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the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 47

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-10


Genesis 47:1

Then Joseph came—literally, and Joseph went, up to the royal presence, as he had proposed (Genesis 46:31)—and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come cut of the land of Canaan;—as thou didst desire (Genesis 45:17, Genesis 45:18)—and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen (vide Genesis 45:10).

Genesis 47:2

And he took some of his brethren, even five men,—literally, from the end, or extremity, of his brethren; not from the weakest, lest the king should select them for courtiers or soldiers (the Rabbis, Oleaster, Pererius, and others); or the strongest and most handsome, that the Egyptian monarch and his nobles might behold the dignity of Joseph's kindred (Lyre, Thostatus, and others); or the youngest and oldest, that the ages of the rest might be therefrom inferred (Calvin); but from the whole body of his brethren (Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, et alii) he took five teen—and presented them unto Pharaoh (cf. Acts 7:13).

Genesis 47:3

And Pharaoh said unto his (i.e. Joseph's) brethren, What is your occupation? (vide Genesis 46:33). And they said unto Pharaoh,—as directed (Genesis 46:34)—Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers.

Genesis 47:4

They said moreover (literally, and they said) unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come;—an unconscious fulfillment of an ancient prophecy (Genesis 15:13)—for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks (it was solely the extreme drought that had caused them for a season to vacate their own land); for the famine is sore (literally, heavy) in the land of Canaan: now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell (literally, and now might thy servants dwell, we pray, the future having here the force of an optative) in the land of Goshen.

Genesis 47:5, Genesis 47:6

And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: the land of Egypt is before thee (cf. Genesis 20:15); in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell. Wilkinson thinks it possible that Jacob's sons "may have asked and obtained a grant of land from the Egyptian monarch on condition of certain services being performed by themselves and their descendants". In the land of Goshen let them dwell. Robinson (Gen 1:1-31 :78, 79) speaks of the province of es-Shar-Kiyeh, which corresponds as nearly as possible with ancient Goshen, as being even in modern times exceedingly productive and thickly populated. And if thou knowest any men of activity among them,—literally, and if thou knowest, and there be among them, men of strength—chayil, from chul, to twist (εἰλύω ἐλίσσω), the idea being that of strength as of twisted rope—then make them rulers over my cattle—literally, and thou shelf make them masters of cattle over that which belongs to me. "The shepherds on an Egyptian estate were chosen by the steward, who ascertained their character and skill previous to their being appointed to so important a trust".

Genesis 47:7

And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh. It has been thought that Jacob's presentation to the Egyptian king was deferred till after the monarch's interview with his sons because of the public and political character of that interview, relating as it did to the occupation of the land, while Jacob's introduction to the sovereign was of a purely personal and private description. And Jacob—in reply probably to a request from Pharaoh (Tayler Lewis), but more likely sua sponteblessed Pharaoh. Not simply extended to him the customary salutation accorded to kings (Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Alford, and others), like the "May the king live for ever!" of later times (2 Samuel 16:16; 1 Kings 1:25; Daniel 2:4; Daniel 3:9, &c.), but, conscious of his dignity as a prophet of Jehovah, pronounced on him a heavenly benediction (Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary,' and others)—hoe verbo non vulgaris et profana salutatio notatur, sed pia sanctaque servi Dei precatio (Calvin).

Genesis 47:8, Genesis 47:9

And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou?—literally, How many are the days of the years of thy life? And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage (literally, of my sojournings, wanderings to and fro without any settled condition) are an hundred and thirty years. Since Joseph was now thirty-seven years of age (Genesis 45:6), it is apparent that he was born in his father's ninety-first year; and since this event took place in the fourteenth year of Jacob's residence in Padan-aram (Genesis 30:25), it is equally apparent that Jacob was seventy-seven years of age when he left Beersheba after surreptitiously securing the patriarchal blessing (Genesis 28:1). 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. As Jacob's life fell short of that of his ancestors in respect of duration, so it greatly surpassed theirs in respect of the miseries that were crowded into it.

Genesis 47:10

And Jacob blessed Pharaoh (as he had done on entering the royal presence),—


Genesis 47:1-10

Jacob and his sons before Pharaoh.


1. Their arrival announced (Genesis 47:1). "My father and brethren are come out of the land of Canaan, and behold they are in the land of Goshen."

2. Their persons presented (Genesis 47:2). "He took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them to Pharaoh. The import of this selection of five is explained in the exposition.

