Friday of week 14 of Ordinary Time – First Reading


Commentary on Gen 46:1-7, 28-30
After their emotional reunion with the brother they believed long dead, Joseph’s brothers return to their father, Jacob, laden with gifts and with an invitation for the whole extended family to return and live in the region of Goshen, on the east of the Nile in Egypt.
In today’s reading we see Jacob (now being called by his given name, Israel) setting out from his home in Hebron to Egypt with all his family members and all his possessions. Hebron lay to the west of the Dead Sea.
Before leaving Canaan he offers sacrifice to the God of his father Isaac at Beer-Sheba, which lay to the west of the southern end of the Dead Seas and south of Hebron on the road to Egypt. Here God speaks to Jacob in a dream. It is the last of God’s appearances to the patriarchs. He commands Jacob to go down to Egypt (the Exodus is already in view) just as he had commanded Abraham to set out for Canaan. The move is clearly presented as God’s will and not just a family decision.
God promises Jacob his protection and tells him not to be afraid to go down to Egypt. There he will make Jacob and his descendants into a great nation. “I myself will go down to Egypt with you.” He also promises to bring Israel back to his ancestral land. Is there an ambiguity here with the name ‘Israel’? It can mean a promise to bring Jacob’s body back to Canaan for burial and also the promise that Israel, as a nation, will return to the Canaan after the Exodus.
And there is a promise that, in death, it will be Joseph, the son he thought he would never see again, who will close Jacob’s eyes.
Jacob’s sons, together with their wives and children come to take their father to Egypt in wagons provided by the Pharaoh. The whole family – brothers, wives, children, grandchildren all move to Egypt to settle there.
On the way, Judah, the eldest son, goes ahead to arrange that Joseph should meet his father at Goshen. Joseph, riding in his official chariot, goes to meet his father. One can imagine the feelings of the old man as he saw Joseph, the son he thought was long dead, arriving in a magnificent chariot befitting his rank.
Not surprisingly, it is a very emotional meeting. Joseph throws his arms around his father’s neck and weeps for a long time on his shoulder. Jacob says to his long-lost son: “Now I can die, now that I have seen you again, and seen you still alive.”
Later (not in our reading), Jacob and some of his sons will be introduced to the Pharaoh and are invited to settle in Goshen, which was situated in the north-east part of the Nile Delta, a place very suitable for sheep-grazing. Jacob’s sons were shepherds.
Once again we see how what originally seemed like tragedy turn out to be a source of blessing for so many. It may help us to take a second look at events in our lives in which we wondered where God was present. Often, we may have to wait before we see the final outcome. God, as we have said more than once before, loves to write our life story with crooked lines.

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