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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 47

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Then Joseph came and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brethren, 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.

Joseph ... told Pharaoh ... My father and my brethren. Joseph furnishes a beautiful example of a man who could bear equally well the extremes of prosperity and adversity. High as he was, he did not forget that he had a superior. Dearly as he loved his father, and anxiously as he desired to provide for the whole family, he would not go into the arrangements he had planned for their stay in Goshen, until he had obtained the sanction of his royal master.

Verse 2

And he took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh.

Took some of his brethren - probably the five oldest brothers, seniority being the least invidious principle of selection. But Jewish traditions say that Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher were the brethren presented.

Verse 3

And Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 4

They said moreover unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come; 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.

For to sojourn ... are we come. The royal conversation took the course which Joseph had anticipated (Genesis 46:33), and they answered according to previous instructions-manifesting, however, in their determination to return to Canaan, a faith and piety which affords a hopeful symptom of their having become all, or most of them, religious men.

Verses 5-6

And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 7

And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.

Joseph brought in ... There is a pathetic and most affecting interest attending this interview with royalty; and when, with all the simplicity and dignified solemnity of a man of God, Jacob signalized his entrance by imploring the divine blessing on the royal head, it may easily be imagined what a striking impression the scene would produce (cf. Hebrews 7:7). 'This custom of an old man blessing a king or governor is observed still in Turkistan. I was frequently asked by Jews and Mohammedan princes to bless them, being considered as a Mullah, and having a venerable beard' (Wolff's 'Missionary Labours').

Verse 8

And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou?

Pharaoh said unto Jacob ... The question was put from the deep and impressive interest which the appearance of the old patriarch had created in the minds of Pharaoh and his court. In the low-lying land of Egypt, and from the artificial habits of its society, the age of man was far shorter among the inhabitants of that country than it had yet become in the pure bracing climate and among the simple mountaineers of Canaan. The Hebrews, at least, still attained a protracted longevity.

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, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.

The days ... Though 130 years old, he reckons by days (cf. Psalms 90:12), which he calls few, as they appeared in the retrospect, and evil, because his life had been one almost unbroken series of troubles. The answer is remarkable, considering the comparative darkness of the patriarchal age (cf. 2 Timothy 1:10).

Verse 10

And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.

Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Although "blessed" in its primary meaning denoted asking the divine blessing, the original word became a form of salutation at meeting and parting. Such forms of parting salutation, from the nature of the case, readily take, in any language, the secondary sense, to leave, to depart from.

Verse 11

And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, 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.

Joseph placed ... in the best of the land - best pasture land in lower Egypt. Goshen, 'the land of verdure,' lay along the Pelusaic or eastern branch of the Nile, and was the part of Egypt nearest to Palestine. It included a part of the district (nome) of Heliopolis, or "On," and on the east stretched out a considerable length into the desert. The ground included within these boundaries was a rich and fertile extent of natural meadow, and admirably adapted for purposes of the Hebrew shepherds (cf. Genesis 49:24; Psalms 78:72; Psalms 34:10). 'This tract is now comprehended in the modern province esh-Shurkiyeh, which extends from the neighbourhood of Abu Za'bel to the sea, and from the desert to the former Tanaitic Branch of the Nile. That it lay upon the waters of the Nile is apparent from the circumstance that the Israelites practiced irrigation, and lived much on fish; but from the enumeration of articles longed for (Numbers 11:5; Numbers 20:5; Deuteronomy 11:10), it probably extended further west, and more into the Delta than has usually been supposed. There are more flocks and herds here than anywhere else in Egypt' (Robinson, 'Biblical Researches,' vol. 1:, p. 77). This Heliopolitan nome is called (Genesis 47:11) "the land of Rameses-the best of the land." The word Rameses means, in the old Egyptian language, 'son of the sun.' The papyrus Anastasi III recently discovered contains a brilliant description of the fields in this district as of marvelous fertility. 'During the reign of the shepherd kings (says Drew, 'Scripture Lands') a frontier warfare was carried on against them by the allied forces of Thebes and Ethiopia, which resulted in their ultimate expulsion. This circumstance will illustrate the willingness of the reigning monarch to receive Joseph's countrymen as colonists; because so all his military force was available for the warfare he was obliged to carry forward on the south.'

