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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 47

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-31

Shall we turn in our Bibles now to the forty-seventh chapter of Genesis?

Joseph has been sold by his brothers as a slave to the traders going to Egypt. In Egypt he is resold and purchased by a man named Potiphar who was the chief captain of the Pharaoh's guard. God prospered him and blessed him in Potiphar's house. Potiphar's house was blessed because of Joseph's being there. He made Joseph the head over everything he had. But Potiphar's wife set her eye upon Joseph, sought to seduce him. When he refused her seductive ways, she became angry, accused him of attempted rape and Joseph was placed in prison in Egypt with an indeterminate sentence.

There in prison God blessed him and he came in favor of the captain over the prison and he turned the whole prison over to Joseph. And Joseph ran the affairs of the prison. And while he was there in prison, the king's butler, chief butler and chief baker of the Pharaoh both got into trouble with the Pharaoh. Perhaps there was an attempted assassination plot, maybe a poisoned bit of bread or something that the chief butler brought to the Pharaoh. And the taster who tasted it dropped over dead and so they don't know who did it, the baker or the butler. And so they're both thrown in prison until the matter can be determined.

While they are in prison they meet Joseph and Joseph becomes acquainted with them. They both of them one morning looked very sad and when Joseph questions the reason for their sadness, they informed him of these dreams that they have had. The butler seeing a vine with three branches and clusters of grape and he squeezed the grapes into a cup and carried it to the Pharaoh. Joseph said, "Oh, that's a good dream. It means in three days you're going to be restored to your old position and you'll be bearing the Pharaoh's cup to him once again. And when you come before the Pharaoh, tell him about me, will you? I got a bum rap. I don't deserve to be here. I'm a Hebrew. The woman lied about me. Try and help me out if you would."

So the baker said, "Oh, I had a dream, too. And I had three baskets of dainties that I have baked for the Pharaoh and I was carrying them on my head. But as I was carrying them to the Pharaoh, the bird came and ate the dainties." Joseph said, "You're in trouble, man. Three days and the Pharaoh will have your head." And so evidently the baker was the one who put the poison in the bread or whatever the plot was and he was discovered. The baker was put to death, but the butler was returned to his position as the chief of the butlers bearing the cup to the Pharaoh once again. But the butler forgot all about Joseph for two years.

But then after two years the Pharaoh had a weird dream that troubled him. And he called in all of his wise men and astrologers, soothsayers, to interpret for him his dream, none of them being able to do so. Suddenly the memory of the butler was triggered and he said, "Oh, I've done a horrible thing. There's a beautiful fellow down in jail. He's a Hebrew and this fellow is able to interpret dreams. He interpreted the dream of the butler and the baker, of the baker and myself and it came out just like he interpreted. And he can interpret your dream for you." And so they sent for Joseph who shaved and took a bath and came in before the Pharaoh.

And the Pharaoh said, "I understand you can tell dreams. He said, Well, I'm in touch with God and God knows everything and God can reveal the dream in secret to the Pharaoh." So the Pharaoh explained his dream which was in double. There was first of all, the seven fat cows grazing by the Nile River and as they were feastfully grazing, seven skinny, scrawny cows came up out of the river and ate up the fat cows and they weren't any fatter after they ate them.

And then he saw the seven stalks of wheat. They were full corn and beautiful and then there came up after them seven blasted and withered ears of corn and the seven blasted, withered ones ate up the healthy ones. Now you can almost understand cows eating of each other but it's hard to understand wheat eating up other wheat. But that's the way he dreamed it. Of course, dreams do weird things. And it doesn't have to make sense in a dream, you know.

And so Joseph said, "The Lord has showed to the Pharaoh that which is going to transpire in the land of Egypt". The dreams are one, though they are diverse, yet it's one meaning. And the reason for the repetition is that it is sure. God is confirming it to the Pharaoh. There are going to be seven years of plenty in which the earth is going to just really produce plenty. But it will be followed by seven years of famine and the famine will be so great that it will eat up all of the surplus of the good years.

