Genesis 46

Genesis 46:1-3 Israel took his journey . . . to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices

Jacob has no reason to doubt the report of his sons.  He wants to see Joseph again, but he is asked to uproot his entire family and jump on the caravan for Egypt.  He wants his own revelation on the subject.  To him, Beersheba is a holy place, the home of his grandfather Abraham; the sacrifices are his way of worshiping and importuning God for an answer.  The question is, “Should we go to Egypt”?

Have you ever prayed for guidance before making a big move?  

Genesis 46:3 I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt

Jacob, or Israel, had received his answer, but it still took courage to follow the counsel of the Lord.  Jacob had learned to let God prevail in his life.

Russell M. Nelson

I was led recently to a new insight. With the help of two Hebrew scholars, I learned that one of the Hebraic meanings of the word Israel is “let God prevail.” Thus the very name of Israel refers to a person who is willing to let God prevail in his or her life. That concept stirs my soul!

The word willing is crucial to this interpretation of Israel.  We all have our agency. We can choose to be of Israel, or not. We can choose to let God prevail in our lives, or not. We can choose to let God be the most powerful influence in our lives, or not.

For a moment, let us recall a crucial turning point in the life of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. At the place Jacob named Peniel (which means “the face of God”), Jacob wrestled with a serious challenge. His agency was tested. Through this wrestle, Jacob proved what was most important to him. He demonstrated that he was willing to let God prevail in his life. In response, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, meaning “let God prevail.” God then promised Israel that all the blessings that had been pronounced upon Abraham’s head would also be his. (Conference Report, October 2020, 92)

Genesis 46:8 these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt

Birth Mother is Leah, 33 persons










Er - died






Onan - died


















Perez and sons:






  Hezron & Hamul



Mother is Zilpah, 16

Mother is Rachel, 14

Mother is Bilhah, 7


























Beriah & sons:






 Heber & Malchiel



































Genesis 46:11 the sons of Levi; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari

The three sons of Levi would be the fathers of three orders within the Levitical priesthood. Gershon’s descendants were in charge of the tabernacle tent with its hangings, curtains, and doors.  Kohath’s descendants were responsible for the ark of the covenant, the table of shewbread, the candelabra, etc. Merari’s descendants were responsible for the vessels, pillars and sockets which held it all together (Numbers 3).  When the tabernacle had to be broken down and moved, each division within the tribe of Levi attended to their specific assignment.

Genesis 46:26 besides Jacob’s sons’ wives

The scribes who are responsible for the text of Genesis follow a tradition of recording genealogies based on the male.  It is a patriarchal system.  Some  students of the Bible find fault with the apparent disregard for women.  Benjamin’s wife (assuming there was only one) gave birth to ten children.  Doesn’t she deserve some credit?  She changed a lot of dirty diapers before disposables were invented!  To add insult to injury, the scribe in this verse counts “all the souls” but only counts the male souls.  No female souls make it in his tally!  Does that mean that women have no soul? It’s a ridiculous translation!  It should read, “all the men were threescore and six.”

The text excludes Jacob’s daughter in laws.  It excludes all the grand-daughters and great grand-daughters. Are we to assume that God has no regard for his daughters?  Are we to imagine that Moses was a male chauvinist pig?  Are men justified in disregarding women because of this Biblical tradition?  The answer is no, no, no; and wo, wo, wo unto those who make this claim.  

If you want to be upset about it, then go ahead.  Verse 15 mentions Jacob’s “daughter Dinah,” then counts “all the souls of his sons and daughters were thirty and three.”  That number 33 actually excludes Dinah and counts Judah’s two dead sons, Er and Onan.  The scribe actually counts the dead men over the living Dinah!  Then for reasons even less clear, Asher’s daughter Serah (v. 17) was included in the count. She is the only woman counted in the census.

One reason for the condescending patriarchy is because the actual author of the text is not Moses; it is a scribe who lived between 1000 BC and 550 BC, following the accepted pattern for recording genealogies.  The system in his day was both patriarchal and discriminatory.  It was his culture, not the will of God nor the attitude of Moses, the presumed author of Genesis.  

“Among the Jews [a] group of men came to be known as Sopherim, that is bookmen or scribes . . . They were by no means mere copyists, as the name scribe might seem to imply, but were ‘bookmen,’ interested in everything that concerned the preservation and interpretation of the national and religious literature of their community.” ( interpeters, 50)

Sheri Dew

The Lord loves the women of this Church! And He is counting on the women of this Church, all over the world, to make the difference that only we can make.

