What does Genesis 46 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Genesis 46 can be divided into three sections: Jacob's final encounter with the Lord, a count of all of Jacob's descendants at or around this time, and Jacob's reunion with his son Joseph in the land of Egypt.

Jacob and his large family set out with all they own for the land of Egypt. As wealthy people, they would be driving many sheep and cattle, as well as bringing all the wives, children, and goods in wagons provided by the Egyptian Pharaoh. Before leaving the Promised Land of Canaan, however, Jacob stops at Beersheba to offer sacrifices to God. In response, God speaks to Jacob, referred to in this passage using his God-given name of Israel (Genesis 35:10). God tells Jacob that he should not be afraid to move his family to Egypt. God promises to continue to be with him and to make a great nation of Israel even within Egypt. Finally, God sweetly tells Jacob that his once long-lost son, Joseph, will be the one to close his eyes in death (Genesis 46:1–4).

This blessing from God finalizes Jacob's move out of Canaan, beginning the family's slow march into Egypt (Genesis 46:5–7).

Next, Genesis pauses the narrative to report a count of all the descendants of Jacob around the time of their move to Egypt. The sons and grandsons, as well as two women, are listed according to each of Jacob's four wives. The count reveals sixty-six named descendants who entered with Jacob into Egypt. This brings the total of official Israelites, including Jacob, Joseph, and Joseph's two sons, to seventy. In the Old Testament, seventy is sometimes associated with completeness (Exodus 24:9; Jeremiah 29:10; Daniel 9:24). To reach this number, some scholars believe that some descendants, such as the children of Benjamin, were counted "early," to include the entire second generation after Jacob (Genesis 46:8–27).

Genesis then resumes the active part of the story, as Jacob and his family arrive in Egypt in the region of Goshen. This was likely in a fertile area along the Nile River. Or, at least, it would be once the terrible famine was over (Genesis 41:29–30). Joseph mounts his chariot and meets them there. He has not seen his father in more than twenty years, and the reunion is every bit as emotional as one might expect. Joseph embraces his father and sobs for a long period of time. Jacob reports that after seeing Joseph alive again, he is now ready to die (Genesis 46:28–30).

Finally, Joseph begins prepping his brothers for an audience with Pharaoh. He tells them how to answer Pharaoh's question about their occupation. Joseph urges them to say they are lifelong shepherds and herdsman, as were their fathers. In one sense, this is likely meant to reassure other Egyptians that these newcomers were not going to take resources from the local culture. They were more than capable of providing for themselves—once the famine was over. Interestingly, Joseph states that Egyptians have some special dislike for shepherds. Although it is not revealed why shepherds are so detested, the result is that foreigners in Egypt are often given the role of herdsmen. This might have been Joseph's way of ensuring that his people would be tolerated, but not fully absorbed, into the pagan Egyptian society (Genesis 46:31–34).

The next chapters describe Joseph's family meeting Egypt's ruler, Pharaoh, and their settlement in the land of Goshen.
Verse Context:
Genesis 46:1–7 begins with the journey of Jacob's large family from Canaan to Egypt. First is a stop in Beersheba (Genesis 26:33). Jacob offers sacrifices to God. God responds, telling Jacob not to be afraid to settle in Egypt. God assures Jacob that He will continue to be with him and will still make a great nation of his offspring. After this, Genesis tallies all the direct descendants of Israel, before returning to a narrative form.
Genesis 46:8–27 pauses the story of Jacob's migration to Egypt to count his direct offspring around this time. The final tally of all Israelites, not counting the wives of the sons and grandsons, is 70. The text then resumes explaining Jacob's reunion with his son, Joseph.
Genesis 46:28–34 resumes a description of Jacob's move to Egypt. The family arrives in the Goshen region, likely along the Nile River, and Joseph rides out on his chariot to meet them. This includes an emotional reunion between Jacob and the son he thought he'd lost. Amid tears, Jacob declares he is now ready to die after seeing Joseph alive. Joseph immediately prepares his family for an audience with Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt.
Chapter Summary:
Genesis 46 includes three basic sections. First, Jacob and his large family begin their journey with all their possessions towards their new home in Egypt. Jacob stops in Beersheba and offers sacrifices to God. God responds by assuring Jacob He will continue to be with him and multiply his people. The narrative pauses to count the current descendants of Jacob, then resumes with Jacob's arrival in the Goshen region of Egypt. Joseph meets him there for an emotional reunion. Then Joseph prepares the family to meet Pharaoh.
Chapter Context:
Joseph has just been dramatically reunited with his estranged brothers (Genesis 45). Following Joseph's revelation of his identity Genesis 46 describes the large family's move out of Canaan. Jacob stops in Beersheba to offer sacrifices to God and receive renewed promises from Him. Then the story pauses to provide a count of Joseph's descendants by each of his four wives. Jacob is reunited with Joseph, who prepares his family to meet with Pharaoh. Chapter 47 describes Jacob's meeting with Pharaoh and the family's settlement in Goshen.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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