7 And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,
8 And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father’s house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen.
9 And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company.
Yesterday we saw how Joseph petitioned Pharaoh that he might leave Egypt and return to the land of his inheritance to bury his father. This is a foreshadowing of Moses commanding a future Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave slavery and also return to the land of their inheritance.
Today we continue to see a foreshadowing of that future Exodus. A great company leaves Egypt, with all the households of Israel represented, as well as the elders of Egypt. Of course, in Moses’s time the little children will be included as well, and instead of elders of Egypt, it will be their jewels and gold, taken as a spoil. And the chariots and horsemen will not be on the side of the Israelites in that day, they will belong to the pursuing army of Pharaoh, but Israel will be delivered from them.
I’ve been struck by how many symbols and reassurances God gave to the Israelites at the start of their time in Egypt, illustrating how they would leave it in the future. As they came in, so would they depart, even though it might have seemed impossible in the depths of their coming slavery.
22 And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled.
23 And he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days’ journey; and they overtook him in the mount Gilead.
24 And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.
25 Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead.
We were told that when Jacob was looking for more independence he moved his family three days’ journey away from Laban, and given that Laban heard about the family’s departure on the third day, it seems likely that there was some servant or neighbor who saw what Jacob had done and immediately set off to tell Laban about it.
But even with a three-day head-start, Laban and his men were able to catch up to them after only a week. No doubt he was aided by the fact that he knew exactly where Jacob would be headed, and also that Jacob was slowed down by all the cattle and children. Fortunately, God intervened, warning Laban upon his arrival that Jacob was under His protection.
As I read all this, I saw a pattern that will reappear many years later when the Israelites flee from Pharaoh and are pursued by his armies. They too will be slowed by their young, and they will also rely upon an intervention from God. Surely Jacob and the Israelites would have preferred that God had caused their pursuers to never come upon them, that He had kept trouble as far away as possible, but He didn’t. In each case He protected His flock but did it in His own way.
Often, we wish that God wouldn’t let trouble overtake us either, but we can take comfort from stories like these, which show that when God commands a retreat, He will guard the rear, no matter how near the danger looms.