So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here am I.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” (Genesis 46)
God had sent Joseph on ahead to Egypt, preparing the way for his family and the nation of Israel to eventually join him there. Why did Jacob(Israel) stop at Beersheba to offer sacrifices?
Well, it was on the way, for one thing. Look on the map: Jacob lived in Hebron and stopped in Beersheba on the way.
One of the reasons he stopped here was it was a holy place, a place where God had appeared to Abraham, Genesis 21:33, and to Isaac, ; 26:23, And now, Jacob thinks he may expect a visit from God, that God would speak to him. So as he is preparing to go into a strange land, he feels it right to worship, to meet with God and renew his covenant with God by sacrifice.
I also think that he was looking for some reassurance from God that this was REALLY what he was supposed to do.
God comes to Israel, and interestingly calls, “Jacob, Jacob”. Remember that Jacob was the name he was given at birth, and meant “Deceiver” and he had certainly lived up to that name. But he had received a new name after wrestling with God. So why does God call “Jacob, Jacob”?
I wonder if Israel/Jacob was doubting the wisdom of this trip to Egypt. After all, his sons had deceived him repeatedly, and were confessed liars. Could he really trust his sons? But God comes to reassure him.
- Don’t be afraid
- Even in Egypt the covenant will be fulfilled, and God will make of him a great nation, just as He had promised.
- God himself will be with Israel/Jacob on his journey, be with him in the strange, new land, and even bring back his bones to rest with those of his fathers.
- He will see Joseph, and Joseph will be with him in his last dying hours, and even close his eyes for him when he died.
Maybe Jacob would have given up on the idea of going down to Egypt, unless he received these assurances from God; Remember God had forbidden his father Isaac to go down to Egypt when there was a famine there,Genesis 26:1-3
In addition, if he knew his Bible”, he would have remembered that
- Abraham was promised that his seed should be afflicted in Egypt, Genesis 15:13,14;
- Canaan, not Egypt, was the “Promised Land”, Genesis 12:1,6,
He needed to have the most clear directions from God, before he would take such a journey. And God met him along the way, and promised that He, Himself, would go with him to Egypt and bring him back.