Genesis Segment 33 (47:1-31)

Genesis 47:1 So Joseph went and informed Pharaoh: “My father and my brothers, with their sheep and cattle and all that they have, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in the land of Goshen.”

To prepare the way for his family’s settling down Egypt, Joseph informed Pharaoh that they had arrived and that they were in Goshen. The fact that they had cattle and sheep showed the Egyptian government that they were not poor but men of means.

Genesis 47:2 And he took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh.

These five were, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher, according to the Targum Jonathan:

“And Joseph came and informed Pharoh, and said, My father and my brethren, with their sheep all oxen and all that they have, are come from the land of Kenaan, and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen. And from the extreme of his brethren he took five men, Zebulon, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher, and resented them before Pharoh.” 1

Rabbi Solomon Ben Isaac Jarchi, a Jewish Scholar from the twelfth century, said they were Reuben, Simeon and Levi, Issachar and Benjamin, but the Targum is the more reliable source. The Targum was transmitted orally from the days of the prophets but “the final settlement of the written form did not occur until the fifth Christian century.” (Catholic Encyclopedia.) This information was gleaned from the Jewish Encyclopedia and the Catholic Encyclopedia.

The Hebrew says these men were extreme of his brethren. The Concordant Literal Version calls them outstanding men. The actual Hebrew root word is קצה, quatseh or qetseh, which mainly connotes “extreme.” The inflection in the context of this verse means “out of the extreme.” The explanation could be that these men were of the poorest or richest of the brethren. However, it is also possible that Joseph chose the five to convey the extremes of the whole community, viz. the poor, rich, and in between. Perhaps it was varying ages. He may have just chosen them randomly. We do not know his actual method or reasoning on the matter.

Genesis 47:3-4 And Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers. (4) They said moreover unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come; for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan: now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen.

This was the formal application to Pharaoh to allow Jacob and his family to reside in Goshen. Pharaoh undoubtedly knew they were shepherds, but formally asked them to state, for the record, that they were shepherds. They did so and at the same time they petitioned Pharaoh, on the record, to allow them to officially reside in Goshen. They were at court and all this was recorded by the court.

Genesis 47:5-6 And Pharaoh spoke unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: (6) The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.

This was Pharaoh’s official decree that they could reside in Goshen. Pharaoh specifically asked Joseph to look out for men with leadership skills to be managers of Pharaoh’s flocks. Once the formal proceedings over the land of Goshen were completed, Jacob was presented to Pharaoh. The formal business was completed and now the less formal, more personal proceedings could take place.

Genesis 47:7 And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.

Remember what the Scripture says in Genesis 12:3: “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” This applies to Abraham and his descendants. Since the Scriptures say in Galatians 3:7, “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham,” the descendants of Abraham include Christians. If a person, nation, or kingdom blesses the descendants of Abraham they will be blessed in return. A rather general definition of blessing in this context is “to bestow some form of good, whether it is physical or metaphysical in character, upon another.” This can include good will, compliments, some sort of gain such as monetary enrichment or property gain, or even needed help. At any rate, blessing in this context implies some type of favor or benefit.

Jacob was certainly a descendant of Abraham, who was his grandfather. Pharaoh had already blessed Abraham through Jacob by bringing Jacob and his family to Egypt to save them from the famine in Canaan. Hence now Jacob blesses Pharaoh. We must note that the Hebrew word rendered bless can also mean to kneel down before another. In this case and context, however, blessing infers benefit. Hence Jacobs blessing would result is benefits for Pharaoh. We can see the outcome of such benefits in Pharaoh gaining much land, slaves, and monies because of Joseph’s expert handling of the famine crisis in the remaining verses of the chapter.

Genesis 47:8-10 And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou? (9) And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage. (10) And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.