Verse 12

And Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to their families.

According to their families, [ lªpiy (H6310) haTaap (H2945)] - in proportion to, according to the number of the family.

Verses 13-22

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.

There was no bread ... This probably refers to the second year of the famine (Genesis 45:6), when any little stores of individuals or families were exhausted, and when the people had become universally dependent on the government. At first they obtained supplies for payment. Before long the money failed.

Verse 16. And Joseph ... Give your cattle. 'This was the wisest course that could be adopted for the preservation both of the people and the cattle, which, being bought by Joseph, were supported at the royal expense, and very likely returned to the people at the end of the famine, to enable them to resume their agricultural labours.'

Verse 20. The land became Pharaoh's. The people parted with it permanently under that dynasty; because Herodotus ('b. 2:, chapter 109: cf. Diodorus Siculus, 1:, 73; Strabo, 17:, with Wilkinson's 'Ancient Egypt,' 1:,

263) speaks of the land as being in the absolute possession of the monarch; and the account in the book of Genesis explains how this came to pass. On the supposition that the events described in it took place under the dynasty of the shepherd kings, "the people" in this passage will denote the Egyptians; and this will further explain the statement of Herodotus, that Sesostris, the great conqueror of the eighteenth dynasty, gave (or rather restored) to the people the ground which the usurpers had taken from them (Drew's 'Scripture Lands').

Verse 21. As for the people ... The removal, obviously for the convenience of the country people who were doing nothing, was to the cities where the grain stores were situated.

Verse 22. Only the land of the priests ... These lands were inalienable, being endowments by which the temples were supported. The priests for themselves received a daily allowance of provision from the state, and it would evidently have been the height of cruelty to withhold that allowance when their lands were incapable of being tilled (cf. Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,' b 2:, chapter 37:, note 4; also chapter clxviii., note


Verses 23-28

Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land.

Joseph said ... Behold ... The land being sold to the government (Genesis 47:19-20), seed would be distributed for the first crop after the famine, and the people occupy them as tenants-at-will, on the payment of a produce rent, almost the same rule as obtains in Egypt in the present day.

Verses 29-31

And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have 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 thee, in Egypt:

The time drew nigh ... One only of his dying arrangements is recorded; but that one reveals his whole character. It was the disposal of his remains, which were to be carried to Canaan, not from a mere romantic attachment to his native soil, nor, like his modern descendants, from a superstitious feeling for the soil of the Holy Land, but from faith in the promises. His address to Joseph - "If now I have found grace in thy sight,"

i.e., as the vizier of Egypt-his exacting a solemn oath that his wishes would be fulfilled, and the special form of that oath (see the note at Genesis 24:2), all pointed significantly to the promise, and showed the intensity of his desire to enjoy its blessings (cf. Numbers 10:29).

Verse 31. Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head. Oriental beds have neither posts nor canopy, being simply mats spread on the floor, or divans raised a little from it. The meaning is, that having probably been sitting upon it, he turned himself, and bowed in the attitude of devotional reverence, with his face toward the place where his head was usually laid. [According to the present Masoretic points, hamiTaah (H4296) signifies the bed (Genesis 48:2; Genesis 49:33). But the text of the Septuagint translators seems to have read hamaTeeh (H4294), the staff.] Since it is not said that at this time Jacob was sick, the latter interpretation may be the true one; and the apostle (Hebrews 11:21) quotes it, because the Greek version was then in common use. But perhaps it may be conjoined with the other, as we may suppose the patriarch sitting on his bed and leaning on his favourite staff. The faith of the patriarch was a mental exercise, in no way affected by the outward posture.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Genesis 47". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/genesis-47.html. 1871-8.
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