Now he said, "the Pharaoh should appoint a wise man over the kingdom that during the years in which the surplus exists that he might gather together all of the surplus of the good years into barns and into granaries, in order that during the lean famine years that will be coming, they'll be able to distribute it to the people, and thus survive the great famine that is coming."

The king appointed Joseph himself second in Egypt and over this project because he said "no one is wiser than you, no one else was able to tell me the meaning of the dream". And so Joseph became second in Egypt. During that seven years, he gathered together, kept the record of the amounts of grain until they gathered such an abundance they couldn't even keep record anymore. They just piled it in and they didn't even try to count the bushels anymore.

Then began the seven bad years and the famine extended beyond the borders of Egypt and up in Canaan where Joseph's family lived. Jacob looked at his sons and he said, "Why are you guys looking at each other? I understand they have wheat down in Egypt. Go down and buy us some." And so ten of Joseph's brothers came down to Egypt to buy wheat. Joseph recognized them when they came in. They didn't recognize him. He gave them a bad time, accused them of being spies. Kept one of them hostage while he sent the other nine back and said, "Don't bother to come again unless you bring your youngest brother with you the next time and prove you're not spies".

After a lot of haggling, Jacob first of all totally unwilling to let Benjamin go, finally relented and Judah became surety for Benjamin. And they came down again to Joseph to buy wheat. And after a series of incidences, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, who he really was. And he told them to bring their father down to Egypt because there were five more years of famine that were yet to follow. And Joseph said, "I will nourish you and take care of you here".

And so that brings us up to chapter forty-seven.

Then Joseph came and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brothers, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen ( Genesis 47:1 ).

Now the land of Goshen was actually near the Nile Delta. It was actually in the Nile Delta and it was in the northeast part of Egypt. For the most part, the Egyptians had populated the south and western part of Egypt. But up here in the Nile Delta was a very fertile land. It was great for cattle grazing and the Egyptians didn't care much for cattle grazing or sheep herding. And so it was an area that wasn't very populated as far as the Egyptians went and yet very fertile areas. So Joseph placed his family there in the area of Goshen.

And he took some of his brothers, that is five of his brothers, and he brought them before the Pharaoh. And the Pharaoh said unto his brothers, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Your servants are shepherds, both we, and our fathers ( Genesis 47:2-3 ).

Now the shepherds were an abomination to the Egyptians for some reason or other, and yet there is a period in Egyptian history where they had Pharaohs that were called the Hyksos king, Hyksos meaning shepherds. And it is felt that it was at this time that Joseph and the children of Israel were in Egypt that the dynasty of the Hyksos kings existed. And thus there wasn't at this particular time such a feeling against shepherds as there usually did exist in Egypt.

And they moreover said to Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come ( Genesis 47:4 );

In other words, we aren't coming as immigrant status. We're not trying to move in and take over your land. Our purpose isn't to stay here. We're just coming down to sojourn in the land, pointing out the fact that they were shepherds. Pointing out the fact that they have brought their own herds and their own cattle and not to immigrate into the land but just to sojourn in the land. Now they may and they may not have known how long the sojourn was going to be. It all depends on whether or not they read the scriptures. Now if they themselves had read the scriptures, they would know that they're going to be in Egypt for four hundred years. That's a pretty good sojourn.

But you remember back in the fifteenth chapter of Genesis where Abraham saw this vision: He had cut up these pieces of the rams and so forth and laid them out before the Lord and he fought the birds off all day that tried to eat the carcasses. And then in the night, a fear of darkness came upon Abraham and he saw the fire as it went between pieces of the sacrifice. And then the Lord explained to Abraham what was going on. How that his descendants were going to go down into Egypt and they would be there for four hundred years. But then God would bring them out with great substance and so forth.

