By: Ely Lagajino
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.Proverbs 13:12 NIV
Jacob’s sons return home with the news that Joseph is alive, and he is the governor of Egypt. They tell their father that Joseph invited them to live in Egypt.
Jacob reluctantly accepts Joseph’s invitation without God’s approval. So he offers a sacrifice at Beersheba, asking God’s assurance to live in Egypt. Later he receives God’s answer through a vision, “Fear not to go down into Egypt, for I will make of thee a great nation.” (PP p. 238). It is the same promise God gave to Abraham, his grandfather, and Isaac, his father.
The population of the Israelites slowly increases in Canaan. Yet, God hasn’t allowed them to own the land until after the “fourth generation,” giving time for the Canaanites to acknowledge the living God.
If they stay in Canaan and become great in number, they need to take over the land or live through intermarriage, which is against God’s plan. So God allows them to stay in Egypt for a while, to fulfil the divine plan of becoming a great nation, and maintaining the status as a separate people, since the Egyptians hate shepherds and they consider it a disgrace associating with them. (Gen. 46:33, 34).
The Egyptians hate shepherds not because they smell like sheep but because of historical reasons. Many years before Joseph, the Hyksos who were shepherds invaded and ruled Egypt. They called their king as shepherd-king. They subjected Egyptians to great hardship. The shepherd king was very arrogant and practiced cruelty until overthrown.
Finally, Jacob’s longing to see Joseph has ended. Jacob, who is also Israel, happily spend his remaining 17 years with Joseph in Egypt. Jacob sees the sincere repentance of his sons. “He sees his family surrounded by all the conditions needful for the development of a great nation. And his faith holds on to the sure promise of their future establishment in Canaan” (PP p.240).