Bible studies with Don Isaac Abravanel’s commentary (also spelled Abarbanel) has withstood the test of
time. For over five centuries, Abravanel has delighted – and enlightened – clergy and layman alike,
offering enduring interpretations of the Bible.  In Genesis Chapter 46, we read that Jacob packed up his family to leave famine-plagued Canaan
for Egypt, where Joseph ruled. A stopover in Beer Sheba, and a night vision there, nearly put a spike in
the patriarch’s plan. Abravanel puts our verses into perspective. Bible students are the richer for it.

“And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beer-
Sheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac. And God
said unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said: Jacob, Jacob. And
he said, Here I am. And He said, I am God, the God of your father. Fear
not to go down into Egypt, for I will there make of you a great nation.”

Abravanel asks: Why did God need to appear to Jacob in Beer-Sheba in order to calm his concerns? “And
He said….Fear not to go down to Egypt.” Curiously, the patriarch gave no impression of fearfulness. At
the end of the last chapter, Jacob seems to state matter-of-factly: “And Israel said…I will go and see him
before I die.” Our chapter segues from the previous one: “And Israel took his journey with all that he
had, and came to Beer-Sheba…” No worries.

Abravanel teaches that Jacob began his journey to Egypt with a stop to Beer-Sheba, because the place
carried warm associations – the patriarchs prayed there. Further, when Jacob fled Canaan for Paddan-
Aram, he had stopped there. That night, Jacob had his ladder vision, a dream that promised him divine

Presently, when Jacob came to Beer-Sheba, he “offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.”
Abravanel finds it odd that Jacob didn’t mention, and invoke, his grandfather Abraham, referring only to
his father Isaac.

Here is Abravanel’s read on the verses. Jacob yearned to visit Egypt and set his eyes upon Joseph. On the
other hand, the patriarch feared leaving the Holy Land, the land that divine providence calls home. Here,
then, was Jacob’s quandary – to go or not to go.

This much Jacob knew, as he grappled for clarity. His grandfather, Abraham, had left Canaan for Egypt
during a famine. Yet, after the binding of Isaac, God said to Isaac: “Do not go to Egypt.” The reason for
God’s injunction had to do with wanting to spare Isaac from seedy Egypt, a society immersed in sorcery
and black magic. A mindless culture.

Abraham was permitted to go to Egypt, because divine providence had not yet been assigned as a
guiding force to him. But, as a result of circumcision and the binding of Isaac that changed; providence
attached to the first patriarch’s descendants. God had cleaved to the Chosen People, and the Chosen
People – His servants – cleaved to Him. And providence, as stated above, permeated throughout

This brings us back to Jacob’s predicament. Isaac was told to remain in the Chosen Land, for God’s eyes
are ever watching over it. Recall, that young Jacob experienced the same uneasiness as he fled the Holy
Land for Paddan-Aram. In the ladder dream, God assured him that He would protect him. “I will be with
you and guard you.” For Jacob’s part, he reciprocated in kind in the form of a pledge. He vowed that
when he returned from Paddan-Aram, he would wholeheartedly serve the Creator.

Now, Jacob arrived in Beer-Sheba, in need of divine inspiration. Should the patriarch abort his dream of
seeing Joseph in Egypt? Jacob “offered sacrifice unto the God of his father Isaac.” Would God forbid
Jacob from leaving the Holy Land, as He had stopped Isaac from going there?

A deeply-conflicted Jacob so wanted to see Joseph, just for a second. The patriarch poured his heart
before God, praying for a dispensation. The Maker told him: “And He said, I am God, the God of your
father. Fear not to go down into Egypt.” From Above, permission was granted.