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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 47

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Genesis 47:0


Jacob's Family Settles in GoshenJacob Settles in Goshen(46:38-47:12)Jacob and His Sons Settle in Egypt (Genesis 46:28-12)Jacob and His Family in Egypt (Genesis 46:28-12)Pharaoh Grants an Audience
Genesis 47:1-6Genesis 47:1-6Genesis 47:1-6Genesis 47:1-3aGenesis 47:1-5a, Genesis 47:6b
Genesis 47:3-6
Genesis 47:5b, Genesis 47:6-11
Genesis 47:7-12Genesis 47:7-12Genesis 47:7-12Genesis 47:7-8
Genesis 47:9-12
Genesis 47:12
Joseph Deals with the Famine The FamineJoseph's Agrarian Policy
Genesis 47:13-19Genesis 47:13-19Genesis 47:13-19Genesis 47:13-15Genesis 47:13-14
Genesis 47:15-17
Genesis 47:16-17
Result of the Famine Genesis 47:18-19Genesis 47:18-19
Genesis 47:20-26Genesis 47:20-26Genesis 47:20-26Genesis 47:20-24Genesis 47:20-22
Genesis 47:23-26
Genesis 47:25-26
Joseph's Vow to JacobJacob's Adoption and Blessings of Ephraim and Manasseh(Genesis 47:27-22)Jacob's Last RequestJacob's Last Wishes
Genesis 47:27-28Genesis 47:27-31Genesis 47:27-28Genesis 47:27-30aGenesis 47:27-31
Genesis 47:29-31 Genesis 47:29-31
Genesis 47:30b
Genesis 47:31

READING CYCLE THREE (see Guide to Good Bible Reading)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 47:1-6 1Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, and said, "My father and my brothers and their flocks and their herds and all that they have, have come out of the land of Canaan; and behold, they are in the land of Goshen." 2He took five men from among his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh. 3Then Pharaoh said to his brothers, "What is your occupation?" So they said to Pharaoh, "Your servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers." 4They said to Pharaoh, "We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants' flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, therefore, please let your servants live in the land of Goshen." 5Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Your father and your brothers have come to you. 6The land of Egypt is at your disposal; settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land, let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know any capable men among them, then put them in charge of my livestock."

Genesis 47:1 "Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh" This seems to have been a set appointment for Pharaoh to meet Joseph's family (cf. Genesis 46:33). It is alluded to in Acts 7:13.

"they are in the land of Goshen" Genesis 46:0 and 47 are uniquely bound together because Joseph has rehearsed his family on what to say and how to say it that they might receive royal permission to live in the land of Goshen. This land was known as being a fertile pasture land. It is also called "the best of the land," Genesis 47:6 and 11 (cf. Genesis 45:18).

Genesis 47:2 "He took five men from among his brothers" There has always been speculation about why he chose only five. The rabbis say that he took the weakest and ugliest so that Pharaoh would not draft his brothers into military service, but this seems dubious. The Anchor Bible Commentary asserts the exact opposite, "he took the outstanding ones" (p. 350). There is a real possibility that the number "five" had special significance to the Egyptians because it is used so often in these chapters (cf. Genesis 41:34; Genesis 43:34; Genesis 45:22).

Genesis 47:3 "Your servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers" It is very important to note that they are claiming to be the sons of a shepherd (cf. Genesis 13:7, Genesis 13:8; Genesis 26:20; Genesis 46:32, Genesis 46:34), therefore, all they knew was how to shepherd. Sons were expected to follow in the avocation of their father. Shepherds (of cattle) were looked down upon with some contempt in Egypt (cf. Genesis 43:32; Genesis 46:34; Exodus 8:26). This implies that (1) through the racial arrogance of the Egyptians and (2) the cultural aversion to shepherds, the children of Jacob would be left pretty much alone. This was very significant because it is obvious from Genesis 38:0 that they were becoming amalgamated into the Canaanite culture. Therefore, the sojourn in Egypt was really a chance for them to collect themselves as a distinct national religious entity.

