“So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. 2 And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” 3 Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. 4 I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” (Genesis 46:1-4 ESV)
The LORD gave Jacob the name Israel when Jacob wrestled with God (Gen. 32:22-28). The name Israel means “He strives with God” or “God strives.” To strive means to persist and to persevere. The name’s meaning not only applies to Jacob but also to his descendants.
As Jacob and his family began their journey to Egypt, they came to Beersheba. It was there that they offered sacrifices to Elohim, the One, and True God. Elohim was not only the God of Jacob’s father Isaac, but also his grandfather Abraham.
The Tyndale Bible Dictionary explains, “Beersheba is the Scriptural designation for the southern extremity of the Promised Land, located 28 miles (45.1 kilometers) southwest of Hebron. It was an important Negev site at an early time. Hagar wandered with Ishmael in this area, as did Abraham. Later Isaac (Gen 26:23) and Jacob (46:1) both had significant spiritual experiences there, and later yet it was important in the lives of numerous other Hebrews.”
Why did Jacob stop in Beersheba as he and his family traveled to Egypt? One author speculates, “He (Jacob) needed a word from the Lord to make him move. That Jacob would seek direct confirmation for his move to Egypt is not surprising given his family history. After all, Canaan was to be the inheritance of Abraham’s descendants (Gen. 12:1–9), and trouble usually followed the patriarchs and their kin when they moved outside the borders of the Promised Land (Gen. 12:10–20; 19:1–22, 30–38; 29:1–30). To leave Canaan might be a signal of unbelief, and this is why Jacob stops at Beersheba to seek Yahweh’s face. Beersheba was Isaac’s home (26:23–25), and Jacob’s sacrifice there to “the God of his father Isaac” (46:1), is proof that he aligns himself with the promises of land and offspring Yahweh made to his fathers, demonstrating that he has faith and has not forgotten the Lord’s solemn word.”
It was at Beersheba that the LORD once again spoke to Jacob, as He had in the past (Gen.28:10-17; 32:22-28). The LORD did so in visions of the night. He called out to Jacob by name. The LORD said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. 4 I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”
The promise God made to Jacob in today’s text reiterates the promise the LORD gave Jacob when he was a young man (Genesis 28:10–17 (ESV). Notice how often the personal pronoun “I” is used. God assured Jacob that He, Elohim, was the self-existent God also known as Yahweh. He alone was the Mighty One. He alone would make Jacob and his family into a great nation. God also promised that not only would He personally go down with them to Egypt, but also that He would bring them back to the Promised Land. Finally, God told Jacob that he would die in Egypt in the presence of his son, Joseph, but his body would be returned to Canaan.
Dr. R .C. Sproul writes, “Without question, then, the move to Egypt is vital to the Lord’s plan. There, Jacob’s family will grow into a great nation that God will later redeem for His glory (Gen. 46:3). Our Father graciously assures Jacob of His presence, and so the patriarch knows all will take place as God has said (v. 4). Jacob is also told that he will one day be brought up again from Egypt. Ultimately, this looks forward to the resurrection when Jacob, in body and spirit, will be restored to life to rule over Canaan and, indeed, over the new heavens and earth (Dan. 12:2; Matt. 5:5).”
Puritan commentator Matthew Henry writes, “Whatever low or dark valley we are called into at any time, we may be confident, if God goes down with us into it, that he will surely bring us up again. If he goes with us down to death, he will surely bring us up again to glory.”
Have a blessed day in the LORD.
Soli deo Gloria!
The His Word Today Podcast begins June 1, Soli deo Gloria!