What does Genesis 47:3 mean?
ESV: Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” And they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, as our fathers were.”
NIV: Pharaoh asked the brothers, 'What is your occupation?' 'Your servants are shepherds,' they replied to Pharaoh, 'just as our fathers were.'
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.'
CSB: And Pharaoh asked his brothers, "What is your occupation? "They said to Pharaoh, "Your servants, both we and our ancestors, are shepherds."
NLT: And Pharaoh asked the brothers, 'What is your occupation?' They replied, 'We, your servants, are shepherds, just like our ancestors.
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.
NKJV: Then Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” And they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, both we and also our fathers.”
Verse Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
Genesis 47:1–12 describes how Joseph's family officially arrived as landowners in Egypt. They are given the fertile region of Goshen. At court, Joseph's brothers formally request permission to settle there, and Jacob blesses Pharaoh twice. Pharaoh gives Joseph the authority to give his family enough land in Goshen to accommodate their herds and growing families. Joseph also begins to distribute a regular allotment of food to each member of his extended family.
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.
Accessed 5/29/2024 8:23:34 PM
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