Genesis chapter 47

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1Then 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. 2And he took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh. 3And Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers. 4They said moreover unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land 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. 5And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: 6The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle. 7And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. 8And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou? 9And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: 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. 10And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh. 11And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. 12And Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to their families.
13And 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. 14And 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 into Pharaoh's house. 15And 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. 16And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail. 17And 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. 18When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, 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 ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands: 19Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate. 20And 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. 21And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof. 22Only 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. 23Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land. 24And 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. 25And they said, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's servants. 26And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh's.

What does Genesis chapter 47 mean?

The last several chapters explained how Joseph, Jacob's son by Rachel (Genesis 46:19), came to bring his family to live in Egypt. Genesis 47 begins with Joseph's family appearing before Pharaoh at court in a formal audience. Joseph selects five of his brothers to represent the family. When Pharaoh asks them their occupations, they reply as Joseph had coached them. They describe themselves as lifelong shepherds, and they formally ask Pharaoh that they be allowed to settle in the fertile region of Goshen. This is an interesting choice, as Joseph has noted that Egyptians generally look down on herdsmen (Genesis 46:34). His motives may be both practical and spiritual. By making it clear that the entire family is involved in shepherding, he lessens suspicion from Egyptians that these immigrants will displace them from work. Spiritually, living somewhere separate from most other Egyptians would help to preserve Israel's commitment to God (Genesis 47:1–4).

Instead of answering the brothers directly, Pharaoh addresses Joseph, granting him the authority to grant his brothers' request. This is both an honor to Joseph and an act of wisdom by Egypt's ruler. This establishes that Jacob's family is there under Joseph's care—Joseph is their patron, not the Pharaoh himself. Pharaoh does, however, command Joseph to settle his family in Goshen and to put some of them in charge of managing his own livestock (Genesis 47:5–6).

Next, Pharaoh receives Joseph's aged father Jacob. Jacob, who may have needed assistance to stand before Pharaoh, blesses him. Pharaoh asks Jacob's age, and Jacob describes his 130 years as a sojourner as "few and evil." Despite his bleak attitude, Jacob's conversation with Pharaoh is relatively casual and mutually respectful. Jacob's blessing on Pharaoh is well-received and would have been deeply appreciated (Genesis 47:7–10).

Joseph has received from Pharaoh the exact outcome he desired. He settles his family securely and with Pharaoh's full blessing in the land of Goshen. There, he begins to provide to them a regular allotment of food for each person. This will be a crucial part of Israel's stability and prosperity, which will only grow in the coming centuries (Exodus 1:5–7). This is a confirmation of Joseph's prior understanding (Genesis 45:5–8) that God was responsible for the events of his life (Genesis 47:11–12).

Meanwhile, the intense regional famine continues. Joseph, on Pharaoh's behalf, has been selling food to the people of Egypt and Canaan during that time (Genesis 41:55–57). Soon, however, the people run out of money. Joseph does not plan to starve them if they can't pay. Rather, Joseph offers to provide food for another year in exchange for livestock owned by the people. With no other option, the people agree to sell their cattle and other animals to Joseph in exchange for food. This might have been something like a mortgage, where the people physically kept the animals, but they were ultimately owned and controlled by Pharaoh's household (Genesis 47:13–17).

When the next year arrives, the people return to Joseph fully aware they have nothing to trade for food. Their only remaining possessions are their land and themselves. To survive, the people propose to offer up those very things. Joseph, representing Pharaoh, agrees. Joseph explains to the people that their servanthood will work much like a permanent mortgage. This form of indentured servitude was extremely common in the ancient world, and was fundamentally different from the harsh slavery experienced later by Israel (Exodus 1:8–14). The Egyptians will continue to work as they have done, paying to Pharaoh twenty percent of each year's harvest from this point on. They will keep eighty percent for themselves. The people are grateful to Joseph for saving their lives, even at the cost of their full freedom (Genesis 47:18–22).

Unlike everyday Egyptians, Jacob's family continues to grow and prosper. Since they are provided with food from Joseph, they can hold on to their cash, livestock, and even the land they now own in Egypt. As most citizens lose what they own, the growing number of Israelites prosper and continue to add to their numbers, providing more evidence of the blessing of God (Genesis 47:23–27).

Despite his pessimism, Jacob lives another seventeen years in Egypt, under the care and protection of his son. As time passes, Jacob eventually prepares for his own death. He asks Joseph to swear to take his body back to Canaan. This involves an ancient custom implying that the promise was being made not only to Jacob, but to all his descendants. His desire is to be buried with the bodies of Abraham and Isaac. Joseph, who will make good on his promise (Genesis 50:12–14), agrees to follow his father's wishes (Genesis 47:28–31).
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