The Scriptorium

People of the Promise

Jacob and his family prepare to enter Egypt. Genesis 46.8-27

Gleanealogy: Foundations (6)

Pray Psalm 105.1-5.
Oh, give thanks to the LORD!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!
Seek the LORD and His strength;
Seek His face evermore!
Remember His marvelous works which He has done,
His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth

Sing joyfully and with thanksgiving Psalm 105.1-5.
(Warrington: Give to Our God Immortal Praise)
Give thanks unto the Lord Most High; call on His Name, before Him cry!
Make known His deeds in every land; sing praise for all the works of His hand.

Glory in God, rejoice in heart, all you who seek His holy part.
Him and His strength and presence seek; His works proclaim, His judgments speak.

Read Genesis 46.8-27.

1. This genealogy is more like a census. Explain.

2. Why did Moses think it was important to provide this list of names at this point?

We recall that Moses was compiling toledoth, and weaving them into the narrative which became Genesis, for those Israelites he had just led out of Egypt into the wilderness. Today’s genealogy departs from the “these are the generations” format we’ve seen thus far, and begins with “these are the names”. There is something much more specific and personal about this. The list that follows is not so much a genealogy as a census, but it would have been very important for the people of Israel in Moses’ day. They were leaving surroundings they’d known for generations – over 400 years! They needed to re-establish their proper identity, and that identity must be rooted in the covenant God made with their forebears.

This list is a kind of outline Israel would have consulted to begin getting ready for the journey through the wilderness and the conquest of Canaan. Throughout the wilderness journey, the Lord through Moses will take various steps to help the people get organized according to their genealogical records. He will appoint heads of tribes and families. He will have them bring offerings by tribes. He will show them where to camp in relation to the tabernacle. All this will be preparation for entering the land, where each tribe will have its proper allotment of land. Without this list in Genesis 46, getting Israel in order for the journey to Canaan would have been much more difficult.

Let’s make a few observations about this list of the sons of Jacob, and their children who came with them into Egypt. First, we note the use of Hebrew God-morphemes in many of the names (cf. Jemuel, Jaleel, Arel, Malchiel, etc.). We don’t know much about the faith of these people, but including God in the name of children expresses something of a hope or longing – at least, a consciousness. Second, this list of names includes Gentiles, or those born to Gentiles, specifically, Shaul (son of a Canaanite woman, v. 10), Perez (born to Tamar, v. 12), and the children born to Joseph in Egypt (v. 20). The line of the chosen people included Gentiles, and this looks back to those Gentile toledoth we’ve considered, and encourages us to remember the promise to Abraham (“all the families of the earth”). The names in the list are given according to birthright, from the first-born to the last-born, a further ordering principle designed to help Israel get organized. This list is compiled as Israel is leaving the land of Canaan – God’s chosen place for His people. They are coming under the protection of a Gentile nation, which God will use to bless His people, but from which He will ultimately extract them to bring them back to the land of Canaan. God’s kindness through Egypt – allowing Joseph’s family to dwell among them and work for Pharaoh – should remind the people that the nations are at God’s disposal as part of His project of bringing His people and all the families of the earth the blessings of His covenant.

Finally, we note that the total of the promised people who began to sojourn in Egypt was 70 – a perfect number (the number for God, 3, plus the number for man, 4, times the number of completion, 10). It’s as if Moses were saying to the people, God brought just the right number of us to Egypt. None of this happened by chance. The people would be reminded of this as they were leaving Egypt when they arrived at Elim, where seventy palm trees stood around twelve wells (Ex. 15.27), and they would have concluded that the sovereign God Who brought His people safely to Egypt will lead them safely home again.

1. This list reminds us that God is a God of order, and He expects His people to observe the order He wills for them. How is this instructive for us today?

2. The nations continue to factor in God’s unfolding project. Why do we need to remember this?

3. This list, given that it is a complete list of the people of promise at that time, might serve to remind us to pray for all the people of God in our day. Explain.

We have here a particular account of Jacob’s family. Though the fulfilling of promises is always sure, yet it is often slow. It was now 215 years since God had promised Abraham to make of him a great nation, ch. 12:2; yet that branch of his seed, to which the promise was made sure, had only increased to seventy, of whom this particular account is kept, to show the power of God in making these seventy become a vast multitude.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Genesis 46.5-27

Lord, I’m reminded to pray for the churches in my community, in particular that they may…

Pray Psalm 105.26-45.
Praise and thank God for the way He preserves and increases His people, even in the face of trial and difficulty. How will God preserve and increase you today?

Sing Psalm 105.26-45.
Psalm 105.26-45 (Warrington: Give to Our God Immortal Praise)
He brought His people from Egypt alive, and made their joy and song revive.
He made the nations’ land their own, and all the wealth that they had known.

To them He granted the promised land, the portion of His gracious hand.
Though they were few, and wandered far, He kept them close within His heart.

So let us all in our Savior confide, and in His holy Law abide.
Let us observe His glorious Word, and praise our sovereign, faithful Lord!

T. M. Moore

The genealogies of Scripture reveal the heart of God in His covenant relationship with His people. To learn more about God’s covenant, order our book, I Will Be Your God, by clicking here. You can learn to sing all the psalms to familiar hymn tunes by ordering a copy of The Ailbe Psalter (click here).

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore