Monday, August 22, 2011

Arriving in Goshen - Genesis 46:28

Now he sent Judah before him to Joseph, to point out the way before him to Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen.

As old as he was, Jacob was still in charge of his family’s travels to Egypt.  As they approached the new land God was sending them to, Jacob sent Judah ahead to go before Joseph and finalize the preparations for the family’s arrival.  Judah was born to Jacob by his first wife, Leah.  He was Jacob’s fourth son, after Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, also born to Jacob by Leah.  Son number one, Reuben, had already played a significant role in getting Jacob to allow Benjamin to go with the brothers to Egypt on their second trip to Egypt.  Simeon, son number two, had been held hostage by Joseph when he sent the brothers back after their first trip to get Benjamin.  Neither were selected by Jacob for these events.

Next in line was Levi who might well have been chosen for this special assignment except you will remember his part in dealing so barbarically with Hamor and Shechem and their men after they had defiled their sister, Dinah (Genesis 34).  It is possible that he had lost his credibility with Jacob as one who would act appropriately in any given situation.  So the responsibility of going ahead to meet Joseph fell to son number four, Judah.  On the positive side, Judah was the brother that did not want to allow the others to kill Joseph many years earlier when he visited them with his coat of many colors, but rather to throw him in a pit with the intention of rescuing him later (Genesis 37).  Judah was also the one who ended up having sex with his daughter-in-law whom he mistook for a prostitute after he had dealt unfairly with her when her husbands had died (Genesis 38).

There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the selection of Judah for this task.  I am reminded somewhat of God’s use of His sons and daughters for special assignments.  Many of us often wonder why ‘so and so’ was chosen to do something, and why not some other person we know, including sometimes, ourselves.  And we try to figure it out.  We try to find the rationale that God may have used for His choice.  And we fail miserably for His ways are not our ways.  We would do well to simply accept the fact that He is indeed the Grand Master Chess Player and He moves His men (and women) about His board in His own way.

There are many reasons why Jacob may have sent Judah on ahead to meet with Joseph.  Jacob may have wanted to announce to his host that they had arrived.  He did not want Joseph to be taken by surprise.  He wanted protection in the land of the Egyptians.  He may have even wanted permission, even though he was invited, to actually enter the land.  This reminds me of my experiences in some parts of Canada today, where Aboriginal people are the original owners of the land.  In those parts, visitors coming in must first be welcomed by the host Indian Chief or his representatives before they enter, so they can be officially welcomed, and then can go about their business.  Jacob wanted to be sure he was doing the right thing as he entered Egypt.

And of course there is the very obvious reason for sending Judah ahead and that is, as the text suggests, that Jacob’s caravan needed directions to get to that part of Egypt known as Goshen.  This was indeed a new land for Jacob and his family.  There was no point in pretending to be fully capable of knowing their way about.  He wanted his family to start their new life on the right foot.  We would do well to remember Jacob’s first approach to Egypt and the Egyptians whenever we tread into new territories that God has sent us to.

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