Fellowship at Cross Creek
Living in Goshen!
Intro… At first glance, this passage might seem too much of a bite, but it is actually three sections, of which the middle and largest one, vv. 8-27, a genealogical record, I would not spend much time on. Not that it is not important, but it can be easily skimmed in order to return to the main and concluding narrative.
Bottom line: this chapter gets Jacob’s family to Egypt, as well as, the reuniting of father and son. It begins with an act of worship which is rewarded with a Spiritual confirmation of what may seem like a slam dunk decision, but indeed has its longer term risks—can God grow my family up in Goshen until he is ready to take it back to the Promised Land?
Thus, this story is about the in-between. We want NOW! We want heaven now! Or perhaps not the biblical abstract heaven that we don’t fully understand, but we certainly want the benefits of heaven now. While we might not admit it, and while still seeking to indulge in a little man-made fun or sin, so to speak, we want no suffering or the consequences of our risky choices, do we? I mean really. We want fun, but we want safety. Fun without risks. Pleasure without pain. We want heaven, or at least a portion of heaven…perhaps an even higher hybrid version of what we have on earth here now? It’s as if we really don’t fully trust God’s definition of perfection or righteousness or holiness or goodness. As if too much of a good thing is too much of a good thing. Come on, God, everyone has to have a little fun. You are a little too uptight, Old Man. Loosen up, live a little.
We are so clueless. So how does Man control or manage a little evil. I mean, isn’t that what got us where we are now? One bite of one fruit because it looks good, had to taste good and would perhaps make me more like God—aware of everything that is good and that is not so good…or evil! Oops! The cat is out of the bag, and since the beginning of Man, we don’t seem to be able to put that elusive sinful cat back into the bag. It just won’t go.
So how do we live on the edge of heaven and hell or these earthly hybrids—Rome and the church? The body of Christ and city of man or sin? Not in Egypt proper, but somewhat separate on the edge of Egypt? Under her protection, in the shade of her wealth, might, history, glory, learning, industry, arts and culture, but still just on the fringes…in lush pastures and meadows…awaiting all these seemingly long-distant promises…of a promised land west of the Jordan for the children of Israel, or heaven, in the presence of God and without the fear of that darned evil cat ever jumping out of the bag again—for God’s Spiritual children?
I mean isn’t that what this life, your existence, your church, your reading this study, your being engaged in a Bible study on this passage, the rearing of your family, your making a living, as well as coexisting within this world is all about–learning to live in Goshen until we or our children are called to go back?
We are in Goshen. We await our Promised Land—heaven. This is all temporary. It’s not our final destination, but it is where we are supposed to be for now. The child of God, as well as, the Church’s, full and final Spiritual inheritance or destiny as God’s redeemed children (1 Peter 1) exists with God in heaven forever. I mean, isn’t that what the Bible teaches and what we profess?
And while living in Goshen, for the most part, we are safe, Goshen is still NOT heaven. It is a part of Egypt. It is NOT our perfect destiny. It is NOT our Promised Land, and thus it is NOT perfect. It has problems. This Goshen we live in incredibly has something called the internet…an amazing technological advance, on the scale of the Pyramids perhaps, and yet the internet is awash in sin and abuse. Goshen is NOT heaven, thank God!
I suppose for the most part, we still herd sheep—within the church–but some seasons, as will later become the case for the children of Israel, are more difficult and harsher than others–as is the case for many Christians even today in different parts of the world…and at different times…or seasons of persecution or rejection…as occurred for the most part during the first three hundred years of the church’s existence. It’s Goshen!
So here is my question: how do we exist in Goshen? As strange as this might sound at first hearing, pretty much the same as in any place, I suppose, including the Promise Land…including in Heaven with God. We ought to seek to be faithful in his presence, including how we treat and deal with others. Therefore, thank God for Goshen… and his church… where we can come and share our struggles and be Spiritually-supported while living in and amongst and next to the mighty and seemingly vastly and culturally-superior Egypt. In fact, Christ prayed to his Father…
John 17:13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they (his disciples) may have My joy made FULL in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.