So the four hundred years in Egypt was actually something that God had already revealed to Abraham. It was a part of the record, a part of the scriptures. And had they been up in the scriptures, they would have known that the time of the sojourn in Egypt would be four hundred years. This, of course, is the fulfillment of that prophecy that God did give to Abraham back there in Genesis.

And so we've come to sojourn in the land.

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 ( Genesis 47:4 ).

So they are making now the formal request from the Pharaoh that they might dwell in the land of Goshen. Because of the famine in their own land, they ran out of pasturage for their flock.

And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brothers are come unto you: And the land of Egypt is before them; in the best of the land make your father and brothers to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if you know of any of them who are experts in their occupation [actually as herdsmen], then put them over all of my flocks ( Genesis 47:5-6 ).

For the Pharaoh also had a great deal of cattle.

And Joseph brought in then Jacob his father, and he set him before the Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed the Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old are you ( Genesis 47:7-8 )?

So he brought in now his ancient father and Jacob immediately sort of takes command. Jacob blesses the Pharaoh. Now the Bible declares that the lesser is blessed by the greater. In referring to how that when Abraham came back from the victory over the five kings and Melchizedek came out from Salem to meet him, how that he blessed Abraham. And in the book of Hebrews, it is pointed out that the lesser is blessed by the greater. And so Jacob in blessing the Pharaoh as he comes in, he blesses the Pharaoh, pronounces a blessing upon him. And thus immediately his position is recognized and the Pharaoh says, "How old are you?"

And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage ( Genesis 47:9 )

Beautiful way to express it.

are a hundred and thirty years: few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and yet I have not attained to the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage ( Genesis 47:9 ).

I'm a hundred and thirty years old. My days have been few and evil, hard days, but even so, I haven't attained the years. Evidently he was weakening and he knew he would never make it as long as his dad did. His dad lived to be a hundred and seventy-five and his great grandfather a hundred and eighty. So I'm not going to make it as far as they did. Actually we see now a declining of longevity. Each generation is living shorter and shorter after the flood. Those that Shem and those that survived the flood seem to live for a long period. But immediately we see a drop-off in the longevity, probably as the result of this protective canopy of water being removed from around the earth.

As long as there was that protective canopy of water in space, it no doubt protected the earth from much of the cosmic radiation. It is the theory today of many of the scientists that the aging process is actually caused by this cosmic bombardment that our bodies are subjected to daily. All of these cosmic little neutrinos and all that come shooting through the earth and come to us from outer space. They go right through your body. But somehow they upset your cell structure so that in time, they begin to create mutant cells and they begin to create the aging process. If it weren't for this cosmic bombardment, it is possible that the body would continue to rejuvenate itself for much longer periods of time.

But such was the case prior to the flood. After the flood there was a definite diminishing of the lifespan. And so now here at a hundred and thirty Jacob is an old man. Whereas before the flood, he had just been thinking about getting married at that point and starting to raise his family, you know.

And Jacob blessed the Pharaoh ( Genesis 47:10 ),

So again he blessed him.

and he went out from before the Pharaoh. And Joseph placed his father and his brothers, 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 ( Genesis 47:10-11 ).

So the area of Goshen, where later on under slave labor the Israelites would build the city of Rameses. And so in this area on the Delta of the Nile River, the good land for pasturage especially, there's where they established themselves.

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. And Joseph gathered up all of 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 ( Genesis 47:13-14 ).

That is, he's selling the grain and so forth. He soon depleted. the people didn't have any more money.

So when their money failed in the land of Egypt, and Canaan, the Egyptians came to Joseph, and said, Give us bread: why should we die in your presence? We don't have any more money. And Joseph said, All right, give me your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if your money fails ( Genesis 47:15-16 ).

And so they entered into a bartering process where Joseph would give them wheat in exchange for their cattle.