3. Their occupations declared (Genesis 47:3). In answer to the king's interrogation they replied that they were shepherds. They had no desire to deceive, although they had learnt that persons of their trades were not commonly regarded with favor. Joseph indeed had convinced them that in this instance honesty would be the best policy; but even had it been precisely the reverse there is no reason to suppose they would have attempted any sort of prevarication.

4. Their purpose explained (Genesis 47:4). It was not their intention to settle permanently in Egypt, but only to find in it a temporary shelter during the years of famine. But while man proposes God disposes.

5. Their wish stated (Genesis 47:4). "Now, therefore, let thy servants dwell in Goshen." Though Joseph might have had sufficient power to accord them this favor, it was only courteous to ask it from Pharaoh. "Honor to whom honor is due," is the dictate of right feeling as well as of true religion, and men seldom find themselves the losers by practicing politeness.

6. Their request granted (Genesis 47:6). Pharaoh at once responded—" The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell." Nay, Pharaoh even exceeded their desires or expectations.

7. Their promotion indicated (Genesis 47:6). "If thou knowest any men of activity among them, make them rulers over my cattle." "Seest thou a man diligent in business? he shall stand before kings!"


1. The old man's blessing. "And Jacob blessed Pharaoh." This was

(1) a valuable gift. Once before he had sent a present to one whom he regarded as of vice-regal dignity; but now, when standing in the royal presence, he does not think of material offerings, but presents what must ever be beyond rubies, the intercession of a saintly heart with God on a fellow-creature's behalf. If the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, the simple benediction of an aged saint cannot profit little.

(2) Earnestly given. This was shown by the promptitude with which it was bestowed. Immediately the venerable patriarch is ushered into the royal presence he breaks forth into the language of benediction, as if the inward emotion had just been trembling on the heart's lip and ready at the first agitation to overflow. And he for whom he prays was a benefactor indeed, but a monarch and a heathen; and so are Christ's people taught to pray for all men, for kings and such as are in authority, for unbelieving, as well as believing, and not for friends and benefactors solely, but likewise for enemies and persecutors.

(3) Solemnly confirmed. Spoken on the first entrance to the regal mansion, it was tremblingly re-uttered on departure. Never before had such a prayer been heard within an Egyptian palace. Yet the halls of princes no more than the novels or peasants are unsuitable for intercessions and supplications. Everywhere and always should be the saint's motto in regard to prayer.

2. The old man's history. Gazing with tender interest on the venerable form of the patriarch as, leaning on the arm of his son, he softly steps across the threshold of the magnificent reception hall, the royal Pharaoh, probably struck with his aged and feeble appearance, kindly inquires, "How many are the days of the years of thy life?" to which Jacob with equal circumlocution, with perhaps a little of the garrulousness that is so natural and becoming in the old, but also with a true touch of pathos, replies, "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 lives of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage." His existence on the earth he characterizes as having been—

(1) A perpetual pilgrimage, a constant wandering, a continual sojourning, which in his case it had really been—from Beersheba to Padan-aram, from Padan-aram to Canaan, from one location in the land of promise to another, and finally from Canaan to Egypt—but which is no less true of all men's lives; "here we have no continuing city."

(2) A short pilgrimage. Adding them up one by one, the days of the years of his pilgrimage might seem to be many; but in the retrospect they appeared what they really were, few and soon numbered; as life, which to the young in prospect looks long, to the old in retrospect is ever short. How amazing is the difference which a change of standpoint produces in the view which the mind takes of man's existence on the earth, as of other things! and how important that we should bear this in mind when numbering our days!

(3) A sad pilgrimage. Not only had the days of Jacob's years been few, but they had also been evil, filled with trouble, sorrow, and vexation, more even than that- of any of his predecessors. It was one more testimony to the fact that not only is man born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward, but that it is only through much tribulation that a child of God can enter the kingdom.


1. That prudence becomes a counselor. This was strikingly exemplified in Joseph's conduct in presenting his brethren before Pharaoh.

2. That honesty advances a suppliant. In the long run Joseph's brethren were better served by their perfect integrity and straightforwardness in Pharaoh's presence than they would have been by resorting to duplicity and equivocation.

3. That piety adorns the old. How beautiful 'does the character of Jacob, the aged wanderer, appear as it stands before us in Pharaoh's palace, in the westering sunlight of his earthly pilgrimage! "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it he found in the way of righteousness."


Genesis 47:1-10

The presentation to Pharaoh.