Genesis 47:4 "They said to Pharaoh" There are four aspects of their response which are meant to alleviate any fears that Pharaoh may have had concerning them: (1) they were shepherds; (2) they were sojourners; (3) they were forced to come to Egypt; and (4) they asked permission to settle in the land, apparently for a limited period.

Genesis 47:5-6 There is some problem in the MT which is obvious when one compares the ancient versions. Pharaoh should be addressing the five brothers, not Joseph.

Genesis 47:6 "if you know any capable men among them, put them in charge of my livestock" Pharaoh also had livestock in the region of Goshen. This may have been just another way of showing his care for them because of Joseph. Or, it may have been his desiring the physical prosperity that was connected with the God of these people (cf. Genesis 30:27; Genesis 39:5).

Verses 7-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 47:7-12 7Then Joseph brought his father Jacob and presented him to Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. 8Pharaoh said to Jacob, "How many years have you lived?" 9So Jacob said to Pharaoh, "The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning." 10And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from his presence. 11So Joseph settled 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 ordered. 12Joseph provided his father and his brothers and all his father's household with food, according to their little ones.

Genesis 47:7 "and Jacob blessed Pharaoh" There has been much discussion about Jacob blessing Pharaoh twice (cf. v. Genesis 47:10). Some say it is simply the normal Oriental opening and departing greetings (cf. Genesis 31:55; Ruth 2:4, NJB). However, it seems unusual that it is mentioned twice here. The superior always blesses the inferior (cf. Hebrews 7:7). Martin Luther says that Jacob preached the gospel to Pharaoh and that he and his court were converted. He uses Psalms 105:22 as evidence for this conversion. Because of the divine blessing on the family of Abraham and those connected to them, this blessing to such a supportive Pharaoh seems appropriate (cf. NRSV, TEV, NIV). The Jewish Study Bible, p. 93, lists the verses where others are blessed by their contact with the covenant family (cf. Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4; Genesis 28:14; Genesis 30:27-30; Genesis 39:5, Genesis 39:23, p. 93).

Genesis 47:9 "The years of my sojourning" Jacob was certainly caught up in depression in the last years of his life. His melancholy spirit (brought on by the news of Joseph's death) is revealed in this verse.

Genesis 47:11 "gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered" It is obvious here that "the land of Rameses" (cf. Exodus 1:11; Exodus 12:37; Numbers 33:3) and the land of Goshen are the same area. The mentioning of Rameses is either (1) a later addition by a scribe or (2) there was a city there by this name before the Hebrews rebuilt one there in honor of Rameses II. Rameses II seems to be the Pharaoh of the Exodus experience and seems to confirm the date as being 1290 B.C. This is not only true because of the location of the Egyptian capital during the Hyksos period being relatively close to the land of Goshen, but also for the archaeological evidence of the invasion of Palestine around 1250 B.C.

Genesis 47:12

NASB“according to their little ones" NKJV“according to the number in their families" NRSV“according to the number of their dependents" TEV“including the very youngest" NJB“down to the least of them" JPSOA"down to the little ones" LXX"for each person" Peshitta"according to their families"

The "little ones" (BDB 381, KB 378, cf. Numbers 14:3, Numbers 14:31; Numbers 31:17) may refer to every member of the household who were allocated a certain amount of food (cf. Genesis 45:11). The rabbis say that children waste a lot of bread and this is an idiom to show that Joseph provided abundantly for them. It is possible that the term "little ones" is an intimate family metaphor for all the members of the covenant family (cf. Genesis 47:24).

Verses 13-19

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 47:13-19 13Now there was no food in all the land, because the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine. 14Joseph gathered all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan for the grain which they bought, and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh's house. 15When the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, "Give us food, for why should we die in your presence? For our money is gone." 16Then Joseph said, "Give up your livestock, and I will give you food for your livestock, since your money is gone." 17So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses and the flocks and the herds and the donkeys; and he fed them with food in exchange for all their livestock that year. 18When that year was ended, they came to him the next year and said to him, "We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent, and the cattle are my lord's. There is nothing left for my lord except our bodies and our lands. 19Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we and our land will be slaves to Pharaoh. So give us seed, that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate."

