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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 47

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-10

GENESIS - CHAPTER FORTY-SEVEN

Verses 1-10:

Joseph followed strict protocol and informed Pharaoh of the arrival of his family in Egypt. His purpose: to confirm their welcome, and to obtain temporary concession of Goshen as a place for them to settle. He first went alone before Pharaoh, then took five of his brothers to meet the king.

Pharaoh enquired of Joseph’s brothers their occupation. Acting on Joseph’s instructions, they stated that they were shepherds, as had been their fathers before them. This served to guarantee a settlement in a district removed from the mainstream of Egyptian life.

Pharaoh instructed that Joseph’s brothers be employed to care for his own livestock. Thus did God move to provide a livelihood for the Chosen People during their sojourn in Egypt.

Next Joseph presented his father Jacob before Pharaoh. In their conversation, Pharaoh enquired of Jacob his age, which was at that time 130 years. Since Joseph was 37 years old, and he was born in the fourteenth year of Jacob’s stay in Padan-aram, this means that Jacob was 77 years old when he left his father’s house to seek a wife from among his mother’s people.

Jacob lamented that his life-span was far shorter than that of his ancestors. Isaac died at the age of 180, Abraham died at the age of 175, while the earlier ancestors lived many years longer than this. At this stage in history, the average life-span of man declined rapidly.

Jacob referred to his life as a "pilgrimage," and his years as periods of "sojourn," or temporary dwelling. He had no permanent home in the Land, nor even on the earth, see Heb 11:9, 10.

At the close of the audience with Pharaoh, Jacob conferred his blessing upon the king. This intimates his superior position, at least in the sight of God (Heb 7:7).

Verses 11-12

Verses 11, 12:

Joseph gave a settlement to his father and brothers, by allowing them to acquire property in the district of Egypt best suited to their lifestyle. This was in the district of Goshen, in the area of the city of Rameses. This city was later fortified and enlarged by the forced labor of the Israelites, long after Joseph’s death.

Verses 13-17

Verses 13-17:

Israel settled safely into their life in Goshen. And still the famine continued. Five more years of famine remained. And its severity would be felt in Egypt, even as it was in the surrounding regions, including Canaan.

When the crops failed, the people came to the royal granaries to buy food. Joseph placed the money from these sales in Pharaoh’s treasury. Soon the money supply was exhausted. The people were still in need, but there was no money to buy food. So, they came to Joseph for a solution. ,

Joseph offered to exchange grain for their livestock. This was not as harsh as it might sound. The famine meant that their cattle and horses were under-fed, and thus comparatively worthless. In this manner Pharaoh gained title to the livestock of the Egyptians. This arrangement provided food for the people for another year. It is likely this arrangement applied only to the Egyptians, and not to the Israelites.

Verses 18-26

Verses 18-26:

The next year of the famine provided a new dilemma. The people had no money with which to buy food. They had given their livestock in exchange for food the second year. Now they had nothing left except their persons, to become indentured servants to Pharaoh; and their property, to exchange for food. Joseph agreed to give the people food and grain in exchange for their servitude and the title to their property.

This text implies that in Egypt originally, the people held absolute title to their land. Each citizen was the legitimate owner of the land he cultivated.

The text does not imply that Joseph enslaved the people, making them into serfs and bondsmen to Pharaoh. "Removed" denotes that Joseph resettled the people; moving them out of the rural districts ravaged by the famine into the cities where the grain was stored.

The priests were exempt from the sale of their property in order to buy food. They were on a social and political level with Pharaoh, sharing in the "portion" which he gave to them. As a result of the allotment given them from the state, they retained title to their lands.

The text indicates that this was the last year of the famine. Joseph wisely enacted a law which remained a statute in Egypt for many generations. Its principles were later incorporated into Israeli law. Title to the land now was vested in Pharaoh. The people must have a means of livelihood, a way must be found to insure an equitable arrangement for this. Joseph decreed that the people might continue to live in their homes, tend their flocks, and farm their fields. But he imposed a 20% income tax on all Egypt’s citizens. The remaining 80% would belong to the people, to provide food, and seed for future crops Only the priests were exempt from this tax.

Verses 27-31

Verses 27-31:

The people of Israel prospered in the land of Goshen. They acquired extensive holdings in the land. Their herds and flocks were very fruitful. Their number "multiplied exceedingly." This was the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise (see chapter 46:3). God was moving according to His plan to develop the Chosen Family into the Chosen Nation.

Seventeen years of prosperity passed for Israel. It is likely that Joseph spent much time with his father during these years. But eventually the time came for Jacob to go the way of all flesh. He was old, and realized that he must soon die. In preparation for this, he sent for Joseph to request a last token of his love. Joseph must swear that he would not bury Jacob in Egypt, but would return him to the family burial plot, the Cave of Machpelah in the plains of Mamre. This was the testimony of Jacob’s conviction that Israel would one day return to the land, to take up their rightful and permanent possession of it.

Joseph agreed to this request. The oath was taken, and Jacob was content. In the sunset years of his life, Jacob was more firmly than ever convinced of the certainty of God’s promises.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Genesis 47". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/genesis-47.html. 1985.
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