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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 45

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1


(1) Joseph could not refrain himself.—The picture which Judah had drawn of his father’s love for Benjamin, the thought that by separating them he might have made his father die of grief, and the sight of his brethren, and especially of Judah offering to endure a life of slavery in order that Benjamin might go free, overpowered Joseph’s feelings, and he commanded all his attendants to quit the apartment in order that there might be no restraint upon himself or his brethren when he made known to them that he was the brother whom they had so cruelly years ago condemned to be a slave.

Verse 2

(2) And the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard.—Not the sound of Joseph’s weeping, but the news that his brethren had come, as in Genesis 45:16.

Verse 4

(4) I am Joseph your brother.—There is much force in the assurance that he was still their brother. For they stood speechless in terrified surprise at finding that the hated dreamer, upon the anguish of whose soul they had looked unmoved, was now the ruler of a mighty empire. But with magnanimous gentleness he bids them neither to grieve nor be angry with themselves; for behind their acts there had been a watchful Providence guiding all things for good.

Verse 6

(6) Earing.—An old English word for ploughing, derived from the Latin arare, Anglo-Saxon erian, to plough.

Verse 7

(7) To preserve you a posterity in the earth.—Heb., To put for you a remnant in the land, that is, to preserve a remainder for you, as the word is translated in 2 Samuel 14:7. During the seven years’ famine many races probably dwindled away, and the Hebrews, as mere sojourners in Canaan, would have been in danger of total extinction.

By a great deliverance.—That is, by a signal interference on your behalf. But the word rendered “deliverance,” more exactly signifies that which escapes (see 2 Kings 19:31, where, as here, it is joined with the word remnant, and 2 Kings 19:30, where it is itself rendered remnant). The two nouns really signify the same thing; but whereas in the first clause the words seem to forebode that only few would escape, in the second there is the assurance of their surviving in such numbers as to be able to grow into a great nation.

Verse 8

(8) But God.—Heb., but the God. The article is. rarely found with Elohim in the history of Joseph, but wherever it is added it is a sign of deep feeling on the speaker’s part. (Comp. Genesis 48:15.) It was the Elohim, who had been the object of the worship of their race, that had now interposed to save them.

A father.—This was a not uncommon title of the chief minister or vizier of Oriental kings.

Verse 10

(10) The land of Goshen.—This land, also called “the laud of Rameses” (Genesis 47:11), probably from the city “Raamses,” which the Israelites were compelled to build there (Exodus 1:11), was situated on the eastern bank of the Nile, and apparently commencing a little to the north of Memphis extended to the Mediterranean, and to the borders of the Philistines’ land (Exodus 13:17). In Psalms 78:12; Psalms 78:43, it is called the “field of Zoan,” or Tanis. It probably was an unsettled district, but rich in pastures, and belonged in a very loose way to Egypt. In the LXX. it is called “Gesem of Arabia,” to which country both Herodotus and Strabo reckoned all the district on the east of the Nile towards the Isthmus of Suez as belonging. And here the Israelites were constantly joined by large numbers of Semitic immigrants, who were enrolled in their “tafs,” and swelled the rapidly increasing number of their dependants. For, as we have seen before, not merely the lineal descendants of Abraham were circumcised, but all his household and his slaves; and being thus admitted into the covenant became members of the Jewish church and nation (Genesis 17:23).

Verse 11

(11) Thy household.—As the famine had lasted only two years, and as Jacob had preserved his flocks and herds, so probably he had lost few or none of the large number of men-servants and women-servants who belonged to him. He would thus go down to Egypt as head of a large tribe, who would be called Israelites after him, just as the Ishmaelites, to whom Joseph was sold (Genesis 37:25), bore Ishmael’s name, not because they were lineally descended from him, but because he had made them subject to his authority and that of his race. In Genesis 45:18 Joseph speaks of “their households,” showing that each of the patriarchs had now his own body of dependants, besides the still larger clan which belonged to Jacob.

Verse 16

(16) It pleased Pharaoh . . . —It was of great importance, as regards the future position of the Israelites in Egypt, that they should go thither, not as men who had forced themselves on the country. but as invited guests. Hence the information that the arrival of Joseph’s brethren was a thing pleasing to Pharaoh, and hence also the fulness with which his commands are recorded.

Verse 19

(19) Wagons.—Egypt being a flat country and carefully cultivated was adapted for the use of vehicles, and consequently they were brought into use there at an early period. Those depicted on the monuments had two wheels, and were drawn by oxen. The chariots of Pharaoh and Joseph were probably drawn by horses, which had about this time been introduced into Egypt.

Your little ones.—Heb., your “taf.” (See Note on Genesis 34:29.) The “taf” included the whole mass of dependants; and while “the household” (Genesis 45:18) would have reference chiefly to the men, the “taf,” in opposition to it, would consist of the female slaves and the children.

Verse 20

(20) Regard not your stuff.—Heb., and let not your eye have pity (Jonah 4:10) upon your vessels, that is, upon your implements and household furniture.

Verse 22

(22) Changes of raiment.—Gifts of clothing were marks of special favour in the East (Genesis 41:42). Joseph’s brethren would thus show by their very apparel how honourable had been their treatment.

Verse 23

(23) Meat.—Heb., food, victual, the usual meaning of meat in our version.

Verse 24

(24) See that ye fall not out by the way.—Heb., do not get angry on the journey. Joseph feared that they might reproach one another for their treatment of him, and try to throw the blame on the one or two chiefly guilty, and that so quarrels might ensue. This is the meaning given to the passage in all the versions, and agrees with Joseph’s efforts to quiet their fears, and convince them of his good intentions. Several modern commentators, however, translate “Be not afraid of the journey,” but on insufficient grounds.

Verse 26

(26) Jacob’s heart fainted.—Heb., grew cold. This was not the effect of incredulity or suspicion, but of surprise. Jacob, crushed by the loss of the child who had taken the place of his beloved Rachel in his heart, had nothing left to interest him except Benjamin. When, therefore, the news come that Joseph still lives, his mind cannot open itself to receive the joyful tidings, and their first effect is to chill him with a renewed sense of his loss. It is only when he sees the wagons, and other clear proofs of the fact, that life returns to his benumbed faculties, and he becomes capable of joy.

Verse 28

(28) And Israel said.—We must not lay too much stress upon this change of name, as though it were a title appropriate to the patriarch only in his happier and triumphant hours; for in Genesis 45:6 it-is given him in the midst of his distress. It rather shows that the names were long both in use as regards the patriarch personally, but as the title of Israel was alone given to Jacob’s family, it is plain that a high significance was attached to it, and that the inheritance of the Abrahamic promises was at an early date connected therewith.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Genesis 45". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/genesis-45.html. 1905.
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