After the migration of the Jacobites, the narrative centered on Joseph introducing his family to the Pharaoh and how he governed the Egyptians during the severe famine. Furthermore, through the example of Jacob’s death wish, we can learn a lesson about being faithfully holding on to the promise of eternal inheritance.
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- “Five men from among his brothers” (47:2): The phrase can be literally translated in Hebrew as “from the extremity” or “from the totality of his brothers he took five men,” which implies a random selection.
- Dwell (47:4) in Hebrew root, the word literally means “sojourn,” showing an emphasis that Jacob intended to temporarily stay in Egypt.
- “In the best of the land” (47:6): The expression can literally be translated as “in a high standard of worth of the land” in Greek-Septuagint.
- “Competent men” (47:6): In Hebrew, the phrase can literally be translated as “men of competence” or “men of ability.” The Scriptures use the word as one who is truthful and “fears God,” and who has a discrete ability to judge and to rule many people (Ex 18:21, 25). In addition, the Scriptures use the same word as “valiant men” or combatants (
2 Sam 11:16).
- “Chief herdsmen” (47:6): The phrase can literally be translated as “officers of cattle”or “overseers of cattle” in Hebrew. This occupation is frequently recorded in Egyptian inscriptions since the king owned numerous herds of cattle. [ref]
- “Jacob blessed Pharaoh” (47:7, 10): The verb “to bless” can literally be translated in Hebrew as “to greet.” In Hebrew, the expression of one blessing someone can be translated as a salutation or a greeting with a prayer of blessing performed when meeting with someone (
2 Kgs 4:29, 10:15; 1 Sam 13:10) or in departing from someone (Gen 24:60; 1 Kgs 8:66).
- “In the land of Rameses” (47:11) was another name for Goshen (Gen 45:10). According to historical documents, Ramses II enlarged the city of Tanis and made it his capital in the 13th century B.C. Thus, this royal name was attached to it and the surrounding region. [ref]
- “According to the number in their families” (47:12): In Greek-Septuagint, the phrase can literally be translated as “according to the person” or “body,” and in Hebrew, “according to the mouth of the children” or “according to his eating” or “the quantity which the family will consume.”
- “The land…languished” (47:13): In Hebrew, the word “languished” can be translated literally as “to be weary” and in Greek-Septuagint, “failed” or “died out.”
10.Horses (47:17) were first mentioned in the Scriptures here in the passage. The mentioned animal was highly-valued and had become widespread throughout the Near East by the middle of the 16th century BC. [ref]
11.“Give us seed” (47:19): The expression can literally be translated in Greek-Septuagint as “give the seed, in order that we may sow seed.” The Egyptian historical records mentioned the practice of the state lending seed-corn to farmers for repayment at harvest time. [ref]
12.“One-fifth” (47:24) equals to a tax of 20 percent of the harvest in return for the providence and for the seed to be sowed. According to a historical reference, an interest rate of 20 percent on money loans was quite common, while the rate for produce-loans was usually 33.3 percent. [ref]
13.Slave (47:25): Ancient slavery was the accepted way to escape from poverty, receiving a comfortable status under a generous master. At its best, ancient slavery was like an employment, while the free man was more like one who is self-employed. [ref]
14.“You have saved our lives” (47:25): The phrase in Hebrew can be translated literally as “you are a preserver of us,” emphasizing on the action which is performed.
15.“To this day” (47:26): The Hebrew expression “to this day” was used in a legal context to witness that the laws recorded in Gen 47:22 and Gen 47:24 were still enforced in the narrator’s day. Similar phrase usage of a legal context is mentioned in the book of
16.“So Israel…and they…” (47:27): In Hebrew, the first verb “dwell” is in singular form, whereas the succeeding three verbs “had possessions,” “grew,” and “multiplied” are in plural form. The sudden change of verb form reflected the merge of Jacob as an individual with Israel as a nation.
18.“Deal…truly” (47:29): The word “truly” can literally be translated as “truthfulness” in Greek-Septuagint.
19.“Their burial place” (47:30): The expression refers to the cave of Machpelah, the one which Abraham had bought (Gen 23:9). It was in that cave that Abraham and Sarah his wife, Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and Leah the wife of Jacob were buried (Gen 49:31). Later, Jacob was buried in the same cave (Gen 50:13).
20.“Israel bowed himself on the head of the bed” (47:31): In Greek-Septuagint, the phrase can literally be translated as “Israel prostrated himself on the end of his staff.”
