Genesis 47:1. They are in the land of Goshen — Either to abide there, or to remove thence to any other place which thou shalt appoint for them.
Genesis 47:2. He took some of his brethren — The original words here, literally translated, are, He took from the end, extremity, or tail of his brethren, five men — And some have thought the sense is, He took five of the meanest of them, as to their persons and appearance, as the word קצהis used, 1 Kings 12:31, lest, if he had presented the goodliest of them, Pharaoh should have required their attendance upon him either at court or in the camp.
Genesis 47:3. What is your occupation? — Pharaoh takes it for granted they had something to do. All that have a place in the world should have an employment in it according to their capacity, some occupation or other. Those that need not work for their bread, yet must have something to do to keep them from idleness.
Genesis 47:4. To sojourn in the land are we come — Not to settle there for ever; only to sojourn, while the famine prevailed so in Canaan, which lay high, that it was not habitable for shepherds, the grass being burned up much more than in Egypt, which lay low, and where the corn chiefly failed, but there was tolerably good pasture. But although Jacob and his sons intended only to sojourn in Goshen or Egypt till the famine should be over, yet first the kindness they received encouraged them to continue, and at last the Egyptians rendered their posterity slaves, and compelled them to stay.
Genesis 47:6. Any man of activity — Literally, according to the Hebrew, If thou knowest, and there is among them men of strength or vigour, ( חיל,) namely, of body or mind, fit for the employment. From which expression it seems rather probable that those five presented to Pharaoh were of the meaner sort of them.
Genesis 47:7. Jacob blessed Pharaoh — Which is repeated, Genesis 47:10, as being a circumstance very remarkable. And remarkable surely it was that the greater, for such Pharaoh was in all external things, in wealth, power and glory, should be blessed of the less, Hebrews 7:7. But before God, and in reality, Jacob was much greater than Pharaoh. It is probable, therefore, that he not only saluted him, prayed for and thanked him for all his favours to him and his, all which the original word, here rendered blessed, often means; but that he blessed him with the authority of a patriarch and a prophet: and a patriarch’s blessing was a thing not to be despised, no, not by a potent prince.
Genesis 47:8. How old art thou? — A question usually put to old men, for it is natural to us to admire old age, and to reverence it. Jacob’s countenance, no doubt, showed him to be old, for he had been a man of labour and sorrow. In Egypt people were not so long-lived as in Canaan, and therefore Pharaoh looks upon Jacob with wonder.
Genesis 47:9. Observe, 1st, Jacob calls his life a pilgrimage, looking upon himself as a stranger in this world, and a traveller toward another. He reckoned himself not only a pilgrim now he was in Egypt, a strange country in which he never was before, but his life, even in the land of his nativity, was a pilgrimage. 2d, He reckoned his life by days; for even so it is soon reckoned; and we are not sure of the continuance of it for a day to an end, but may be turned out of this tabernacle at less than an hour’s warning. 3d, The character he gives of them was, 1st, That they were few.
Though he had now lived one hundred and thirty years, they seemed to him but as a few days, in comparison of the days of many of his ancestors, and especially of the days of eternity, in which a thousand years are but as one day. 2d, That they were evil. This is true concerning man in general, Job 14:1, he is of few days and full of trouble: Jacob’s life particularly had been made up of evil days; the pleasantest days of his life were yet before him. 3d, That they were short of the days of his fathers; not so many, not so pleasant as their days. Old age came sooner upon him than it had done upon some of his ancestors.
Genesis 47:12. With bread according to their families — לחם לפי השׂŠ, literally, with bread to the mouth of the little one — That is, as much as every one desired, without any restraint, mouth being put for desire, as chap. Genesis 24:57; Isaiah 30:2; or, as a little child is nourished: he, as it were, put their meat into their very mouths: it was brought to them without any more care or pains of their own, than an infant takes for its food.
Genesis 47:13. The land fainted — So the Chaldee renders the word תלה. That is, the spirits of the people were depressed and sunk within them, and their flesh also wasted for want of food. But many critics prefer translating the words, The land raged, or became furious. This is commonly the case with the lower class of people in a time of scarcity and famine. Instead of being humbled under the chastening hand of God, they are filled with rage both against him and their governors, and become furious.
Genesis 47:19-25. Wherefore shall we die, we and our land? — Land may be said to die when it is desolate and barren; or when the fruits of it die, or, which is the same in effect, do not live and flourish. Buy us and our land for bread — The severity of the famine brought them to this. To obtain bread they not only readily parted with their money, their cattle, their lands, but even at last sold themselves nay, and thought themselves under great obligations to Joseph that they could, even on these apparently hard terms, obtain food! How thankful we ought to be in this country, that we seldom know, by experience, what either famine or scarcity means!
Genesis 47:21. He removed them, &c. — He transplanted them, to show Pharaoh’s sovereign power over them, and that they might, in time, forget their titles to their lands, and be the more easily reconciled to their new condition of servitude. How hard soever this seems to have been upon them, they themselves were sensible of it as a great kindness, and were thankful they were not worse used.
Genesis 47:28. Jacob lived seventeen years after he came into Egypt, far beyond his own expectation: seventeen years he had nourished Joseph, for so old he was when he was sold from him, and now, seventeen years Joseph nourished him. Observe how kindly Providence ordered Jacob’s affairs; that when he was old, and least able to bear care and fatigue, he had least occasion for it, being well provided for by his son without his own forecast.
Genesis 47:29. And the time drew nigh that Israel must die — Israel, that had power over the angel, and prevailed, yet must yield to death. He died by degrees; his candle was not blown out, but gradually burned down, so that he saw, at some distance, the time drawing nigh. He would be buried in Canaan, not because Canaan was the land of his nativity, but in faith, because it was the land of promise, which he desired thus, as it were, to keep possession of until the time should come when his posterity should be masters of it: and because it was a type of heaven, that better country, which he was in expectation of. When this was done, Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head — Worshipping God, as it is explained, Hebrews 11:21, giving God thanks for all his favours, and particularly for this, that Joseph was ready to put his hand upon his eyes. Thus they that go down to the dust should, with humble thankfulness, bow before God, the God of their mercies.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 47". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany