1 And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beer-sheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac. 2 And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. 3 And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:
Jacob has determined to go down to Egypt, but this is a big decision, and before actually following through he goes to Beer-sheba to commune with the Lord. Beer-sheba has shown up a few times in the biblical record before. It was where Abraham made a solemn oath of peace with the king of the Philistines, and the same place where Isaac made a similar pledge. More relevant to Jacob, though, Beer-sheba was the land that he left when escaping the wrath of Esau, suggesting that this was where he was raised.
While in this historical and spiritual place, Jacob has yet another special connection with God, instruction given through a “vision of the night.” God reassures Jacob that he should go down to Egypt, and dwell among the people there. God even promises that in Egypt He will finally fulfill his promise of growing a great nation out of the Israelites. This has been promised since back with Abraham, and now the family is finally coming to the place and situation in which it will occur.
And now we see that there was a special wisdom in how long it has taken for God to deliver this promise. It might have seemed strange that after such a grand commitment Abraham had only one covenant child, and that child also only had one covenant child. In essence, Abraham’s same situation was extended down two generations to Jacob, with no growth whatsoever.
But what if the family had seen explosive growth during those two generations? If that had happened, it seems less likely to me that Pharaoh would have been so willing to receive such a large party into his domain. By keeping the family small, they could be easily integrated into Egypt’s bounty, and once there they could grow unhindered.
When God made his promise to Abraham, He was always going to follow through on it, but He needed to orchestrate things so that the nation would come forth in the exact way that it needed to. With great care and control He led this fledgling household, preserving them as they were until this moment of great fulfillment.