Jacob told Pharaoh that he was 130 years old, that he had led a hard life, and that he had not lived as long as his ancestors. From Shem to Isaac, Jacob’s descendants lived an average of 305 years with Shem the oldest at 600 and Abraham the youngest at 175. Jacob lived a total of 147 years. The things that made his life hard included his problem with his brother Esau, his time spent with Laban, who conned him, the problems he had with his wayward sons, his loss of Joseph for many years, and the extreme famine that lasted seven years. This is not an exhaustive list. It is sufficient to state that yes, the Bible shows us that Jacob led a difficult life, much of it due to choices he made.

Again, the passage says that Joseph blessed Pharaoh. Because the Hebrew word rendered bless could be rendered to bow down, it is possible that he bowed down to Pharaoh out of respect, but I find that difficult to believe since Jacob and Pharaoh were somewhat equals. And, of course, the context does not support that Jacob bowed. Jacob was a great leader and so was Pharaoh. It is likely that Jacob wished him well and thanked him for his graciousness in allowing Jacob and his family to come to Egypt and live in the very fine region of Goshen.

Genesis 47:11 And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded.

Rameses is in Lower Egypt, which is in the north of Egypt in the Nile Delta near the Mediterranean. According to Pharaoh’s wishes (v. 6), Joseph settled his family in the land of Goshen, known at the time as Rameses, which was the area surrounding the city of Rameses (Child of the Sun). Goshen, or Rameses as it was known then, was near to the city of On where Joseph lived, allowing him and his family easy communication with one another. Thus Joseph had the power to nourish his family just as Christ has the power to succor us in all we do. Joseph met the needs of his father’s household according to the needs of each individual family. His aid was tailored to the need of each individual. Christ does the same for us. The typology is correct. Joseph was a type, Jesus is the antitype.

Genesis 47:13 And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine.

There was no food to be found in the land of Egypt nor was there food in the land of Canaan. The famine was great, covering a large geographical area. Looking at the lay of the land, it is possible that the famine encompassed many lands surrounding Egypt and Canaan. Peoples from many places came to Egypt for Grain as is evidenced by Joseph’s brethren. People in the famine areas were starving and were driven by the knowledge that there was grain in Egypt. Therefore they flocked to Egypt and to Joseph.

Genesis 47:14-17 And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought: and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. (15) And when money failed in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? for the money faileth. (16) And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail. (17) And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year.

Hungry people will do whatever they can for food. Here they spent all their money, then gave up all their livestock just to eat. All of these riches went into the coffers of the Egyptian government, which, of course, means to Pharaoh. They purchased their food for the first year of the famine with the money and livestock. Notice that Scripture records no note of grievousness on the part of the people. They seemingly accepted the terms stoically.

Genesis 47:18-20 When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him, We will not hide it from my lord, how that our money is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle; there is not aught left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands: (19) Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate. (20) And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh’s.

These verses are straightforward history. The people sold all their land to the government through Joseph to provide food for themselves and their families. Pharaoh (the government) then owned all the lands in Egypt. Here, once again, the type holds. Just as we willingly give up our old life of sin when we believe on Jesus as our Savior, so the people willingly gave up their old lives in exchange for sustenance from Joseph, who was their savior at that time. Jesus saves us from our sins eternally; Joseph saved the people from starvation and slow death.

(Gen 47:21) And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof.

The Jerusalem Targum gives this reason for Joseph’s actions here: “And the people who were dwelling in the province he removed into the city; and the people who dwelt in the city he removed into the province, that they might not deride the sons of Jakob, and call them Galilean (wandering) guests.” 2

Some modern commentators reflect that Joseph moved them to better accommodate their food needs by placing them nearer the stockpiles of grain. Others say it was to signify to them that they had nothing of their own but their needs were met because of the grace of the king. Still another says that this was to instill in them the fact that Pharaoh had complete power over them and to allow them to forget about their former properties.

I prefer the second thought. This shows, once again, that Joseph was a type of Christ. Through Joseph, the people of Egypt were dependent upon their King to save them from their lack of food. Similarly, through Christ, we are dependent upon the grace of God to save us from our sins.

(Gen 47:22) Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands.

