Reflections on Genesis 46-47

Genesis 12:10 – Now there was a famine in the land.  So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.

Genesis 26:1 – Now there was a famine in the land — besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time –and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar.  the LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live.”

Genesis 46:3 – Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation.”

  • There was a famine in the promised land in the time of Abraham and he went down to Egypt – no comment from the narrator or God.
  • There was another famine in the promised land in the time of Isaac and he was forbidden to go down to Egypt.
  • There was yet another famine in the time of Jacob and he was commanded and encouraged to go down to Egypt.

Is it a sin for people to go down to Egypt to flee famine?  Maybe, Yes, and No.  It depends.  Beyond the most trivial matters it is difficult to answer, “Is it a sin to do X?” Often this question comes from sincere believers but it has been abstracted away from any concrete situation or people.  Perhaps we can’t answer the question because it is ill-formed.  Perhaps there is no appropriate answer for the question they are asking.  It depends.

But what does it depend on – their situation?  Ultimately, no.  On hearing and obeying the Word of God.  As important as exercising our God-given rationality is, we should not shy away from seeking His face and asking for His help.


Genesis 46:30 – Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive.”

Luke 2:29 – “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation.”

Nunc dimittis. Now dismiss.  When Jacob saw Joseph – his son who he thought was dead – his joy was so full that he felt that his life had reached its conclusion.  When Simon saw Jesus – the Son who would die – his joy was so full that he felt like his life had reached its conclusion.

Who or what are you waiting for?


Genesis 47:25 – And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord we will be servants to Pharaoh.”

With Joseph in charge, everybody wins:

  • Pharaoh increases in wealth
  • The Egyptian people are kept alive
  • Joseph is honored in the sight of all
  • The house of Israel is saved
  • God is glorified, even by unbelievers

This is the sign of God’s blessing.  The Egyptian people view Joseph as a savior, not as a despot.  What will it be like when the savior greater than Joseph arrives?

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