I. TESTIMONY TO POWER OF CHARACTER. Joseph's influence. The five brethren selected perhaps with a view to their appearance, and in the number five, which was regarded as a significant number among the Egyptians. The monarch's reception of the strangers due to Joseph's influence. Generally diffused. There is much graciousness in the heathen monarch, although partly to be ascribed to national characteristics, for the Egyptians were a very different race from the Canaanites; still we may believe that the conduct of Pharaoh was mostly due to the effect of Joseph's ministry and personal exemplification of the religious life. One true man is a great power in a country.

II. A conspicuous EXAMPLE of Divine grace. The old patriarch is presented. He plainly impressed the monarch as extremely aged, perhaps indicating that the centenarian was a great rarity then among heathen nations. His long life was a long course of gracious dealings. The effect of a religious life in prolonging the years is exemplified. It is said that since Christianity obtained its legitimate, or more of its legitimate influence in Europe, the average length of human life has been doubled. Yet, as Jacob confesses, he is not as old as his fathers. His life had been a pilgrimage in a wilderness. His days few and evil, compared with what they might have been. Seventeen years longer they were lengthened out—a testimony to the effect of peace and prosperity in preserving life when it is under the blessing of God. Jacob blessed Pharaoh. The less is blessed of the greater. The two princes stood face to face—the prince of God—the prince of Egypt.

III. A PROPHETIC PACT: the world shall be blessed through the heirs of the Divine promise. Jacob had much to be thankful for; and although he thanked God first, he teaches us by his example not to forget the claims of fellow-creatures in our gratitude, even though they be separated from us in faith and religion.—R.


Genesis 47:9

The discipline of life.

Few and evil, yet 130 years; and how many blessings temporal and spiritual had been received during their course. We need not suppose him unthankful. But blessings do not of themselves make a man happy. Some worm may be at the root. And in Jacob's case early faults cast a shadow over his whole life. The remembrance of early deceit, his natural shrinking from danger, his family cares, his mourning for Rachel (Genesis 48:7) and for Joseph, gave a tinge of melancholy not entirely to be taken away even by receiving his son as it were from the dead. The retrospect of his life seemed that of a suffering man.

I. ABIDING SORROW IS THE FRUIT OF EARLY FAULTS, THOUGH REPENTED OF (1 Corinthians 15:9). It does not necessarily imply separation from God, or doubt of personal salvation. If "a godly sorrow," it works repentance, i.e. a more complete turning to God. But just as early neglect of the laws affecting bodily health produces a lasting effect, however carefully these laws may be attended to in after years, so neglect of God's moral and spiritual laws produces sorrow, varying in kind, and in the channel by which it comes, but bearing witness to the truth of God's unceasing watchfulness.

II. THE DISCIPLINE OF LIFE IS NOT IN ANGER, BUT FOR OUR PURIFICATION. Thus suffering may be a blessing. But for sorrow Jacob might have sunk into taking his ease. His besetting danger was worldly carefulness (Genesis 30:41). So sorrow, from outward circumstances or from inward reflection, often brings us nearer God. It teaches the vanity of earth that we may realize the blessedness of the inheritance above; that frail and weary we may cling more closely to the promises of the rest which remaineth (Hebrews 4:9).

III. THIS LIFE IS INTENDED TO BE A PILGRIMAGE, NOT A REST. Its blessedness consists not in present enjoyment, but in preparation for the rest to come (Luke 12:20, Luke 12:21). We are reminded that there is a goal to be reached, a prize to be won (1 Corinthians 9:24; 1 Peter 1:3-9), and that the time is short, that we may put forth all our efforts (Ecclesiastes 9:10) to overcome Besetting faults and snares of worldliness. A pilgrim (Hebrews 11:14) is seeking a country not yet reached. The remembrance of this keeps the life Godward. True faith will work patience and activity; true hope will work cheerfulness under hindrances, and, if need be, under sufferings. And the love of Christ (John 14:2, John 14:3), and the consciousness that we are his, will constrain us "to walk even as he walked." For what are you striving? to lade yourself with thick clay? To gain honor, renown, admiration, bodily enjoyment? or as a pilgrim (Numbers 10:29) walking in Christ's way, and doing Christ's work?—M.

Verses 11-27


Genesis 47:11

And Joseph placed his father and his brethren (i.e. gave them a settlement, the import of which the next clause explains), and gave them a possession (i.e. allowed them to acquire property) in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses,—either that district of Goshen in which Jacob and his family first settled (Michaelis, Rosenmüller), or, what seems more probable, the land of Goshen itself (LXX; Keil, Hengstenberg, Kalisch, et alii), being so named proleptically from the town Rameses, which was subsequently built (Exodus 1:11), or, if the town existed in the time of Joseph, and was only afterwards fortified by the Israelites, deriving its designation from the name of its chief city'—as Pharaoh had commanded.

