1 “Then 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
literally, and Joseph went, up to the royal presence, as he had proposed (ch. 46:31) –
and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their
herds, and all that they have, are come cut of the land of Canaan; - as thou didst
45:17-18) - and, behold, they are in the
2 “And he took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto
Pharaoh.” And he took some of his brethren, even five men, - literally, from the
end, or extremity, of his brethren; not from the weakest, lest the king should select
them for courtiers or soldiers (the Rabbis, Oleaster, Pererius, and others); or the
strongest and most handsome, that the Egyptian monarch and his nobles might
behold the dignity of Joseph s kindred (Lyre, Thostatus, and others); or the
youngest and oldest, that the ages of the rest might be therefrom inferred (Calvin);
but from the whole body of his brethren (Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, et alii)
he took five men - and presented them unto Pharaoh (compare Acts 7:13).
3 “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.”
And Pharaoh said unto his (i.e. Joseph's) brethren, What is your occupation?
(see Genesis 46:33). And they said unto Pharaoh, - as directed (ibid. v. 34) –
Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers.
4 “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
sojourn in the land are we come; - an unconscious fulfillment of an ancient prophecy
(Genesis 15:13) - for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks (it was solely the
extreme drought that had caused them for a season to vacate their own land);
famine is sore (literally, heavy) in the
we pray thee, let thy servants dwell (literally, and now might thy servants dwell,
the future having here the force of an optative) in
5 “And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are
come unto thee: 6 The
make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the
and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers
over my cattle.” And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy
come unto thee: the
in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell. Wilkinson thinks it
possible that Jacob's sons "may have asked and obtained a grant of land from the
Egyptian monarch on condition of certain services being performed by themselves
descendants" ('Ancient Egyptians,' vol. 1. Genesis 2. p. 35). In
es-Shar-Kiyeh, which corresponds as nearly as
possible with ancient
as being even in modern times (1736 – this was written in the 18th century – CY –
2019) exceedingly productive and thickly populated. And if thou knowest any men
of activity among them, - literally, and if thou knowest, and there be among them,
men of strength - chayil, from chul, to twist (εἰλύω ἐλίσσω – eiluo elisso), the idea
being that of strength as of twisted rope - then make them rulers over my cattle –
literally, and thou shalt make them masters of cattle over that which belongs to me.
"The shepherds on an Egyptian estate were chosen by the steward, who ascertained
their character and skill previous to their being appointed to so important a trust"
(Wilkinson, 'Ancient Egyptians,' vol. 2. p. 445, ed. 1878).
7 “And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh:
and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.” And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set
him before Pharaoh. It has been thought that Jacob's presentation to the Egyptian
king was deferred till after the monarch's interview with his sons because of the
public and political character of that interview, relating as it did to the occupation
of the land, while Jacob's introduction to the sovereign was of a purely personal
and private description. And Jacob - in reply probably to a request from Pharaoh
(Tayler Lewis), but more likely sua sponte (voluntarily) - blessed Pharaoh. Not
simply extended to him the customary salutation accorded to kings (Rosenmüller,
Kalisch, Alford, and others), like the "May the king live for ever!" of later times
(II Samuel 16:16; I Kings 1:25; Daniel 2:4; 3:9), but, conscious of his dignity as
a prophet of Jehovah, pronounced on him a heavenly benediction (Murphy,
'Speaker's Commentary,' and others) - hoe verbo non vulgaris et profana
salutatio notatur, sed pia sanctaque servi Dei precatio (Calvin).
8 “And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou? 9 And 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.” And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou? - literally,
How many are the days of the years of thy life? And Jacob said unto Pharaoh,
The days of the years of my pilgrimage (literally, of my sojournings, wanderings
to and fro without any settled condition) are an hundred and thirty years. Since
Joseph was now thirty-seven years of age (ch. 45:6), it is apparent that he was
born in his father's ninety-first year; and since this event took place in the
fourteenth year of Jacob's residence in Padan-aram (ch. 30:25), it is equally
apparent that Jacob was
seventy-seven years of age when he left
after surreptitiously securing the patriarchal blessing (ch. 28:1). 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. As Jacob’s
life fell short of that of his ancestors in respect of duration (witness the 175 years
of Abraham, and the 180 of Isaac), so it greatly surpassed theirs in respect of the
miseries that were crowded into it.
