The ABC of Scattering
Part 7: From Penuel to Egypt

John Plunkett 
July 9, 2016

In the series so far, you might remember that we have been following early mankind, and more specifically, Abraham’s extended family, through their God-ordained wanderings.

As we have been following them, step-by-step, I have been trying to get across to you how their travels might be symbolic of what God seems to be doing with His people in our age today.

At the end of Part 6, we were at the end of Genesis 32, where we left Jacob and his young family at a river ford called "Jabbok" (Hebrew "Yabboq"). 

That was after they had travelled all of the way from the home of Jacob’s scheming, duplicitous, double father-in-law, Laban.

After wrestling with Jacob at the Yabboq ford, the LORD gave Jacob a permanent limp and changed his name from Jacob to Israel, after which Jacob, now Israel, changed the name of the area of the Yabboq ford to "Penu-El," which means "Facing God."  This because Jacob had faced and looked upon God; but had miraculously survived.

As we move into Genesis 33, we see more mentions of the south-bound travels of Jacob (Israel) and his young family.  As we continue down the road with them, I want you to notice in the scriptures that we are going to read, the frequent accent on the concept of travel

Jacob and his family were travelling south, and they soon ran into Esau, Jacob’s estranged brother, who was accompanied by four hundred of his men!  So we can easily understand how Jacob might have had problems with that!

But surprisingly, Esau greeted Jacob very warmly. 

As we go through these scriptures, we are trying to glean relevant examples from these accounts.  Here is one of them.

Esau gets a lot of "bad press" throughout the scriptures; but in this case, his was a great example for God’s people today – a great example of reconciliation. 

Still, there was a limitation to this reconciliation, because after their reconciliation, when Esau suggested that Jacob and his family and Esau’s family should travel together, Jacob declined:

Genesis 33:
12:  And he
{Esau} said, "Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before you."

There is a possibility that Jacob may not have wanted to chance any resurgence of the former  animosity that they had between them; or any other trouble.  As he was well aware that they were very different in so many ways, Jacob wisely declined Esau's offer, and made some excuses not to travel together with his brother's party.

Perhaps this is another wise example for God’s people today.  I am all for unity within the Church of God.  Very much so!  Unity is a great thing.  We can and should love and accept our brethren in other Church of God groups.  It's great if and when we do so.  

But, if we have serious doctrinal, leadership or other kinds of differences with certain other Church of God groups, it may not be the best thing for us to to join with them at this time, or to fellowship with them on a regular basis.  We must use wisdom.  

Again, I am all for church unity, and I very much look forward to the time when it all comes back together. 

Esau and his men returned to their home at a place called Seir (Hebrew Se'iyr, which means hairy or shaggy – just like Esau himself {Genesis 25:25; 27:11, 23}).

Jacob’s group continued south-bound towards the camp of their father, Isaac.  Jacob thought (erroneously)  that Isaac was  still camped at Beer-Lahairoi, where he had left them many years earlier.

Jacob’s next camp-site was at a place called Succoth:

16:  So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir.
17:  And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.

Sukkoth (Hebrew Cukkoth) is a word that many of us will be familiar with.  It is Strong’s 5523 and it means “booth.”  But, as we keepers of God’s Feasts know, we have correctly thought of it as a “temporary dwelling.” 

Although the Hebrew word for ‘house’ as used here is bayith (Strong’s 1004), we can be reasonably sure that this house was not meant to be a permanent dwelling.  Why?  Because, although the time-frame is not mentioned here, in the very next verse we read of Jacob and his group moving on to yet another place.  So, it appears that they didn’t stay very long in this house that they built on that property at Succoth.

18:  And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan-Aram; and pitched his tent before the city.

Shalem comes from the same Hebrew word as Salem (Strong’s 8004), which means Peace.

Some Bible commentators maintain that this Shalem was the same place as Salem, which later became Jeru-Salem.  But the mention of Shalem here in verse 18 as being a city of Shechem would indicate the probability that it was not the same place, because the city of Shechem was about 54 kilometres (34 miles) north of what we now know as Jerusalem.

