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the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 47

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



Joseph acquaints Pharaoh with his father's arrival; presents five of his brethren to him, Genesis 47:1-2.

He after some inquiry instates them in Goshen: they being shepherds, he orders Joseph, if he knew any men of activity amongst them, to make them rulers over his cattle, Genesis 47:3-6.

Joseph likewise brings his father before Pharaoh, who inquires after his age, and is blessed by Jacob, Genesis 47:7-10.

Joseph maintains his father, and all his house, in Goshen, Genesis 47:11-12.

Joseph gets all the money, cattle, and lands of the Egyptians into his hands for corn; removes them to distant quarters of the land, Genesis 47:13-21; the priests only excepted, who have a portion assigned them by Pharaoh, Genesis 47:22.

Joseph leaves the land to the people to till, and gives them corn to sow, they giving Pharaoh the fifth part of the crop, Genesis 47:23-26.

Jacob's life in Egypt, and full age, Genesis 47:27-28.

He takes an oath of Joseph concerning his burial, Genesis 47:29-31.

Verse 1

Either to abide there, or to remove thence to any other place which thou shalt appoint for them.

Verse 2

Some of his brethren, or part, as this Hebrew word is used, Daniel 1:2; or the extremity, or end, or tail of them, i.e. the meanest of them for person and presence, as the word is taken 1 Kings 12:31, lest if he, had presented the goodliest of them, Pharaoh might have required their attendance upon him, either at court or camp. And for the same reason for which he did industriously represent them to Pharaoh as contemptible in their employment, he might also present those to him who were so in their persons.

Verse 3

This employment is not pretended nor taken up by us in design, or in contempt of thee or thy people, but was handed to us by our fathers, and hath been our business to this day.

Verse 4

To sojourn in the land are we come; not to defraud thy people of their lands and habitations, but only to be here for a season, as strangers and sojourners, till we can conveniently return to our own land.

Canaan being a higher ground than Egypt, and watered in a manner only by rain from heaven, must needs sooner and sorer feel the effects of a drought and scarcity than Egypt, which had relief from Nilus in that kind.

Verse 6

The land of Egypt is before thee, to view it, and take thy choice where thou pleasest, it is in thy power. See Genesis 13:9.

Any man of activity, or, of strength, or vigour of body and mind, fit for the employment. By which expression it seems probable that those five presented to Pharaoh were of the meanest sort of them. See Poole on "Genesis 47:2".

Verse 7

Not in an authoritative way, as the greater blesseth the less, but in a general manner, i.e. he saluted him, thanked him for all his favours to him and his, and prayed to God to bless and recompense him for it. Thus blessing is put for saluting, 1 Samuel 13:10; 2 Kings 4:29; for praying, Numbers 6:23,Numbers 6:24; for thanksgiving, Matthew 26:26, compare with Luke 22:19.

Verse 9

My pilgrimage, i.e. my unstable or unsettled life, in which I have been flitting from place to place. See Genesis 17:8; Psalms 119:19; Hebrews 11:9,Hebrews 11:13. And though I seem old in comparison of thy people, yet I fall much short of my progenitors, Isaac, and Abraham, and Terah.

Verse 11

The land of Rameses; a part of the land of Goshen, possibly that part where afterwards the city Rameses was built by the Israelites, Exodus 1:11; Exodus 12:37, whence it is so called here by anticipation; for the Israelites were not now numerous enough to possess the whole land of Goshen, which was given to them, but contented themselves with a part of it, leaving the rest to the management of the Egyptians; and therefore when they increased greatly, they were forced to spread their habitations amongst the Egyptians. See Exodus 12:7,Exodus 12:23,Exodus 12:35,Exodus 12:37.

Verse 12

Or, according to the mouth of the family; mouth being put for their will or desire, as it is Genesis 24:57; Isaiah 30:2, as much as every one desired, without any restraint; or, according to the manner of a little child, he put their meat into their very months; it was brought to them without any more care or pains of theirs than an infant takes for its food.

Verse 13

Quest. Whence came it that the people in this extremity did not take the corn by force out of the several store-houses?