Genesis 47:13-26 Many commentators have asserted that Joseph acted cruelly toward the people of Egypt. However, Joseph acted on the common theological assertion that Pharaoh, as the representative of the sun god Re, owned the land of Egypt, and brought it into reality.

Genesis 47:13 "languished" This VERB (BDB 529, KB 520, Qal IMPERFECT) is found only here in the OT. Its basic meaning is "to faint." The land of Canaan is unproductive. It is affected by the curse of Genesis 3:17-19 (cf. Romans 8:20-22), part of which is the irregular cycles of nature. In this situation, YHWH is using (using not causing) this for His purposes. This control of the weather is also reflected in the "cursing and blessing" section of Deuteronomy (cf. Gen. 28-29). The famine was severe (cf. Genesis 12:10; Genesis 41:31; Genesis 43:1; Genesis 47:4, Genesis 47:13).

Genesis 47:16 "Give up your livestock" They had already sold everything ("give," BDB 396, KB 393, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Genesis 47:15, Genesis 47:16) they had in order to buy food. Now, their livestock was in jeopardy. Really, the taking of the livestock, which they could not feed and which were going to die anyway, is an aspect of governmental mercy, not exploitation.

Verses 20-26

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 47:20-26 20So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for every Egyptian sold his field, because the famine was severe upon them. Thus the land became Pharaoh's. 21As for the people, he removed them to the cities from one end of Egypt's border to the other. 22Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had an allotment from Pharaoh, and they lived off the allotment which Pharaoh gave them. Therefore, they did not sell their land. 23Then Joseph said to the people, "Behold, I have today bought you and your land for Pharaoh; now, here is seed for you, and you may sow the land. 24At the harvest you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four-fifths shall be your own for seed of the field and for your food and for those of your households and as food for your little ones." 25So they said, "You have saved our lives! Let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's slaves." 26Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt valid to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; only the land of the priests did not become Pharaoh's.

Genesis 47:20 "So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh" In the sixth year of famine, after the cattle had all been sold, they sold their land and themselves to Pharaoh (BDB 888, KB 1111, cf. Genesis 47:19, Genesis 47:20, Genesis 47:22, Genesis 47:23). Actually, they became serfs (cf. Genesis 47:23-24). We know, not only from the Code of Hammurabi, but also from the archaeological discoveries at Ugarit and the Nuzi Tablets, that serfdom was a common, cultural plight of the people of the ANE. Joseph's title mentioned in Genesis 41:40 and Genesis 45:8 means that he was the administrator of Pharaoh's personal affairs. Verses Genesis 47:20-26 show how he personally benefitted Pharaoh in his bureaucratic control of Egypt. This entire experience has been "somewhat" documented from Egyptian historical records.

Genesis 47:21 "he removed them to the cities from one end of Egypt's border to the other" Many commentators have asserted that this was to facilitate the distribution of food because they could not work the land anyway. However, the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch state "he made slaves of them" ("to the cities," BDB 746, לערים, "to slaves," BDB 713, לעבדים). This translation is followed by the Revised Standard Version and seems to fit the context of both Genesis 47:19 and 25, as well as the giving of seed in Genesis 47:23. Rashi says that he made them move to the city in order to prove to them that they did not own their own land. The Peshitta and Targum Ongelos have "he removed them from town to town," which is exactly opposite from the MT.

Genesis 47:22 Religious property and personnel were not affected (cf. Genesis 47:26).

Genesis 47:24 "At the harvest you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh" From the Code of Hammurabi, the texts from Ugaritic and Nuzi archaeological discoveries, we find that this was not terribly exploitive. From Mesopotamian and other historical documents we know that from forty to sixty percent was not uncommon. Joseph was treating these people with great fairness. They knew that, as Genesis 47:25 obviously reflects.

Verses 27-28

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 47:27-28 27Now Israel lived in the land of Egypt, in Goshen, and they acquired property in it and were fruitful and became very numerous. 28Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the length of Jacob's life was one hundred and forty-seven years.

Genesis 47:27 This sets the stage for the next Egyptian administration which would fear the Israelites.

