Genesis 47

CHAPTER XLVII

Joseph informs Pharaoh that his father and brethren are

arrived in Goshen, 1.

He presents five of his brethren before the king, 2,

who questions them concerning their occupation; they inform

him that they are shepherds, and request permission to dwell

in the land of Goshen, 3, 4.

Pharaoh consents, and desires that some of the most active of

them should be made rulers over his cattle, 5, 6.

Joseph presents his father to Pharaoh, 7,

who questions him concerning his age, 8,

to which Jacob returns an affecting answer, and blesses

Pharaoh, 9, 10.

Joseph places his father and family in the land of Rameses,

(Goshen), and furnishes them with provisions, 11, 12.

The famine prevailing in the land, the Egyptians deliver up

all their money to Joseph to get food, 13-15.

The next year they bring their cattle, 16, 17.

The third, their lands and their persons, 18-21.

The land of the priests Joseph does not buy, as it was a royal

grant to them from Pharaoh, 22.

The people receive seed to sow the land on condition that they

shall give a fifth part of the produce to the king, 23, 24.

The people agree, and Joseph makes it a law all over Egypt, 25, 26.

The Israelites multiply exceedingly, 27.

Jacob, having lived seventeen years in Goshen, and being one

hundred and forty-seven years old, 28,

makes Joseph promise not to bury him in Egypt, but in Canaan, 29, 30.

Joseph promises and confirms it with an oath, 31.

NOTES ON CHAP. XLVII

Verse 2. He took some of his brethren] There is something very

strange in the original; literally translated it signifies "from

the end or extremity ( miktseh) of his brethren he took five

men." This has been understood six different ways. 1. Joseph

took five of his brethren that came first to hand-at random,

without design or choice. 2. Joseph took five of the

meanest-looking of his brethren to present before Pharaoh,

fearing if he had taken the sightliest that Pharaoh would detain

them for his service, whereby their religion and morals might be

corrupted. 3. Joseph took five of the best made and

finest-looking of his brethren, and presented them before

Pharaoh, wishing to impress his mind with a favourable opinion of

the family which he had just now brought into Egypt, and to do

himself honour. 4. Joseph took five of the youngest of his

brethren. 5. He took five of the eldest of his brethren. 6. He

took five from the extremity or end of his brethren, i. e., some

of the eldest and some of the youngest, viz., Reuben, Simeon,

Levi, Issachar, and Benjamin.-Rab. Solomon. It is certain that in

Jud 18:2, the word may be understood as implying

dignity, valour, excellence, and pre-eminence: And the children

of Dan sent of their family FIVE men miktsotham, not

from their coasts, but of the most eminent or excellent they

had; and it is probable they might have had their eye on what

Joseph did here when they made their choice, choosing the same

number, five, and of their principal men, as did Joseph, because

the mission was important, to go and search out the land. But the

word may be understood simply as signifying some; out of the whole

of his brethren he took only five men, &c.

Verse 6. In the best of the land make thy father and brethren to

dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell] So it appears that

the land of Goshen was the best of the land of Egypt.

Men of activity] anshey chayil, stout or robust

men-such as were capable of bearing fatigue, and of rendering

their authority respectable.

Rulers over my cattle.] mikneh signifies not only

cattle, but possessions or property of any kind; though most

usually cattle are intended, because in ancient times they

constituted the principal part of a man's property. The word may

be taken here in a more extensive sense, and the circumstances of

the case seem obviously to require it. If every shepherd was an

abomination to the Egyptians, however we may understand or qualify

the expression, is it to be supposed that Pharaoh should desire

that the brethren of his prime minister, of his chief favourite,

should be employed in some of the very meanest offices in the

land? We may therefore safely understand Pharaoh as expressing

his will, that the brethren of Joseph should be appointed as

overseers or superintendents of his domestic concerns, while

Joseph superintended those of the state.

Verse 7. Jacob blessed Pharaoh.] Saluted him on his entrance

with Peace be unto thee, or some such expression of respect and

good will. For the meaning of the term to bless, as applied to

God and man, See Clarke on Ge 2:3.