The Discipline of Life (v. 9)
Few and evil, yet 130 years; and how many blessings temporal and spiritual
had been received during their course. We need not suppose him
unthankful. But blessings do not of themselves make a man happy. Some
worm may be at the root. And in Jacob’s case early faults cast a shadow
over his whole life. The remembrance of early deceit, his natural shrinking
from danger, his family cares, his mourning for Rachel (ch. 48:7)
and for Joseph, gave a tinge of melancholy not entirely to be taken away
even by receiving his son as it were from the dead. The retrospect of his
life seemed that of a suffering man.
· ABIDING SORROW IS THE FRUIT OF EARLY FAULTS,
THOUGH REPENTED OF (I Corinthians 15:9). It does not
necessarily imply separation from God, or doubt of personal salvation.
If “a godly sorrow,” it works repentance, i.e. a more complete turning to
God. But just as early neglect of the laws affecting bodily health produces
a lasting effect, however carefully these laws may be attended to in after
years, so neglect of God’s moral and spiritual laws produces sorrow,
varying in kind, and in the channel by which it comes, but bearing witness
to the truth of God’s unceasing watchfulness.
· THE DISCIPLINE OF LIFE IS NOT IN ANGER, BUT FOR OUR
PURIFICATION. Thus suffering may be a blessing. But for sorrow Jacob
might have sunk into taking his ease. His besetting danger was worldly
carefulness (ch. 30:41). So sorrow, from outward circumstances
or from inward reflection, often brings us nearer God. It teaches
THE VANITY OF EARTH that we may realize the blessedness of the
inheritance above; that frail and weary we may cling more closely to the
promises of the rest which remaineth – “There remaineth therefore a
rest to the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9).
· THIS LIFE IS INTENDED TO BE A PILGRIMAGE, NOT A REST.
Its blessedness consists not in present enjoyment, but in preparation
for the rest to come (Luke 12:20-21). We are reminded that there is a
goal to be reached, a prize to be won (I Corinthians 9:24; I Peter 1:3-9),
and that the time is short, that we may put forth all our efforts
(Ecclesiastes 9:10) to overcome besetting faults and snares of
worldliness. A pilgrim (Hebrews 11:14) is seeking a country not yet
reached. The remembrance of this keeps the life Godward. True faith
will work patience and activity; true hope will work cheerfulness under
hindrances, and, if need be, under sufferings. And the love of Christ
(John 14:2-3), and the consciousness that we are His, will constrain us
“to walk even as He walked.” For what are you striving? to lade yourself
with thick clay? To gain honor, renown, admiration, bodily enjoyment?
or as a pilgrim (Numbers 10:29) walking in Christ’s way, and doing Christ’s
10 “And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.”
And Jacob blessed Pharaoh (as he had done on entering the royal presence).
Jacob and His Sons before Pharaoh (vs. 1-10)
· JOSEPH’S BRETHREN BEFORE PHARAOH (vs. 1-6).
Ø Their arrival announced (v. 1). “My father and brethren are come out
Ø Their persons presented (v. 2). “He took some of his brethren, even
five men, and presented them to Pharaoh.” The import of this selection
of five is explained in the exposition.
Ø Their occupations declared (v. 3). In answer to the king’s
interrogation they replied that they were shepherds. They had no desire to
deceive, although they had learned that persons of their trades were not
commonly regarded with favor. Joseph indeed had convinced them that in
this instance honesty would be the best policy; but even had it been
precisely the reverse there is no reason to suppose they would have
attempted any sort of prevarication.
Ø Their purpose explained (v. 4). It was not their intention to settle
years of famine. But while man proposes God disposes.
Ø Their wish stated (v. 4). “Now, therefore, let thy servants dwell in
this favor, it was only courteous to ask it from Pharaoh. “Honor to whom
honor is due,” is the dictate of right feeling as well as of true religion, and
men seldom find themselves the losers by practicing politeness.
Ø Their request granted (v. 6). Pharaoh at once responded — “The land
brethren to dwell; in the
even exceeded their desires or expectations.
Ø Their promotion indicated (v. 6). “If thou knowest any men of activity
among them, make them rulers over my cattle.” “Seest thou a man diligent
in business? he shall stand before kings!” (Proverbs 22:29)
· JOSEPH’S FATHER BEFORE PHARAOH (vs. 7-11).
