What does Genesis 47:16 mean?
ESV: And Joseph answered, “Give your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money is gone.”
NIV: Then bring your livestock,' said Joseph. 'I will sell you food in exchange for your livestock, since your money is gone.'
NASB: Then Joseph said, 'Give up your livestock, and I will give you food for your livestock, since your money is gone.'
CSB: But Joseph said, "Give me your livestock. Since the silver is gone, I will give you food in exchange for your livestock."
NLT: Joseph replied, 'Since your money is gone, bring me your livestock. I will give you food in exchange for your livestock.'
KJV: And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail.
NKJV: Then Joseph said, “Give your livestock, and I will give you bread for your livestock, if the money is gone.”
Verse Commentary:
Joseph's plan to help Egypt and the nearby nations survive seven years of famine had worked beautifully (Genesis 41:33–36). Under the authority of Pharaoh, Joseph had sold food to the people for the first two to three years (Genesis 41:55–57). Before long, this used up the cash reserves of the people; Pharaoh's house had all the money in the region (Genesis 47:13–14).

Now the people have no money, but they continue to be desperate for food (Genesis 47:15). When they come back and demand food, Joseph offers an alternative plan: trading for livestock. Joseph suggested trading their cows, sheep, horses, and donkeys for food. It's not likely that Joseph was taking direct possession of every animal, though it would make sense that some would be given over physically in exchange for food. More than likely, Joseph is mortgaging or taking ownership of the animals in some sense. This, as well, drastically increases the wealth and power of the Egyptian Pharaoh (Genesis 47:17).
Verse Context:
Genesis 47:13–26 describes how Joseph's plan for the famine made Egypt's king even more powerful and wealthy. In essence, Joseph sells grain taxed from the people back to them. When the people run out of money to pay for food from the storehouses, Joseph trades for their livestock, land, and even their freedom. Pharaoh comes to own nearly everything and everyone in Egypt, resulting in a standing 20 percent income tax on the people.
Chapter Summary:
Genesis 47 begins with Pharaoh interviewing Joseph's brothers and father before granting their request to settle in the region of Goshen in Egypt. Just as Joseph had hoped, his family is secure. The rest of the people of Egypt and Canaan are not. Most run out of money and can no longer buy food from Joseph. On Pharaoh's behalf, Joseph trades food for their livestock and then their land and even their freedom. Nearly all people will be required to pay to Pharaoh 20 percent of their harvest each year from this time forward. After several years, Jacob asks Joseph to swear that he will bury Jacob's body with his fathers in Canaan.
Chapter Context:
After describing the family's journey from Canaan and their arrival in Egypt in chapter 46, this passage opens on a formal conversation between Pharaoh and Joseph's family. He officially grants their request to settle in Egypt. As the famine continues, citizens of Egypt and Canaan turn over their money, land, and livestock to Joseph in exchange for food. The final three chapters of Genesis explain Jacob's dying blessings, and the passing of both Jacob and Joseph.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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