“The story has a classic “U” shaped design, moving from a pastoral scene of familial prosperity, through an extended period of adversity and disintegration of the family unit, to a climax of restoration and reuniting of the family unit that result in a greater position of prosperity than when the story began.” Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary
Previously we see Joseph giving these instructions to the family.
Joseph said to his brothers and to his father's household, "I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, 'My brothers and my father's household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me; and the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock; and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have.' "When Pharaoh calls you and says, 'What is your occupation?' you shall say, 'Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,' that you may live in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians." Genesis 46:31-34 NASB)
Is Joseph trying to preserve them or is he being a control freak?
I think the obvious answer is that he was trying to preserve them, but you can see that Joseph has a general understanding about Egyptians and their attitudes. To what extremes will their prejudice drive them? It took almost 400 years for the Hebrews to find out, as they were turned into mere slaves, a despised people.
Had Joseph learned the ways of his father, Jacob?
We are told that a child is established in his character by the age of seven, therefore the potential that Joseph was just like his father was there. However, if you take a young man, age seventeen, and make a slave out him, then add the possibility that any action that displeases your owner, whether it be with your mouth or your actions, and you will be killed. All this can help to adjust your attitude and I believe we see that with Joseph.
So when Joseph, the man who ran the country, tells his family to say, we have been keepers of livestock, he is trying to ensure them a home and their lives. Such a saying would effectively have included shepherding and was therefore not technically a lie, a deception perhaps, but not a lie.
But what does his family do? At direct questioning by Pharaoh, they say, we are shepherds. Well now, there is no getting around that. Our Presidential candidates are constantly doing and saying stupid things, and therefore have a team of people that can spin whatever was said in the process of doing damage control.
In spite of their mouths, something Joseph should have seen coming, they have moved everything and headed toward Goshen.
And thus begins chapter 47.
Genesis 47:1-2 NASB Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, and said, "My father and my brothers and their flocks and their herds and all that they have, have come out of the land of Canaan; and behold, they are in the land of Goshen." 2) He took five men from among his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh.
- “Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh,”Think about the reasons behind this move: Appropriate actions for the position; pride; insurance and safety for the family. Consider, if Pharaoh has given them the green light, then Pharaoh is going to take an active interest in their security.
- “My father and my brothers and their flocks and their herds and all that they have, have come out of the land of Canaan; and behold, they are in the land of Goshen."Seventy members of the family and an uncounted number of servants and slaves. Not enough to mount an attack on Egypt but an intimidating number none-the-less.
Genesis 47:2 NASB He took five men from among his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh.
- Joseph took five that he thought could represent the family. One might assume that they would eventually carry roles as tribal/family leaders and that may have happened over time. Right now, we do not know who they are.
Again I remind that you that Joseph told them this day would come, and when it does you are to say, “Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers.”
Genesis 47:3 NASB Then Pharaoh said to his brothers, "What is your occupation?" So they said to Pharaoh, "Your servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers."
- “Then Pharaoh said to his brothers, "What is your occupation?"”How did Joseph know he was going to say that? Habit perhaps. Joseph worked with the man long enough to know his actions.
- “So they said to Pharaoh, "Your servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers."If you were standing there, smiling, hoping for the best and you heard this, what would be your internal reaction?There is no getting around this word it seems, however, when you look the word up in the Hebrew it is fairly broad. Shepherd is the Hebrew word raah, and it also means to feed, graze, herd and keep. The problem is I have a Western mentality and, in my mind, the word shepherd means sheep are involved. Farmers and ranchers tend to call just about everything else livestock or they refer to themselves as cattlemen.The salvation here is that Pharaoh may not speak Hebrew and may be reliant upon Joseph to interpret. Joseph could spin this just enough to get them past Egyptian prejudices.
Pharaoh only asked them one question. Important, busy people may only have time for a succinct response, but watch what they say.
Genesis 47:4 NASB They said to Pharaoh, "We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants' flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, therefore, please let your servants live in the land of Goshen."
- “ They said to Pharaoh, "We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants' flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan.”They are either assuming that Joseph has not told him the whole story, or feel he is unaware of what is going on in the world outside of Egypt. None-the-less, there is trouble everywhere.
