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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 47

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 9


‘And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been,’ etc.

Genesis 47:9

Those who looked only on the outer life of Jacob would scarcely have thought that his days were either few or evil. It was conscience that spoke out in these words—conscience, which so often throws a reflected sadness over our estimate of things.

I. The helpfulness of Jacob’s character is this—that it is the history of a bad man, of a man who started with every disadvantage of natural character and training, but who notwithstanding became eventually a good man.

II. The one redeeming point in Jacob’s character—that which (humanly speaking) made him capable of better things, and enabled him to rise above his brother Esau and above his former self—was his faith. The great difference between Esau and Jacob was this: the former lived only in the visible and tangible world; his horizon was bounded by the narrow limits of our merely earthly life; but Jacob lived in a far wider world, a world which included spiritual interests and spiritual personages. This was why Esau sold his birthright—Jacob bought it. The same faith which caused him to value the birthright afterwards was the means of his salvation. His long and painful schooling, his wrestling with the angel at the ford of Jabbok, would have been impossible but for his faith, his grasp of spiritual realities. If Esau had had a vision of God and of angels, and of a ladder reaching up to heaven, he might have been frightened for the moment, but he would have shaken off the thought of it directly he awoke; the keenness of his appetite, the necessity of getting breakfast, would have been to him the realities of the hour. If one had wrestled with him through the night he might have fled in wrath, or died in obstinacy; but he would never have divined that that strong foe was a friend in disguise—he would never have thought of asking and extorting a blessing.

III. Jacob was saved by faith, and this is the way in which we are to be saved also. Faith is the handle whereby grace takes hold of us. Without faith it is impossible to please God, because unless we realise the unseen we are in fact shut up within the world of sense—we are shut out from God and He from us.

Rev. R. Winterbotham.


(1) ‘It is remarkable how greatness insensibly feels the awful power of goodness. Pharaoh asks for the blessing of this old, withered man, and Jacob the Supplanter, having become Israel the Prince, is able to communicate blessing to the greatest monarch of his time. Pilgrim souls which walk with God may become so rich in spiritual power that they may shed untold blessings on those with whom they come in contact. Let us seek to buy more of the refined gold which Jesus offers, that we may enrich others.’

(2) ‘The whole patriarchal theology may be summed in one great article, trust in the covenant God,—a trust for life, a trust for death, for the present being, or for any other being. There was something exceedingly sublime in this faith. They were like men standing on the border of an immense ocean all unknown as to its extent, its other shore, if it had any or its utter boundlessness. Ready to launch forth at the Divine command, they had the assurance that all would be well, whatever might be their individual destiny, since this covenant God was also the God of their fathers, who must, therefore, in some way “live unto Him,” that is, they must have yet a being that would make them the proper subjects of such a covenant relationship.’

Verse 23


‘Behold I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh.’

Genesis 47:23

The R.V. translates the song of the elders thus: ‘Thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood, men of every kindred’ ( Revelation 5:9); but the Greek word might be rendered, ‘Thou didst buy for God.’ It is the same word as is used in 2 Peter 2:1, ‘denying the Lord that bought them.’ ‘Ye are not your own,’ says the Apostle Paul, ‘for ye were bought with a price.’

I. It was a great stroke of statesmanship, which vastly added to the stability of Pharaoh’s throne, when all Egypt became his, and the very lives of the people. It must have been little short of a revolution, introducing conditions like those which obtained in England in the old feudal times. But how great the revolution which happens in a man’s life, when he realises that by the death of the Cross Jesus purchased us, all we are, and all we stand for, to be for God! We were bought for God.

II. When once we realise this, we are set free as by a great deliverance. We are free of all men, because we are the bond-slaves of God. We cry with Paul: ‘Henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear branded on my body the marks of Jesus’ ( Galatians 6:17, r.v.). We see that time, talents, money, position, are all His purchased acreage, which we must cultivate for our Master; so that the revenue of the crops may be made over to Him who owns all. Food, sleep, recreation, are attended to, not as ends in themselves, but as the proper care due to that purchased possession which we are expected to preserve on Christ’s behalf ( Ephesians 1:14).

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Genesis 47". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/genesis-47.html. 1876.
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