Ø The old man’s blessing. “And Jacob blessed Pharaoh.” This was:
o a valuable gift. Once before he had sent a present to one whom he
regarded as of vice-regal dignity; but now, when standing in the royal
presence, he does not think of material offerings, but presents what
must ever be beyond rubies, the intercession of a saintly heart with
God on a fellow-creature’s behalf. If the effectual fervent prayer of a
righteous man availeth much (James 5:16), the simple benediction of
an aged saint cannot profit little.
o Earnestly given. This was shown by the promptitude with which it was
bestowed. Immediately the venerable patriarch is ushered into the royal
presence he breaks forth into the language of benediction, as if the
inward emotion had just been trembling on the heart’s lip and ready at
the first agitation to overflow. And he for whom he prays was a
benefactor indeed, but a monarch and a heathen; and so are Christ’s
people taught to pray for ALL MEN, for kings and such as are in
authority (I Timothy 2:1-2), for unbelieving, as well as believing,
and not for friends and benefactors solely, but likewise for
enemies and persecutors.
o Solemnly confirmed. Spoken on the first entrance to the regal mansion,
it was tremblingly re-uttered on departure. Never before had such a
prayer been heard within an Egyptian palace. Yet the halls of princes
no more than the hovels or peasants are unsuitable for intercessions
and supplications. Everywhere and always should be the saint’s motto
in regard to prayer.
Ø The old man’s history. Gazing with tender interest on the venerable
form of the patriarch as, leaning on the arm of his son, he softly steps
across the threshold of the magnificent reception hall, the royal Pharaoh,
probably struck with his aged and feeble appearance, kindly inquires, “How
many are the days of the years of thy life?” to which Jacob with equal
circumlocution, with perhaps a little of the garrulousness that is so natural
and becoming in the old, but also with a true touch of pathos, replies, “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 lives of my fathers in the days of their
pilgrimage.” His existence on the earth he characterizes as having been:
o A perpetual pilgrimage, a constant wandering, a continual sojourning,
his case it had really been — from
from Padan-aram to
and finally from Canaan to
true of all men’s lives; “here we have no continuing city.” (Hebrews
o A short pilgrimage. Adding them up one by one, the days of the years
of his pilgrimage might seem to be many; but in the retrospect they
appeared what they really were, few and soon numbered; as life,
which to the young in prospect looks long, to the old in retrospect is
ever short. (Psalm 90:12 – “So teach us to number our days, that
we may apply our hearts to wisdom.”) How amazing is the difference
which a change of standpoint produces in the view which the mind
takes of man’s existence on the earth, as of other things! and how
important that we should bear this in mind when numbering our days!
o A sad pilgrimage. Not only had the days of Jacob’s years been few, but
they had also been evil, filled with trouble, sorrow, and vexation, more
even than that of any of his predecessors. It was one more testimony to
the fact that not only is man born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward
(Job 5:7), but that it is only through much tribulation that a child of
God can enter the kingdom. (Acts 14:22)
1. That prudence becomes a counselor. This was strikingly exemplified in
Joseph’s conduct in presenting his brethren before Pharaoh.
2. That honesty advances a suppliant. In the long run Joseph’s brethren
were better served by their perfect integrity and straightforwardness in
Pharaoh’s presence than they would have been by resorting to duplicity
3. That piety adorns the old. How beautiful does the character of Jacob,
the aged wanderer, appear as it stands before us in Pharaoh’s palace, in the
westering sunlight of his earthly pilgrimage! “The hoary head is a crown
of glory, if it he found in the way of righteousness.” (Proverbs 16:31)
The Presentation to Pharaoh (vs. 1-10)
· TESTIMONY TO POWER OF CHARACTER. Joseph’s influence. The
five brethren selected perhaps with a view to their appearance, and in the
number five, which was regarded as a significant number among the
Egyptians. The monarch’s reception of the strangers was due to Joseph’s
influence. Generally diffused. There is much graciousness in the heathen
monarch, although partly to be ascribed to national characteristics, for the
Egyptians were a very different race from the Canaanites; still we may
believe that the conduct of Pharaoh was mostly due to the effect of
Joseph’s ministry and personal exemplification of the religious life.
One true man is a great power in a country!