Verse 9. The days of the years of my pilgrimage] megurai,

of my sojourning or wandering. Jacob had always lived a migratory

or wandering life, in different parts of Canaan, Mesopotamia, and

Egypt, scarcely ever at rest; and in the places where he lived

longest, always exposed to the fatigues of the field and the

desert. Our word pilgrim comes from the French pelerin and

pelegrin, which are corrupted from the Latin peregrinus, an

alien, stranger, or foreigner, from the adverb peregre, abroad,

not at home. The pilgrim was a person who took a journey, long or

short, on some religious account, submitting during the time to

many hardships and privations. A more appropriate term could not

be conceived to express the life of Jacob, and the motive which

induced him to live such a life. His journey to Padan-aram or

Mesopotamia excepted, the principal part of his journeys were

properly pilgrimages, undertaken in the course of God's providence

on a religious account.

Have not attained unto the-life of my fathers] Jacob lived in

the whole one hundred and forty-seven years; Isaac his father

lived one hundred and eighty; and Abraham his grandfather, one

hundred and seventy-five. These were days of years in comparison

of the lives of the preceding patriarchs, some of whom lived

nearly ten centuries!

Verse 14. Gathered up all the money] i. e., by selling corn out

of the public stores to the people; and this he did till the money

failed, Ge 47:15, till all the money was exchanged for corn, and

brought into Pharaoh's treasury. Be sides the fifth part of the

produce of the seven plentiful years, Joseph had bought additional

corn with Pharaoh's money to lay up against the famine that was to

prevail in the seven years of dearth; and it is very likely that

this was sold out at the price for which it was bought, and the

fifth part, which belonged to Pharaoh, sold out at the same

price. And as money at that time could not be plentiful, the cash

of the whole nation was thus exhausted as far as that had

circulated among the common people.

Verse 16. Give your cattle] This was the wisest measure that

could be adopted, both for the preservation of the people and of

the cattle also. As the people had not grain for their own

sustenance, consequently they could have none for their cattle;

hence the cattle were in the most imminent danger of starving; and

the people also were in equal danger, as they must have divided a

portion of that bought for themselves with the cattle, which for

the sake of tillage, &c., they wished of course to preserve till

the seven years of famine should end. The cattle being bought by

Joseph were supported at the royal expense, and very likely

returned to the people at the end of the famine; for how else

could they cultivate their ground, transport their merchandise,

&c., &c.? For this part of Joseph's conduct he certainly deserves

high praise and no censure.

Verse 18. When that year was ended] The sixth year of the

famine, they came unto him the second year, which was the last or

seventh year of the famine, in which it was necessary to sow the

land that there might be a crop the succeeding year; for Joseph,

on whose prediction they relied, had foretold that the famine

should continue only seven years, and consequently they expected

the eighth year to be a fruitful year provided the land was sowed,

without which, though the inundation of the land by the Nile might

amount to the sixteen requisite cubits, there could be no crop.

Verse 19. Buy us and our land for bread] In times of famine in

Hindostan, thousands of children have been sold to prevent their

perishing. In the Burman empire the sale of whole families to

discharge debts is very common.-Ward's Customs.

Verse 21. And as for the people, he removed them to cities] It

is very likely that Joseph was influenced by no political motive

in removing the people to the cities, but merely by a motive of

humanity and prudence. As the corn was laid up in the cities he

found it more convenient to bring them to the place where they

might be conveniently fed; each being within the reach of an easy

distribution. Thus then the country which could afford no

sustenance was abandoned for the time being, that the people might

be fed in those places where the provision was deposited.

Verse 22. The land of the priests bought he not] From this

verse it is natural to infer that whatever the religion of Egypt

was, it was established by law and supported by the state. Hence

when Joseph bought all the lands of the Egyptians for Pharaoh, he

bought not the land of the priests, for that was a portion

assigned them by Pharaoh; and they did eat-did live on, that

portion. This is the earliest account we have of an established

religion supported by the state.

Verse 23. I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh]

It fully appears that the kingdom of Egypt was previously to the

time of Joseph a very limited monarchy. The king had his estates;

the priests had their lands; and the common people their patrimony

independently of both. The land of Rameses or Goshen appears to

have been the king's land, Ge 47:11. The priests had their

lands, which they did not sell to Joseph, Ge 47:22, 26; and that

the people had lands independent of the crown, is evident from the

purchases Joseph made, Ge 47:19, 20; and we may conclude from

those purchases that Pharaoh had no power to levy taxes upon his

subjects to increase his own revenue until he had bought the

original right which each individual had in his possessions. And

when Joseph bought this for the king he raised the crown an ample

revenue, though he restored the lands, by obliging each to pay one

fifth of the product to the king, Ge 47:24. And it is worthy of

remark that the people of Egypt well understood the distinction

between subjects and servants; for when they came to sell their

land, they offered to sell themselves also, and said: Buy us and

our land, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh,

Ge 47:19.

