Genesis 47:3 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 47:3, NIV: Pharaoh asked the brothers, 'What is your occupation?' 'Your servants are shepherds,' they replied to Pharaoh, 'just as our fathers were.'

Genesis 47:3, ESV: Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” And they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, as our fathers were.”

Genesis 47:3, KJV: 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.

Genesis 47:3, NASB: Then Pharaoh said to his brothers, 'What is your occupation?' So they said to Pharaoh, 'Your servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers.'

Genesis 47:3, NLT: And Pharaoh asked the brothers, 'What is your occupation?' They replied, 'We, your servants, are shepherds, just like our ancestors.

Genesis 47:3, CSB: And Pharaoh asked his brothers, "What is your occupation? "They said to Pharaoh, "Your servants, both we and our ancestors, are shepherds."

What does Genesis 47:3 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Joseph is presenting his family at the court of Pharaoh. They have arrived in Egypt with all they own at Pharaoh's invitation (Genesis 45:16–20). He wishes to help Joseph's family to survive the crippling famine which will last for another five years (Genesis 1:28–31; 45:6).

Now comes the exact moment for which Joseph has coached his brothers (Genesis 46:31–34). He has selected five of the 11 to stand before Pharaoh to be interviewed. Pharaoh asks the expected question, "What is your occupation?" They answer exactly as Joseph instructed, describing themselves as lifelong shepherds, as their fathers were. This is an interesting choice, since Joseph made it clear to his family that shepherds were an "abomination" to the Egyptian people (Genesis 46:34). Some commentators believe Joseph intended for his brothers to emphasize their role as herdsmen, and to downplay their work with sheep, and they ignored his advice.

Others think Joseph is carefully balancing Egypt's hospitality with his family's spiritual well-being. He wants to secure enough fertile land to support their livestock. He knows skilled shepherds would fill a need in Egyptian culture. Being in a remote location, and performing a unpopular profession, would allow his family to remain somewhat separate from Egyptian society, at large, as their own unique people.