Summary: Jacob and his family move to Egypt, knowing that they will face hardship. Yet God also promised to go with them and bring them. He makes the same promise to us if we will go the place of worship, peace, and refreshment.
Has God ever instructed you to go into a place where you knew eventually there would be suffering? I’m not sure that’s happened to any of us - and I am even less sure that knowing that fact would help us in any way. But in doing so we fulfill God’s plan not only for us but for His purposes on earth. And His promise is that He will never leave us - even in the darkest of times. Such is the situation in which we find Jacob. On the surface it is the best of news - his long lost son Joseph is alive and well in Egypt. Further - Joseph is inviting them to come live with him to take away the threat of starvation in the famine.
What should be great news, though, is tinged with the promise of suffering - given to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham.
Genesis 15:13-14 Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.
Surely this must have been passed down to Jacob - who in the back of his mind must have been thinking about this prophecy as he packed his wagons and headed for Egypt.
Verses 1 - 4
It was a big thing for Jacob to leave Canaan and bring his family to Egypt - especially since God had promised to Jacob that he would inherit Canaan as his own - was this tantamount to abandoning his post - his land? No God says.
Beersheba was a significant place. Abraham had planted a tamarisk tree there (Gen 21) and called on the name of the Lord. It was a place where treaties were made (Gen 21, 26), and where Isaac’s servants found water (Gen 26). So it was a place of worship, a place of peace, and a place of refreshing. It is often in places like this that the Lord speaks to us - when we have worshiped Him, found peace in our souls with Him, and been refreshed in His Word.
This answers a little detail that God revealed to Abraham way back in Chapter 15 - that they would be in a land not theirs for 400 years and that they would be enslaved and mistreated. This was written to a people who had just come out of Egypt after being enslaved and mistreated - but God wants them to know that this was a part of His plan. The most important thing: "I will go down with you and I will bring you back up."
Verses 5 - 7
So this is the entire clan and all their belongings. This is different than just going down to get supplies to keep them alive during the drought - this was wholesale moving.
Verses 8 - 27
This is not an actual counting but a charter of sorts. Er and Onan are dead (v 12), and Ephraim and Manasseh didn’t go down to Egypt (v 20) - they are already there. Don’t think of this as a passenger manifest, but as a document of a nation’s beginning. Each family has its place to keep.
Verses 28 - 30
They didn’t have AAA or a roadmap they could pick up at a gas station. Judah is sent on ahead - showing more his leadership in the tribe - which will continue in the blessings of chapter 49, the Davidic line, and eventually the Messiah.