- “Now, therefore, please let your servants live in the land of Goshen."The crazy thing is, Joseph has explained all this to them already. At least we know he gave the brothers specific instructions to tell dad. We know that Jacob did not believe the story the brothers brought back, imploring him to come to Egypt, that is until Jacob saw the wagons.
What was so significant about these wagons?
Is it possible that wagons were not a common sight for the Hebrews? While it may have been common to move things around by camel, having wheeled carts would have been another issue.
It is possible that Jacob is merely the diplomat. That idea prompts me to ask where he would have gained those skills. The closest thing we see is his interaction with Esau, knowing full well that Esau wanted to kill him at one point.
Genesis 47:5-6 NASB Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Your father and your brothers have come to you. 6) "The land of Egypt is at your disposal; settle your ? and your brothers in the best of the land, let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know any capable men among them, then put them in charge of my livestock."
In spite of the Egyptians known hatred for shepherds and the family, in opposition to what Joseph told them, saying that they were shepherds, they are still warmly accepted.
- “Your father and your brothers have come to you.”
This may be a statement of fact, or, Pharaoh is pushing responsibility for their actions on Joseph.
- “The land of Egypt is at your disposal;”
This gives them tremendous leeway and demonstrates the attitude of Pharaoh.
- “settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land, let them live in the land of Goshen;”
My assumption is that Goshen is the best of the land. It has excellent topsoil due to the Nile overflowing its banks.
- “and if you know any capable men among them, then put them in charge of my livestock.”
This is an open-ended job offer.
Genesis 47:7 NASB Then Joseph brought his father Jacob and presented him to Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.
- “Joseph brought his father Jacob and presented him to Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.”
To have Pharaoh say, take the best of the land; take your liberties of the best of Egypt; and, if you are capable, you can have a job tending my flocks. One might perceive this as a blessing, and it would be appropriate to receive it. Jacob takes it to the next level by blessing Pharaoh.The Hebrew word for bless is barak and means: to kneel, bless: - abundantly bless.
Genesis 47:8-9 NASB Pharaoh said to Jacob, "How many years have you lived?" 9) So Jacob said to Pharaoh, "The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning."
I am not sure what role this aspect of the conversation plays, but again, diplomacy may be in action.
Genesis 47:10 NASB And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from his presence.
This is merely a restatement of what Jacob did.
Genesis 47:11-12 NASB So Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered. 12) Joseph provided his father and his brothers and all his father's household with food, according to their little ones.
- “So Joseph settled his father and his brothers”
Settled is the Hebrew word yâshab/yaw-shab' and means to sit down (specifically as judge, in ambush, in quiet); by implication to dwell, to remain; causatively to settle, to marry: - (make to) abide (-ing), continue.
While this seems harmless, there are two things that glare at me in contrast.
- Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah. He sat in judgment over the town. Most people miss this fact because it is buried in the “conversation” where the men who are trying to break down the door of Lot's home, withstand him, telling him that they will not tolerate him judging them anymore. You find this in: Genesis 19:9 NASB But they said, "Stand aside." Furthermore, they said, "This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them." So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door.
The other thing that screams at me is when both Judah and Israel went into captivity in Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah spoke over the Hebrew captives and told them to:
- Settle down, dwell, remain and marry because they were going to be there for a while. That while was seventy years.
Jeremiah 29:4-7 NASB "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, 5) 'Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. 6) 'Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. 7) 'Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.'
I do not think any of them thought they would be here for 400 years. Now, ask yourself, how deeply entrenched in the environment would you become after that amount of time?
Genesis 47:12 NASB Joseph provided his father and his brothers and all his father's household with food, according to their little ones.
One might assume that anything beyond they would have to provide for themselves. While that might not be a bad idea, I suspect that they lacked for nothing while Joseph was in control.