Genesis 47:12

And Joseph nourishedἐσιτομέτρει (LXX.), i.e. gave them their measure of corn—his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to their families—literally, to, or according to, the mouth of the little ones, meaning either in proportion to the size of their families (LXX; Keil, Kalisch, Murphy), or with all the tenderness with which a parent provides for his offspring (Murphy), or the whole body of them, from the greatest even to the least (Calvin), or completely, down even to the food for their children ('Speaker's Commentary').

Genesis 47:13

And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore (literally, heavy), so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted (literally, was exhausted, had become languid and spiritless) by reason of the famine. The introduction of the present section, which first depicts the miseries of a starving population, and then circumstantially describes a great political revolution forced upon them by the stern necessity of hunger, may have been due to a desire

(1) to exhibit the extreme urgency which existed for Joseph's care of his father and brethren (Bush),

(2) to show the greatness of the benefit conferred on Joseph's house (Baumgarten, Keil, Lange), and perhaps also

(3) to foreshadow the political constitution afterwards bestowed upon the Israelites (Gerlach).

Genesis 47:14

And Joseph gathered up—the verb, used only here of collecting money, usually signifies to gather things lying on the ground, as, e.g; ears of corn (Ruth 2:3), stones (Genesis 31:46), manna (Exodus 16:14), flowers (Song of Solomon 6:2)—all the money (literally, silver) that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought: and Joseph (who in this matter was simply Pharaoh's steward) brought the money into Pharaoh's house (i.e. deposited it in the royal treasury).

Genesis 47:15

And when money failed (literally, and the silver was consumed, or spent) in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all (literally, and all) the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? for the money faileth (literally, and why should we die in thy presence because silver faileth? i.e. seeing that thou art able to support us).

Genesis 47:16, Genesis 47:17

And Joseph said, Give (literally, bring) your cattle; and I will give you (sc. bread) for your cattle, if money fail. And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks (literally, and for cattle of the flocks), and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses (the severity of these terms of sale and purchase was not so great as at first sight appears, since to a famishing people under-fed cattle and starving horses must have been comparatively worthless): and he fed them—literally, led, in the sense of cared for and maintained, them (cf. Psalms 23:2; Isaiah 40:11)—for all their cattle for that year—this was the sixth year of the famine (vide Genesis 47:23).

Genesis 47:18, Genesis 47:19

When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year (not the second from the commencement of the dearth, but the second from the consumption of their money), and said unto him, We will not hide it from my lord, how that—literally, for if (so we should speak openly), hence equivalent to an intensified butour money (literally, the silver) is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle;—literally, our herds of cattle also (sc. have come) to my lord—there is not ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands: wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may (literally, and we shall) live, and not die, that the land be not desolate (literally, and the land shall not be desolate).

Genesis 47:20

And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so (literally, and) the land became Pharaoh's. From this it may be concluded that originally Pharaoh had no legal claim to the soil, but that the people had a valid title to its absolute possession, each man being regarded as the legitimate proprietor of the portion on which he had expended the labor of cultivation.

Genesis 47:21

And as for the people, he removed them—not enslaved them, converted them into serfs and bondmen to Pharaoh (LXX; Vulgate), but simply transferred them, caused them to pass over—to cities—not from cities to cities, as if changing their populations (Onkelos, Rosenmüller, Kalisch), but either from the country districts to the towns (Targums Jonathan and Jerusalem, Lange, Schumann, Gerlach, Murphy), or according to the cities, i.e. in which the grain had been previously collected (Keil)—from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof. Not that the people were transported from one side of the country to the other as a high stroke of policy to complete their subjugation (Jarchi, Grotius, Rosenmüller, Kalisch, and others), but that throughout the land they were moved into the nearest cities, as a considerate and even merciful arrangement for the more efficiently supplying them with food (Calvin, Keil, Lange, Wordsworth, Speaker's Commentary).

Genesis 47:22

Only the land of the priests (so the LXX; Vulgate, and Chaldee render cohen, which, however, sometimes signifies a prince) bought he not; for the priests had a portion—not of land (Lange, Kalisch), but of food (Keil, Murphy)—assigned them of Pharaoh (not of Joseph, who must not, therefore, be charged with the sin of extending a State allowance to an idolatrous priesthood), and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands,—that is, in consequence of the State aliment which they enjoyed (during the period of the famine) they did not require to alienate their lands.

