Genesis 50:1-26

50 Joseph threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him. Then Joseph directed the physicians in his service to embalm his father Israel. So the physicians embalmed him, taking a full forty days, for that was the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days.

When the days of mourning had passed, Joseph said to Pharaoh’s court, “If I have found favor in your eyes, speak to Pharaoh for me. Tell him, ‘My father made me swear an oath and said, “I am about to die; bury me in the tomb I dug for myself in the land of Canaan.” Now let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.’”

Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.”

So Joseph went up to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him—the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt— besides all the members of Joseph’s household and his brothers and those belonging to his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen. Chariots and horsemen also went up with him. It was a very large company.

10 When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan, they lamented loudly and bitterly; and there Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father. 11 When the Canaanites who lived there saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “The Egyptians are holding a solemn ceremony of mourning.” That is why that place near the Jordan is called Abel Mizraim.

12 So Jacob’s sons did as he had commanded them: 13 They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 14 After burying his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, together with his brothers and all the others who had gone with him to bury his father.

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

22 Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father’s family. He lived a hundred and ten years 23 and saw the third generation of Ephraim’s children. Also the children of Makir son of Manasseh were placed at birth on Joseph’s knees.

24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” 25 And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”

26 So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.
(Genesis 50:1-26 NIV)

At the end of Chapter 49, we saw Jacob prophesy about each of his twelve sons’ future, the last thing he did before he died.

As we begin Chapter 50, we see Joseph’s response to his father’s death.  Verse 1 in the NIV says Joseph threw himself on his father; other versions more accurately and specifically translate that Joseph fell upon his father’s face during his grief.

There are two significant details in verse 1 that link back to Genesis chapter 46.  The first is that God had promised Jacob that he would see Joseph before he died, and that Joseph would be with him when he died (46:4).  The phrase “Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes” in 46:4 refers to the ancient tradition that the family member closest to the deceased would be the one to close the eyes of the departed.  God indeed kept His promise to Jacob.

The second significant detail is that when Joseph met his father when they arrived in Egypt, Joseph had fallen on his father’s neck, weeping and hugging him for a long time (Genesis 46:29).  Now, at Jacob’s death, Joseph weeps on his father’s face.  There is no more reciprocal response of Jacob hugging his son Joseph; Jacob shows his love for his father by focusing on his face, the last remembrance of his father he will carry with him the rest of his days.

Joseph then ordered the physicians under him to embalm his father, as was the practice in Egypt.  The mourning period for Jacob was seventy days; of those seventy days, the embalming process took forty days.  Interestingly, historians tell us that the mourning period for the death of an Egyptian king was 72 days.  For Pharaoh to have set the mourning period for Jacob to nearly that of a king must have have been Pharaoh’s great respect for both Jacob and for Joseph.  Jacob’s one and only meeting with Pharaoh back in Genesis 47:7-10 must have been extremely impactful to Pharaoh.

After the days of mourning had passed, Joseph sent word to Pharaoh and asked permission to take his father’s remains back to Canaan and bury him there at the family grave site.  Joseph was careful not to offend Pharaoh or Egypt by demanding that Jacob be buried in Canaan rather than in Egypt.  Rather, Joseph appealed to Pharaoh’s sense of honor and integrity by letting Pharaoh know that he had promised to honor his father’s wish of being buried in his homeland.  Joseph also made a promise of his own – to return to Egypt after he had buried his father.  Pharaoh knew well of Joseph’s integrity and keeping of his word, so he granted his request.

Pharaoh not only granted Joseph’s request to return to Canaan to bury his father, he also sent many dignitaries and servants to accompany them (v. 7).  Pharaoh also sent a military escort (v. 9) to accompany Joseph and the men of Jacob’s family (v. 8).   The text does not say how many people were in the processional, only that it was a very great company of people.

When the processional party arrived somewhere in the trans-Jordan region, they stopped and had seven days of mourning for Jacob.  The processional then proceeded to the designated family burial plot and placed Jacob’s remains in the designated tomb.  Then all the members of the burial party returned to Egypt as promised.

In verses 15-21, fear arose in Joseph’s brothers when they took time to realize their vulnerability after their father’s death.  Joseph was number two in all of Egypt; they were at the bottom of the Egyptian societal rankings, as both shepherds and foreigners.  With their fears overpowering their reality, they crafted a message to be delivered to Joseph that supposedly came from their father, asking Joseph to forgive his brothers and to treat them kindly after his death.  This note sent ahead of them, and the brothers prostrating themselves on the ground upon meeting with Joseph (v. 18) was their way of begging for mercy.