This past spring I spent a day in Siberia. As I walked into a rented hall to meet with the sisters there, the Spirit absolutely overwhelmed me. I knew that I was in the presence of women who were beloved of the Lord—our sister pioneers in Russia. I wondered if that is what it would have felt like to be with Emma and Eliza in Nauvoo. I wasn’t the only one who felt it. Near the meeting’s end, Sister Efimov, the mission president’s wife, leaned over and, in what few English words she knew, whispered, “Very Holy Ghost.” Very Holy Ghost indeed! The Spirit simply cannot be restrained among righteous women who are doing their best. (Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 94)


Gordon B. Hinckley

We held in this hall a week ago last evening a great meeting of the women of the Church . . . I thought of the miracle of it, the marvel of it, of this great sisterhood of more than a million wonderful women, devoted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, who walk with faith in their hearts—mothers, whose greatest desire is to rear another generation of faithful sons and daughters, who love the Lord and are willing to walk in obedience to the commandments of the Master. (Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 74)

Genesis 46:27-28 all the souls of the house of Jacob . . . came into the land of Goshen

The genealogy counts 70 persons, including Joseph’s family, as the group of Israelites.  Obviously, the number was closer to 140 or 150 when the women and children are counted.

The Lord had decided to plant a seed in Goshen.  He would make of this small clan a great nation that would worship Him as the only true God.  In the timing of the Lord, this small group quickly grew into the great olive tree of the house of Israel, producing fruit meet for the Lord of the vineyard, “I will liken thee, O house of Israel, like unto a tame olive tree, which a man took and nourished in his vineyard.” (Jacob 5:3) It had small beginnings but was protected for hundreds of years in Goshen until it became a great army.

Orson Pratt

When the children of Israel in ancient days were collected together as a body, they were not taken from the east, west, north and south, but they were taken from one little country—the land of Goshen in Egypt. (Gen. 47:27Ex. 9:26) From there this handful of people, about twenty-five hundred thousand were taken, and in the course of time were permitted to inhabit the land of Canaan. (Journal of Discourses, 21:272)

Genesis 46:34 every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians

Egyptian priests put a lot of effort into cleanliness. Egyptologist Bob Brier and author Hoyt Hobbs write that priests were “held to the highest standards of cleanliness because they came in contact with the cult statue.” They “shaved all their body hair to avoid lice and wore nothing but pure white linen clothing” (Daily Life of the Ancient Egyptians, 2008). These priests washed twice during the day and twice at night. Egyptologist Gaston Maspero wrote in Life in Ancient Egypt and Assyria (1892): “[T]his purification is considered so necessary, that the priest derives from it his name of ouibou—the washed, the clean.”

. . . It was in connection to hygiene that most Egyptians wore linen. Herodotus wrote about Egyptians, “They always wear freshly washed linen clothes; they make a special point of this.” Archaeology corroborates this. Sir Flinders Petrie discovered a linen tunic dating to the Early Dynastic Period (26th century b.c.e). Rich Egyptians would have worn fine linens made from young flax, whereas ordinary Egyptians would have worn coarser linen, nearly resembling burlap. Those who attended Joseph’s dinner likely wore some of the choicest linens Egypt had to offer . . .

Wool and other animal skins, however, were the most popular materials for clothing in Canaan and Mesopotamia.

“Wool of that period retained much of its grease, since natural colors were used and there was no need for thorough washing. It is easy to imagine that body perspiration, absorbed over some time, caused such garments to become malodorous,” wrote Dr. Aron Pinker. “The emitted smell [of the wool] was obnoxious to the Egyptians …. In contrast to the white linen garments of the Egyptian the wool garments seemed unclean ….”

Genesis 45:22 includes an interesting detail (following the meal and Joseph’s eventual revealing of himself to his brothers) which may corroborate this. It says of the actions of Joseph: “To all of them [his half-brothers] he gave each man changes of raiment; but to Benjamin [his full brother] he gave three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment.” These new clothes were logically made of fine linen, as Joseph himself had been given by the pharaoh early on (Genesis 41:42).

Egyptologist Adolf Erman wrote of class variations in Egyptian paintings, saying, “The various classes are also distinguished by their costume … the great lords are not dressed like the servants, the shepherds, or the boatmen” (Life in Ancient Egypt, 1894). Shepherds may have been held in such a low class because of their dress and the subsequent perception of their hygiene. They were not rich enough to afford linen, but certainly had access to animal skins from which to make their clothes.

Of course, this is only conjecture. There are a multitude of reasons why the Egyptians may have abhorred Hebrews and shepherds.  (