Genesis 47:23, Genesis 47:24

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. This proves the time to have been the last year of the famine; and since the people obtained seed from the viceroy, it is reasonable to suppose that they would also have their cattle restored to them to enable them to till the ground. And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones. This verse is a sufficient refutation of the oft-preferred charge that Joseph had despoiled the Egyptians of their liberties, and converted a free people into a horde of abject slaves. Slave-owners are not usually content with a tax of only twenty percent on the gross revenues of their estates. Nor does it seem reasonable to allege that this was an exorbitant demand on the part either of Joseph or of Pharaoh. If in the seven years of plenty the people could afford to part with a fifth part of their produce, might not an improved system of agriculture enable them, under the new regulations, to pay as much as that in the shape of rent, and with quite as much ease? At all events the people themselves did not consider that they were being subjected to any harsh or unjust exaction.

Genesis 47:25

And they said, Thou hast saved our lives (literally, thou hast kept us alive): let us find grace in the sight of my lord (i.e. let us have the land on these favorable terms), and we will be Pharaoh's servants. "That a sort of feudal service is here intended—the service of free laborers, not bondmen—we may learn from the relationship of the Israelites to God, which was formed after the plan of this Egyptian model" (Gerlach).

Genesis 47:26

And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day (i.e. the day of the narrator), that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh's. The account here given of the land tenure in Egypt, viz.,

(1) that after the time of Joseph the kings of Egypt became lords paramount of the soil,

(2) that the only free landholders in the country were the members of the priestly caste, and

(3) that the population generally occupied their farms at the uniform fixed rent of one fifth of their yearly produce, is abundantly corroborated by the statements of Herodotus, that Sesostris divided the soil of Egypt among the inhabitants, "assigning square plots of equal size to all, and obtaining his chief revenue from the rent which the holders were required to pay him year by year; of Diodorus Siculus (1. 73), that the land in Egypt belonged either to the priests, to the king, or to the military order; and of Strabo, that the peasants were not landowners, but occupiers of ratable land; as also by the monuments, which represent the king, priests, and warriors alone as having landed property (Wilkinson, Ken). Dr. Robinson quotes a modern parallel to this act of Joseph's, which both illustrates its nature and by way of contrast exhibits its clemency. Up to the middle of the present century the people of Egypt had been the owners as well as tillers of the soil. "By a single decree the Pasha (Mohammed Ali) declared himself to be the sole owner of all lands in Egypt; and the people of course became at once-only his tenants at will, or rather his slaves." "The modern Pharaoh made no exceptions, and stripped the mosques and other religious and charitable institutions of their landed endowments as mercilessly as the rest. Joseph gave the people seed to sow, and required for the king only a fifth of the produce, leaving four-fifths to them as their own; but now, though seed is in like manner given out, yet every village is compelled to cultivate two-thirds of its lands with corn and other articles for the Pasha, and also to render back to him, in the form of taxes and exactions in kind, a large proportion of the produce remaining after" ('Biblical Researches,' 1.42).

Genesis 47:27

And Israel (i.e. the people) dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein (i.e. acquired holdings in it), and grew (or became fruitful), and multiplied exceedingly—or became very numerous. This was the commencement of the promise (Genesis 46:3).


Genesis 47:11-27

Joseph's policy in Egypt.


1. He gave them a settlement in Goshen. Though in one sense the land of Goshen was Pharaoh's grant, it is apparent from the story that they owed it chiefly to the wise and prudent management of Joseph that they found themselves located in the fattest corner of the land. In thus providing for them Joseph had without doubt an eye to their enrichment, to their separation as a people from the Egyptian inhabitants of the land, and to their convenience when the day came for their return. Thus we see an evidence of Joseph's fervent piety.

2. He supplied them with food while the famine lasted. That he did so without charges to them the narrative explicitly asserts. Nor can Joseph's right so to provide for his own household be legitimately challenged, the more especially that it was owing purely to his wise administration that the king's granaries were filled with corn. That Joseph did so was a proof of his natural affection.

3. He allowed them to acquire possessions. That is to say, he secured them in their rights of property while they resided among strangers. He cast around them the protection of the law all the same as if they had been Egyptians. This was a testimony to Joseph's political equity.


