What does Genesis 47:4 mean?
ESV: They said to Pharaoh, “We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. And now, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.”
NIV: They also said to him, 'We have come to live here for a while, because the famine is severe in Canaan and your servants' flocks have no pasture. So now, please let your servants settle in Goshen.'
NASB: They also said to Pharaoh, 'We have come to reside in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, therefore, please let your servants live in the land of Goshen.'
CSB: And they said to Pharaoh, "We have come to stay in the land for a while because there is no grazing land for your servants' sheep, since the famine in the land of Canaan has been severe. So now, please let your servants settle in the land of Goshen."
NLT: We have come to live here in Egypt for a while, for there is no pasture for our flocks in Canaan. The famine is very severe there. So please, we request permission to live in the region of Goshen.'
KJV: They 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.
Verse Commentary:
Joseph's brothers are being interviewed by the Pharaoh of Egypt. He has already invited Jacob's large family to relocate to Egypt with all they own to survive the famine in the land (Genesis 45:16–20). In the previous verse, Pharaoh asked the question about their occupation, the question Joseph had discussed with them (Genesis 46:31–34). They responded with the practiced answer, declaring themselves to be lifelong shepherds (Genesis 47:1–3).

Now they continue with a formal request to be allowed to settle in the land of Goshen. They explain why they are making this request: The famine in Canaan is severe. They have no viable place to pasture their flocks. This is one possible reason Joseph had them mention shepherding to Egypt's ruler, despite it being a distasteful profession to Egyptians. Such a request would encourage Pharaoh to settle Israel separately from the rest of his subjects, maintaining them as a unique people.

Joseph's brothers describe themselves as "sojourners," meaning travelers and immigrants, and as Pharaoh's servants. This begins to fulfill the exact prophesy given to Abraham about his descendants in Genesis 15:13: "Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years."

What Joseph and his family cannot know is this act of great kindness by Pharaoh will eventually result in the centuries-long enslavement of their people. For the moment, however, Pharaoh's positive response to their request will mean the difference between life and death for the family.
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.
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