Genesis 47:28 "the length of Jacob's life was one hundred and forty-seven years" This is one of several verses throughout Genesis used to date certain major events. It is interesting that Jacob thought he was going to die long before he actually did, just as his father, Isaac, had in Genesis 27:2. This shows that although these were great men of God, they still had physical problems associated with old age as well as psychological doubts. To know God does not exempt one from the problems of aging.

Verses 29-31

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 47:29-31 29When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, "Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt, 30but when I lie down with my fathers, you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place." And he said, "I will do as you have said." 31He said, "Swear to me." So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed.

Genesis 47:29 "When the time for Israel to die drew near" Death is in the hand of God, not chance, not fate, not the evil one. There is no "grim reaper," only an angel of God.

Death is not an enemy, but a reunion for those who have a relationship with YHWH. In the Bible it is not death that is a tragedy, but an early death or a violent death. After the fall of Genesis 3:0 (cf. Genesis 5:0) death is the natural end of physical life. When one is aged, death is a blessing!

"place now your hand under my thigh" This seems to be an idiomatic oath formula among the ancient Hebrews (cf. Genesis 24:2). There are two possible orientations to this gesture: (1) the thigh is the largest muscle in the body, therefore, connected to the idea of strength or (2) the thigh is close to the genitals, referring to the "seed" of promise. The point of this maneuver seems to be an emphasis on the descendants of Jacob as a true object of oath taking. Apparently this was caught up in the covenant promises of God for seed, going back to Canaan, (cf. Genesis 12:1-3).

NASB "kindness and faithfulness" NKJV "kindly and truly" NRSV "loyally and truly" NJB "faithful love" LXX "mercy and truth" Peshitta "graciously and truly" REB "loyally and faithfully" JPSOA "steadfast loyalty"

These are the special covenant terms hesed (BDB 388, דסח, cf. Genesis 20:13; Genesis 21:23) and emeth (BDB 54, אמת). See Special Topic: Lovingkindness (Hesed).

SPECIAL TOPIC: Believe, Trust, Faith, and Faithfulness in the Old Testament (ןמא)

Genesis 47:30 "you shall carry me out of Egypt" This is a foreshadowing of the Exodus. Jacob may have known of it from the family traditions going back to Abraham (cf. Genesis 15:12-16). It also seems to be implied in Genesis 48:21. Jacob knew that the destiny of the Hebrews did not relate to a long stay in Egypt.

Genesis 47:31 "Swear to me" Jacob was very emphatic (BDB 989, KB 1396, Niphal IMPERATIVE) that he did not want to remain in Egypt and he asked his son, not only to swear by putting his hand under his thigh, but to swear verbally as well.

NASB, JPSOA"at the head of his bed" NKJV, NRSV“on the head of the bed" LXX"leaning on the top of his staff" Peshitta"upon the head of his staff" REB"by the head of his bed"

The Hebrew word for "bed" is mittah (BDB 641) and "staff" is matteh (BDB 641). Notice it is not a consonant issue, but a vowel issue. There has been much discussion about this translation in the Masoretic Text. The Septuagint (cf. Hebrews 11:21, which follows the LXX) changes this metaphor to "the head of the staff." This seems quite possible because the staff was a symbol of authority in ancient Egypt, therefore, this would mean that Jacob bowed his forehead and touched Joseph's staff. This may have symbolized

1. Jacob fulfilling Joseph's dream of Genesis 37:6-9

2. Jacob's reverence for Joseph as fulfilling God's plan for saving his family

3. a gesture of Jacob's acknowledging Joseph's prestige (cf. Genesis 48:2; 1 Kings 1:47)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why would Joseph want his family to settle in Goshen?

2. Why did Joseph take only five of his brothers with him to meet Pharaoh?

3. Why is Jacob so melancholy in Genesis 47:9?

4. Why does Jacob bless Pharaoh twice?

5. Why does the name Rameses in Genesis 47:11 support a later date for the Exodus?

6. Did Joseph treat the people of Egypt harshly during these years of famine?

7. Why did Jacob want Joseph to swear in two different ways that he would take him out of the land of Egypt?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Genesis 47". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/genesis-47.html. 2021.
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