didn’t believe what his sons told him.
But things changed when Jacob not only heard what his sons said about Joseph, but also when he saw the wagons and all the other things Joseph had sent home to his father. This made Jacob “revive” and led him to say, “Joseph IS still alive and I’ll see him before I die”.
Talk about good news!
And even more good news was soon to come.
2 The good news when he received God’s approval
Text, Genesis 46:1-7, KJV: 1 And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac. 2 And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. 3 And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: 4 I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes. 5 And Jacob rose up from Beersheba: and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. 6 And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him: 7 His sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt.
Jacob and his household had lived in Hebron for at least some time, most likely since they met up with his father Isaac (Gen. 35:27) years before. There is no record of Jacob moving anywhere after he arrived in Hebron, so we can believe all was going well for him. That is, until this incredible famine came and caused a food shortage that few had Jacob scrambling to find enough food for his household.
But now, Jacob had received some incredibly good news! First, he heard from his sons that there was still plenty of grain in Egypt; then, he heard and saw proof Joseph was still alive and well! Jacob had no doubt mourned and grieved over Joseph for over 20 years, ever since his 10 oldest sons brought Joseph’s coat, torn and stained with animal blood, insisting Joseph was dead. Now his hopes were about to be fulfilled—he was going to be reunited with his long-lost son!