“Isra’el took everything he owned with him on his journey. He arrived at Be’er-Sheva and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.“-Genesis 46:1
I have mentioned before that the ancient middle eastern mind’s understanding of the true nature of God was far removed from our modern understanding.
This goes without saying.
We have the advantage of hindsight, can attend weekly Bible studies, and are able to access a wealth of information on YouTube or blogs like this one.
The ancients were trapped in their primitive mindsets until God saw fit to reveal more truth about his character to them.
In fact, a lot of biblical expressions we normally assume are just ancient figures of speech were normal statements reflecting how the ancients really viewed and felt about YHVH.
For example, the expression “the God above all gods“.
This wasn’t some sort of grandiose expression that reflected the omnipotence and grandeur of God.
The ancients really believed there were other gods but that their God was just stronger and more powerful than the gods of most other nations.
It would take some time for the Israelites to evolve to the truth that their God was the only one in existence.
For quite some time, we don’t see God challenging this false belief.
Even in the Book of Exodus, we see God saying he’s going to make war on the “gods of Egypt”.
I also mentioned that the Israelites believed gods were territorial and that they believed their God was no exception to this rule.
Although they were confident that their God could protect them in their own homeland, they wondered what would happen if they crossed boarders into an unknown land?
In verse 1, we are told that Jacob offered sacrifices at Beersheba in preparation for his trip to Egypt.
Sacrifices are never made on the ground in a normal fire.
Jacob would have used an altar.
Note that it says he sacrificed to “the God of his father Isaac“.
This means he is using the same family altar that not only his father Isaac used but Abraham as well.
An altar was always dedicated to a specific god and was called by the location it was in and who built it.
Now Jacob’s sacrifice actually reflects the limited territorial belief of the peoples of those times.
Jacob was worried that he would be leaving behind YHVH’s protection and influence once he left Canaan.
So his sacrifice was in part a request to YHVH to protect him once he left the safety of the promised land.
God comforts Jacob in his worries (as He does with us) and assures him that…
“ I Myself will go down with you to Egypt and I Myself will bring you back”.