For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"All the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls; and Joseph was in Egypt already." (Ex. 1:5)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Rashi: Joseph was in Egypt already:
Now were not he and his sons included in the seventy? What then does this teach us? Did we not know that he was in Egypt? But [this clause comes] to inform you of Joseph righteousness. He, the Joseph who tended his father's flocks, is the same Joseph who was in Egypt and became a king, and he retained his righteousness.

Joseph...retained his righteousness.

Remez (hinted meaning):

There is no Baal HaTurim on this verse.

Derash (interpretive meaning):

Ohr HaChayim: Why does the Torah begin this paragraph with the word "Vayehi," which always means a painful experience? If it hints to the exile, this was not the place to mention this, seeing that the negative aspects did not begin till over 90 years later. Why do we also need to hear that Joseph was in Egypt? Perhaps it is related to Sotah (36) that it had been planned originally that Joseph would be the founding father of the 12 tribes and that only due to Potifar's wife was this forfeited, as is hinted in Gen. (49:24).

So the Torah expresses regret over this missed opportunity, and thus only 70 descended to Egypt. Perhaps too the Torah wanted to put Joseph on par with the other members of Jacob's family by phrasing it, "all the persons...including Joseph was in Egypt already" They were all righteous although some had been born in Egypt. The Torah uses the word for persons in the singular to show that they all formed a single spiritual unit.

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Shemot 5: Rabbi Hiya was sitting before Rabbi Shimon. He said to him: In the beginning, why did the Torah count twelve sons of Jacob, yet afterwards they were seventy, as is written: "All the souls of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were seventy"? (Gen. 46:27) And what is the reason that they were seventy and not more? He said to him: It corresponds to the seventy nations in the world. They were one nation equal to them all.

And he also said to him: Let us consider the keys that illuminate. The branches are set in their travels, that emanate from twelve engravings and knots that surround them in their travels striking against the four directions of the world. This is what is written: "He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel". (Deut. 32:8) And this is what is written: "As the four winds of the heavens have I spread you abroad" (Zachariah 2:10), so to show that they exist for the sake of the children of Israel. It does not say, 'In the four,' but rather, "As the four," because as it is impossible for the world to exist without the four winds, so it is impossible for the world to exist without Israel.

...the 70 Nefesh/souls who descended to Egypt...counter the 70 ministers of the nations...

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
Time for "Fun with Numbers." We have the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel, which parallel the 12 permutations of the divine four-letter Name, and the 12 diagonal lines in a cube, and the 12 "simple" letters (without either a dotted or final variant) and the 12 months. Then we have the 70 Nefesh/souls who descended to Egypt, to counter the 70 ministers of the nations, and 70 is the gematria of Sod/secret, and represents the 10 interincluded sefirot of the lower 7 sefirot (i.e. chesed, gevura, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod, and malchut) . These 12's and 7 (x 10)'s sustain the world, the natural world and the spiritual world. And on this earth plane we have the 4 Ruchot/spirit/winds/directions, related to the 4 letters of The Name, and corresponding to the 4 Sefirot of chesed/south, gevura/north, tiferet/east, and yesod/west.

All these 4's relate to the large letter Dalet in the word Echad in the Shema Israel prayer. Indeed, all of the above numbers are included in this phrase of 6 words. For Israel is, according to the above Zohar, one nation equal to all.

Now that does not bide well with post modernist sensitivities and sensibilities, for it smacks of apparent haughtiness and "chosenness." How quick we are to forget that being chosen does not necessarily mean being better! Rather, perhaps, Israel's role is to bring in from the 12 diagonals, the 70 nations, and the 4 directions, to reflect G‑d's light and Oneness to all. We are the smallest of nations, yet the focal point still of so much attention and energy. Which only increases our solemn responsibility.

When we say the word Echad we are to meditate on the letter Alef of Echad to signify Alufo Shel Olam, the Chief of the Universe—G‑d; on the letter Chet of Echad we are to intend the 7 Firmaments of Heaven (there's our 7) plus the earth below, 7 + 1 = 8, the gematria of the letter Chet; and on the final letter Dalet of Echad, as mentioned above, on the 4 directions, those of the winds.

Maybe this above meditation—which is considered to be the simple meditation required by Jewish Law when saying the word Echad--is the way a Jew needs to comport himself or herself below. We must keep the Alef--the One, the Chief—before us always, the centering point of all our thoughts, words and deeds. Then we need to unify Heaven and earth, represented by the Letter Chet, as above. That means to consciously try to bring down some heavenly context to this world's stuff. Finally, in the letter Dalet, to spread in the 4 earthly directions "The Good News", of the oneness of G‑d, and His Great Love for all. Maybe this is the role of Israel, without whom, G‑d forbid, the world cannot exist.

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