Answ. Besides that singular providence of God which watcheth over kings and rulers, and stilleth the tumults of the people, Joseph had no doubt foreseen this difficulty, and took due care to prevent it, partly, by disposing the stores in strong and well-guarded places; partly, by adding wealth and strength to the king, whereby he might more easily suppress any seditious risings; and principally, by not permitting the people to despair, or come to the utmost extremity, but giving them relief in all their exigences.

Verse 14

Wherein he did no more than any of the subjects might have done; he bought great store of corn in the plentiful years with the king’s money, and kept it till a time of famine, and sold it at a rate which was agreeable to the Season.

Verse 15


Why shouldst thou see and suffer us to perish for our want of money, when thou canst relieve us?

Verse 18

The second year; not the second from the beginning of the famine, but from their great extremity, the second year after that last mentioned, wherein they had sold their cattle; but this seems to have been the last year of the famine, because he now gives them corn for food and for seed too, Genesis 47:23, whereas in the first six years there was no sowing nor reaping, Genesis 45:6.

Verse 19

Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, i.e. whilst thou lookest upon us like an idle spectator, not pitying and relieving us? The land is said to die improperly, when it is desolate and barren, and when the fruits of it die, or, which is equivalent to it, do not live.

We and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh; Pharaoh shall be the sole proprietor, and we are content to be his tenants, to manage it for his use.

Give us seed, because this was the last year of famine, as Joseph informed them, and therefore they tilled and sowed the ground for the following year.

That the land be not desolate, without inhabitants, as it will be if thou sufferest us to die for want of bread.

Verse 21

Under the cities are here comprehended the villages and lands belonging to the territory and government of each city; for the seed which he gave them was not to be sown in cities, but in the country: but the

cities only are here mentioned, because they were sent thither first, either for the conveniency of nourishing them during this famine out of the public storehouses which were there; or that they might all profess their subjection to the governments of the several cities, which was convenient for the management of that numerous and tumultuous people; or that the cities might be first and most replenished with inhabitants, as being the principal honour, and strength, and security of a kingdom, and that arts, and trades, and merchandise might flourish, without which the commodities of the country would have been of less price and use. But the cities being first supplied, the residue, which doubtless was vast, were dispersed in the country.

From one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof; far from their native soil and ancient patrimonies, that none of them might plead prescription, but that all might be forced to acknowledge that they owed their estates not to their own wit and industry, nor to their parents’ gift, but wholly to the king’s favour; and that the remembrance of their patrimonial lands might be worn out, and therewith the grief which would arise from their resentment of their loss of them, which probably would be matter of tumults and seditions, to which that people were very prone. And it is probable that he so disposed of this affair, that those who were apt, and likely, and used to unite together in seditious insurrections, whether kindred or others, should be separated one from another as far as might be. If any think that Joseph dealt hardly with them, and made an ill use of their necessity, he will see how moderately and mercifully he deals with them, Genesis 47:24.

Verse 22

The priests: under this name he understands chiefly those who administered the worship of the gods or idols of Egypt, and withal those who applied themselves to the study of the arts and virtues, called their wise men and magicians; though some understand it of the princes (as that word sometimes signifies) or officers of Pharaoh, who were nourished out of the king’s treasures. And possibly the same Hebrew word may here comprehend both, viz. the ministers of the king, and of their idols too, for both enjoyed the same privileges, as Diodorus Siculus relates. And that the priests are included, if not mainly intended here, will be evident enough to any one that considers the state of Egypt, how mad that people universally were upon their idols, how numerous their priests were, and in how great honour and veneration both with prince and people: besides, reason of state obliged Pharaoh to engage and secure to himself that sort of men, which bore so great sway with the old inhabitants of their several places, and were likely to have the same authority with the new inhabitants, to quiet and satisfy them at their first change, which must needs be very ungrateful to them.