However, if Shalem and Salem were the same place, perhaps the mention of it being a city of Shechem would mean that the Shechem mentioned here was not being referred to as a city; but rather as a man.  i.e. a city belonging to the man Shechem – a major land owner who owned cities in that area.  This possibility is supported by subsequent verses, which clearly and repeatedly mention Shechem the man who was a prince; the son of a king named Hamor. 

It was not unusual back in those early years for city states to have their own individual monarchies.   The existence of city states was as common back then as that of larger countries – perhaps even more so in those early years. 

A few examples of the city states that still exist in Europe and Asia today include Singapore, Hong Kong (formerly), Gibraltar, San Marino, Monaco and Vatican City.

It is interesting what it says in verse 18, that "Jacob pitched his tent (probably more likely 'tents' plural) before the city."  Not in the city!

I am sure that Jacob knew of the mistakes his forefather Lot had made.  Perhaps Jacob learned from Lot's bad examples. 

In Genesis 13, we saw that Lot and his group initially pitched their tents "toward" – not in – the city of Sodom.  But later, as we read in chapters 14 and 19, for a reason that we do not know, they moved into a permanent house within the city itself, causing things to go from bad to worse!

But Jacob and his group did not go into the city of Shechem.  Nor did they dwell in houses there.  Rather, they stayed in their tents.

However, Jacob did buy some land there:

19:  And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for an hundred pieces of money.
20:  And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel.

I am not sure whether or not Jacob's purchase of this field was approved by God, but we will see shortly what happened afterwards.

Let’s look at this altar that he built and named "El-elohe-Isra-el." 

My lexicon tells me that the altar's name means "the Mighty God of Israel."  That is a reasonable translation, I suppose; but if we break it down into its component Hebrew words, we come with "El, Elohe, Isra, El.  Four words that in modern English mean – "God, God, Power, God."  That, to me, reads like a treble acknowledgment of God as the All Powerful One. 

But, there is yet another "maybe" here; and that is that, maybe Jacob’s purchase of this property in the land of Canaan may have been yet another premature "No-no."  

Why?  Because, as we read in Genesis 34, this immediately led to a major skirmish between Jacob’s group and the Canaanite residents of the land – a skirmish in which the character of Jacob and his family did not come out in a very positive light because of the things that they did. 

And just as with Jacob’s father’s skirmishes, and just as with Jacob’s grandfather’s skirmishes with the rulers of some of the countries and city-states in which they had stayed too long, this fight also blew up over the same causal origin as happened in their cases – the beauty of a woman!  In this case, it was over Jacob’s beautiful daughter, Dinah. 

This is quite a well known account, and I don’t want to go through it now as we have some "young ears" present; but, in a nutshell, it tells us of the Shalemites wish to intermarry with Jacob’s family and their wish for Jacob’s family to settle down in their land.  Just briefly:

Genesis 34:
8:  And Hamor communed with them, saying, "The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife.
9:  And make you marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you.
10:  And you shall dwell
{yashab!} with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell {yashab!} and trade you therein, and get you possessions therein...

Even though it appears that Jacob might have been somewhat tempted to agree with King Hamor's proposal, at that point in time, the LORD certainly was having none of it!

When these things did begin to happen – in other words, when the LORD did allow the Israelites to settle in the land of Canaan, and when He did eventually begin allowing inter-marriage, He did so according to His will and His timing.

After more trickery from Simeon and Levi (who evidently were tricksters and perhaps in this respect "chips of the old blocks" of their father Jacob and their maternal grandfather Laban), after much bloodshed, and with a surprising lack of faith (as we'll see as we read through this), Jacob started to fear the Shalemites.  He became unhappy about losing popularity and respect from these people, he became unhappy that his group were no longer welcome to stay in that area, and he was unhappy about the necessity for them to move out of it:

Verse 30:  And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, "You have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house."