Joseph made it clear that he was not out for revenge; instead, Joseph used the opportunity to teach his brothers an important point about God’s character of love.  Joseph first of all tells his brothers that he is not God.  Second of all, he informs his brothers that God is all-powerful, and in fact had redeemed what they intended for evil into good – both for Joseph’s good, as well as their own good – to preserve their families, literally, to save their lives and the lives of their families.

In verses 19-21, notice Joseph’s tone and demeanor toward his brothers.  Using your biblically informed imagination, can you see Joseph’s face being soft and kind toward his brothers, his voice tone being gentle and reassuring?  This was not the face and voice of vengeance and justice – this was the essence and embodiment of the forgiveness and love of God reflected in Joseph’s words and body.

At the end of Joseph’s life, he reassured his brothers that God would come to their aid and lead them back to the promised land, the land that God had promised to their ancestors and their father.  Jacob had reassured his sons of God’s promise to return them to the Promised Land; now Joseph carried forth that same belief in God’s goodness and ability to span multiple generations and carry out His promise.

As part of that reassurance, Joseph made his brothers promise that when they left Egypt, that they would carry his bones out of Egypt and bring him back to Canaan as well.  As a spoiler alert, roughly four hundred years later, Moses did in fact bring Joseph’s bones with them when they left Egypt (Exodus 13:19).

As we look over Joseph’s life, may we always remember that we serve a powerful God, who is able to redeem evil and transform it into good.  The process will often be painful, and will never be as fast as we would wish, but God is faithful and sovereign and will bring it to pass.

May we remember that our role is not that of God.  We are not to redeem ourselves or to hand out justice, or to transform the situation by our own power.  Rather, we are to focus on God, cry out to Him in our distress, and focus on being obedient and faithful to Him and trust Him to redeem and transform the evil into good, for His glory and our benefit.


Genesis 49:1-33

49 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.

“Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob;
listen to your father Israel.

“Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my might, the first sign of my strength,
excelling in honor, excelling in power.
Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel,
for you went up onto your father’s bed,
onto my couch and defiled it.

“Simeon and Levi are brothers—
their swords are weapons of violence.
Let me not enter their council,
let me not join their assembly,
for they have killed men in their anger
and hamstrung oxen as they pleased.
Cursed be their anger, so fierce,
and their fury, so cruel!
I will scatter them in Jacob
and disperse them in Israel.

“Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,
his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine,
his teeth whiter than milk.

13 “Zebulun will live by the seashore
and become a haven for ships;
his border will extend toward Sidon.

14 “Issachar is a rawboned donkey
lying down among the sheep pens.
15 When he sees how good is his resting place
and how pleasant is his land,
he will bend his shoulder to the burden
and submit to forced labor.

16 “Dan will provide justice for his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan will be a snake by the roadside,
a viper along the path,
that bites the horse’s heels
so that its rider tumbles backward.

18 “I look for your deliverance, Lord.

19 “Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders,
but he will attack them at their heels.

20 “Asher’s food will be rich;
he will provide delicacies fit for a king.

21 “Naphtali is a doe set free
that bears beautiful fawns.

22 “Joseph is a fruitful vine,
a fruitful vine near a spring,
whose branches climb over a wall.
23 With bitterness archers attacked him;
they shot at him with hostility.
24 But his bow remained steady,
his strong arms stayed limber,
because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25 because of your father’s God, who helps you,
because of the Almighty, who blesses you
with blessings of the skies above,
blessings of the deep springs below,
blessings of the breast and womb.
26 Your father’s blessings are greater
than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
than the bounty of the age-old hills.
Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
on the brow of the prince among his brothers.

27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
in the morning he devours the prey,
in the evening he divides the plunder.”

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

29 Then he gave them these instructions: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 31 There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. 32 The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.”

33 When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.
(Genesis 49:1-33 NIV)

As we finished up Chapter 48 in our last time together, we saw Israel bless Joseph’s sons and give Joseph a double blessing by making Joseph’s sons equal inheritants with their uncles (Joseph’s brothers) when they eventually returned to the Promised Land.

In today’s text, we see Jacob speak to each of his sons before he died.  While some scholars call this Jacob’s final blessing, it’s actually more of  Joseph’s final prophecy about each son’s future generations.

I have debated for some time on how to handle this chapter.  There is so much here – it would be easy to dissect this text and spend a blog post on each son, looking at Joseph’s comments and why Joseph said what he said.  It would be equally easy to summarize everything and move on.

