5 And Jacob rose up from Beer-sheba: and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him.
6 And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him:
7 His sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt.
Once Jacob put his young sons on camels and carried them to a new land, but now the roles have been reversed. Jacob is the one being carried by his sons to a new home now.
Jacob has not been the main character of the biblical record for a while, but this moment of him being carried by his sons really underscores that he is not the driving generation anymore. He has given his blessing to this change of residence, but he is dependent upon the power of others to make it so.
The sons carrying their father into Egypt is symbolic of them carrying the legacy and the burden of responsibility into their own domain. They are the generation of action now, and Egypt is the uncertainty of their own future, the terrain that they must carefully navigate. In short, it is the end of an era. Jacob held the burden of preserving God’s people in his time, but now it is their turn.
36 And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.
37 And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again.
38 And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.
It seems that Reuben was in favor of immediately returning to Egypt, proving that their youngest brother existed, and getting Simeon out of bondage. But this was a risk too great for Jacob. He had lost one son, and now a second, and he would rather cut his losses here than risk losing a third!
Reuben still contends the matter, though. Simeon is Reuben’s blood brother, both being the sons of Leah. Simeon was also the very next son born after Reuben, the nearest to him of all his brethren. Thus, of all his brothers, Simeon might be the one that Reuben has the most motivation to get free.
Perhaps the brothers had evil intentions towards Joseph in the past, but Reuben makes it clear that he harbors no such ill will for Benjamin. He is willing to put his own sons on the line, committing them to death if he doesn’t keep his promise and bring Benjamin back safe and sound! With such an oath we can be sure he truly intended to let no harm come to the boy.
And in Reuben’s oath there seems to be a messianic representation. A father is willing to put the life of his own son on the line in order to save another child. It is a moving offer, yet it is not enough to sway Jacob. For even if Reuben’s heart is in the right place, and he will not personally cause harm to Benjamin, he cannot claim to have power over all the other factors in the world. He could really try his best to preserve his younger brother, but mischief might still “befall him by the way.”
1 And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.
2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.
3 And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.
4 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.
5 And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.
In Genesis 39 we will return to the story of Joseph, but first the Bible takes a detour to develop the story of Judah. Judah was the fourth-born of Leah, the last of the first set of sons born to Jacob. After him two sons were born to Bilhah, then two to Zilpah, then two again to Leah, and finally two to Rachel.
This there were three sons elder than Judah, and we have previously discussed how Reuben had sullied himself by adultery with his father’s wife Bilhah, and also Simeon and Levi by slaying the men of Shechem. Thus far all Judah has been guilty of is despising his brother and suggesting that they sell him to Egypt, though that might have been an attempt to save Joseph’s life. Now, however, we will take a view on Judah’s adult life, and it is a distasteful scene, fit for a modern soap opera.
It begins with Judah leaving his father to spend time with the people of the land. Then, like his uncle Esau, that leads to him taking a Canaanite woman to be his wife, someone who is outside of the covenant. There can be no doubt that he knew this was offensive to his father and God, but it does not seem like he was concerning himself with matters of virtue heretofore anyway. Together, Judah and this Canaanite woman have three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. Now the stage is set and next we will begin to see how their unpleasant inter-relationships worked out.
15 These were dukes of the sons of Esau: the sons of Eliphaz the firstborn son of Esau; duke Teman, duke Omar, duke Zepho, duke Kenaz,
16 Duke Korah, duke Gatam, and duke Amalek: these are the dukes that came of Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these were the sons of Adah.
17 And these are the sons of Reuel Esau’s son; duke Nahath, duke Zerah, duke Shammah, duke Mizzah: these are the dukes that came of Reuel in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Bashemath Esau’s wife.
18 And these are the sons of Aholibamah Esau’s wife; duke Jeush, duke Jaalam, duke Korah: these were the dukes that came of Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, Esau’s wife.
19 These are the sons of Esau, who is Edom, and these are their dukes.
We now continue with the descendants of Esau, and in these verses it specifically lists out the dukes, or tribal chiefs, among his sons and grandsons. Two of Esau’s wives had one son each. Through the first of these Esau obtained seven grandsons, each of which were given the title of duke. Through the second son came four more grandsons, also called dukes.