“It is also clear that for a time Lower Egypt was under the dominion of foreign rulers who were in race more nearly allied to Joseph than to the native population. But there is no need that so complicated a question as the exact date of this foreign domination be debated here, for there was that in Joseph’s bearing which would have commended him to any sagacious monarch. Not only did the court accept him as a messenger from God, but they could not fail to recognize substantial and serviceable human qualities alongside of what was mysterious in him. The ready apprehension with which he appreciated the magnitude of the danger, the clear-sighted promptitude with which he met it, the resource and quiet capacity with which he handled a matter involving the entire condition of Egypt, showed them that they were in the presence of a true statesman, No doubt the confidence with which he described the best method of dealing with the emergency was the confidence of one who was convinced he was speaking for God. This was the great distinction they perceived between Joseph and ordinary dream-interpreters. It was not guesswork with him. The same distinction is always apparent between revelation and speculation. Revelation speaks with authority; speculation gropes its way, and when wisest is most diffident. At the same time Pharaoh was perfectly right in his inference: "Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art." He believed that God had chosen him to deal with this matter because he was wise in heart, and he believed his wisdom would remain because God had chosen him.” Expositor's Bible Commentary; Edited by the Rev. W. Robertson Nicoll, M.A., LL.D.
It was Stephen, in his defense against the council, that validates this thesis, and we see this in:
Acts 7:18 NASB “until THERE AROSE ANOTHER KING OVER EGYPT WHO KNEW NOTHING ABOUT JOSEPH.”
No one argued with Joseph about the statements he made, but they had already accused him of being a blasphemer and therefore had him stoned to death for those baseless accusations. Not so dissimilar to Jesus.
Genesis 47:13 NASB Now there was no food in all the land, because the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine.
Remember, Joseph told his brothers to say to their father, that they were two years into the drought. We, with our modern, Western mentality, think in terms of packing a suitcase and jumping on a plane, and even then, I am thinking about a time I had caught a flight before the TSA got involved. I imagine that Jacob and the extended family, all lived in tents, but that does not exclude them from building a house. None-the-less, pulling everything down, wrapping it up, gathering children, packing the camels, and now, figuring out how best to pack these Egyptian wagons Joseph sent us to use. The point being, from the time he implores them to come, to their arrival, may have taken months.
Because of the speed of travel, the known world was relatively small. Therefore all the land could have meant merely the Eastern Mediterranean and or the Middle East.
Genesis 47:14-20 NASB Joseph gathered all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan for the grain which they bought, and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh's house. 15) When the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, "Give us food, for why should we die in your presence? For our money is gone." 16) Then Joseph said, "Give up your livestock, and I will give you food for your livestock, since your money is gone." 17) So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses and the flocks and the herds and the donkeys; and he fed them with food in exchange for all their livestock that year. 18) When that year was ended, they came to him the next year and said to him, "We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent, and the cattle are my lord's. There is nothing left for my lord except our bodies and our lands. 19) "Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we and our land will be slaves to Pharaoh. So give us seed, that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate." 20) So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for every Egyptian sold his field, because the famine was severe upon them. Thus the land became Pharaoh's.
How Joseph handles the people, the land, and the food distribution becomes the major focus of attention when someone wants to preach a message about management and the skills you need to push forward in life and survive on top. Ask yourself some questions here:
- Is Joseph trying to push to the top?
- Is what Joseph is doing, buying all that the people possess, appropriate?Considering the circumstances, and the fact that there was no law from God to guide them, it would seem so.
- What is the impact of Joseph's actions?Pharaoh, and Egypt, in a sense, become very wealthy, and responsible. What will become of these people when the drought ends and they can go back to work? It seems that in the long run, they are creating a welfare state and all the problems we hear people whining about on the news.
Genesis 47:21 NASB As for the people, he removed them to the cities from one end of Egypt's border to the other.
They have no cattle, no crops, and now, no land to grow on. And, Egypt is now feeding them. Joseph has a huge logistics problem. So how does he resolve it? He moves them into the cities. This reduces much of the activity level, and makes it easier to get food to people.
Genesis 47:22 NASB Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had an allotment from Pharaoh, and they lived off the allotment which Pharaoh gave them. Therefore, they did not sell their land.
- “Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had an allotment from Pharaoh, and they lived off the allotment which Pharaoh gave them.”Did God borrow this idea from Joseph, or is it God's plan, for this is how God takes care of the Levites - the priests. They possess nothing and are fed by the people.