1. Joseph's policy described.

(1) Before the coming of the famine. Joseph gathered up a fifth part of the produce of the land and stored it up in granaries against the succeeding years of famine, paying doubtless for what he took, and affording the inhabitants of the country an example of economy and foresight.

(2) During the continuance of the famine he resold the grain which he had previously collected; in the first instance, for money; in the second instance, when the money failed, for horses and cattle; and in the third instance) when nothing remained between the people and starvation, for their lands and their persons.

(3) At the close of the famine Joseph returned to the people their lands, along with seed, and of necessity also cattle for its cultivation, exacting from them in return as rent a fifth part of the produce, the same proportion that he had lifted from them during the seven prosperous years.

2. Joseph's policy challenged. It has been vigorously assailed,

(1) for its severity; eloquent writers dilating with much indignation on its arbitrary, oppressive, tyrannical, and ferocious character, representing Joseph as little other than a semi-royal despot who little wrecked of the lives and liberties of his groveling subjects so long as he could aggrandize himself and his royal patron;

(2) for its injustice, being very different treatment from that which had been measured out to the Israelites, who were strangers and foreigners in the land, while they (the Egyptians) were the native population; and

(3) for its impiety, Joseph having sinfully taken advantage of the necessities of the people to reduce them by one bold stroke to a condition of abject and helpless slavery.

3. Joseph's policy defended.

(1) The alleged severity is greater in appearance than reality, since it is certain that Joseph did nothing harsh in selling corn for money so long as people had it, or horses and cattle when money failed, and it cannot be fairly proved that Joseph did not give them full value for their lands.

(2) The imputation of partiality will disappear if it be remembered that Joseph's brethren were only expected to be temporary settlers in Egypt, and besides were few in number, so that a gratuitous distribution of corn amongst them was not at all an unwarrantable exercise of philanthropy, whereas to have pauperized a whole nation would have been to inflict upon them the greatest possible injury.

(3) The charge of having enslaved a free people may be answered by stating first that the narrative when fairly construed implies nothing more than that Joseph changed the land tenure from that of freehold to a rent charge, and that for the convenience of supporting the people while the famine lasted he distributed them (i.e. the country folks) among the cities where the grain was stored; and secondly, that instead of complaining against Joseph as the destroyer of their liberties, the people applauded him as the savior of their lives.


Genesis 47:11, Genesis 47:12

The settlement of the children of Israel in Goshen.

I. A CONSUMMATION. Distinctly the act of Joseph, under the command of Pharaoh.

1. The fruit of righteousness reaped.

2. The fulfillment of God's word.

II. A NEW LIFE BASED UPON THE TESTIMONY OF DIVINE GRACE. The weak things have been proved mighty, the elect of God has been exalted. The "best of the land" is for the seed of the righteous: "The meek shall inherit the earth." Goshen the type of the Divine kingdom.

Genesis 47:13-26

The policy of Joseph is faithfully employed for his monarch. The advantage taken of the people's necessities to increase the power of the throne is quite Eastern in its character—not commended to general imitation, but permitted to be carded out through Joseph, because it gave him greater hold upon the government, and perhaps wrought beneficially on the whole in that early period of civilization. The honor of the priesthood is a testimony to the sacredness which the Egyptians attached to religious persons and things. The earliest nations were the most religious, and there is no doubt that the universality of religion can be traced among the tribes of the earth. An atheistic nation never has existed, and never can exist, except as in France, at a revolutionary period, and for a short time.—R.

Verses 28-31


Genesis 47:28

And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was (literally, the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were) an hundred forty and seven years. He had lived seventy-seven years in Canaan, twenty years in Padanaram, thirty-three in Canaan again, and seventeen in Egypt, in all 147 years.

Genesis 47:29

And the time drew nigh that Israel (i.e. Jacob) must die (literally, and the days of Israel to die drew near): and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight (not as if Jacob doubted Joseph's affection, but simply as desiring a last token of his love, perhaps also as unconsciously recognizing his son's greatness), put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh,—an ancient form of adjuration (cf. Genesis 24:2)—and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt. On the root קָבַר, to bury (cf. Eng. cover), vide Genesis 23:4.

Genesis 47:30

But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying-place. The request of the venerable patriarch, while due in some respect to the deeply-seated instinct of human nature which makes men, almost universally, long to be buried in ancestral graves, was inspired by the clear faith that Canaan was the true inheritance of Israel, and that, though now obtaining a temporary refuge in Egypt, his descendants would eventually return to the land of promise as their permanent abode. And he (i.e. Joseph) said, I will do as thou hast said—literally, according to thy word.

