1 Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob. 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 4 Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. 5 And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already. 6 And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. 7 And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.
Exodus takes a step backwards and recaps some of the information that we had at the end of Genesis. It reiterates all of the sons of Jacob who lived with him in Egypt, it reminds us that there were seventy descendants in their party, and it reminds us of the passing of Joseph.
Not only Joseph, though, it further extends the narrative to state that all of that generation were passed away. This truly marks the end of an era. The age of the patriarchs is officially closed and now begins the time of the Israelite nation.
Seventy descendants might make for a large family gathering, but hardly an entire civilization. Verse 7, however, shows that the Israelites “increased abundantly,” even to the point that “the land was filled with them.” Let us remember that this is the fulfillment of a promise that God had been making to the patriarchs ever since Abraham: that they would become a great nation. The fulfillment of other promises is still to come, but this is the one upon which all those others was predicated. At times the fulfillment of this promise appeared quite uncertain, as Abraham’s lineage remained a very small population in danger of extinction at every turn, but in this verse we see that God proved faithful through it all.
But while this represents one step forward, we are of course about to hear about another string of setbacks, enslavement and genocide, making the success of Abraham’s descendants uncertain once more. Yet again, faith will be required, the Israelite nation will be the perpetual underdogs, and they will have to depend on God’s salvation at every hand.