For approximately 22 years Jacob has presumed his favorite son to be dead. Now he has learned he is alive; can you imagine his exuberant expectation? Joseph was 17 when he saw him last, he will be around 40 when he soon sees him again. God comes and makes many wonderful promises to Jacob at Beersheba, and then ends them with a tender personal promise that he will die peacefully with his firstborn closing his eyes. So they loaded up the wagons to move to Egypt and… genealogy!
Is this the worst commercial break ever? If this was on the TV and non-inspired you might throw something at it. We should have known that we couldn’t make it through Genesis without one more genealogy. I hope our study through Genesis has caused you to see the stunning beauty and perfection of Scripture in all its parts. I hope you no longer come to genealogies and sigh outwardly with disgust, but inwardly with delight. I hope you have seen how packed they are with theological meaning. So what is God communicating? Why this list of descendants and why here?
Although Moses does write in such a way that we anticipate the reunion of Jacob and Joseph, and although that reunion communicates to us much about our heavenly Father, that is not the main agenda of this text. This is not simply a sappy sentimental story, but a thick theological tale. God is going with Israel into Egypt, there He will make Israel into a great nation, and He will bring them out again. As Bruce Waltke comments, “Egypt is the womb God will use to form His nation.”
From old Abraham and barren Sarah a nation will come. From these seventy, God will make a nation. Remember Moses wrote Genesis as part of a series called the Pentateuch. Check out how the next volume begins.
These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. – Exodus 1:1-7
Prior to Jacob the covenant family had only been multiplying by one. Not the quick route from family to nation. With Jacob the fertility level gets kicked up, but seventy is hardly a nation. But in Egypt, God will form His people.
Some may infer from Exodus 2:24-25 that God had forgotten His covenant. But the Exodus passage speaks specifically about remembering the part of the covenaant regarding bringing them back to the land. God has not forgotten or delayed on His promises during the 400 plus years that Israel will be in bondage in Egypt. Everything is going according to plan (Genesis 15:13-14). God is making His people from nothing in faithfulness to His covenant.
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. – Deuteronomy 7:6-8
In faithfulness to His covenant God is still making His people from such nothing today.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 29-10
Out of nothing, creation; good, holy, and blest. Only Elohim can do this.