What we see here, in addition to faith and trust in God, is a resistance for the right kind of change.  God wanted them to keep on moving; but over and over again they resisted it.  And I believe that, over and over again, they were punished for doing so.

But, as we move into Genesis 35, we see that the LORD quickly moved them out of that area and move them southward again:

Genesis 35: 
1:  And God
{Elohim} said unto Jacob, "Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God {El}, that appeared unto you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.

This was the same Bethel where Jacob, on his original outbound journey northwards toward Padan Aram years and years before, had his vision of this amazing stairway and gateway to the very House of God (Hebrew: Bayith-El).

Jacob’s first experience at Bethel on his way north had quite obviously made a very great impression on him, because he had his sons and daughters-in-law make strict preparation for his second visit. 

Maybe God initiated these instructions, or maybe He didn’t.  The scriptures don’t say.  But here is just part of the instruction that Jacob gave to his children:

2:  Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, "Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:
3:  And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God
{El}, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went."

That was on his original, northbound journey towards Laban's home, when he was looking for a wife – and got two!

4:  And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.

I am not sure what the problem was with their earrings, or why those earrings were associated with "the strange gods."  I don't believe that earrings were or are inherently sinful because, in at least two other scriptures later on (Proverbs 25:12; Ezekiel 16:12), the LORD seems to approve the proper use of earrings.  But perhaps these ones owned by Jacob's children may have had some idolatrous, heathen markings on them.

The mentions here in verses 2 and 4 of "the strange gods" is pretty bizarre in more than one respect.  It is curious that Jacob, if he had, in fact, known that members of his family possessed strange heathen gods, and if they had had them in their possession for any length of time, it would be strange that he would have allowed them to be kept.  It is also strange that the LORD had not done something about them before that time. 

There is some possibility that Jacob had not known about them until this point.  Perhaps the LORD revealed it to him in advance before the group's arrival at Bethel, because it was such an ultra-holy place.

The idolatry in Jacob's family may have come down all the way from Abraham’s predecessors: 

Joshua 24:2:
And Joshua said unto all the people, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel, 'Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.'"

We know that Laban possessed idols; and that is probably not really surprising when we think about his personality and his character.  It might be more surprising that heathen idols were adopted by Jacob’s favourite wife, Rachel.  We read about that in Genesis 31:30-35 which we will touch on again later; but we won’t let it hold us up now.  Let’s continue with the family's travels.  Back to Genesis 35, continuing in verse 5:

5:  And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.

The people of the cities round about them did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.  Remember what we read a couple of minutes ago, that Jacob expressed fear that that might happen – that his family group might be defeated and wiped out by the people of the land.  God made sure that that would not happen – not because of any inherent righteousness of Jacob's; but rather because of the solid promises He – the LORD – had repeatedly made.

6:  So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him.
7: And he built there an altar, and called the place El Bethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.

El Beth-El means "the God of the House of God."  It is interesting to me that, whenever Jacob named places, for some reason he seems to have liked to include multiples in the place-names that he initiated.  (Another example is El-Elohe-Isra-El back in chapter 33).  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it was a form of superlative, attempting to express, in this case, that there was no place on earth as holy as this one; and in the earlier one in chapter 33, that there is no power in heaven or earth that comes anywhere near that of  true God.

It was then and there that God repeated the name-change that He gave Jacob after their wrestling match back at Peniel:

9:  And God {Elohim} appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padan Aram, and blessed him.
10:  And God
{Elohim} said unto him, "Your name is Jacob: your name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be your name: and He called his name Israel.

God then reminded Jacob of who He was (and is) and what one of His names is:

11a:  And God {Elohim} said unto him, "I am God Almighty"… 

The Hebrew name for God Almighty here is El Shaddai, which means the Supremely Powerful God – a significantly similar meaning as that place-name back in chapter 33: El-Elohe-Isra-El.

He then repeated to Jacob a brief overview of His promised Abrahamic Covenant blessings, and also one of His earlier stated priorities for His early peoples:

11b: … "Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of you, and kings shall come out of your loins;
12:  And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to you I will give it, and to your seed after you will I give the land."