So now, set apart in his truth, can we as his sheep and under-shepherds learn what it means to live in a Christ-like, Spirit-inspired transitory land known as Goshen…or at least until he comes for us once again to take us back to our Spiritual forefathers’ Promised Land… a land that overwhelmingly dwarfs Egypt’s mighty wealth and glory because, untainted by evil’s threat, the children of God dwell fully in the safety, provision and pleasure of God?
Recently, we began a new unit or section or person of study…the life of Joseph. Essentially, the story of Joseph, is for the most part, our story. Chosen by God for a special purpose, Joseph must first endure much suffering and injustice before arriving at his God-ordained purpose and calling, and what a purpose it will be.
As we read, I want you to continue pondering, your special identity in Christ, and that just because you may be going through difficult days, your suffering…your waiting is NOT in vain. As God’s child…as God’s children, just as with Joseph and his brothers, you…we…all have a purpose in Christ (Romans 8; Eph. 1; 1 Peter 1).
The Bible’s very first word is the Hebrew word Bərēšīṯ, which means “in [the] beginning.” “Genesis” is actually the Greek word for “beginnings” or “origins,” and thus the origin for both the Latin and English transliteration: Genesis.
So what’s our goal? Just to explore. Like an archaeologist exploring ancient ruins, we are going back to the Scripture’s beginnings to do a little Spiritual digging and poking around to see what was God doing before God’s Son was Spiritually conceived in his mother Mary’s womb? What were the world, people and life like from the very beginning?
Summary of Recent Explorations…
The Creation: The Creator Creates His Creation and its Caretakers (Adam and Eve). Gen. 1-2.
• The Fall: But a Crafty Adversary Emerges, Infecting the Creator’s Caretakers with a Virulent Strain of Deceptive Evil (non-beneficial actions). Gen. 3-4.
• The Flood: The story of the righteous Servant and a devastating Flood. In order to Save his Creation from a self-destructive and merciless evil, the Creator Must radically purge or cleanse his Creation Gen. 5-7.
• Creation’s New Beginning…Gen. 8-11.
• Creation’s New Caretaker: The Creator Raises up, Chooses and Greatly Blesses a righteous and trusting Caretaker named Abraham. Gen. 12-25.
• The Torch of the Creator’s Trusting Caretaking Now Passes to Succeeding Generations (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph…) Gen. 26ff.
Joseph’s Story…Gen. 37-50.
• Jacob’s older sons grow deeply resentful of their favored youngest brother, Joseph. Gen. 37:1ff.
• Joseph’s jealous older brothers cruelly sell their younger brother Joseph, against his will, into slavery, and then inform their grieving father, Jacob, that Joseph has been killed by wild animals. Gen. 37:12ff.
• Despite being trafficked as a slave and falsely imprisoned, God’s favor mysteriously still accompanies Joseph. Gen. 39:1ff.
• Despite correctly interpreting the baker and cupbearer’s dreams while in prison, Joseph’s good deeds, go momentarily unrewarded. Gen. 40:1ff.
• When Pharaoh’s cupbearer recalls how Joseph correctly interpreted his dream of restoration to Pharaoh’s court while he was imprisoned along side Joseph, he recommends Joseph to Pharaoh to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. When Joseph is able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream correctly, as seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, Joseph is finally delivered from his false imprisonment. Gen. 41:1ff.
• Pharaoh empowers Joseph to guide Egypt through these next fourteen years of plenty and famine. Gen. 41:38ff.
• Due to the famine, Joseph’s brothers, come to Egypt in search of grain. Unknowingly, the Egyptian ruler that they seek to purchase grain from is their younger brother Joseph. Sensing a divine plan, Joseph accuses his brothers of spying and forces them to leave their brother Simeon behind as surety that they will return with their youngest brother Benjamin. Gen. 42:1ff.
• When Jacob’s sons tell him of the bargain that they were forced to accept for their grain, Jacob initially refuses to risk losing a third son. Gen. 42:19ff.
• Finally, with grain supplies running low, Joseph’s brothers are able to persuade their father to allow them to return to Egypt, accompanied by their youngest brother, Benjamin, to purchase more grain. Their return to Egypt with Benjamin is rewarded with a great banquet held in their honor in the presence of the Egyptian ruler whom had originally sold them the grain. Gen. 43:1ff.