Looking forward to the government of future Israel, the Levites were set apart to God and were give a portion of the land and received their food from the sacrifices of the Israelites. Again, we must refer to the same Targum as we did in the last verse. Genesis 39:20 states, “And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.” The Targum tells us that Potiphar wanted to put Joseph to death, but the priests intervened and Joseph was put into the palace prison instead. In this verse, the Targum says that Joseph did not touch the priests’ holdings because they had kept Joseph from being executed.

Gen 47:23-24 Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land. (24) And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.

Here, Joseph let the people know he would care for them during the famine, but after it was over, he gave them a means to survive. They would basically farm the lands of Pharaoh with seed provided them by the government. Of the increase they reaped, 20% would go to the government. This was essentially a tax even though it was a tax in goods and not money. The important thing to observe here is that this did not curtail the incentive of the people to produce.

Though they were on Pharaoh’s land, they were allow to keep 80% of what they produced. No matter how much or little they produced, they kept 80%. This was a flat tax and not a progressive tax as most modern nations have today. A progressive tax increases the tax percentage as the production of the individual increases. A flat tax does not. The flat tax is far more conducive to production than the progressive tax. Joseph was extremely savvy in this endeavor, knowing that this would greatly benefit the government’s take because the Egyptians would produce more.

Gen 47:25 And they said, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants.

The people were happy to accept Joseph’s generous terms. This, in addition to the flat tax of 20%, is probably the reason ancient Egypt became and remained a rich and powerful nation.

Gen 47:26 And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s.

This is also the reason the priesthood possessed the power to remain viable throughout ancient Egypt’s history. The Keil & Delitzsch commentary makes a good point here: “during the years of famine, Joseph proved himself to both the king and people of Egypt to be the true support of the land, so that in him Israel already became a savior of the Gentiles.” In Joseph’s providing for the Egyptians here, we see an early incident of Israel providing for the salvation of Gentiles, or, the nations, which was the original and lasting purpose God had for them (even today).

Gen 47:27 And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly.

In other words, they made a home for themselves in Goshen. They lived there normally, working, acquiring property, and living lives in peace and security. Under such pleasant living conditions, their numbers increased, eventually into a very large group of people (Num 1:46).

Gen 47:28 And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years.

We may imply that Israel experienced considerable growth during the seventeen years Jacob lived in Egypt. God truly blessed him and his offspring. Yet, Jacob would have been satisfied with much less. As he said to Joseph earlier, “Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive” (Gen 46:30). Just the fact that Joseph lived and Jacob was able to spend the last days of his life with that knowledge would have been satisfying enough. But to live in Joseph’s presence for seventeen years was a superb blessing that God gave to Jacob.

Gen 47: 29 And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt:

Placing the hand under the thigh was obviously an ancient custom akin to the handshake or placing one’s right hand on the Bible when swearing an oath. Some commentators theorize that the thigh is near the area of procreation—the male and the female organs of procreation are in that area. Thus one was swearing on future generations to prove whether or not the oath was kept. The Jerusalem and Jonathan Targums make the case that one was placing his hands upon the area of circumcision, which was the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham. Hence the oath had the same import or gravity as the covenant of circumcision.

Gen 47:30-31 But I will sleep with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me up out of Egypt, and bury me in their sepulchre. And he said, I will do according to thy word. (31) And he said, Swear to me; and he swore to him. And Israel did reverence, leaning on the top of his staff.

Jacob asked his son, the second most powerful man in Egypt and probably the world, to swear an oath that he would bury Jacob in Canaan and not in Egypt. Jacob’s fathers were Abraham and Isaac, who were buried in the cave in at Machpelah. Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob were all buried there. Joseph complied. Jacob (Israel) then bowed in prayer at the head of the bed and thanked God for all the blessings God bestowed upon him, including Joseph’s promise to bury him at Machpelah.

  1. Targum Pseudo Jonathan Section XI, XL VII
  2. From the The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel On the Pentateuch With The Fragments of the Jerusalem Targum From the Chaldee by J. W. Etheridge, M.A. First Published 1862, Section XI, VAYIGGASH, XLVII.
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