· A CONSPICIOUS EXAMPLE OF DIVINE GRACE. The old patriarch is
presented. He plainly impressed the monarch as extremely aged, perhaps
indicating that the centenarian was a great rarity then among heathen
nations. His long life was a long course of gracious dealings. The effect of
a religious life in prolonging the years is exemplified. It is said that since
Christianity obtained its legitimate, or more of its legitimate influence in
confesses, he is not as old as his fathers. His life had been a pilgrimage in
a wilderness. His days few and evil, compared with what they might have
been. Seventeen years longer they were lengthened out — a testimony to
the effect of peace and prosperity in preserving life when it is under the
blessing of God. Jacob blessed Pharaoh. The less is blessed of the greater.
The two princes stood face to face;
Ø the prince of God
Ø the prince of
· A PROPHETIC PACT: the world shall be blessed through the heirs of
the Divine promise. Jacob had much to be thankful for; and although he
thanked God first, he teaches us by his example not to forget the claims of
fellow-creatures in our gratitude, even though they be separated from us in
faith and religion.
The Three Meetings
(ch. 46:1-4; 28-30; ch. 47:7-10)
· BETWEEN JACOB AND GOD.
Ø A gracious meeting. In the visions of the night, at
after a lapse of upwards of a quarter of a century, again makes known His
presence to His servant. It was a signal act of gracious condescension on
the part of God.
Ø A promised meeting. As the God of Abraham and of Isaac, Jehovah had
solemnly taken Jacob into covenant with Himself, and engaged to be with
him for guidance and succor wherever he might wander and whensoever
he might need assistance; and such an occasion had manifestly arisen then
in the experience of the patriarch.
Ø A solicited meeting. It is more than likely this was the explanation of
Jacob’s sacrifices at
counsel and help at the important crisis which had come upon him.
Ø An encouraging meeting. Jacob got all that he desired and more —
words of cheer and promises of love, that sufficed at once to dispel
his fears and animate his hopes.
· BETWEEN JACOB AND JOSEPH.
Ø A longed-for meeting. How earnestly father and son had yearned to
behold one another we can imagine better than express.
An expected meeting. No doubt Joseph instructed
Jacob that he (Joseph)
would visit him at
Ø A happy meeting. Those who have passed through experiences in
any degree similar to this of Joseph and Jacob meeting after many
years, when each perhaps thought the other dead, will not be
surprised at their emotion.
· BETWEEN JACOB AND PHARAOH.
Ø An interesting, meeting. Of age with (probable) youth, of poverty
with wealth, of lowly birth (at least, comparatively) with regal
dignity, of piety with superstition.
Ø An instructive meeting. No doubt the monarch would learn something
of Jacob’s past history, and let us hope too of Jacob’s God; and perhaps
Jacob would discover something in what he heard from Pharaoh
concerning Joseph that would lead him to recognize the Divine hand
even more clearly than he did.
Ø A profitable meeting. Pharaoh got a good man’s blessing, and Jacob
won a great man’s smile.
11 “And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession
had commanded.” And Joseph placed his father and his brethren (i.e. gave them
a settlement, the import of which the next clause explains), and gave them a
possession (i.e. allowed them
to acquire property) in the
best of the land, in the
Jacob and his family first settled (Michaelis, Rosenmüller), or, what seems more
being so named proleptically from the town Rameses, which was subsequently built
(Exodus 1:11), or, if the town existed in the time of Joseph, and was only afterwards
fortified by the Israelites, deriving its designation from the name of its chief city' –
as Pharaoh had commanded.
12 “And Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father's
household, with bread, according to their families.” And Joseph nourished –
ἐσιτομέτρει - esitometrei – nourished (Septuagint), i.e. gave them their measure
of corn - his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread,
according to their families - literally, to, or according to, the mouth of the little
ones, meaning either in proportion to the size of their families (Septuagint, Keil,
Kalisch, Murphy), or with all the tenderness with which a parent provides for his
offspring (Murphy), or the whole body of them, from the greatest even to the least
(Calvin), or completely, down even to the food for their children ('Speaker's
The Settlement of the Children of
· A CONSUMMATION. Distinctly the act of Joseph, under the
command of Pharaoh.
Ø The fruit of righteousness reaped.
Ø The fulfillment of God’s word.