The tenses are interesting in verse 12.  They are mainly future tense, when referring to Jacob and his descendants: "To you I will give it, and to your seed after you will I give the land.”

But also, please note that He says that He gave the land to Jacob’s father and grandfather.  The word “gave” here is in the Hebrew perfect tense, which indicates that the action of the giving of the land to Abraham and Isaac had been completed.  We know that the land of Canaan was as good as theirs; but the LORD had not allowed them to fully or permanently settle in the land during their lifetimes.  Yes.  He had given it to them.  He said, in effect, "This is yours; but I am going to allow you to die, to go to the grave, your descendants will dwell in it; but you will not receive it until later on, after your resurrection."

Likewise, for Jacob and his family.  They would not actually take possession of the Promised Land right away.  So, off they went!  The LORD sent them out – on the road again!  And, once again, more troubles arose:

Verse 16:  And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.

A couple of months ago, in one of our New Moon Bible studies, we examined the town of Ephrath (Strong’s 672) – in quite a bit of detail.  You may not remember the term Ephrath, but you may remember that it can mean ash heap, and also a place of fruitfulness. The two meanings don’t seem to go together; but the name Ephrath is derived from the verb parah (Strong’s 6509) which means to be fruitful or increased, to grow, to bear, to bear fruit and to branch off.  

Some of these terms, because young Benjamin was born there near Ephrath, are significant to the increase in Jacob’s family by the birth of Benjamin.  Also, most of these terms – fruitful, increased, bear fruit – are very significant in regards to Jesus’ commands to His New Covenant peoples; e.g. to increase, to grow in grace and knowledge, to bear spiritual fruit and to be fruitful branches of Him, the One who is the Vine.

17:  And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, "Fear not; you shall have this son also."
18:  And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.

Rachel wanted to call him Benoni; but his father Jacob called him Benjamin

Did you ever wonder why Jacob overruled Rachel’s name for her son? 

The Hebrew rendition of Benoni is Benowniy (Strong’s 1126) and it is generally and compassionately understood as meaning son of my sorrow, or son of my trouble, probably from the idea of Rachel’s hard labour and the fact that she died before being able to enjoy any time with this, her second child. 

The name Benowniy stems from the word Ben, meaning son, and owniy, which is from the noun aven

Aven is a very common noun throughout the scriptures.  In the Old Testament we find 78 appearances of it.  

Yes, it can mean sorrow, mourning, trouble and affliction; but, if you look at all of the 78 translations of it in the Old Testament, it is more commonly rendered as vanity, false, mischief, unjust, unrighteous, iniquity, wickedness, evil, idol and idolatry.  

Some of these words might be very relevant to Rachel’s stealing of her father, Laban’s heathen gods.  Not just stealing them; but keeping and owning them. 

We always think of Rachel as Jacob’s first choice as a wife.  His favourite.  We always think of Rachel as "the cute one" of Laban’s two daughters.  And because we think that she was cute, we might have the idea that butter would not have melted in her mouth. But because of her beauty, we might tend to make the mistake of sweeping Rachel’s idol incident under the rug. 

God does not do that.  He is not a respecter of persons. 

So, I ask, is it possible that Rachel’s name for her second son could have been a kind of deathbed repentance, perhaps implying or admitting that "My childbearing agony and untimely death due to the birth of this son is just punishment from God for my wicked sin of idolatry"?

It is a possibility, and if true, we can easily understand why Jacob would not want his younger son growing up with a name like that.  This name, Ben-Owniy, because of the inclusion of that word owniy (from aven), would have said to anybody who was ever introduced to him, "My mother was a wicked idolater."  You could see why Jacob would not want that for his youngest son.  

Whether or not this was the reason, Jacob overruled Rachel’s choice of names and called the child Benjamin – or more accurately, Ben-yamin, which means: son of my right hand or son of the south

Why son of the south?  When a person is facing east, the south is on his right hand.  Little Benjamin was born near Ephrath.  Although Ephrath was not in the southernmost part of Canaan (which they were headed for); but it certainly was very far south in comparison to where all of Jacob’s other children had been born, and where Jacob and his family had been for the previous umpteen years.