And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for their horses, and for their flocks, and the cattle and the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year. The following year, they came to him again, and they said, We'll not hide it from my lord, our money is gone; you have all of our herds and cattle; there is nothing left, but our own bodies, and our lands: so why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, we and our land will be your servants: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land not be desolate. And so Joseph bought all of the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so that the land became Pharaoh's. And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other. Only the land of the priests he did not buy; 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. Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: here is seed for you, now you will sow the land. And so it came and so it shall come to pass when you have your increase, you'll give a fifth part to Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed in the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones. And they said, You have saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, we will be Pharaoh's servants. So Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, [that would be the time of Moses writing this account] that Pharaoh should have a fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh's ( Genesis 47:17-26 ).

So having sold or having spent all their money for food, then they traded all their cattle, their herds. When that was gone, then they traded their land. Now Joseph made quite an equitable arrangement with them. It all now belongs to the Pharaoh. Now you stay on the land; you plant it and whatever you receive, one-fifth or twenty percent goes to the Pharaoh, you keep the rest.

If you figured up how much you pay in taxes, hidden and otherwise, you'd find that they have a pretty good deal just having to pay twenty percent and that was all. They had no investment. They didn't have to even purchase the seed. The seed was given to them of the Pharaoh and they got to keep four-fifths of it, whereas one-fifth or twenty percent came to the Pharaoh. And so the taxation then in Egypt became a general twenty percent of across the board tax. That was it, no more. And it should be enough to run any government.

And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions there, and they grew, and multiplied exceedingly ( Genesis 47:27 ).

Even now while they are in Egypt, God's hand of blessing is upon them as they grow and are multiplying exceedingly, multiplying exceedingly, yes. They multiplied at the rate of about six percent a year for a time and then it slowed down. They remained in Egypt for four hundred years. When they left Egypt there were about two million of them that left, so seventy came down to Egypt. Four hundred years later, two million of them marched out. So when it says multiplied exceedingly, you can see that yes, indeed, that is what happened.

But in dealing with population ratios, if they increased the population at the rate of five percent a year, in two hundred years they would go from a hundred to over two million. Now five percent a year isn't that much. It means only five children per one hundred people. And that is not at all an unlikely kind of a population growth factor. And so they increased at probably at about a three-percent rate during the period of time that they were in Egypt.

So that by the time they left Egypt four hundred years later, the seventy that came down with Jacob multiplied into a great host of two million people led by Moses; six hundred thousand adult males above the age of twenty-one. So that figures then the women and for each man there's probably a woman, and then all of the children that they would have, estimated about a two million population leaving Egypt under Moses. So multiplied indeed.

And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt for seventeen years: so that the whole age of Jacob was a hundred and forty seven years ( Genesis 47:28 ).

When he appeared before the Pharaoh, he said, "How old are you, old man?" He said, "I'm a hundred and thirty years old". And so he lived another seventeen years there in Egypt, so his total years being a hundred and forty-seven.

And the time drew near that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If I have now 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, in Egypt: But I want to be buried with my fathers, and you shall carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their buryingplace. And he said, I will do as you have said. And he said, Swear unto me. And so he swore unto him. And Israel bowed himself on the bed's head ( Genesis 47:29-31 ).

Or on the headboard of the bed. Now Jacob about ready to die, he's first of all concerned with his burial. He doesn't want to be buried in Egypt. His grandfather Abraham had bought a parcel of land-or great grandfather. He wants to be buried back there where Abraham had bought the parcel of land in the cave of Machpelah.

Now he asked Joseph to swear unto him, putting his hand under his thigh. This is the same kind of an oath that Abraham demanded of Eliezer or his chief servant when he sent him back to Haran to get a bride for his son Isaac. He said, "Swear to me, put your hand under my thigh and swear to me". Now the same thing is asked of Joseph by Jacob that he would swear to him, Don't bury me in the land of Egypt. Carry me back where my fathers are buried" actually, where Leah was buried and the rest of his grandfather and grandmother and father and mother. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Genesis 47". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/genesis-47.html. 2014.
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