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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 47

Simeon's Horae HomileticaeHorae Homileticae

Verses 7-10


Genesis 47:7-10. And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou? And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil hare 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. And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.

TO acknowledge God in all our ways, and to commit our way to him, secures to us, as we are told, his gracious interposition for the direction of our paths, and the accomplishment of our desires. It is possible that Jacob, after he had set out towards Egypt in the waggons that Joseph had sent for him, felt some doubts about the propriety of leaving the promised land, when, at his advanced age, he could have no reasonable prospect of returning thither with his family. But, knowing from experience the efficacy of prayer, he betook himself to that never-failing remedy: he stopped at Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the Lord. That very night God vouchsafed to appear to him in a vision, and to dissipate his fears, by an express command to proceed on his journey, and by a promise that he should in due time be brought back again [Note: Genesis 46:1-4.]. He then prosecuted his journey in safety, and had a most affecting interview with his beloved Joseph. Soon after his arrival, five of his sons were introduced to Pharaoh; and afterwards he himself. It is this introduction of the aged patriarch to Pharaoh that we are now more particularly to consider. In the account given us of the interview, we notice,


The question which Pharaoh put to Jacob—

[It could not be expected that persons so remote from each other in their station, their views, and habits of life, should have many topics in common with each other whereon to maintain a long and interesting conversation. The interview seems to have been very short, and of course the conversation short also. All that is related concerning it contains only one short question. This, as far as it related to Jacob, was a mere expression of kindness and respect on the part of Pharaoh. To have questioned him about matters which he did not understand, would have been embarrassing to Jacob, and painful to his feelings: and to have asked him about any thing in which neither party was at all interested, would have betrayed a great want of judgment in Pharaoh. The topic selected by Pharaoh was liable to no such objection: for it is always gratifying to a person advanced in years to mention his age, because the “hoary head, especially if found in the way of righteousness, is always considered as a crown of glory [Note: Proverbs 16:31; Leviticus 19:32.].”

As a general question, independent of the history, it cannot fail of suggesting many important thoughts to all to whom it is addressed. “How old art thou?” Art thou far advanced in life? how much then of thine allotted time is gone, and how little remains for the finishing of the work that is required of thee! how diligently therefore shouldst thou redeem every hour that is now added to thine expiring term! Art thou, on the contrary, but just setting out in the world? how little dost thou know of its snares, temptations, sorrows! what disappointments and troubles hast thou to experience! and how deeply art thou concerned to have thy news rectified, and thy conduct regulated by the word of God! Whatever be thine age, thou shouldst consider every return of thy birth-day rather as a call to weep and mourn, than as an occasion of festivity and joy: for it is the knell of a departed year; a year that might, in all probability, have been far better improved; a year in which many sins have been committed, which are indelibly recorded in the book of God’s remembrance, and of which you must shortly give a strict account at his judgment-seat.]

We notice,


Jacob’s answer to it—

[The patriarch’s mind was fraught with zeal for God; and therefore not contenting himself with a plain short answer, he framed his reply in words calculated to make a deep impression on the mind of Pharaoh, without giving him the smallest offence.
He insinuates, and repeats the idea, that life is but a “pilgrimage;” that we are merely sojourners in a foreign land, and that our home and our inheritance is in a better country. This part of his speech is particularly noticed in the Epistle to the Hebrews, as being an open acknowledgment of his principles as a worshipper of Jehovah, and of his expectations in a better world [Note: Hebrews 11:13-14; Hebrews 11:16.]. He intimates also that his years, though they had been an hundred and thirty, were few. This age might appear great to Pharaoh; but it was not near equal to that of Jacob’s progenitors [Note: Terah was 205 years old; Abraham 175; Isaac 180.]. On a retrospect, every person’s days appear to have been but few. Various incidents of former life seem to have been but recently transacted; the intervening time being lost, as it were, like valleys intercepted by adjacent hills. He further declares, that these years of his had been replete with evil. Certainly his life, from the time that he fled from the face of his brother Esau to that hour, had been a scene of great afflictions. His fourteen years’ servitude to Laban, the disgrace brought on him and his family by Dinah his only daughter, the murderous cruelty of his vindictive sons, the jealousies of all his children on account of his partiality to Joseph, the sudden loss of Joseph, and all his recent trials, had greatly embittered life to him, and made it appear like a sea of troubles, where wave followed wave in endless succession. And who is there that does not find, (especially in more advanced life,) that the evil, on the whole, outweighs the good?

These hints, offered in so delicate a manner to a potent monarch, with whom he had only one short interview, afford a beautiful pattern for our imitation, at the same time that they convey important instruction to our minds.]

We conclude with commending to your imitation the whole of Jacob’s conduct towards Pharaoh—

[At his first admission into Pharaoh’s presence, and again at his departure from him, this holy patriarch blessed him. We do not suppose that he pronounced his benediction in a formal and authoritative manner, as Melchizedec did to Abraham; but that he rendered him his most grateful acknowledgments for the favours he had conferred, and invoked the blessing of God upon him and upon his kingdom on account of them. Such a mode of testifying his gratitude became a servant of Jehovah, and tended to lead the monarch’s thoughts to the contemplation of the only true God. And well may it put to shame the greater part of the Christian world, who systematically exclude religion from their social converse, under the idea that the introduction of it would destroy all the comfort of society — — — True Christians, however, should learn from this instance not to be ashamed of their religion; but, as inoffensively as possible, to lead men to the knowledge of it; and to make the diffusion of it a very essential part of all their intercourse with each other — — — More especially we should embrace every opportunity of impressing on our own minds and on the minds of others the true end of life; that we may thereby secure that rest which remaineth for us after our short but weary pilgrimage.]

Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Genesis 47". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/genesis-47.html. 1832.
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