After much study and mental debate, I came upon a viewpoint that I had not considered – how the good that Jacob predicted for each son ultimately found its realization in Jesus.  Bible scholar Arthur W. Pink has this to say about each of Jacob’s sons:

  1. Reuben reminds us of the excellency and dignity of Christ’s person.
  2. Simeon and Levi may well speak to us of Christ on the cross:  that ‘instruments of cruelty’ were used against Him.
  3. Simeon and Levi (through Levi) anticipated our Lord’s priesthood, for Levi became the priestly tribe.
  4. Judah pictures our Lord’s kingship.
  5. Zebulun looks at Christ as the great Refuge and Haven of Rest.
  6. Isaachar prefigures His (Christ’s) lowly service.
  7. Dan views Him (Jesus) as the Judge.
  8. Gad announces His (Christ’s) triumphant resurrection.
  9. Asher looks at Him (Jesus) as the Bread of Life, the One who satisfies the hearts of His own.
  10. Napthali regards His (Jesus’) as God’s perfect prophet, giving good words
  11. Joseph forecasts His (Jesus’) Millennial reign.
  12. Benjamin depicts Him (Jesus) as the terrible Warrior.

(summarized from “Gleanings in Genesis”, by Arthur W. Pink. Chicago:Moody Press, 1974, pp. 339-340.)

May we see the rich heritage God began centuries before He sent His Son to earth.

May we see Jesus in all His glory – past, present, and future.


Genesis 48:8-22

When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?”

“They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father.

Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.”

10 Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them.

11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”

12 Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground. 13 And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.

15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,

“May the God before whom my fathers
Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,
the God who has been my shepherd
all my life to this day,
16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
—may he bless these boys.
May they be called by my name
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may they increase greatly
on the earth.”

17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”

19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” 20 He blessed them that day and said,

“In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing:
‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’”

So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.

21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “I am about to die, but God will be with you and take you back to the land of your fathers. 22 And to you I give one more ridge of land than to your brothers, the ridge I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.”
(Genesis 48:8-22 NIV)

In our last look at Genesis Chapter 48, we saw Joseph take his two sons and visit his ailing father Jacob.  Jacob then blessed Joseph by giving him a double blessing, making his two sons equal with their uncles for inheritance.

In today’s passage, we see Jacob meeting and blessing Joseph’s sons.  While Joseph’s physical eyesight may have been failing (v. 10), his spiritual insight and discernment was as sharp as ever.

Notice the shift of names between verses 1-7 and 8-22.  In verses 1-7, Jacob is referred to by his old name – Jacob.  In verses 8-22, Jacob is referred to by his new God-given name, Israel.

The old-named man in verse 1-7 spent most of the dialogue by looking back at his life – God’s original blessing, his life with his beloved wife Rachel (Joseph’s mother), and Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh who were born in Egypt before Jacob arrived.

In verses 8-22, Jacob is known by his new name – Israel.  Here, he looks forward to God’s blessing that he will not see – the move of his family back to the Promised Land (verse 21).  Israel had already made Joseph promise to take his bones back to the Promised Land – to not leave him behind in Egypt whenever the Lord called his descendants back to the geographic home God had promised here on earth.

Israel also blessed Joseph’s sons, though not as Joseph had hoped.  Israel switched hands and  gave the first-born blessing to Ephraim (the younger brother) rather than to Manasseh (the first-born).  We see this intentionality when Joseph tried to correct his father and switch his hands.  This was not a failure due to lack of physical eyesight on Israel’s part, but rather a fulfillment of spiritual insight and discernment from the Lord.

Israel knew that Joseph would never return to the Promised Land alive due to his position in Egypt, but Joseph’s sons would return to the Promised Land.  Israel then repeated his double-blessing on Joseph by giving both Manasseh and Ephraim equal shares of land in the Promised Land.  The boys were on equal ground with their uncles, Joseph’s brothers.

As we progress through our years of life, may we be intentional about living our lives for others and not just for ourselves.  Jacob’s early years were all about Jacob, but after his encounter with Almighty God and a name change, Israel’s life was about others and seeing God’s fulfillment of His promises in future generations.

May our faith increase!


Genesis 48:1-7

48 Some time later Joseph was told, “Your father is ill.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him. When Jacob was told, “Your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed.

Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’

“Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine. Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers. As I was returning from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan while we were still on the way, a little distance from Ephrath. So I buried her there beside the road to Ephrath” (that is, Bethlehem).
(Genesis 48:1-7 NIV)

In our last time together, Israel summoned his son Joseph and made him promise before God that he would bury Israel back in the land that God had promised his grandfather Abraham, his father Isaac, himself, and all their offspring.

In today’s passage, some time has passed since Joseph’s last visit.  Joseph is notified that his father is ill, so he brings his two sons and goes to visit his father, possibly for the last time.

When Jacob heard that Joseph was coming, he rallied his strength and sat up in his bed.  If Jacob wanted to simply see his son, he would not have had to sit up.  But Jacob’s summoning of his strength to sit up in bed indicated that he had something to say to his son Joseph – something important to tell him before he died.

Jacob began by reminding Joseph of God’s visit to him back in Canaan, where God blessed him and promised him a permanent home in the land and a great blessing of offspring through future generations.

By telling Joseph this story, Jacob was reminding Joseph that while God had been good to him in Egypt, this was not his forever home.  Canaan was to be Joseph’s children’s home and home for his brothers and all their offspring as well.

Verses 5 and 6 are somewhat tricky to understand.  Jacob was not taking Joseph’s sons away from him; in fact, it was quite the opposite.  By saying that Joseph’s two sons were his, Jacob was giving the birthright normally reserved for the firstborn son to Joseph.  The birthright blessing was a double portion of blessing in every way, including material blessings.

In this case, the material blessings were equal portions of land when Jacob’s sons went back to Canaan to divide up the land among themselves.  Ephraim and Manasseh would receive equal shares of land along with their uncles (Jacob’s other sons).

1 Chronicles 5:1-2 explain the switch of birthright from Reuben, Jacob’s oldest son, to Joseph’s sons:

The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s marriage bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel; so he could not be listed in the genealogical record in accordance with his birthright, and though Judah was the strongest of his brothers and a ruler came from him, the rights of the firstborn belonged to Joseph)—
(1 Chronicles 5:1-2 NIV)

Jacob goes on to say that if Joseph had any other children, they would not be included in this blessing. Only Ephraim and Manasseh would receive the birthright blessing.

Jacob finishes his thoughts by reminding Joseph of his beloved wife Rachel, and how she died after giving birth to his only full sibling, Benjamin.  Jacob was recalling his love for his wife and Joseph’s mother – and her resting place near Bethlehem.

May we remember to count our days as precious, and pass along God’s promises and reminders of His blessings to those near and dear to us.


Genesis 47:27-31

27 Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number.

28 Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty-seven. 29 When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, 30 but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.”

“I will do as you say,” he said.

31 “Swear to me,” he said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
(Genesis 47:27-31 NIV)

In our last passage, Joseph led the people of Egypt through the five-year famine.  When the people ran out of money to buy grain, Joseph bought their livestock, land, and labor (servitude) in exchange for grain to survive.  Joseph then worked out a system where the Egyptian people would farm the land, and split the harvest with Pharaoh, with Pharaoh receiving 20% of the harvest and the Egyptians keeping 80% of the harvest.  The Egyptian people were so thankful for Joseph’s leadership that they gladly gave their allegiance to Pharaoh and followed Joseph’s directions.

In today’s passage, the focus switches back to Jacob and his family living in Goshen.  Moses records that they acquired property there, and were fruitful and increased greatly in number.  God was indeed fulfilling His promise of making a great nation of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, even as lowly shepherds living in Egypt.

As Jacob sensed his time on earth was coming to an end, he requested that Joseph come to him.  When Joseph arrived, Jacob asked Joseph to promise that he (Jacob) would be buried in Canaan, not in Egypt.  Jacob remembered God’s promise to make his offspring a great nation, and that God promised the land of Canaan as their permanent home.  Jacob wanted to be buried where God had promised their permanent home, even if it was just his remains as reminder to God’s redemptive work and promise.

Jacob asked Joseph to make this promise versus all the rest of Jacob’s sons, as Joseph had shown the most loyalty to Jacob.  Jacob also knew that Joseph, because of his position, had the financial, political, and physical means to fulfill this promise.

Jacob knew that Joseph’s hand would soon close his eyes in death; he asked Joseph to put his hand under his thigh in life to fulfill that promise.

Jacob had no means of forcing Joseph (or any of his sons) to fulfill his wish of being buried near his ancestors back in Canaan – to fulfill this request would mean that Jacob would be dead.  Jacob was relying on his son’s continued loyalty in death as he had shown him in life.