Of this immunity of the priests, that ancient writer Diodorus Siculus makes mention. But this is not to be ascribed to Joseph’s will or choice; for he who abhorred their idolatry, could not have a kindness for, nor would have given encouragement to, the great upholders and promoters of it; but in this he was overruled either by Pharaoh’s express command, (it being not probable that so great an interest as that of the priests should not have friends at court, or that their friends should not plead for them, or that their pleas and desires should not be granted by an idolatrous king,) or by the laws of Egypt, or by their customs and usages in things of a like nature, which would have the force of a law among them.

Verse 23

For this was the last year of the famine, as was noted before.

Verse 24

Whereas he might have reserved four parts to Pharaoh, and have allowed them only the fifth. Herein he showed both his humanity and kindness, in mitigating that hard bargain which themselves had made, and were necessitated to make, and his prudence in composing, sweetening, and winning the hearts of the people to the king, and making them pay their tribute for the future with more cheerfulness.

Verse 25

Without thy care and providence we had all been dead men; and therefore if thou hadst kept us to the first bargain, thou hadst done us more kindness than wrong, much more when thou hast used us with so much equity and clemency. Be thou our friend with Pharaoh in this and upon all other occasions.

We will be Pharaoh’s servants, to manage his land for him upon the terms which thou hast proposed.

Verse 26

That Pharaoh should have the fifth part; that the propriety of the land should be Pharaoh’s; and that in token thereof the people should pay the fifth part of the products of it to Pharaoh.

Verse 27

They had possessions, i.e. lands, not for the dominion or propriety of them, for that rested in Pharaoh, but for the use and profit of them for their present subsistence.

Verse 29

Put thy hand under my thigh, i.e. swear to me, as Genesis 47:31, that thou wilt do what I am now desiring of thee; see Poole on "Genesis 24:2". He requires this, not out of any distrust of Joseph’s promise, but partly, as a more solemn protestation of his right to and affection for that promised land; partly, us a motive to all his children to have their minds and hearts there, even when their bodies were in Egypt; and partly, to give Joseph an argument and excuse to Pharaoh, that he might more willingly permit Joseph to fulfil his father’s desire, because of his own oath.

And deal kindly and truly, or, that thou wilt deal; as the Hebrew vau joined with the future tense is elsewhere used, as Psalms 24:7; Psalms 35:24; Psalms 51:15. Kindly in promising, and truly in performing thy promise.

Verse 30

I will lie with my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, in Canaan. See Genesis 23:19; Genesis 25:9; Genesis 35:29. Which he desired not so much for himself, as knowing that wherever he was buried he should rise to glory; as for his children, to show his own, and confirm their faith in God’s promise of Canaan; to discover his high valuation of that land, not only for itself, but as it was a type and pledge of the heavenly inheritance; to keep his children’s minds and hearts loose from Egypt, a place of so much sin and danger, and fixed upon Canaan, that they might be more willing to go thither when God called them, by virtue of that inclination which is in most persons to be buried with their fathers; and in the mean time to declare his detestation of idolaters, with whom he would have no communion either in life, as far as he could avoid it, or in the place of burial; and on the contrary, to profess his communion with his godly ancestors, by his desire to be joined with them in burial. And for the same reasons Joseph desired the translation of his bones thither, Genesis 50:25.

Verse 31

Israel bowed himself, not to Joseph, who being now not upon his throne, nor amongst the Egyptians, but in his father’s house, was doubtless more ready to pay that reverence (as he did Genesis 48:12) than to receive veneration from him, which he owed to his father; but to God, who is here to be understood, as he is in the same phrase, 1 Kings 1:47, whom with this gesture he worshipped and praised, as for the promise of Canaan, and the assurance which he had now received from Joseph of his being buried there, so for all his favours to him and to Joseph, and by him to all his family.

Jacob at this time was bedrid, through age and infirmity; but being now to give God solemn thanks, though the words and manner of it be not here expressed, he raised himself and sat upon the head or uppermost part of his bed, as he did also Genesis 48:2, that he might express his reverence to God as much as he could by bowing, when he could not do it as much as he would, being unable to do it kneeling. Others for bed read staff the discussion whereof I refer unto its proper place, Hebrews 11:21.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Genesis 47". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/genesis-47.html. 1685.
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