• Once again, the brothers have their departure from Egypt momentarily aborted under the false pretenses that one of them has stolen a silver cup. When the missing cup is found in Benjamin’s sack, his older brother Judah now offers himself to serve in Benjamin’s place in order that Benjamin might return home safely to their father. Gen. 44:1ff.
• When he can no longer contain his pent-up emotions, Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, warning them of the famine’s severity and their need to return here with their father to live in the shadow of Egypt’s great providence. Gen. 45:1ff.
• Pharaoh offers the children of Israel the best that Egypt has to offer. Gen. 45:16ff.
Pray; read three times (perhaps just twice) and ask questions…
46:1 So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.
Why here? Because he is leaving his Promised Land? Is this the leaping off point from the Promised Land to Egypt? Isn’t this where Jacob’s family was living when, after he had connived his father out of his older twin Esau’s birthright and blessing and at the urging of his mother in particular, he left for Haran to secure a wife (Gen. 28:10)?
2 God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.”
3 He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there.
4 I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes.”
Why was this the plan? Why did God want to grow his people or nation up in Egypt? Was this where they could most prosper? Did they need to grow large away from the Land so that they could come and retake the land? Had Israel begun to grow in the Land, would they have been seen as a threat and therefore constantly be threatened by the Amorite peoples in the Land? In other words, they were never going to grow into a significant nation while in the Land and perceived as a threat. Going outside the Land, where conditions for growth were favorable, then coming back to the Land, perhaps made all the difference in the world. Also, perhaps there were things that the Israelites were to learn from the Egyptians while in Egypt—survival skills, knowledge, culture, medicine, science, math etc. that they could take with them back to their Promised Land and that would make them an extraordinary people…the best from the best?
5 Then Jacob arose from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob and their little ones and their wives in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him.
6 They took their livestock and their property, which they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and came to Egypt, Jacob and all his descendants with him:
7 his sons and his grandsons with him, his daughters and his granddaughters, and all his descendants he brought with him to Egypt.
8 Now these are the names of the sons of Israel, Jacob and his sons, who went to Egypt:
Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn.
(Thus if I understand correctly, the sons of the twelve sons would become the clans of Israel, and beneath the clans, the families? In addition, these divisions would serve to divide up the Promise Land as well as serving as their fighting divisions. One thing one could say about Israel—they were organized.)
9 The sons of Reuben: Hanoch and Pallu and Hezron and Carmi.
10 The sons of Simeon: Jemuel and Jamin and Ohad and Jachin and Zohar and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman.
11 The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.
12 The sons of Judah: Er and Onan and Shelah and Perez and Zerah (but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan). And the sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul.
13 The sons of Issachar: Tola and Puvvah and Iob and Shimron.
14 The sons of Zebulun: Sered and Elon and Jahleel.
15 These are the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Paddan-aram, with his daughter Dinah; all his sons and his daughters numbered thirty-three.
(Thus v. 15 serves as a summary of vv. 9-14.)
16 The sons of Gad: Ziphion and Haggi, Shuni and Ezbon, Eri and Arodi and Areli.
17 The sons of Asher: Imnah and Ishvah and Ishvi and Beriah and their sister Serah. And the sons of Beriah: Heber and Malchiel.
18 These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to his daughter Leah; and she bore to Jacob these sixteen persons.
(Thus v. 18 serves as a summary of vv. 16-17.)
19 The sons of Jacob’s wife Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin.
20 Now to Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him.
21 The sons of Benjamin: Bela and Becher and Ashbel, Gera and Naaman, Ehi and Rosh, Muppim and Huppim and Ard.
22 These are the sons of Rachel, who were born to Jacob; there were fourteen persons in all.
(Thus v. 22 serves as a summary of vv. 19-21).
23 The sons of Dan: Hushim.
24 The sons of Naphtali: Jahzeel and Guni and Jezer and Shillem.
25 These are the sons of Bilhah, whom Laban gave to his daughter Rachel, and she bore these to Jacob; there were seven persons in all.
(And v. 25 a summary of vv. 23-24).