Diodorus Siculus, lib. i., gives the same account of the ancient

constitution of Egypt. "The land," says he, "was divided into

three parts: 1. One belonged to the PRIESTS, with which they

provided all sacrifices, and maintained all the ministers of

religion. 2. A second part was the KING'S, to support his court

and family, and to supply expenses for wars if they should happen.

Hence there were no taxes, the king having so ample an estate. 3.

The remainder of the land belonged to the SUBJECTS, who appear

(from the account of Diodorus) to have been all soldiers, a kind

of standing militia, liable, at the king's expense, to serve in

all wars for the preservation of the state." This was a

constitution something like the British; the government appears to

have been mixed, and the monarchy properly limited, till Joseph,

by buying the land of the people, made the king in some sort

despotic. But it does not appear that any improper use was made

of this, as in much later times we find it still a comparatively

limited monarchy.

Verse 24. Ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh] This is

precisely the case in Hindostan; the king has the fifth part of

all the crops.

Verse 26. And Joseph made it a law] That the people should hold

their land from the king, and give him the fifth part of the

produce as a yearly tax. Beyond this it appears the king had no

farther demands. The whole of this conduct of Joseph has been as

strongly censured by some as applauded by others. It is natural

for men to run into extremes in attacking or defending any

position. Sober and judicious men will consider what Joseph did

by Divine appointment as a prophet of God, and what he did merely

as a statesman from the circumstances of the case, the complexion

of the times, and the character of the people over whom he

presided. When this is dispassionately done, we shall see much

reason to adore God, applaud the man, and perhaps in some cases

censure the minister. Joseph is never held up to our view as an

unerring prophet of God. He was an honoured instrument in the

hands of God of saving two nations from utter ruin, and especially

of preserving that family from which the Messiah was to spring,

and of perpetuating the true religion among them. In this

character he is represented in the sacred pages. His conduct as

the prime minister of Pharaoh was powerfully indicative of a deep

and consummate politician, who had high notions of prerogative,

which led him to use every prudent means to aggrandize his master,

and at the same time to do what he judged best on the whole for

the people he governed. See the conclusion of the 50th chapter.

See Clarke on Ge 50:26.

Verse 29. Put-thy hand under my thigh] See Clarke on Ge 24:2.

Verse 30. I will lie with my fathers] As God had promised the

land of Canaan to Abraham and his posterity, Jacob considered it

as a consecrated place, under the particular superintendence and

blessing of God: and as Sarah, Abraham, and Isaac were interred

near to Hebron, he in all probability wished to lie, not only in

the same place, but in the same grave; and it is not likely that

he would have been solicitous about this, had he not considered

that promised land as being a type of the rest that remains for

the people of God, and a pledge of the inheritance among the

saints in light.

Verse 31. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head.] Jacob

was now both old and feeble, and we may suppose him reclined on

his couch when Joseph came; that he afterwards sat up erect (see

Ge 48:2) while conversing with his son, and receiving his oath

and promise; and that when this was finished he bowed himself upon

the bed's head-exhausted with the conversation, he again reclined

himself on his bed as before. This seems to be the simple

meaning, which the text unconnected with any religious system or

prejudice, naturally proposes. But because shachah, signifies

not only to bow but to worship, because acts of religious worship

were performed by bowing or prostration, and because

mittah, a bed, by the change of the points, only becomes matteh,

a staff, in which sense the Septuagint took it, translating the

original words thus: καιπροσεκυνησενισραηλεπιτοακρονρης

ραβδουαυτου, and Israel worshipped upon the top of his staff,

which the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Heb 11:21, quotes

literatim; therefore some have supposed that Jacob certainly had a

carved image on the head or top of his staff, to which he paid a

species of adoration; or that he bowed himself to the staff or

sceptre of Joseph, thus fulfilling the prophetic import of his

son's dreams! The sense of the Hebrew text is given above. If

the reader prefers the sense of the Septuagint and the Epistle to

the Hebrews, the meaning is, that Jacob, through feebleness,

supported himself with a staff, and that, when he got the

requisite assurance from Joseph that his dead body should be

carried to Canaan, leaning on his staff be bowed his head in

adoration to God, who had supported him all his life long, and

hitherto fulfilled all his promises.

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