Genesis 46:34 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 46:34, NIV: you should answer, 'Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did.' Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians.'

Genesis 46:34, ESV: you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ in order that you may dwell in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.”

Genesis 46:34, KJV: That ye shall say, Thy servants' trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians.

Genesis 46:34, NASB: you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock since our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ so that you may live in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.'

Genesis 46:34, NLT: you must tell him, 'We, your servants, have raised livestock all our lives, as our ancestors have always done.' When you tell him this, he will let you live here in the region of Goshen, for the Egyptians despise shepherds.'

Genesis 46:34, CSB: you are to say, 'Your servants, both we and our ancestors, have raised livestock from our youth until now.' Then you will be allowed to settle in the land of Goshen, since all shepherds are detestable to Egyptians."

What does Genesis 46:34 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Joseph is preparing his father and his brothers to meet Pharaoh for the first time. They have come to Egypt, to the land of Goshen, at Pharaoh's invitation (Genesis 45:16–20). Now that they have arrived, Joseph seems very concerned that they present themselves to Pharaoh only as keepers of livestock and not as tradesmen in any other industry. He notes that Egyptians have a distaste for shepherds—so he might be asking them to emphasize their family's role in raising cattle, as those animals were more respected in Egyptian culture.

Perhaps Joseph is working to ensure that Pharaoh feels comfortable giving his family enough land to support the livestock they have brought with them. He may be seeking to assure other Egyptians that these newcomers will be able to support themselves—at least when the famine ends (Genesis 45:9–11)—if given enough land in Goshen for their herds.

Joseph's dramatic statement about Egyptian views of shepherds is not clear. He might have been referring to the relative honor given to animals like cattle, over animals like sheep. He may have meant that Egyptians literally thought of sheepherders as unclean or dirty people. In some ancient cultures, nomadic people were thought to be untrustworthy, and shepherds often carried a lesser reputation.

In any case, Joseph isn't hiding his family's relationship with sheep. Rather, he wants it to be clear that they work as animal-raisers (Genesis 46:31–32). That's how they will describe themselves to Pharaoh in the following chapter—although they don't seem to use his level of tact (Genesis 47:3). One possible explanation is that Joseph wanted to provide for his family, but also keep them from integrating too deeply into the pagan Egyptian culture. Perhaps this was an attempt to give them their own space in Goshen where they could thrive and continue as their own separate people.