19:  And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.

Again, not actually at Ephrath; but in the way to it; and, as it says in verse 16, a little way from it.  Modern Bethlehem is only about 8 kilometres (5 miles) south of Jerusalem.  This proximity might give another indication that the original Bethel, which they had just left, was actually at Jerusalem.  This is just a possibility and something worth thinking about.

Did Jacob stay at Ephrath?  No he didn’t:

21:  And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the Tower of Edar.

The Tower of Edar was a place name, actually Migdal Eder, which was evidently somewhere not too far south of Ephrath and Bethlehem; but still southbound en route towards Isaac’s  camp.  Now they were in the home stretch and getting pretty close to home; but as it says in verse 21, they were still living in tents and so were still nomadic at the time.

22a:  And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land...

The word for dwelt in this verse is shakan, not yashab.  I don't want to go into all of the nasty, bloodthirsty events that happened at Migdal Eder; so we'll skip over those verses.

Finally, after all of his yashabing, after all of his sojourning, and after all of his travelling, Jacob was at long last reunited with his father, Isaac, and his group.  (Jacob's beloved mother, Rebekah, was evidently dead by this time).  

But, where did the reunification take place?  It was not at Beer-lahai-roi, where they had been when Jacob left so many years before:

Verse 27:  And Jacob came unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac {had} sojourned.

Since Jacob had left and gone north, old Isaac and the family group had evidently done some more travelling of their own, and had relocated, yet again, back to the Mamre, Hebron area.

Although we can imagine that the reunification between Isaac and Jacob was a very happy and joyful time, we are not given an account of it.

We are not absolutely sure of the timing; but from the way that it is written, immediately or quite soon after Jacob's return, here is what happened:

28:   And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore {180} years.
29a:  And Isaac gave up the ghost
{human spirit}, and died, and was gathered unto his people… 

Did he go to heaven to be reunited with his people?  No!  This merely means that he went to the same place as they were – i.e. the grave.

29b: … being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

This is interesting.  In the same way as Ishmael had returned to the family camp for Abraham’s funeral, so Esau returned to the family camp for Isaac’ funeral.  

We are not sure when Rebekah – Isaac’s wife and Jacob’s mother – died.  The scriptures don’t tell us; but it was likely during the time that Jacob was away.  Rebekah’s death is only mentioned by Jacob much later in Genesis 49:

Genesis 49:
30:  In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a burying place.
31:  There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.

Rebekah’s death, and the fact that they wanted to bury her back in Machpelah by Hebron, might give an indication of why Isaac moved from Beer-Lahai-roi back to the Hebron area.

Let’s go back to Genesis 36, where we see that, just as in the case of Ishmael, Esau did not stick around after Isaac’s funeral; but made himself scarce and he returned home to his home area of Seir.

Genesis 36:
6:  And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the persons of his house, and his cattle, and all his beasts, and all his substance, which he had got in the land of Canaan; and went into the country from the face of his brother Jacob.
7:  For their riches were more than that they might dwell together; and the land wherein they were strangers could not bear them because of their cattle.
8:  Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom.

More travel, more separation and more scattering.  Seemingly for similar reasons as Abraham had separated from Lot.  You'll of course remember about Abraham and Lot splitting up because their employees could not get on together.  

There seems to be some implication here that, after Isaac’s funeral, Esau and Jacob did give reunification another try,  But it was not to be.  And probably for the good, because their personalities were so different – like oil and water. 

We know, of course, which branch of the family was the Abrahamic Covenant family line.  God said that He was going to bless Jacob (Israel), and that the Abraham Covenant was going to continue down his line.  It was not going to go down Ishmael’s line or down Esau’s line. 

Before the Bible's narrative leaves Esau in order to follow the Abrahamic Covenant family line of Jacob (Israel), the author of this part of Genesis seems to honour Esau and to leave him on a positive note by listing his descendants, many of whom became what the Bible calls "dukes" – i.e. high ranking people – and even kings, indicating that Esau’s line had their own kings long before Israel's line did.

