When today you go to visit some dignitary or prominent figure you drive up to the door of his residence or office, park your car, or have it parked for you, and then walk to meet him. But Jacob did not drive his wagon, or have it driven by one of his sons up to Joseph’s residence in Egypt. It was not all that simple. Nor was this according to Egypt’s taste and decorum. Here were sixty-seven souls. with all their earthly possessions packed and stacked on several wagons. But here also were several flocks of sheep of several men, and surely a very unwieldy procession. We may be sure that the Egyptians would shy away from such a band because of their “culture” and “refinement.” For “every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians” (Genesis 46:34).
We may therefore believe that this band of Israelites, come down from the land of Canaan with all their possessions and sheep, stayed on the back roads, and that from a distance Jacob sent Judah to inform Joseph of their arrival and to get directions to the land of Goshen. And that explains why, although he longed to see Joseph more than anything else in life, so that after he did see him he could say, “Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive” (Genesis 46:30). Jacob does not go directly to Joseph. Instead it is Joseph who goes out to see his father. It was not a lack of love and longing that dictated this sending of Judah to ask the way to Goshen rather than going personally to see Joseph as quickly as possible. It was a case of logistics and Egyptian “culture” and decorum.
Note for a moment the sharp contrast here; Jacob is riding in a wagon—an Egyptian wagon with class to it, and yet a wagon—while Joseph comes to see him riding in a chariot (Genesis 46:29). And is this not a climactic fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams? No, we do not read here that his father bowed down to Joseph, as the eleven brothers (sheaves and stars in the .dreams) did. But here is Joseph exalted highly above his father; and it shows: And Jacob must in the land of Egypt recognize Joseph as having authority over him in the affairs of the land. Joseph must honour his father; and he does. But Jacob must honour Joseph as Pharaoh’s agent for the distribution of food.
When Joseph told his father and brethren his dreams (Genesis 37), his brothers envied him; and his father rebuked him at first, but afterward “observed the saying.” Now he observes the fact. The word here translated observed is far more often translated as keep or kept. And the idea is that Jacob did not dismiss the dreams as nothing more than childish dreams but thought about them for days after Joseph had rehearsed them. He kept them in mind as the Word of God. And although when that blood-stained coat of Joseph was brought to him, and he thought Joseph to be dead, and all fulfillment of those words seemed just like an empty dream, now, however, he sees his son alive and in that exalted position of which God spoke in those dreams. Indeed God works in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.
The same was true of His own Son Who, hanging on the cross after giving up the ghost, seemed so far from the fulfillment of all the promises He had given His disciples and church. And yet, for those who kept His word in their hearts, He did appear in resurrection glory and is even now exalted above all things as the One Who deals out to us the bread of life and keeps us spiritually alive in this famine of the Word which is with us today, and whose end is not in sight for us. It will end when He returns, but we have no word of how many years this spiritual famine will continue. We have God’s word for it that the situation will get worse than it is today and that greater apostasy and further departures from the truth will come.
This can only be the result when men begin to question the inerrancy and authority of the Word itself. Deny the infallibility of the Scriptures, deny that they have the same force for us as they did for the Church in the days when these Scriptures were written, and you have given the death blow to every doctrine of Scripture. There are, in what calls itself the church today, more members than there are verses in the Bible. Let each one pick a different verse and say that it is time-conditioned, and all the truths of Scripture are denied. And if this one may call this passage time-conditioned, that one must give the others the right to call their passage or verse time-conditioned. If the one may say this verse is not infallibly given and is untrue, that one must let others pick verses and passages which they may claim not to, be infallibly given and to be untrue. And as the churches today more and more fail to keep the things which God has said in His Word, the antichristian forces grow in power and influence; and churches will fail to see this Christ in His heavenly glory. If one statement in Scripture is not true, how can we be sure of the resurrection and exaltation of Christ at God’s right hand? If one statement is untrue, we will have to question all the others.
Let us, by all means, keep all the sayings of God in the Scriptures. Let us not try to exalt ourselves above Him by questioning His Word. What He declares therein will be fulfilled whether we like it or not.
Jacob, who did observe what God revealed until the “death” of Joseph, undoubtedly now remembered those dreams and kept his proper distance from Joseph as the ruler in Egypt. He longed to run to him and see his face again. His respect for him as an Egyptian ruler, as the ruler in the land to which he had come, made him keep his distance until Joseph came to see him. This was, in accordance with Joseph’s dream, a case ‘of sun (Jacob) bowing down before Joseph. Jacob was even taking orders from Joseph. Joseph had picked Goshen. Jacob asks his son the way to Goshen and lets his son determine the place of their sojourn. He bowed before Joseph’s decision and accepted it as God’s decision, which it certainly was.
