Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
21 The sons of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey. 22 To each and all of them he gave a change of clothes, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five changes of clothes. 23 To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey. 24 Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way.”
25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. 26 And they told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them. 27 But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”
Jacob’s sons – other than Joseph – return to Canaan and fetch their father. Joseph gave them gifts and wagons both out of his love for them but also to serve as proof to his father that what he is saying is true.
The timeline here gives us an idea of how long Jacob lives after joining Joseph in Egypt. He was about 130 years old at the time of his departure for Egypt. Inasmuch as verse 28 paints a picture that he will die imminently, he apparently lives on nearly two more decades. Looking at The Pulpit Commentaries and verse 21:
And the children (better, sons) of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the commandment (literally, the mouth) of Pharaoh, and gave them provision for the way.
The ESV, which I pulled from above, translates the word in question here “sons” rather than “children.”
sons = בֵּן bên, bane; from H1129; a son (as a builder of the family name), in the widest sense (of literal and figurative relationship, including grandson, subject, nation, quality or condition, etc., (like father or brother), etc.):—afflicted, age, (Ahoh-) (Ammon-) (Hachmon-) (Lev-) ite, (anoint-) ed one, appointed to, (+) arrow, (Assyr-) (Babylon-) (Egypt-) (Grec-) ian, one born, bough, branch, breed, + (young) bullock, + (young) calf, × came up in, child, colt, × common, × corn, daughter, × of first, firstborn, foal, + very fruitful, + postage, × in, + kid, + lamb, (+) man, meet, + mighty, + nephew, old, (+) people, rebel, + robber, × servant born, × soldier, son, + spark, steward, + stranger, × surely, them of, + tumultuous one, valiant(-est), whelp, worthy, young (one), youth.
Continuing on with Ellicott’s Bible Commentary and verse 22:
(22) Changes of raiment.—Gifts of clothing were marks of special favour in the East (Genesis 41:42). Joseph’s brethren would thus show by their very apparel how honourable had been their treatment.
As we will see by the verses that follow, it was important for Joseph that his brothers convince their father that their story is true and that he should join them in Egypt. Joseph likely knows that convincing their father to leave the Promised Land will be quite difficult.
I do wonder though whether Jacob is aware of what God told his grandfather. From Genesis 15:
13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.
If Jacob is aware of this, perhaps he was in no hurry to potentially begin this period of time. If not, then he might feel an obligation to stay in the land of Canaan. Thus the convincing done by Joseph needs to do its job well. Continuing on with The Pulpit Commentaries:
And to his father he sent after this manner; ten asses (vide Genesis 12:16) laden with (literally, carrying) the good things of Egypt, and ten she asses laden with (or carrying) corn and bread and meat—probably prepared meats, some sort of delicacy (Clarke)—for his father by the way.
So (literally, and) he sent his brethren away, and they departed: and he said unto them, See that ye fall not out by the way. The verb רָגַן signifies to be moved or disturbed with any violent emotion, but in particular with anger (Proverbs 29:9; Isaiah 28:21; cf. Sanscr. rag, to move oneself, Gr. ὀργή, anger, Lat. frango, Gerregen), and is here generally understood as an admonition against quarrelling (LXX; μὴ οργιζεσθε; Vulgate, ne irascimini) (Calvin, Dathius, Rosenmüller, Keil, Mur phy, Lange, Alford, et alii), although by others (Tuch, Baumgarten, Michaelis, Gesenius, Kalisch) it is regarded as a dissuasive against fear of any future plot on the part of Joseph.
Verse 23 highlights gifts for Jacob himself, and verse 24 addresses Joseph’s desire that his brothers not quarrel amongst themselves on their journey. The note above mentions that this admonition may have also been to dissuade them from worrying over the idea that this might all be some type of elaborate plot by Joseph. Ellicott adds to this, too.
(24) See that ye fall not out by the way.—Heb., do not get angry on the journey. Joseph feared that they might reproach one another for their treatment of him, and try to throw the blame on the one or two chiefly guilty, and that so quarrels might ensue. This is the meaning given to the passage in all the versions, and agrees with Joseph’s efforts to quiet their fears, and convince them of his good intentions. Several modern commentators, however, translate “Be not afraid of the journey,” but on insufficient grounds.
Ellicott guesses that Joseph may have feared the brothers would blame each other for how they treated Joseph earlier in their lives. This seems like the most likely reason, to me, for this admonition from Joseph. There almost certainly was a *most* guilty brother but Joseph did not want that to be hashed out as he viewed the entire series of events as providential. Continuing with The Pulpit Commentaries:
And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father, and told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he (literally, and that he; an emphatic assurance which Keil, following Ewald, renders by” yea,” and Kalisch by “indeed”) is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob’s (literally, his, i.e. Jacob’s) heart fainted (literally, A few chill, the primary idea of the root being that of rigidity through coldness; cf. πηγνύω, to be rigid, and pigeo, rigeo, frigeo, to be chill. The sense is that Jacob’s heart seemed to stop with amazement at the tidings which his sons brought), for he believed them not. This was scarcely a ease of believing not for joy (Bush), but rather of incredulity arising from suspicion, both of the messengers and their message, which was only removed by further explanation, and in particular by the sight of Joseph’s splendid presents and commodious carriages. And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them:—i.e. about Joseph’s invitation and promise (Genesis 45:9-11)—and when he saw the wagons—probably royal vehicles (Wordsworth)—which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived (literally, lived; it having been previously numb and cold, as if dead): and Israel said,—the change of name here is significant. The sublime theocratic designation, which had dropped into obscurity during the period of the old man’s sorrow for his lost son, revives with the resuscitation of his dead hope (cf. Genesis 43:6)—It is enough (one word, as if expressing his complacent satisfaction); Joseph my son is yet alive (this is the one thought that fills his aged heart): I will go down—”The old man is young again in spirit; he is for going immediately; he could leap; yes, fly” (Lange)—and see him (a sight of Joseph would be ample compensation for all the years of sorrow he had passed through) before I die. He would then be ready to be gathered to his fathers.
Joseph’s sending of gifts seems wise. Jacob is initially disbelieving of the story his sons are telling, but the gifts and wagons convince him. The note also makes an effort to point out something beautiful in the story: “the spirit of their father Jacob revived.” The picture painted is of an old man, cold and full of sorrow, restored to some measure of his youth.
Ellicott adds to the discussion on the use of “Israel” in verse 28:
(28) And Israel said.—We must not lay too much stress upon this change of name, as though it were a title appropriate to the patriarch only in his happier and triumphant hours; for in Genesis 45:6 it-is given him in the midst of his distress. It rather shows that the names were long both in use as regards the patriarch personally, but as the title of Israel was alone given to Jacob’s family, it is plain that a high significance was attached to it, and that the inheritance of the Abrahamic promises was at an early date connected therewith.
Jacob ascent to make the trip south is important. It fulfills the beginning of Abraham’s vision from chapter 15 and it makes possible the fulfillment of Joseph’s second dream from chapter 37.
9 Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” 11 And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.
One wonders if this dream gave Jacob a sliver of hope, in the otherwise dark misery of Joseph’s long absence. If it did, that hope is now being fulfilled.