Jacob asked Joseph to swear (make an oath) to him that he would bury him back in Canaan.  Joseph had given his word – why would Jacob require an oath?  By asking Joseph to make an oath, Jacob was transferring responsibility to fulfillment of the promise from himself to God.  By making the promise, Joseph was telling God that he would honor and fulfill his father’s wishes.  If Joseph did not fulfill his promise, then he would be under God’s judgment.

Jacob had lived a long life, 147 years in all.  The generally accepted lifespan of Egyptians during that point in history was 110 years, so Jacob had lived far beyond their normal lifespan as well.  The text tells us that Jacob lived in Egypt 17 years, so he would have been 130 years old when he met Pharaoh – thus Pharaoh’s question to Jacob asking how old he was (v. 8).

May we look forward to God’s continued fulfillment of His promises, even past our lifetime.  God is eternal, and will see those promises through.


Genesis 47:13-26

13 There was no food, however, in the whole region because the famine was severe; both Egypt and Canaan wasted away because of the famine.14 Joseph collected all the money that was to be found in Egypt and Canaan in payment for the grain they were buying, and he brought it to Pharaoh’s palace. 15 When the money of the people of Egypt and Canaan was gone, all Egypt came to Joseph and said, “Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? Our money is all gone.”

16 “Then bring your livestock,” said Joseph. “I will sell you food in exchange for your livestock, since your money is gone.” 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and he gave them food in exchange for their horses, their sheep and goats, their cattle and donkeys. And he brought them through that year with food in exchange for all their livestock.

18 When that year was over, they came to him the following year and said, “We cannot hide from our lord the fact that since our money is gone and our livestock belongs to you, there is nothing left for our lord except our bodies and our land. 19 Why should we perish before your eyes—we and our land as well? Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in bondage to Pharaoh. Give us seed so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate.”

20 So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. The Egyptians, one and all, sold their fields, because the famine was too severe for them. The land became Pharaoh’s, 21 and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to the other. 22 However, he did not buy the land of the priests, because they received a regular allotment from Pharaoh and had food enough from the allotment Pharaoh gave them. That is why they did not sell their land.

23 Joseph said to the people, “Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh, here is seed for you so you can plant the ground.24 But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for yourselves and your households and your children.”

25 “You have saved our lives,” they said. “May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.”

26 So Joseph established it as a law concerning land in Egypt—still in force today—that a fifth of the produce belongs to Pharaoh. It was only the land of the priests that did not become Pharaoh’s.
(Genesis 47:13-26 NIV)

In our last time together, Joseph introduced his family to Pharaoh.  Joseph brought his father and a few of his brothers to meet the king.  After the introductions, Joseph settled his family in the land of Goshen, where they earned a living as shepherds.

As we pick up today’s story, we see Joseph is back at his job, running the country during a five-year famine.  In verses 13-15, Moses reminds us that the famine was across both Egypt and Canaan.  If Jacob and his family would have stayed in Canaan, they would have been destitute, as the famine wiped out everyone’s financial resources.

When the Egyptians’ money was all spent on buying grain, the people came back to Joseph and demanded food so they did not starve to death.  Joseph wisely did not give them food as a handout.  Rather, he gave them food in exchange for their livestock.

After that year had passed, the Egyptians came back and demanded food again.  This time, they approached Joseph with a little more humility.  Since their money and livestock were gone, all they had left was their land and themselves.  Joseph did not turn them away; instead, he exchanged food for their land and their servitude.

Since the Pharaoh now owned everything, Joseph gave the people seed to plant crops.  At harvest time, they were to give Pharaoh one fifth (20%) of the crop, and they could keep four fifths (80%) as theirs.  Verse 25 tells us that the people were grateful for Joseph’s compassionate arrangement, as they would have starved to death otherwise.

Moses notes that the only group that did not sell their land was the Egyptian priests, as they were given an allocation of food from Pharaoh.  Moses also notes that Joseph’s 20%/80% crop share arrangement was still in effect in his day, many centuries later.

It is interesting that historians seem divided over Joseph’s plan.  Detractors claim that Joseph was opportunistic and greedy, taking everything from the people and reducing their way of life to being servants of Pharaoh.  Supporters claim that Joseph was being compassionate by giving the people the ability to exchange what they had (money, livestock, land, themselves) for what they needed (food).

Personally, I am supportive of Joseph’s plan.  He did not let people starve to death, and he allowed them to retain their homes and families.  He also made a provision for them to keep 80% of their crop, so they had incentive to work hard and keep the majority of their crop to meet their own needs.