How did Pharaoh address the brothers? And why?Hide Answer
After Joseph had presented the five brothers to Pharaoh, the Pharaoh asked them, “What is your occupation?” (Gen 47:3). The question presented by Pharaoh to the brothers summarized Pharaoh’s need to personally know the brothers’ identity, their family background and the reason of bringing along their flocks and herds and of dwelling in the land of Goshen (Gen 47:1).
How did the brothers answer Pharaoh?Hide Answer
In replying to the Pharaoh’s question, the brothers answered, “Your servants are shepherds, both we and also our fathers…We have come to dwell in the land because your servants have no pasture for their flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now therefore, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen” (Gen 47:3-4).
Compare the brothers’ answer to the Pharaoh in Egypt with the example of Lot’s decision toward Sodom. What can we learn about the difference in their faith of God’s promise? See Gen 13:12-13 and Heb 11:9-10.Hide Answer
While Lot was tempted to finally merge himself and his family into Sodom and its goods (Gen 13:12-13), Joseph’s brothers in their answer emphasized to the Pharaoh that they were shepherds just like their forefathers and they migrated to Egypt only to find pasture for their herds (Gen 47:3-4), not wishing for a permanent residency in Egypt.
From the brothers’ answer we can learn about their faith in God’s promise. Similar to Abraham’s faith in waiting and clinging to “the land of promise in a foreign country” (Heb 11:9-10), the brothers’ answer showed their determination and reflected their faith to hold on to the promise of God in regards to the Promised Land of Canaan. Though the brothers were staying “in the best of the land” (Gen 47:6) of Egypt, they were only there for the pasture (Gen 47:4). Among the great career opportunities in Egypt, they were determined to maintain their occupation as shepherds just like their father and forefathers before them, knowing in mind that they would someday go back to Canaan, the Promised Land of God.
The examples of Lot in Sodom and the brothers of Joseph in Egypt serve as a lesson for us that holding on to God’s promise requires a determination and faithfulness from our side. The world around us, through its offering of a certain lifestyle and wealth, is able to sway us away from our faith of the promise of God. While Lot’s faith was swayed by the wealth and the lifestyle of Sodom, the brothers of Joseph were determined that their stay in the great city of Egypt was temporary. Therefore, receiving the fulfilment of God’s promise requires us to be faithful in the eternal promise of God, reminding ourselves that the world and its glamour are but temporary and fleeting away.
What was the brothers’ petition to the Pharaoh?
How was the brothers’ petition related to the prophecy in Gen 15:13?Hide Answer
The brothers’ petition to the Pharaoh was the fulfillment of God’s prophecy concerning the nation Israel back in the book of Genesis 15:13. The prophecy stated that “[Abram’s descendants, Israel would ] be strangers in a land that [was] not theirs, and [would] serve them.” Thus, when the brothers petitioned to dwell in the land of Goshen, they would become “strangers in a land that [was] not theirs.” Furthermore, the Pharaoh’s order to appoint the brothers as “chief herdsmen over [Pharaoh’s] livestock,” such a delegation would make them “serve [the Egyptians]” as prophesied by the Lord to their forefather, Abraham.
How did Pharaoh address Joseph’s father, Jacob? And why?Hide Answer
After Jacob had been presented by Joseph to the Pharaoh and after Jacob had blessed the Pharaoh, the Pharaoh asked Jacob, “How old are you?” (Gen 47:7-8). The question of Pharaoh summarized his amazement toward Jacob’s age and life. Not only was the Pharaoh amazed of the elderly’s strength to travel from far away to Egypt but he was also amazed to meet the founding father the tribe of the Jacobites.
How did Jacob answer the Pharaoh?Hide Answer
In answering the intrigued Pharaoh, Jacob answered him, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” (Gen 47:9).
What were the significances of Jacob’s answer to the Pharaoh? Pilgrimage;Hide Answer
To answer the Pharaoh’s question of his age, Jacob said that “the days of the years of [his] pilgrimage [were] one hundred and thirty years” (Gen 47:9). Jacob explained to the Pharaoh that his life consisted of pilgrimage in years. Just like the pilgrimage of Jacob’s fathers, Jacob’s pilgrimage had been a continual sojourning—from Beersheba to Haran (Gen 28:10-29:1f), from Haran to Canaan (Gen 29:1-Gen 37:1f) and finally from Canaan to Egypt (Gen 37:1-46:28f).
Furthermore, in his answer, Jacob said, “Few…have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” (Gen 47:9). Though in the eyes of the Pharaoh, the days of the years of Jacob’s life were many; Jacob revealed to the Pharaoh that the days of the years of his life were indeed few compared to his forefathers. According to the book of Genesis, Jacob’s father, Isaac, lived up to 180 years old (Gen 35:28) and Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, lived up to 175 years old (Gen 25:7). Thus, Jacob who at the time he arrived in Egypt was only 130 years old (Gen 47:9), lived up to 147 years (Gen 47:28), which was around 30 years short compared to his forefathers.
Lastly, Jacob replied to the Pharaoh, “Evil…have been the days of the years of my life” (Gen 47:9). Though his seniority of age exceeded that of Pharaoh, Jacob plainly explained that his life had been filled with suffering. Beginning with Jacob’s flight from the murder-threat of his own brother, Esau (Gen 27:42-45), the deceit from his uncle Laban (Gen 29:25, 31:6), the rape of his daughter, Dinah (Gen 34:1-5), the death of his beloved wife, Rachel (Gen 35:18-20), the incest between Reuben and Bilhah, Jacob’s wife (Gen 35:22), to the presumed-death of his beloved son, Joseph (Gen 37:33-35); Jacob emphasized that “the days of the years of his life” had been evil.
Compare Jacob’s reply to the Pharaoh with Hezekiah’s deeds to the messengers of the king of Babylon. See
2 Kgs 20:1-19.Hide Answer
There was a difference between Jacob’s reply to the Pharaoh and Hezekiah’s deeds to the messengers of the king of Babylon. According to the book of Genesis 47:9, in replying to the Pharaoh’s amazement on the length of his life span, Jacob simply shared that “the days of the years of [his] pilgrimage [were] one hundred and thirty years; few and evil [had] been the days of the years of m[his] life, and they [had] not attained to the days of the years of the life of [his] fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” (Gen 47:9).
But King Hezekiah, after his lifespan was added another fifteen years by the Lord (
2 Kgs 20:5-6), he proudly “showed [the messengers of the king of Babylon] all the house of his treasures—the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armory.” King Hezekiah, in his added lifespan, showed all the glory of his dominion.
What can we learn about Jacob’s humility from the comparison between the two examples above?Hide Answer
From the comparison of the two examples above, we can learn a lesson about humility. On one hand, instead of boasting of his one hundred and thirty years of long life span as a founding father of the tribe of the Jacobites, Jacob humbly confessed to the Pharaoh that not only were the days of the years of his life “few and evil” but his pilgrimage had not attained to that of his forefathers (Gen 47:9). Jacob did not boast of his kinship with the kings of Edom (Gen 36:31-39) or boast of his fame to inflict “the terror of God…upon the cities that were all around them” (Gen 34:5).
On the other hand, instead of showing his thankfulness to the Lord’s healing by performing good deeds for his people and for Him, King Hezekiah proudly boasted of the glory of his achievement and dominion (
2 Kgs 20:12-13). The king failed to realize that his life extension which was given by the Lord was not to be used merely for worldly boasting. At the end, the prophet Isaiah warned the king of the upcoming punishment from the Lord due to his boasting ( 2 Kgs 20:16-18).
By comparing the example of Jacob with that of King Hezekiah, we learn the importance of being humble in our daily life. In a demanding society, we are tempted to show off our accomplishments and our achievements for the purpose of impressing others. But the prophet Isaiah reminds us that the Lord dislikes the arrogant (Isa 13:11). The examples of King Hezekiah’s riches and Jacob’s terror of God remind us that our achievements also come from the mercy of the Lord, not from our own strength and effort.
The relationship between Abram and the Pharaoh in Gen 12:17-20 was different from that between Jacob and the Pharaoh in Gen 47:7-10. While in Gen 12, the Pharaoh sent Abram and his wife away from Egypt for lying to him about Sarai’s status and for being the cause of the Lord’s plague upon the Egyptians (Gen 12:17-20); the Pharaoh in Gen 47 welcomed Jacob and his households to dwell in the land of Egypt due to the blessings which they had received through Joseph, Jacob’s son. In addition, the Pharaoh allowed Jacob,the aged, to bless him (Gen 47:7, 10).
The relationship between Jacob and the Pharaoh in Gen 47 was in accordance with the Lord’s words to Jacob previously in Gen 46. Before Jacob continued his journey to Egypt, the Lord spoke to Jacob in the visions of the night at Beersheba, saying that “[He would] go down with [Jacob] to Egypt” (Gen 46:3). The Lord’s prophecy was proven when the Pharaoh warmly welcomed Jacob and his households to dwell in the land of Egypt and thus, foreshadowing the preparation of making Jacob a great nation there in Egypt.
How severe was the famine in that time of the year?
How did Joseph govern the Egyptians during the period of the severe famine?Hide Answer
Through the severe famine, Joseph did several steps for the Egyptians. First, Joseph “gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan” (Gen 47:14) in exchange of the grain for the people. Second, Joseph mortgaged the people’s livestock—“the horses, the flocks, the cattle of the herds…the donkeys” (Gen 47:17)—in exchange for the bread for the people. Third, Joseph bought all the land of Egypt—the field of “every man of the Egyptians” (Gen 47:20)—and bought the people as the servants of the Pharaoh (Gen 47:19, 21) in exchange for the bread and seed for the people.
What can we learn about faithfulness from Joseph’s deeds to Pharaoh in Gen 47: 14, 20?Hide Answer
From Gen 47:14, 20, we can learn about faithfulness from Joseph’s deeds to Pharaoh. When the people offered Joseph their money and their belongings in exchange for the bread, “Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house” (Gen 47:14) and “Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh” (Gen 47:20). As the one who oversaw all the land of Egypt, with his high status and power, Joseph could have taken some of the money, herds, and land for himself as a token of his management service. Instead, the Scriptures plainly recorded that Joseph brought the “gathered” money into “Pharaoh’s house” and “bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh” (Gen 47:14, 20).
Just as Joseph was faithful to Potiphar in his work when he was in Potiphar’s house (Gen 39:1-6) and to the keeper of the prison when he was in prison (Gen 39:20-23), Joseph was faithful to Pharaoh in his work as he rose to power to be an overseer “over all all the land of Egypt” (Gen 41:37-45). Unlike the apostle Judas who took advantage of his position as treasurer by stealing the money (Jn 12:6), Joseph did not take advantage of his high status and faithfully performed his work to his employer, the Pharaoh. Once the Lord Jesus admonished us that “he who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much” (Lk 16:10). The words of the Lord Jesus and the example of Joseph’s deeds to Pharaoh teach us that we always need to be faithful in whatever we do, even the smallest thing. For example, if we are faithful in doing our work at school or at a workplace, then we also need to be even more faithful in doing church work assigned to us. In addition, the Lord Jesus’ words teach us that being faithful in work of a lesser responsibility serves as a foundation and is a solid proof of our faithfulness to do work of a higher responsibility.
Compare and contrast the condition of the Egyptians in Gen 47:13-26 with the condition of the Jacobites in Gen 47:27 after the famine. And how did the contrast relate to God’s promise to the Jacobites in Gen 46:3?Hide Answer
The book of Genesis mentioned the condition of the Egyptians and the Jacobites during the severe famine. The Egyptians gave all their money, their flocks and herds, their land and themselves as servants in exchange for the bread and seed in those severe years of famine (Gen 47:14-21). The severe famine had not only caused the Egyptians to lose their belongings and their lands, but also caused them to be in a labor contract with Pharaoh for the one-fifth of their harvest (Gen 47:23-26). The Jacobites who started as immigrants in Egypt ended up having possessions and “multiplied exceedingly” (Gen 47:27). From this contrast, we learn that God faithfully provided for the Jacobites during the famine and fulfilled His promise of multiplication and fruitfulness of their descendants (Gen 13:16, 17:6, 22:17, 28:14, 46:3).
There was a great difference between what Joseph did to the Egyptians during a harsh time and what of the prophet Jonah did to the mariners. While Joseph kindly cared for and provided for the Egyptians during difficult times (Gen 47:13-26), prophet Jonah did otherwise. The writer of the book of Jonah mentioned that “the mariners were afraid” and they were busy crying out to their god and throwing the ship cargo into the sea “to lighten the load” during the “mighty tempest on the sea” (Jon 1:4-5). The mariners tried their best to work together not only to save the ship but also to save all the passengers inside. But the writer of the book of Jonah emphasized that “Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep” in the middle of the mighty tempest on the sea, ignoring the safety of the ship and its passengers. Even the captain had to wake Jonah up and had to command him to help calling on his God, knowing that Jonah had contributed nothing to help the mariners from the danger of the mighty tempest (Jon 1:6).
Furthermore, Joseph realized that providing for the people was God’s purpose for him. The book of Genesis mentioned that the sending of Joseph to Egypt by God was “to preserve life” (Gen 45:5) and “to save many people alive” (Gen 50:20). Unlike Joseph, the prophet Jonah did the opposite. When the Lord commanded Jonah to “cry out against [Nineveh the great city] for their wickedness,” the prophet Jonah purposely ignored God’s command and went to Tarshish, away “from the presence of the LORD” (Jon 1:1-3). Even after the prophet Jonah repented from the belly of a great fish (Jon 1:17-2:10), he went to Nineveh preaching the impending judgment of God against the great city (Jon 3:1-4) with the hope of the city’s destruction. In addition, the prophet Jonah made himself a shelter outside the city “to see what would become of the city” (Jon 4:5), after he became angry at God’s compassion to withdraw His punishment to overthrow Nineveh (Jon 3:10). In other words, the prophet Jonah was still expecting the destruction of the one-hundred-and-twenty-thousand-persons and he had no pity for them (Jon 4:9-11) even after the Lord had “relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them” when He saw the repentance of the Ninevites (Jon 3:10).
In the book of Genesis, the writer described how Joseph actively cared for the people. Not only was Joseph active in offering solution and willingly listen to the Egyptians’ desperate plea during the very severe famine (Gen 47:13-21), but he was also active in fulfilling God’s purpose in his life for the benefit of others (Gen 45:5, 50:20). On the other hand, not only was the prophet Jonah passive towards the safety of the ship and its passengers (Jon 1:4-9), but he was also indifferent toward the safety of the lives of one hundred and twenty thousand Ninevites (Jon 4:9-11).
What was the significance of Joseph establishing the law of “one-fifth” for the Pharaoh in Gen 47:26?Hide Answer
The establishment of the law of one-fifth for the Pharaoh in Gen 47:26 by Joseph had several significances. First, the law established by Joseph would remind the Egyptians that they were under the providence of the Pharaoh during the severe famine, for the bread was available under the governance of the Pharaoh (Gen 47:13-22). Second, the law established by Joseph would remind the Egyptians that they needed to repay back the good deed of their country by giving back one-fifth of their produce to the country which they had previously owed for their food supply during the severe famine (Gen 47:23-26).
What was the dying request of Jacob to Joseph?Hide Answer
“When the time drew near that [Jacob] must die,” he made his dying request to Joseph, “Now if I have found favor in your sight, please put your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me. Please do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers; you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place” (Gen 47:29-30).
From the dying Jacob and his dying request, what can we learn about: Numbering our days: See Psa 90:9-10.Hide Answer
From the dying Jacob, we can learn a lesson about numbering our days. Jacob knew that his time of the years were “few and evil” (Gen 47:9), consisting of pilgrimage, labor, sorrow and suffering (Gen 27:42-45, 29:25, 31:6, 34:1-5, 35:18-20, 22, 37:33-35). Instead of being proud of his old age and immersing himself in the abundance of Egypt, Jacob knew that he was going to die very soon. Thus, Jacob made his son, Joseph, vow not to bury him in Egypt, but to bury him with his fathers in the Promised Land (Gen 47:29-30).
The example of Jacob teaches us the importance of numbering our days. The writer of the book of Psalms reminds us about our numbered days, “For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; we finish our years like a sigh.The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Ps 90:9-10). The words of the psalmist remind us to use our time of life wisely. Although we can enjoy the labor of our youth and health, we ought not to be negligent in our spiritual growth. Since the days of our years will “soon cut off” and will “fly away,” we must constantly remind ourselves to make great use of our time for God’s glory.
Our eternal rest: See Heb 4:1-11.Hide Answer
From Jacob’s dying request, we can learn a lesson about looking forward to our eternal rest. Although Jacob had received and experienced the abundance of Egypt for seventeen years in the land of Goshen (Gen 47:28), Jacob refused to be buried in Egypt. He still held on to God’s assurance of the Promised Land and wanted to be buried along with his forefathers (Gen 47:29-30). Jacob’s undying hope of God’s Promised Land foreshadows the future hope of our eternal rest, as mentioned in the Letter to the Hebrews. The book of the Hebrews mentions that “there remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His” (Heb 4:9-10). In other words, as we will “fly away” and “cease” from the work of this world, God promises for His people to enter into His eternal rest. Moreover, the writer of the book of Hebrews adds that we need to “be diligent to enter that rest” (Heb 4:11). Just as Jacob had been diligent in holding on to the promise of the land of inheritance during his stay in Egypt, we must be diligent in our obedience to God’s words. Therefore, we may be deemed worthy to enter into the Lord’s eternal rest.