26 All the persons belonging to Jacob, who came to Egypt, his direct descendants, not including the wives of Jacob’s sons, were sixty-six persons in all,
27 and the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt were two; all the persons of the house of Jacob, who came to Egypt, were seventy.
(Jacob + 66 + Joseph and his two sons = 70…70 that would turn into millions over the next four hundred years.)
28 Now he sent Judah before him to Joseph, to point out the way before him to Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen.
29 Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; as soon as he appeared before him, he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a long time.
What a reunion!
30 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive.”
31 Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me;
32 and the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock; and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have.’
33 When Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’
34 you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ that you may live in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians.”
Why were shepherds loathsome and why Goshen? Was there food in Goshen? And what about the River Nile? Was it still flowing during the famine? Could lack of rain at the source of the Nile have anything to do with a possible famine on the lower part of the Nile? When you look at and aerial map of Egypt, it is completely barren except for the irrigation that transforms the land immediately bordering the Nile into a lush green oasis.
Notice the green, irrigated lands surrounding the Nile near the Valley of the Kings, 300 miles south of modern day Cairo, as well as ancient Goshen. Get away from the Nile and the land becomes incredibly arid. Luxor receives 0.04 inches of rainfall a year. Without the Nile, Luxor (or ancient Thebes) might not even exist.
Notice the patchwork of green, irrigated farmlands surrounding the Nile as compared to the desert just east of the Nile. When touring the Columbia River system in the Northwest this past summer, I find it to be much the same. Near the river, lush wheat fields, vineyards and fruit and vegetable gardens, but only a few miles away, desert. Why? Much like the Nile, which is fed by the rains of the central African rainforest, the Columbia is fed by melting glaciers of Canada. The Nile and its rich delta was the primary source of ancient Egypt’s great wealth.
• As Jacob or Israel leaves for Egypt he stops in Beer Sheba to offer a sacrifice to God. In the process he has a vision in which God tells him that it is a good thing to go to Egypt because God will make his family into a great nation there, as well as, bring them back some day.
• So Israel with God’s blessing, employs the wagons sent by Pharaoh and makes the trip to Egypt.
• Sixty-six direct descendants of Jacob make the trip to Egypt.
• When he arrives, 1) Israel and Joseph, or father and son, are officially and emotionally reunited, and 2) Joseph tells his father to inform Pharaoh that, because they are sheepherders and sheepherders are loathsome to the Egyptians, they will remain in the land of Goshen.
Summary: With God’s blessing Israel takes his entire family to Egypt, where he is reunited with his son Joseph and settles down in the land of Goshen to care for their flocks.
Why did God include this event in his record or what would we not know–about God, life, myself, others, etc.–if this story were not in the Bible?
• Almost like a Spiritual double check–despite it seeming like a slam dunk for Israel to take his entire family to Egypt, which in essence could appear that his family is giving up their current claims to the lands that they are leaving, the Promise Land, he still stops to worship God, and in the process receives God’s confirmation that not only is this God’s plan, but that God will transform his family into a great nation while in Egypt and then bring them back to this land someday.
• Therefore, it should not be underestimated, that while seemingly a wise move to preserve his family during the severest of famines, it does leave Israel vulnerable with respect to having abandoned the Promise Land as a people group, small in number though they may have been. Re-securing these lands as places to tend their sheep at any future time would have been no doubt a difficult undertaking. Would former covenants with former kings remain in place, or would later sons and rulers deem the covenants, treaties and agreements null and void? Would records have been kept? Would there have been a battle brewing between the various parties and Israel’s sons, as there was over four centuries later, as there seems to remain four thousand years later? Thus the decision to leave the land of his fathers’ promise, while no doubt a no-brainer in the short-run—if Israel doesn’t, there may be little family to have survived in the first place–has drastic implications for the future. It has its risks. So Israel stops one last time to worship God in the Land. And God gives his blessing and future promise.