· A NEW LIFE BASED UPON THE TESTIMONY OF DIVINE
GRACE. The weak things have been proved mighty, the elect of God has
been exalted. The “best of the land” is for the seed of the righteous: “The
meek shall inherit the earth.”
In vs. 13-26, the policy of Joseph is faithfully employed for his monarch. The
advantage taken of the people’s necessities to increase the power of the throne is
quite Eastern in its character — not commended to general imitation, but permitted
to be carried out through Joseph, because it gave him greater hold upon the
government, and perhaps wrought beneficially on the whole in that early period
of civilization. The honor of the priesthood is a testimony to the sacredness which
the Egyptians attached to religious persons and things. The earliest nations were
the most religious, and there is no doubt that the universality of religion can be
traced among the tribes of the earth. An atheistic nation never has existed, and
never can exist, except as in
time. (Now in the
21st Century, the so-called Progressive Movement in
thinks it can mimic what happened
learn that “it is hard to kick against the pricks [goads]!” – Acts 9:5 – CY – 2019)
13 “And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that
And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore (literally, heavy),
so that the
had become languid and spiritless) by reason of the famine. The introduction of the
present section, which first depicts the miseries of a starving population, and then
circumstantially describes a great political revolution forced upon them by the
stern necessity of hunger, may have been due to a desire:
(1) to exhibit the extreme urgency which existed for Joseph's care of his father and
(2) to show the greatness of the benefit conferred on Joseph's house (Baumgarten,
Keil, Lange), and perhaps also
(3) to foreshadow the political constitution afterwards bestowed upon the Israelites
14 “And Joseph gathered up all the money that was
found in the
and in the
the money into Pharaoh's house.” And Joseph gathered up - the verb, used only
here of collecting money, usually signifies to gather things lying on the ground,
Ø ears of corn (Ruth 2:3),
Ø stones (ch. 31:46),
Ø manna (Exodus 16:14),
Ø flowers (Song of Solomon 6:2)
all the money (literally,
silver) that was found in the
was simply Pharaoh's steward) brought the money into Pharaoh's house
(i.e. deposited it in the royal treasury).
15 “And when money failed in the
all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should
we die in thy presence? for the money faileth.” And when money failed (literally,
and the silver was consumed, or
spent) in the
Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? for the money faileth
(literally, and why should we die in thy presence because silver faileth? i.e.
seeing that thou art able to support us).
16 “And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle,
if money fail. 17 And 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.” And Joseph said, Give (literally, bring) your
cattle; and I will give you (sc. bread) for your cattle, if money fail. And they
brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange
for horses, and for the flocks (literally, and for cattle of the flocks), and for
the cattle of the herds, and for the asses (the severity of these terms of sale
and purchase was not so great as at first sight appears, since to a famishing
people under-fed cattle and starving horses must have been comparatively
worthless): and he fed them - literally, led, in the sense of cared for and
maintained, them (compare Psalm 23:2; Isaiah 40:11) - for all their cattle
for that year - this was the sixth year of the famine (see v. 23).
18 “When 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: 19 Wherefore 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.” When that year was ended, they
came unto him the second year (not the second from the commencement of
the dearth, but the second from the consumption of their money), and said
unto him, We will not hide it from my lord, how that - literally, for if
(so we should speak openly), hence equivalent to an intensified but –
our money (literally, the silver) is spent; my lord also hath our herds of
cattle; - literally, our herds of cattle also (sc. have come) to my lord - there
is not ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands:
wherefore 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 (literally, and we shall) live, and not die, that the
land be not desolate (literally, and the land shall not be desolate).
20 “And Joseph bought all the
sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the
land became Pharaoh's.” From this it may be concluded that originally Pharaoh
had no legal claim to the soil, but that the people had a valid title to its absolute
possession, each man being regarded as the legitimate proprietor of the portion
on which he had expended the labor of cultivation.
21 “And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the
removed them - not enslaved them, converted them into serfs and bondmen to
Pharaoh (Septuagint, Vulgate), but simply transferred them, caused them to pass
over - to cities - not from cities to cities, as if changing their populations (Onkelos,
Rosenmüller, Kalisch), but either from the country districts to the towns (Targums
cities, i.e. in which the grain had been previously collected (Keil) - from one end of
the borders of
transported from one side of the country to the other as a high stroke of policy to
complete their subjugation (Jarchi, Grotius, Rosenmüller, Kalisch, and others),
but that throughout the land they were moved into the nearest cities, as a considerate
and even merciful arrangement for the more efficiently supplying them with food
(Calvin, Keil, Lange, Wordsworth, Speaker's Commentary).