On into chapter 37:

Genesis 37:1:
And Jacob dwelt
{yashab} in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.

In this particular verse we are not told exactly where in Canaan Jacob and his family were yashabing.  But we soon find out that they were still in the vale of Hebron at this time, and quite close to the area of Shechem. We are not given any more detail, so let’s assume that they were still in the Mamre/Hebron area. 

Neither are we told how many months or years they had been dwelling there.  

Was it a problem that they were yashabing here?  God seems to have had a problem whenever they yashab'd too long in a given area.  He wanted them to keep on moving for His own good reasons.  So, was it a problem in this case?  And if it was a problem, did the usual trouble ensue from this instance of yashabing?  

Yes it did!  Major trouble!  History-changing trouble! 

We will not go into all of the detail today.  I'm sure that you all know the details of the account of what happened to young Joseph who, by the way, was a victim of respect of persons. 

Many scriptures tell us that, in God’s eyes, respect of persons is a sin.  I am sure that this would include respect of persons within a family.  Favouritism of certain of a parent's children is obviously going to cause trouble.  Jacob’s excessively unbalanced love for Joseph resulted in Joseph’s brothers hatred of him.  So excessive love led to excessive hatred in that family.

Did it result in more travelling?  Did this situation result in more separation and scattering?  Yes, it did!  

And did young Joseph do some of this travelling too?  Yes, he did, as his father, as his grandfather, and as his great grandfather had done. 

Again, you know the story.  He did some travelling, and much of it was not voluntary.  But first, to please his father by obtaining news of his brothers’ welfare, Joseph did take a voluntary trip; but, as it turned out, a very fateful trip:

Verse 12:  And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.
13:  And Israel said unto Joseph, "Do not your brethren feed the flock in Shechem?  Come, and I will send you unto them."  And he
{Joseph} said to him {Jacob}, "Here am I."
14:  And he
{Jacob} said to him {Joseph}, "Go, I pray you, see whether it be well with your brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he {Jacob} sent him {Joseph} out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

One of the things I want to ask you to notice here and to drill into your memory is that there is a requirement for sheep-owners and shepherds to continually move around in order to find good nutritious pasture for their sheep.  I ask you to lock that fact into your memory because it is a very important point and we are going to come back to it in a few weeks’ time. 

As I mentioned earlier, I do not believe that the Shechem mentioned here and in earlier verses is the city which is of modern-day Nablus which was, it is true, previously called Shechem.  That city is about eighty kilometres (fifty miles) north of Hebron – a very unlikely distance for shepherds to travel with their flocks. 

Rather, I believe that the area being referred to was likely a large, broad area of land which had been ruled by Prince Shechem who we read about earlier and his father King Hamor – a large stretch of land that came right down into the area reasonably close to Hebron.

15:  And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, "What seek you?"
16:  And he said, "I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray you, where they feed their flocks."
17:  And the man said, "They are departed hence; for I heard them say, 'Let us go to Dothan.'"  And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.

I tried to find out where ancient Dothan might have been, but my search was unsuccessful.  One source says that it was at the south end of the Jezreel Valley; but that is very unlikely, because the Jezreel Valley is about seventy-five miles north of Hebron.  I doubt that even the very keenest shepherds would have travelled that far to feed their flocks.

18:  And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.

We all know how the story goes.  Reuben convinced his brothers not to kill Joseph; and Judah, who must have inherited some of his Uncle Laban’s avaricious genes, came up with an idea to sell Joseph as a slave to some Midianite Ishmaelites:

25:  And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmaelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down {i.e. southbound} to Egypt.
26:  And Judah said unto his brethren, "What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
27:  Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh.  And his brethren were content.
28:  Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.
29:  And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.

So came Joseph’s involuntary – but very momentous and history-changing – journey into Egypt. 

We will leave the family's travels there for today, and pick up the account next time in Part 8.