May we see God’s hand in this plan.  The Lord had predicted that this famine would not only wipe out the country’s reserves, but also their memory of former “good times”.  Through Joseph, the Lord preserved an entire nation and caused that nation to be grateful for their blessings through hard times.

May we thank God in both times of plenty and in hard times.  He is our life-giver and sustainer through all of life’s ups and downs.


Genesis 47:1-12

47 Joseph went and told Pharaoh, “My father and brothers, with their flocks and herds and everything they own, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in Goshen.” He chose five of his brothers and presented them before Pharaoh.

Pharaoh asked the brothers, “What is your occupation?”

“Your servants are shepherds,” they replied to Pharaoh, “just as our fathers were.” They also said to him, “We have come to live here for a while, because the famine is severe in Canaan and your servants’ flocks have no pasture. So now, please let your servants settle in Goshen.”

Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you, and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. And if you know of any among them with special ability, put them in charge of my own livestock.”

Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in and presented him before Pharaoh. After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked him, “How old are you?”

And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.” 10 Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from his presence.

11 So Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses, as Pharaoh directed. 12 Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their children.
(Genesis 47:1-12 NIV)

As we ended Chapter 46 last time, we saw Jacob and his family arrive in Egypt.  Joseph was reunited with his father in a tearful, joyful time for both of them.

Joseph then spent some time instructing his family on what to say when Pharaoh and others asked about their occupation.  They were shepherds, keepers of livestock.  While this was certainly an honorable profession, it was loathsome in the Egyptians’ eyes.  Joseph was not trying to make his family look bad in front of Pharaoh – he was protecting them from the undue influence of Egyptian culture by creating a boundary around them.

In today’s passage, Joseph introduces a few of his brothers and his father to Pharaoh.  Joseph knew Pharaoh well, and knew that Pharaoh would ask about their occupation.  Right on cue, the brothers answered as Joseph had instructed.

Scholars take two different positions on the selection of 5 brothers to bring before Pharaoh.  Some scholars say that Joseph brought the best and brightest of his brothers before Pharaoh.  Other scholars (many from Jewish background) suggest the opposite – that Joseph brought the youngest and the least physically desirable of his brothers before Pharaoh so that Pharaoh would not draft them into his army.

Notice how Joseph’s brothers addressed Pharaoh as “your servants”.  They showed honor to Pharaoh and willingly put themselves under his authority with their reference.  In verses 3-4, they referred to themselves as Pharaoh’s servants 3 times.  The brothers don’t thank Pharaoh for his hospitality and invitation to come to Egypt; they humbly admit that they are starving in Canaan and throw themselves on Pharaoh’s mercy, not assuming anything.  The brothers’ statements also reflect the permanency of their stay – they were here to settle, not to just wait out the famine.

Pharaoh granted their request, and ordered Joseph to settle them in Goshen, the best of the pasture land in Egypt.  Pharaoh also told Joseph to put the best shepherds among his brothers in charge of Pharaoh’s livestock.

After Joseph introduced his brother to Pharaoh, he then introduced his father.  Normally the person of lower rank is silent until the person of higher rank speaks to them.  In this case, Jacob spoke first, blessing Pharaoh.  Moses does not record the specifics of the blessing, only that Jacob blessed him.

Jacob’s blessing may have included a typical Old Testament blessing found elsewhere in Scriptures – something like “O king, live forever” (Nehemiah 2:3, multiple references in the book of Daniel).

After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh only had one question for Jacob – “how old are you?”  Moses does not capture the nature of Pharaoh’s question – it may have been  because Jacob looked ancient already, or because asking his age was Pharaoh’s way of returning the honor to Jacob.

In any case, Jacob answered Pharaoh’s question, and used the opportunity to provide a brief autobiography of his life.  Life had been hard, and Jacob admitted that neither the quality nor the quantity of his years measured up to that of his father or grandfather.  Jacob then blessed Pharaoh a second time before leaving.

After the meeting with Pharaoh, Joseph settled his father and brothers in Goshen, deeding them property on which to live and call their own.  Joseph also set them up with food rations, according to the number of persons in each family unit.

May we see the meta-narrative in this story – the bigger picture – that of God going ahead of them and providing for them through Joseph – decades in advance.  Truly God’s sovereignty, omniscience, and love was at work – summed up in what many people call God’s Providence.

And as we recognize God’s Providence, may we humbly bow in worship, thanking God and giving Him the glory for His provision, protection, and love.