• The author, Moses, records for us in census format exactly who are all the key players. This record then becomes, like the signers of the Declaration of Independence, their identifying constitution, so to speak, of millions of peoples’ lineages for thousands of years to come. I know who I am because of whom I have descended from. I am a part or a descendant of the family of Israel. So though they are the momentary guests of Pharaoh in a land on the perimeter of the great nation of Egypt and at a later date will be transformed into an albeit, subservient, but threatening people group or nation, nonetheless, each person has a very distinct and traceable identity, lineage and heritage. I am a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I am an Israelite descending from the tribe, clan and family of…
• That while guests of Pharaoh, the Israelites will still maintain their overarching economy. They are sheepherders, and regardless of whatever this means to the Egyptians, or however despised that the Israelites will be viewed by the more culturally and agriculturally-rich Egyptians, they will remain sheepherders. They are keepers of the flock. Perhaps this will protect them in Egypt. Perhaps this will maintain them as a people group as opposed to assimilating within the Egyptian culture. In the end, God via Joseph, keeps them separate, once again not only protecting his people, but keeping them together…or growing a nation…a nation that someday God plans to return to the lands he promised to their forefathers.
Thanks… Because of the clouds, instead of the more recent hotter, warmer and more humid days that we have been experiencing here recently and that are a harbinger of the more hotter, more humid days of summer that are right around the corner, it’s a cool morning. Thanks, Lord. And yesterday, my bride of thirty-five years bought a few extra hours when after she was done with work, came with me to work on the church grounds. Because of the deer and other critters, including bear(s), some of our grounds can be susceptible to ticks (the animals carry the ticks), and because we have several outdoor events coming up in the next few weeks, it was important that we water in the tick control pesticide that I had put down earlier in the week. In addition, my bride got to experience firsthand the frustration of attempting to fertilize the ball field. I won’t go into all the details, but it was nice having someone with me as I did it. Thank you, Lord. Although, due to a lot of walking, the chronic planter faciiitis that I experience within my left heel is really hot this morning. But thank you, honey, for being my support in so so many ways. It was also a good week of pastoral counseling. A lot of good work, I hope, accomplished.
Truth(s)… Inherent risks; a Spiritual pause or act of worship to double-check one’s risk-taking; Spiritual confirmation; the importance of Spiritual roots, tradition, heritage, identity, economy and family; both a divine, as well as, a human transitional, albeit seemingly longer-term, protection and provision.
Struggle/Application… Patience, trust…breathing when we really want to be safe or out of the woods NOW! There are so many things in my life that my flesh or instinct craves to already have been done or accomplished…no worries…heaven, and yet like Joseph’s life for the past twenty years or what Israel is about to experience over the next four centuries, it is difficult to accept, live in, process, submit to the day-to-day…the daily grind of faith…of faith, trust and obedience. I want resolution now, but God is my breath. The Spirit of God desires to breath through me. Now is God. Now is to be in his presence regardless of all the seeming un-doneness of my life and existence. We desire the absence of threat externally, while God’s Spirit desires to breathe that into us NOW, and from the inside OUT. Not because we get done or imperfect man will or will not do, but because NO ONE…ABSOLUTELY NO ONE can rip this from our hope and destiny. Like tracing one’s lineage back through my tribal fathers all the way back to the first father, Abraham, through Christ, I have been bought or purchased for heaven…to bring glory to God and this is my RIGHT. This is my real identity…an identity, though Spiritual in nature, is NO LESS REAL, and perhaps MORE REAL than any physical identity I may attempt to reconstruct or subscribe to. My life, my purpose, my existence, my future destiny is HIDDEN IN CHRIST, and NO ONE…ABSOLUTELY NO ONE can take or rip this away from the hand of my Lord—John 10…My sheep hear my voice and they know and follow it. MY SHEEP! Did you get that MY SHEEP! I belong to God…end of story. He is MY SHEPHERD and I am his SHEEP! And because he has knowledge that I know not of, he has the right to momentarily lead me to Goshen in order to create a greater Spiritual legacy. My Shepherd lead; worshipfully, I will follow.
Biggest Struggle at the moment:
How does what happen here relate to you?
What about your kids?
Biggest Struggles (Imagine these or several–put yourself in their shoes–walk through a day with them at school, at home. What might they encounter?)
Now how does what happen here possibly relate/ (Remember this is only to give you a feel or an introductory hook or a reinforcing look; in there looking, they may come up with something entirely different.)
Remember to have fun, sense the Spirit’s leading and develop a love for these kids.
As always, thanks!
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org).