22 “Only 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.” Only the land of the priests (so the Septuagint,
Vulgate, and Chaldee render cohen, which, however, sometimes signifies a prince)
bought he not; for the priests had a portion - not of land (Lange, Kalisch), but of food
(Keil, Murphy) - assigned them of Pharaoh (not of Joseph, who must not, therefore,
be charged with the sin of extending a State allowance to an idolatrous priesthood),
and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their
lands, - that is, in consequence of the State aliment which they enjoyed (during
the period of the famine) they did not require to alienate their lands.
23 “Then 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.
24 And 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.”
Then 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. This proves
the time to have been the last year of the famine; and since the people obtained
seed from the viceroy, it is reasonable to suppose that they would also have their
cattle restored to them to enable them to till the ground. And 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. This verse is a sufficient refutation
of the oft-preferred charge that Joseph had despoiled the Egyptians of their
liberties, and converted a free people into a horde of abject slaves. Slave-owners
are not usually content with a tax of only twenty percent on the gross revenues
of their estates. Nor does it seem reasonable to allege that this was an exorbitant
demand on the part either of Joseph or of Pharaoh. If in the seven years of plenty
the people could afford to part with a fifth part of their produce, might not an
improved system of agriculture enable them, under the new regulations, to pay
as much as that in the shape of rent, and with quite as much ease? At all events
the people themselves did not consider that they were being subjected to any
harsh or unjust exaction.
25 “And they said, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of
my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's servants.” And they said, Thou hast saved
our lives (literally, thou hast kept us alive): let us find grace in the sight of my lord
(i.e. let us have the land on these favorable terms), and we will be Pharaoh's
servants. "That a sort of feudal service is here intended - the service of free
laborers, not bondmen - we may learn from the relationship of the Israelites to
God, which was formed after the plan of this Egyptian model" (Gerlach).
26 “And Joseph made it a law over the
Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only,
which became not Pharaoh's.” And
Joseph made it a law over the
the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh's.
The account here given of the land tenure in
(1) that after the time of Joseph the kings of
(2) that the only free landholders in the country were the members of the priestly caste,
(3) that the population generally occupied their farms at the uniform fixed rent of one
fifth of their yearly produce,
is abundantly corroborated by the statements of Herodotus (2. 109), that Sesostris
divided the soil of
size to all, and obtaining his chief revenue from the rent which the holders were
required to pay him year by year; of Diodorus Siculus (1. 73), that the land in
of Strabo (17. 787), that the peasants were not landowners, but occupiers of
rateable land; as also by the monuments, which represent the king, priests, and
warriors alone as having landed property (Wilkinson, Ken). Dr. Robinson quotes
a modern parallel to this act of Joseph's, which both illustrates its nature and by
way of contrast exhibits its clemency. Up to the middle of the present century
the people of
decree the Pasha (Mohammed Ali) declared himself to be the sole owner of all
or rather his slaves." "The modern Pharaoh made no exceptions, and stripped the
mosques and other religious and charitable institutions of their landed endowments
as mercilessly as the rest. Joseph gave the people seed to sow, and required for
the king only a fifth of the produce, leaving four-fifths to them as their own;
but now, though seed is in like manner given out, yet every village is compelled
to cultivate two-thirds of its lands with corn and other articles for the Pasha, and
also to render back to him, in the form of taxes and exactions in kind, a large
proportion of the produce remaining after" ('Biblical Researches,' 1:42).
had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly.”
and they had possessions therein (i.e. acquired holdings in it), and grew (or became
fruitful), and multiplied exceedingly - or became very numerous. This was the
commencement of the promise (ch. 46:3).
Joseph’s Policy in
· TOWARDS THE ISRAELITES.
gave them a settlement in
chiefly to the wise and prudent management of Joseph that they found
themselves located in the fattest corner of the land. In thus providing for
them Joseph had without doubt an eye to their enrichment, to their
separation as a people from the Egyptian inhabitants of the land, and to
their convenience when the day came for their return. Thus we see an
evidence of Joseph’s fervent piety.
