17 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, 18 and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ (Genesis 45:17-18)
Let’s play a game: without looking at your Bible or the verse printed above, answer this question:
“Who’s idea was it to move Israel and his entire family to Egypt?”
The idea started with Joseph (Genesis 45:9-11).
It was confirmed by Pharaoh (Genesis 45:17-18).
God didn’t initiate it, and no one ever inquired of God about it.
Contrast this with the Abraham account. God explicitly told Abraham to pack up his family and move from Ur to the land God would show him (Genesis 12:1). You don’t get that in Chapter 45.
It’s true that in Genesis 46, you see the Lord telling Jacob, “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 46:3-4).
So, yes, God promised His manifest presence, but only after Jacob had already made up His mind to leave the Promised Land. And don’t miss that God told Jacob that He would bring him, Jacob, back up from Egypt again:
I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, (Gen. 46:4)
Seventeen years later, a full decade after the famine was over, Jacob and his entire family are still hanging out in Egypt, thriving, multiplying, and year by year forgetting their true promised land.
They are a little like the boys taken to Pleasure Island in “Pinocchio.” When they lose all sense of where they have come from and where their true home is, a Pharaoh who “knew not Joseph” could easily shackle them.
I know this post goes in a different direction than what seems plain in the text, and arguments from silence are shaky to begin with. But don’t lose sight of the fact that Moses is writing all this in retrospect. He knows what happens next. And as a gifted writer who is also writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is possible that Moses is foreshadowing the trouble that is to come.
At the very least, It’s a reminder to me to never get too comfortable here. This world is not my home. The pleasures of Egypt are sweet for a season, but my Promised Land lies well beyond its borders.