Genesis 47:31

And he (i.e. Jacob) said, Swear unto me (in the manner indicated in Genesis 47:29). And he (i.e. Joseph) sware unto him. And (having concluded this touching and impressive ceremonial) Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head. Though supported by many eminent authorities (Chaldee Pard. phrase, Symmachus, Vulgate, Calvin, Willet, Rosenmüller, Delitzsch, Keil, Kalisch, &c; &c.), the present rendering is not entirely free from difficulty, since not until the next chapter is there any mention of Jacob's sickness; while in favor of the reading, "And Israel bowed himself on the top of his staff" (LXX.), it may be urged

(1) that it is adopted by the writer to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:21),

(2) that the Hebrew words for staff and bed differ only in the punctuation, and

(3) that the action of leaning on his staff was quite as suitable to Jacob's circumstances as turning over and bowing on his bed's head.


Genesis 47:28-31

Jacob's residence in Egypt.

I. JACOB'S PEACEFUL OLD AGE. "And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years." After an eventful and checkered pilgrimage of 130 years, during which Jacob had made largo experience of the ills of life, having encountered adversity in forms both more numerous and severe than are allotted to most, he had at length reached a happy harbor of rest in the calm contemplative evening of old age, exchanging the anxieties and toils of his previously wandering condition for a home of ease and comfort in the fat land of Goshen, and bidding farewell to all his past tears and sorrows in the enjoyment of the tender care and rich love of Joseph, Rachel's son. Verily, with this old weather-beaten traveler it had become light at eventide. It is noticeable that Jacob lived as long a time in Egypt as Joseph had spent in Jacob's home in Canaan—seventeen years—thus receiving an ample recompense for the affection he had lavished on his son. Let parents be encouraged thereby to love and care for their children in the tender years of infancy and youth; and let children see in Joseph an example of the rich return which they should give their parents, cherishing amid the infirmities of age those who have watched over them, and loved them, and prayed for them with so much solicitude and affection.

II. JACOB'S APPROACHING DISSOLUTION. "The time drew nigh that Israel must die." It was a time that Israel had now for some considerable period been anticipating. When he stood before Pharaoh he informed that august but benevolent monarch that he reckoned his earthly pilgrimage as good as closed. At least his words imply that he had no expectation of living to the ago of his revered ancestors. Consequently he was not surprised, though he perceived that death was rapidly gaining ground upon his feeble steps. Perfectly aware that it was appointed unto all men once to die, he had been piously, while reposing beneath the shadow of Joseph's wing, reckoning up the number of his own days m particular, and had found that the allotted span was nearly passed. Nor does it appear that he was alarmed by the knowledge of that melancholy fact. The man who had fought with God and prevailed was not likely to be dismayed by the prospect of engaging with the king of terrors. He who had been so long in the enjoyment of Jehovah's friendship and salvation would scarcely regard it as a hardship to be translated to Jehovah's presence. Let the saints learn to number their days that so they may apply their hearts to heavenly wisdom; to live in habitual contemplation of the end, that they may not be afraid when death comes, and to cultivate that holy alliance with the God of salvation which will enable them to say, "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

III. JACOB'S DYING REQUEST. "Bury me not in Egypt; but I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their, burying place." This request was addressed to his son Joseph, whom he had hastily summoned to his side. It is not quite certain that at this moment Jacob was confined to bed, or that he was actually so near his decease as he imagined. The probability is that he survived for some little while longer, but that with the knowledge that his departure from the earth could not be long delayed, he desired to leave his last instructions for his funeral with his honored and beloved son. Accordingly, in a conversation, he explained that he was anxious that Joseph should convey his remains to the family vault at Hebron, and lay them beside the dust of Abraham and Isaac. It was a natural desire that the old man should seek to sleep among his kindred; but the wish had a higher origin than simply the instincts of nature. Canaan was the God-given inheritance of himself and his descendants; and though as yet a long interval must elapse before his children could enter on its possession, he would manifest his faith in the Divine promise by laying his bones in the sacred soil. It becomes God's people to imitate the patriarch in still holding on to God's sure word of promise, although the fulfillment should be long delayed, and in particular to remember that as with Jacob so with them, God's best promises will be realized not on earth, but in the better country, even an heavenly.