The pattern was slightly different with Esau’s third wife. Rather than bearing him a single son, Aholibamah gave birth to three, and all of these were also named dukes. Thus in all Esau had eleven duke grandsons and three duke sons, fourteen rulers to steer the clans of the Edomites.
Most of these dukes names I do not recognize, but the third one in verse sixteen is quite significant. Duke Amalek, I imagine, is the progenitor of the Amalekites, who would be a great rival to the Israelites when they returned from Egyptian captivity. This continues a pattern we have seen previously, where the kin of the covenant end up siring the very nations that would compete most hotly with the Israelites.
1 Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom.
2 Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite;
3 And Bashemath Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebajoth.
4 And Adah bare to Esau Eliphaz; and Bashemath bare Reuel;
5 And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these are the sons of Esau, which were born unto him in the land of Canaan.
The narrative is now paused for a chapter as the Bible recounts the genealogy that proceeded from Esau. We are reminded that Esau had two wives of the Hittite and Hivite nations, and a third from the daughters of Ishmael.
As discussed earlier, Esau only married the third wife to appease his parents, who wished him to keep his family within the covenant lineage. However, I am not sure that marrying the daughter of Ishmael fit that bill. Yes, the covenant people would emerge from the children of Abraham, but not all of the children of Abraham would be part of that group. Isaac would be part of the covenant and not Ishmael, just as how Jacob was now part of the covenant but not Esau.
In any case, Esau only had one son from two of the wives, but three from the third. Five sons were enough to assume his lineage would be carried forward, though, and the following verses will show that it was indeed.
22 And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.
23 And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach:
24 And she called his name Joseph; and said, The Lord shall add to me another son.
At long last the Lord saw fit for Rachel to conceive a child of her very own. After watching her sister and the two handmaids be able to what she could not, miraculously her womb was opened, and she gave birth to a son.
And Joseph is to become a mighty man, the greatest of all his brethren. Of course, it will be a long road before he realizes that, and first his brethren will despise and betray him. And it has occurred to me that Joseph might have always been the odd-one out because of his unique heritage. There were six sons born of Leah, two of Zilpah, and two of Bilhah. Thus, every one of the boys had at least one blood brother, except for Joseph.
Joseph would be the one and only son of Rachel until many years later. And having been born after all the other ten, he was surely much younger than the first ones. And that’s not all, there is also the fact that he was the favorite son, born of the favorite wife. Thus, there were many factors to isolate Joseph and make him despised of by his brethren, and it is little wonder that he ended up in such a complicated situation with them later on.
14 And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes.
15 And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son’s mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son’s mandrakes.
17 And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.
19 And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son.
21 And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.
This incident of Rachel trading a night with Jacob for Reuben’s mandrakes is very similar to Esau giving up his birthright for Jacob’s mess of pottage. All Rachel wanted was to have a nice fruit, but she ended up extending her sister’s branch beyond her own.
It’s also interesting to note that previously Leah “had left bearing,” but now she was fertile once more. I can’t help but think that this would have been a particularly hard thing for Rachel to witness. Her sister that had initially been able to have children finally came into the same state of no longer being able to, only to have that ability returned to her out of the blue. Leah had twice received that which Rachel longed for even once!
But this humbling experience was the last one Rachel had to endure before finally receiving her own blessing. And while she would never bear as many sons as her sister, she would give birth to the choicest of them all.
1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,
2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
There has been some debate as to what is meant by “sons of God” and “daughters of men.” Proposed theories are as extreme as “sons of God” meaning fallen angels, that coupled with human women (daughters of men) to produce a race of demigod giants. Which, if true, holds many unsettling implications.
I personally find far more believable, and far more fitting in the context of the previous two chapters, the theory that the “sons of God” refers to the male Sethites, or those who believe in God and followed His precepts. Meanwhile the “daughters of men” would refer to the female Cainites, or those who had rejected God.
And this interpretation would also align today’s verses with a common theme in the bible: how intimacy with the things of the world turns mankind from God. It is seen in Adam receiving the fruit from Eve, in the Israelites chasing after false gods of the heathen, and in the Jews being so caught up with their embellished law that they could not recognize the Savior when he stood before them.