Chapter 45 begins with Joseph revealing himself to his brothers. And Joseph explains what we have seen throughout this portion of Scripture: “God sent me before you to preserve life” (45:5). Joseph does not deny that his brothers sold him into slavery (v.4), but neither does he deny that God did it (v.8). Both are true. We see two truths that the Bible makes very clear: God is completely sovereign, but we are responsible for our sin.
We see in verse 16 that Joseph’s joy is shared by Pharaoh. We see again that God grants Joseph favor even with those of the world. The chapter ends with Jacob’s joy over the news that his son is still alive. (I’ve always wondered how the brothers talked their way around the whole “we sold him into slavery 22 years ago”” thing…) God has brought out of horrible circumstances, joy for His people.
Chapter 46 begins with Jacob’s worship of God for what He has done. In verses 2-4, God promises Jacob what He promised to Abraham all those years before (Gen 15:13-14). And like his grandfather before him, Jacob now leaves Canaan for Egypt, only under completely different circumstances. We then get a listing of all “seventy” people of the house of Jacob who went to Egypt. This is not all the people who went, as Dinah and Serah are the only woman mentioned. Verse 26 even tells us the count excludes the wives of the men listed. This is showing the physical offspring through the lines of his sons. This is the physical nation of Israel.
Verse 28 briefly mentions Judah being sent by Jacob ahead of the family to “show the way” before him. The word translated “show the way” is usually translated as “teach” in the Old Testament. Here, it carries the connotation of leading someone somewhere (which is what a teacher does). The idea is that Judah has, as the narrative has gone on, emerged as the leader of his generation. We see that he is the one to tell Jacob that the brothers will not return to Egypt without Benjamin (43:3-5). He is the one to make the pledge to Jacob of Benjamin’s safety (43:8-9). He is the spokesperson for the brothers before Joseph (44:16-34 – notice how in 44:14 the brothers are referred to as “Judah and his brothers”). He is the one to offer himself to Joseph as the ransom for Benjamin (44:33). Why is this important? It explains the earthly circumstances that result in the blessing Jacob gives him (Gen 49:8-12).
The chapter ends with the touching story of Jacob and Joseph reuniting. As they are a family of shepherds, they are “an abomination” to the Egyptians (46:34). The entire nation of shepherds that went into Egypt – as well as the more populous nation that God brings out – prefigure the Good Shepherd being sent by God into Egypt (Matt 2:13), and being brought by God back to the Promised Land (Matt 2:15).
In chapter 47, we read of Pharaoh meeting Joseph’s family. The favor of Pharaoh extends to them (47:6). In Jacob’s short synopsis of his years (47:9) we see implied the tie in between increasing sin and decreasing lifespan. Again, sin abounds, as does death.
Notice that in verse 11, Joseph settles his family where “Pharaoh had commanded.” In verse 6 we are told that is Goshen. In verse 11 we are told that is Rameses. These are one and the same. It was called Goshen when Israel settled there, but it was changed when the enslaved Israelites made it one of (the other) Pharaoh’s store cities (Ex 1:11*). This is also where the Exodus begins (Ex 12:37). Moses is showing the Israelites through the Genesis narrative that it was God Who brought them there according to His promise so they would believe that is was God Who was bringing them out from there according to His promise.
Verses 13-26 record the shrewdness of Joseph in dealing with the people of Egypt. But while his political maneuvering was meant for good, and achieved much good for the people, it also paved the way for a less benevolent Pharaoh to have increased power, which is exactly what happens.
Verse 27 shows how God blessed Israel after bringing them to Egypt. Moses would want them to see that obedience to God when He says to go (like with Abraham and Jacob before) results in blessings from His sovereign hand. The chapter ends with Joseph’s promise to Jacob to bury him in Canaan – showing Israel the man’s understanding that Canaan is where God would give him his final rest. This is the promise God also gives the nation.
*Depending on your Bible translation, there may be a difference in spelling: “Rameses” (Genesis 47:11 and Exodus 12:37) and “Raamses” (Exodus 1:11). At the time of the writing of the Old Testament, Hebrew writing consisted of only consonants. Later, the Masoretes (where we get the “Masoretic Text”, on which our Bibles base the Old Testament) added various markings, including vowel markings. The difference between these two spellings is one vowel marking. The difference would not be original to Moses. Some translations account for this and keep the spelling of the city consistent.