The reunion between Jacob and his son was a tearful and touching one. Openly both wept on each others neck. Nothing is recorded of the reaction of Joseph’s brothers, but we may be sure of two things: their guilt for the deed that separated father and son all these years came forcefully to their consciousness again; and yet because they were converted men they rejoiced to see father’s and brother’s joy. They rejoiced with their father and brother. They feared Joseph now whereas before they sold him into Egypt they had envied him and had no fear to kill, or sell him as a slave into the land of the Midianites. But they also rejoiced at the reunion of the whole family, and were happy for Jacob’s sake and also for Joseph’s. Salvation does that. It makes enemies to be friends. It makes those who hate and plot to kill seek the well-being of the sincere concern for those whom they formerly envied and hated. The Apostle Paul is a clear example of that. And. Jesus Himself, Whose life is given to us in our salvation, showed that in His many prayers for those who nailed Him to the tree and denied and rejected Him.
Not many days after the arrival of Jacob and his family into Egypt Joseph presented him to Pharaoh. There was no doubt a time of adjustment and settlement in Goshen which occupied their time. And men were not so time-driven as we are today. It was a more relaxed atmosphere and a life far less tense. But Joseph did not let many days go by before he brought five of his brothers and then his father to Pharaoh. Which five brothers they were not mentioned. One might expect that he would take the sons of Leah since she was Jacob’s first wife, while the other brothers were, with the exception of Benjamin, from the maids of Leah and Rachel. But Leah bore six sons. The maids together bore four sons, but Joseph would hardly pass by Leah’s sons, and one would expect him to bring Benjamin, his own full brother. What his criterion was for selecting five out of eleven brothers is not told us; nor need we know which five brothers he chose. Were it essential for the account we would have been told.
Here again an interesting element appears: Joseph brings his brothers before he brings his father. Why? Certainly he was not ashamed of his father. He would have had far more reason for being ashamed of his brothers. And the fact that he chose five out of eleven indicates that he had a reason for taking only some to meet Pharaoh.
Children who have come to years of discretion sometimes are ashamed of their parents before their peers. They may be ashamed of their brothers or sisters, but most of the time it is their father and mother who are for them a cause of embarrassment, and whom they consider too uneducated (though this is becoming less a reason than in the past because of greater opportunities for college and university education), too old-fashioned (meaning too strict and concerned with what is right before God), or too spiritual, being sure that their parents would not approve of the dress, speech, habits, ,and conduct of their friends. When it can be held off, the meeting with parents is delayed. Only when it becomes necessary will they bring their friends home to meet father and mother; and they will do it very reluctantly. Needless to say this ought not to be found in the church. But it is. Especially when a young man goes out and gets a young woman of the world for his wife and the engagement has to be made known, or the young woman in the church is keeping company with an unbelieving young man, and has been meeting him here or there and has not let him come to the home to pick her up, there is fear of bringing the friend to meet the parents. And that very reluctance ought to speak loudly to the young man or woman in the church. And it ought to tell them that they are ashamed of their friend rather than of their parents, whose counsel and spiritual advice they do not want. Actually they ought to realize that they ought to be ashamed of themselves.
Now none of this was true with Joseph. What had his father done in comparison with what his brothers had done to him? No, in the good sense, Joseph was proud of his father, was eager to bring him before Pharaoh, and was not at all afraid that Pharaoh would think less of him after meeting his father.
No, the instructions that, Joseph gives his five brothers before he brings them in the presence of Pharaoh will explain why he brings them there before bringing his father. To be sure that Pharaoh gave them the land of Goshen, and that Israel could dwell alone and not mix with the Egyptians, who otherwise would have liked to associate with Joseph’s family, Joseph instructs them to stress their occupation as shepherds. They may as shepherds stink in the nostrils of the super “clean” and “cultured” Egyptians; but they must stink spiritually and be left alone by those who delight to smell idolatry and sin before God.
When the land is promised them by Pharaoh, and it is settled that they will grow up as a peculiar (but not odd) people in Goshen, Joseph brings his father before Pharaoh. On the one hand it was business before pleasure. But more than that it was love towards his father to spare him what could be done by his sons, namely, plead for the land of Goshen before Pharaoh. And God moved Pharaoh to concur and give them the best part of the land for their sheep. God made them shepherds, and God in His counsel made the Egyptians to be the fastidious people that they were so that Israel could dwell alone in safety and preserve the true religion although in an idolatrous nation.