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Much happened in Abraham’s family in the generations after Abraham. Isaac repeated his father’s mistakes, as he told Abimelech his wife was his sister (Gen 26:8-11; cf. 20:1-13). Each did this from fear of the Philistine king. Then, Esau and Jacob, Isaac’s sons replayed the rivalry between Ishmael and Isaac. Jacob fled from Esau, going to his mother’s family in Haran. There he married

sisters before fleeing from his in-laws back to Canaan, now a wealthy man with a large family. Genesis 34 tells of Jacob’s daughter being raped. His sons took vengeance by killing all the men from the rapist’s city. Jacob, rightly, told them, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land…. I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” God brought Abraham to Canaan, but it was increasingly clear they would be in constant tension with the people there, so God moved them to Egypt for 400 years. It is also clear Abraham’s family did not seem capable of blessing the world morally; the Judah-Tamar story (Gen. 38) also showed the danger of marriage with Canaanites. Yet, God was faithful to His covenant, though the chosen family were not.

Sibling rivalry continued in Jacob’s family. The older brothers sold Joseph, into Egyptian slavery. There, Joseph was heroic. He resisted his master’s wife’s seduction attempt, but went to prison when she lied. In prison, he became chief over the other prisoners. He interpreted dreams of two prisoners who had displeased Pharaoh – one of whom Pharaoh restored, while executing the other. After a 2 year delay,  Pharaoh called for him to interpret troubling dreams – dreams pointing to seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.

Joseph pleased Pharaoh who put him in charge of storing up food in the time of plenty to prepare for the coming famine. When famine came, it also affected Canaan where Jacob and his family still lived. They heard there was food in Egypt, so Jacob sent the ten older sons (who had sold Joseph) to get grain.

Joseph recognized them and treated them as spies, eventually sending them back to their father while holding one of them hostage. He said they should return with their youngest brother to “prove” their claim to be sons of one man. When they did, Joseph eventually revealed who he was, after more testing. There was a tearful but fearful reunion (the ten brothers were terrified because of what they had done to Joseph twenty years before).

That brings us to Genesis 46, where Joseph sent them home with news he was alive and instructions to bring the family to Egypt! God assured Jacob He would go with him, and that he would be where he could die in peace with Joseph beside him.

Non-biblical history tells us the ruling Pharaoh in Joseph’s time was from a foreign dynasty, the Hyksos. These rulers of Egypt, sometimes called “Shepherd Kings,” were Semites, distant relatives of the Hebrews. Native Egyptians hated shepherds, which the Israelites were. Accordingly, Pharaoh settled Jacob’s family in Goshen, a part of Egypt well suited to the life of shepherds and somewhat isolated from the Egyptians who despised them. Here they were able to live and increase in number in safety. (Click here or here for more on this.)

God’s providence was caring for Abraham’s family in Egypt – though dark days as slaves lay ahead when a new king from an Egyptian dynasty would come to power – a king “who did not know Joseph.”

That is where we next take up the STORY.


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