Genesis 47:23 NASB Then Joseph said to the people, "Behold, I have today bought you and your land for Pharaoh; now, here is seed for you, and you may sow the land.
- “ Behold, I have today bought you and your land for Pharaoh;”Is that what you would want to hear? Under the circumstances would you have any options.
- “now, here is seed for you, and you may sow the land.”This comes off as icy and insincere, but we have seen enough of Joseph to know that this is not who he is. It is possible that on this day he had to make this speech to a large crowd. Maybe there is a moment in time when we need a reality check, and this would certainly do it.Doesn't drought tend to mean that there is not enough water to grow crops, and yet Joseph gives them seed.Watch what happens next.
Genesis 47:24 NASB "At the harvest you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four-fifths shall be your own for seed of the field and for your food and for those of your households and as food for your little ones."
I would imagine that seed was given in proportion to the amount of land that the people had previously had responsibility for. Do you think that Joseph put people back on good land that previously had not been managed well? Another thing to consider. One fifth will depend on crop output. Therefore the amount will vary. Doesn't this sound like taxation?
Scripture demonstrates that God expected ten percent, under the law. While it may seem like a lot, the families get to keep four-fifths. When you look ahead 400 years, to the time when Moses is telling the Pharaoh, “let my people go!” It would seem that those who were Egyptians, had done alright for themselves. How do we know that? Because, the Egyptians gave them gold, jewelry, and pleaded with the Hebrews to leave.
Exodus 12:35-36 NASB Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; 36) and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
Genesis 47:25 NASB So they said, "You have saved our lives! Let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's slaves."
- “You have saved our lives! Let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's slaves.”This idea of saving our lives kept tugging at me. And then I found this:
“How closely the parallel holds! Joseph rose from the pit and the prison to save his brethren as well as the myriads of his adopted fellow-countrymen: Jesus rose from the grave to be a Prince and a Savior. Joseph’s bread cost him nothing, while Jesus gave us that which cost him Calvary. Joseph sold his corn for money; our Lord gave himself without money or price. You may go to Him without reluctance, though your sack is empty and you have no money in your hand; but He will give and give again, without stint.” Through the Bible by Day, A Devotional Commentary BY. F.B. Meyer, B.A.
Genesis 47:26 NASB Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt valid to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; only the land of the priests did not become Pharaoh's.
And, for all we know, this statute stands to this very day.
Genesis 47:27 NASB Now Israel lived in the land of Egypt, in Goshen, and they acquired property in it and were fruitful and became very numerous.
As we started this story, assuming we know nothing about the future of Jacob and his descendants, didn't you wonder what would happen? I did.
- “Israel lived in the land of Egypt, in Goshen,”The implication is, rather successfully.
- “and they acquired property in it and were fruitful and became very numerous.”This is very clear, they purchased or dealt for it. How is it that they succeeded? God was on their side. Now, multiply this time 400, because that is how long they were there in Egypt.
Genesis 47:28 NASB Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the length of Jacob's life was one hundred and forty-seven years.
So, Jacob was 130 years old when he arrived. He was ready to die the day he arrived.
Genesis 47:29-31 NASB When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, "Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt, 30) but when I lie down with my fathers, you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place." And he said, "I will do as you have said." 31) He said, "Swear to me." So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed.
This seems odd to say, but he was ready to die, only this time for real.
“Jacob lives seventeen years in Egypt, and so survives the famine twelve years. “He called his son Joseph.” Joseph retained his power and place near Pharaoh after the fourteen years of special service were completed; hence, Jacob looks to him for the accomplishment of his wishes concerning the place of his burial. “Put thy hand under my thigh” Gen 24:2. He binds Joseph by a solemn asseveration to carry his mortal remains to the land of promise.” Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible
This is not the first time we encounter this saying:
Genesis 24:2 NASB Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, "Please place your hand under my thigh,
“put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: as a token of his subjection to him as a servant, and of his readiness, willingness, and fidelity to execute any commands he should lay upon him, and in order to take an oath, as appears by what follows; for it seems this rite was used in swearing, and is still used in India, as Aben Ezra affirms; and some say among the Ethiopians.” John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible