GENESIS CHAPTER 47.
Events in Egypt during the Famine.
JACOB AND FIVE OF HIS SONS PRESENTED TO PHARAOH. - V.1. Then Joseph came, and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen. This was the formal and official notification of their arrival in Pharaoh’s domain. V.2. And he took some of his brethren, out of their total number, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh. V.3. And Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we and also our fathers. As Joseph had foreseen the question of Pharaoh, so his instruction to his brothers had just covered the case. V.4. They said moreover unto Pharaoh, for to sojourn in the land, to live here only a while as strangers, are we come; for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan. Now, therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen. V.5. And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee; v.6. the land of Egypt is before thee, in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; he might give them places to live in whatsoever part he considered most excellent for their purposes, in the land of Goshen let them dwell. It is a fine bit of tact on the part of Pharaoh in yielding to Joseph the right and the decision as to the settlement in Goshen. And if thou knowest any men of activity among them, able, energetic men, then make them rulers over my cattle, they were to be given positions as chief herdsmen. V.7. And Joseph brought in Jacob, his father, after the first part of the audience had terminated so successfully, and set him before Pharaoh, presented him to the king; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. It was not an ordinary, humble greeting, but a true priestly blessing. V.8. And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou? an inquiry of courtesy. V.9. And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years. The expression is purposely chosen to indicate extension, duration. 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. The complaint of Moses is here anticipated: “Yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away,” Ps. 90, 10. The age of Jacob, although he did not die as soon as he expected, did indeed fall much short of that of Abraham and Isaac, and in addition, his shorter life had brought him much grief and sorrow. The believers have no guarantee of immunity against the troubles of this earth, but, on the contrary, very often are obliged to carry an unusual measure, and they bear them willingly in the fear of God. V.10. And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh. If the princes of the world grant to the believers a place where they may live and worship in peace and security, they will receive the blessings of the Lord in return.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE SEVERE FAMINE. V.11. And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, he assigned them land where they might live, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, another name for Goshen, probably from its capital or chief city, as Pharaoh had commanded. Thus Joseph fulfilled all the obligations which his love for his father and for his brothers demanded of him, a shining example for our selfish age. V.12. And Joseph nourished his father and his brethren and all his father’s household with bread, according to their families, literally, after the mouth of the little ones, in accordance with the needs of each family, depending upon the number of children. He provided well for them. V.13. And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine, they were wasting away for loss of strength. This fact is recorded to emphasize the greatness of the benefit which Joseph conferred upon his relatives. V.14. And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan For the corn which they bought; and Joseph brought the money in to Pharaoh’s house. The actual cash in the hands of the people of both countries was consumed in the first years of the famine, finding its way into the treasury of the king of Egypt through the hands of Joseph. V.15. And when money failed in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph and said, Give us bread; for why should we die in thy presence? For the money faileth. He surely could not bear to see them die before him, while he had the means to preserve their lives. There was simply no more money to pay out; their last bit of silver had been spent for food. V.16. And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail. V.17. And they brought their cattle unto Joseph; and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses; and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year. He guided them according to his proposal, he provided for their needs, taking their entire possessions in herds and flocks in payment. V.18. When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, that is, the second year after they had spent their last money for food, and said unto him, We will not hide it from my lord how that our money is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle; there is not aught left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our lands, they had been stripped bare of all their movable possessions, they had given up all their personal property. V.19. Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? They had stated their plight frankly, and now looked to Joseph for relief. Buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh, they were willing to sell themselves into slavery or peonage; and give us seed that we may live and not die, that the land be not desolate. It was a last, but also the only, desperate resort. V.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 the land became Pharaoh’s. Joseph bought it in exchange for the food which he gave to the people to keep them alive. V.21. And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof. Their lands being in possession of the crown, the people were ordered to settle in and near the cities, where the storehouses were located. This measure simplified the matter of feeding the great masses during the remaining years of famine. V.22. Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them; wherefore they sold not their lands. They were provided for at royal expense, and therefore were not placed before the alternative of selling their land or starving. V.23. Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh, they were now in servitude or serfdom to the crown; lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land. V.24. 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. Considering the fact that all the land had now been transferred to the king’s name, this tax, or rental, was really remarkably low, even if it included serfdom. V.25. And they said, thou hast saved our lives; let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants. The people declared themselves fully satisfied with this arrangement, since they felt the wisdom of Joseph’s rule. He had prevented wasteful squandering and had averted a universal famine. He had had their welfare in mind at all times and had introduced an economic system which was to the advantage of the entire nation. V.26. And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day that Pharaoh should have the fifth part, twenty percent of the income going into the royal treasury as revenue; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s. It was a great blessing for Egypt that a man was ruler in those days who combined a high degree of wisdom with the fear of God, a combination for which any country has reasons to be thankful.
JOSEPH’S PROMISE TO JACOB. - V.27. And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein, and grew and multiplied exceedingly. This statement summarizes the history of the children of Israel for the next four hundred years. V.28. And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years, so long the Lord permitted him to share the happiness of his children; so the whole age of Jacob was one hundred forty and seven years. V.29. And the time drew nigh that Israel must die; and he called his son Joseph and said unto him, if now I have found grace in thy sight, if Joseph was willing to do him a last great favor, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, in a gesture accompanying a solemn oath, and deal kindly and truly with me; it would be an act of kindness and of faithfulness. Bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt; v.30. but I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying-place, in the cave in the field of Machpelah, which Abraham had bought after Sarah’s death, chap. 23, 17-20. And he said, I will do as thou hast said. Joseph solemnly obligated himself to carry out this earnest wish of his father. V.31. And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head. He was apparently sitting up on his couch and leaning on his staff, Heb. 11, 21. He now turned to the head of the bed in a prayer of thanksgiving that his last wish was to be fulfilled. Even on his death-bed Jacob did not forget the Land of Promise and the Messianic prophecy. Thus will Christians keep God’s Word and promise before their eyes especially at the time when death is near.