Read Genesis 45:21-46:7
Imagine: A group of shepherds straggles into Egypt together with all the other people looking for food. This group is larger than most, about eighty including wives (46:26-27). Others might stare, because they aren’t Egyptian, in fact, they’d be called “Hebrew” – a derogatory name meaning ‘trashy outsiders’.
But the strange thing is their women and children are riding in Egyptian carts. Why? How did they get them?
So Israel (Jacob) and his family come, dusty and empty handed, into the bounty of Egypt.
It’s a big deal in the Story about everything and much will come of it.
“God spoke to Israel in visions of the night” (46:2) He told him not to be afraid to go to Egypt.
Why would he be afraid?
Because of the promise.
God told Abraham (12:7), “To your offspring I will give this land”. The land is Canaan, and later God tells Israel the same thing, “the land on which you lie I will give to you and your offspring”. That land, too, is Canaan.
The Abrahamic promise – to build a nation out of one family and bless the whole world through it – is closely tied to a particular place: Canaan.
Israel understood that leaving Canaan meant leaving God’s blessing and the hope of the promise.
So God, the wonderful, reassuring God who knows our hearts, visits Israel yet again in a dream and gives him permission and blessing to go to Egypt. “Don’t worry,” he says in my words “this is all part of the plan. I will be with you in Egypt just as I have always been. I’m not limited to any place. I’m still fulfilling my promise to you, I’ll just do it there instead of here. You will become a great nation, and I will eventually bring you out of Egypt and back to Canaan. But now I want you to see Joseph again.”
It’s all different from what Israel had thought it would be. This is a bend in the road he hadn’t seen coming – a twist in the plot.
Sometimes an author will do that.