IV. JACOB'S DEEP ANXIETY. "And he said, Swear unto me." It might have been supposed that Joseph's word of promise, "I will do as thou hast said," would be sufficient to allay the aged patriarch's apprehensions, but it was not. Remembering the old form of oath which Abraham had employed in connection with Eliszer, he imposed it on his son, as if to bind him by the holiest obligations to fulfill his last request. Joseph, we may be sure, would have honored his aged parent's wish without the additional ceremony of swearing; but inasmuch as it was not necessarily sinful, and it would tend to dispel his father's fears, he consented to the proposal, "and he swore unto him." Jacob perhaps might have dispensed with the oath, and certainly Christians should be satisfied with a simple "yea" or "nay," remembering that whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil; but sons may learn from Joseph to bear with an aged parent's infirmities and to humor his inclinations, when these are not sinful.

V. JACOB'S SOLEMN WORSHIP. "And Jacob bowed himself upon the bed's head," or "worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff." But whatever was the exact position of the patriarch, his exercise was devotion. With reverent inclination of his aged head he poured out his soul in grateful adoration to his God, who had enabled him so successfully to arrange everything connected with his funeral that he had now nothing left to do but die. And in this too the patriarch might advantageously be followed by his spiritual children. Happy they who before being summoned to put off this tabernacle are able to say, "Father, I have finished the work thou gavest me to do!" It is a special mercy for which they may well give God thanks.


Genesis 47:27-31

The sunset of a long life.

There is a touching beauty in this scene between the veteran Israel and the prosperous Joseph.

I. An illustration of HUMAN INFIRMITY. The supplanter, the prince of God, must succumb at last to the King of Terrors. "Israel must die." Yet he is not afraid of death.

II. STRENGTH IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS. Grace appears brightest at the end. His gray hairs have not been "brought with sorrow to the grave," although he feared they would. The lost son is the comforter of his last days; to him he commits his dust-to be laid with his fathers.

III. PERSEVERANCE IS NOT THE FRUIT OF MAN'S PERFECTION, BUT OF GOD'S MERCY. Jacob is faithful to the covenant spirit to the end, although in many respects his character was a mingled one. Yet he clung to the Divine word. Seventeen years could not wear out his love for the promised land. He knew the Solemnity of an oath, for had he not himself sworn and changed not? He would leave behind him in his last wishes a testimony which would help to keep his children faithful. "And Israel bowed himself upon the becks head." The LXX; and the Syriac, and the Itala versions, with the reference in Hebrews 11:21; by a slight change in the Hebrew vowels, have rendered the words "he worshipped upon the top of his staff"—i.e. leaning on that which had borne him through his pilgrimage, and thus, as it were, declaring the long journey at an end. But whether he turned towards the bed's head, as it were away from the world towards God, or leaned on his staff, the idea is the same—he bowed himself, like Simeon, saying, "Now, Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." It was a lovely sunset after a day of many clouds and much weariness and fear.—R.


Genesis 47:28-31

Jacob's apprehension.


1. It was not anxiety about temporal support, for that had been generously made sure to him by his son Joseph.

2. It was not concern about the future fortunes of his family, for these had been graciously taken under God's protection.

3. It was not uncertainty as to his own personal acceptance with Jehovah, for of that he had long ago been assured.

4. It was scarcely even fear of his approaching death, for besides being a thought with which Jacob had long been familiar, to a weary pilgrim like him the event itself would not be altogether unwelcome.

5. It was dread lest his lifeless body should be interred in Egypt, far from the graves of his ancestors in the holy land.


1. From the deeply-seated instinct in human nature, which makes men wish, if possible, to sleep beside their fathers and friends. Though religion teaches us to believe that every spot on earth is in a manner holy ground, yet it does not induce a spirit of indifference as to the last resting-place where we shall lie.

2. From a firm faith in the Divine promise that his descendants should yet return to Canaan. Even if Jacob did not anticipate that this would immediately occur, if, as is probable, he had already dark forebodings that the period of exile and servitude spoken of by Jehovah to Abraham was about to commence, he was yet able to detect a silver lining in the cloud, to see the happy time beyond, when his children, in accordance with the promise "I will surely bring thee up again," should return home to their presently abandoned inheritance.


1. By Joseph's promise. Requested by his aged parent to convey his body back to Canaan, when the life had departed, Joseph solemnly, engages to carry out that parent's wishes to the letter. "I will do as thou hast said."

2. By Joseph's oath. As if to remove every possible ground of apprehension, the old man further binds his son by an appeal to heaven. "And he said, Swear unto me; and he (Joseph) sware unto him." The venerable patriarch's anxieties were at an end. "And Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head."—W.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 47". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/genesis-47.html. 1897.
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