The Expository Files


I Will Go Down With You Into Egypt

“I will also surely bring you up again"

Genesis 46:1-4

I suppose it was a bit disconcerting for Jacob to pull up stakes and head from Canaan, the land of promise, on down to Egypt. Of course, he is looking forward to being reunited with his long lost, and thought to be dead, son Joseph. Even at this time, poor old Jacob is having a difficult time forcing himself to believe the good news that Joseph is alive after all these years.

Jacob is old, and he knows that this trip to Egypt will probably be his last earthly journey. There will be no return to Canaan during his lifetime. But Canaan is the land of promise. God had promised to give it to Jacob's grandfather, Abraham. The promise had been renewed by the Lord to Jacob's father Isaac. And, Jehovah had also made the promise to Jacob himself. But now they were leaving the land in which his family had prospered in times past but was presently suffering from great famine. They were heading for Egypt where there was food, thanks to God's providential care and plan through Joseph, now a mighty ruler.

Jacob's Final Worship In Canaan
“Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.” (Genesis 46:1).

Jacob (Israel) worshiped God at Beersheba (in Canaan) for a final time. Think of this. Due to the terrible famine, Jacob is leaving the land of promise. But before leaving Canaan, Jacob worships God. What is on his mind?

I recall several occasions where, before moving our family to a distant place, I have gathered with brethren for perhaps the final time on this earth to worship our God together. Soon the familiar faces, voices and location would be a memory. It is a very emotional thing.

Now, it is true that Jacob's extended family (about seventy people) will be moving with him. But the land, the birthright and the blessing he had received from his father Isaac, and all the promises of God involved in those things, seem now to be growing even more remote. What do you suppose Jacob is pondering during his final worship time in Canaan?

God Knows and Answers
God knows what Jacob is thinking about. God, in dealing with the patriarchs of old, occasionally communicated directly to them. In the New Testament, the Hebrew writer discusses how God once communicated with man in this way, but does not any longer, instead communicating His will to us through the words of the covenant of His Son Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Jehovah God, knowing Jacob's concerns and thoughts, reassured him.

“God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, "Jacob, Jacob." And he said, "Here I am." He said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes." (Genesis 46:2-4).

It is from the Lord's reassurances to Jacob that we are enlightened as to what Jacob was thinking. Jacob was afraid that leaving the land of promise might somehow render the promise null and void. The Lord assures Jacob that such is not the case and he need not be afraid to go down to Egypt. God will still be with Jacob, he will one day return to Canaan and it will be Joseph who will be present with Jacob when he dies.

God will fulfill a part of His promise while the family is in Egypt, They will enter Egypt as a family clan of seventy nomads (Genesis 46:5-7; 27). Their descendants will leave Egypt as a great nation (recall the original promise made to Abraham (Genesis 12:2).

God also promises Jacob that He will bring them back to Canaan from Egypt. How God accomplishes this will be seen in future Biblical history, and seems to be left as a mystery to Jacob. The exodus will not occur for another 400 years, but it will occur.


At long last, Jacob arrives in Egypt and is reunited with his son, Joseph. The stories that Joseph yet lives, which Jacob would scarcely allow himself to believe lest they fail to be true and he be heart-broken again, were true after all.

Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; as soon as he appeared before him, he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a long time. Then Israel said to Joseph, "Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive." (Genesis 46:29-30).

To Canaan's Land

Jacob's family take up residence in the land of Goshen, an area of Egypt. Jacob dies in old age, and his body is returned to Canaan by Joseph for burial.

God, of course, already forsees the exodus, though it is still 400 years in the future. What seems like a very long time to men is nothing to God. God works His plan in His own appointed way and time, and always fulfills His promises. There are going to be some dark days in Israel's future, when the promise of their own land in Canaan seems very remote. But that day will come!

And now, the Lord has appointed yet another day and has told us to watch for it, promising us a new, spiritual Canaan. This promise , too, will be fulfilled. We are looking for the heavenly Canaan, and we will reach it one day by faith, and though some of our days here between now and then may be dark as well, there is nothing that can be so dark so as to nullify the promises of God (Acts 17:31; 2 Peter 3:8-13; Hebrews 12:26-28; 11:22; 13-16). Again, that day will come when with new eyes we will behold the home God has prepared for us!

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 16.7; July 2009