Ø He supplied them with food while the famine lasted. That he did so
without charges to them the narrative explicitly asserts. Nor can Joseph’s
right so to provide for his own household be legitimately challenged, the
more especially that it was owing purely to his wise administration that the
king’s granaries were filled with corn. That Joseph did so was a proof of
his natural affection.
Ø He allowed them to acquire possessions. That is to say, he secured them
in their rights of property while they resided among strangers. He cast
around them the protection of the law all the same as if they had been
Egyptians. This was a testimony to Joseph’s political equity.
· TOWARDS THE EGYPTIANS.
Ø Joseph’s policy described.
o Before the coming of the famine. Joseph gathered up a fifth part of the
produce of the land and stored it up in granaries against the succeeding
years of famine, paying doubtless for what he took, and affording the
inhabitants of the country an example of economy and foresight.
o During the continuance of the famine he resold the grain which he had
previously collected; in the first instance, for money; in the second
instance, when the money failed, for horses and cattle; and in the third
instance) when nothing remained between the people and starvation,
for their lands and their persons.
o At the close of the famine Joseph returned to the people their lands,
along with seed, and of necessity also cattle for its cultivation,
exacting from them in return as rent a fifth part of the produce,
the same proportion that he had lifted from them during the
seven prosperous years.
Ø Joseph’s policy challenged. It has been vigorously assailed,
o for its severity; eloquent writers dilating with much indignation on its
arbitrary, oppressive, tyrannical, and ferocious character, representing
Joseph as little other than a semi-royal despot who little reckoned of
the lives and liberties of his groveling subjects so long as he could
aggrandize himself and his royal patron;
o for its injustice, being very different treatment from that which had been
measured out to the Israelites, who were strangers and foreigners in the
land, while they (the Egyptians) were the native population; and
o for its impiety, Joseph having sinfully taken advantage of the necessities
of the people to reduce them by one bold stroke to a condition of abject
and helpless slavery.
Ø Joseph’s policy defended.
o The alleged severity is greater in appearance than reality, since it is
certain that Joseph did nothing harsh in selling corn for money so long
as people had it, or horses and cattle when money failed, and it cannot
be fairly proved that Joseph did not give them full value for their lands.
o The imputation of partiality will disappear if it be remembered that
brethren were only expected to be temporary settlers in
and besides were few in number, so that a gratuitous distribution of corn
amongst them was not at all an unwarrantable exercise of philanthropy,
whereas to have pauperized a whole nation would have been to inflict
upon them the greatest possible injury.
o The charge of having enslaved a free people may be answered by
stating first that the narrative when fairly construed implies nothing
more than that Joseph changed the land tenure from that of freehold
to a rent charge, and that for the convenience of supporting the people
while the famine lasted he distributed them (i.e. the country folks)
among the cities where the grain was stored; and secondly, that
instead of complaining against Joseph as the destroyer of their
liberties, the people applauded him as the savior of their lives.
28 “And Jacob lived in the land of
of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years.” He had lived:
seventy-seven years in
Ø twenty years in Padanaram,
Ø in all 147 years.
29 “And the time drew nigh that
and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy
hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray
and the days of
unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight (not as if Jacob doubted Joseph's
affection, but simply as desiring a last token of his love, perhaps also as
unconsciously recognizing his son's greatness), put, I pray thee, thy hand under
my thigh, - an ancient form of adjuration (compare ch. 24:2) - and deal kindly
and truly with me; bury me not, I
pray thee, in
(compare English - cover), see ch. 23:4.
30 “But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of
and bury me in their burying-place. And he said, I will do as thou hast said.”
But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt
carry me out of
me in their burying-place. The request of the venerable patriarch, while due in
some respect to the deeply-seated instinct of human nature which makes men,
almost universally, long to be buried in ancestral graves, was inspired by the clear
faith that Canaan was the true
a temporary refuge in
promise as their permanent abode. And he (i.e. Joseph) said, I will do as thou hast
said - literally, according to thy word.
31 “And he said, Swear unto me. And
he sware unto him. And
himself upon the bed's head.” And he (i.e. Jacob) said, Swear unto me (in the
manner indicated in v. 29). And he (i.e. Joseph) sware unto him. And (having
concluded this touching and
the bed's head. Though supported by many eminent authorities (Chaldee Pard.
phrase, Symmachus, Vulgate, Calvin, Willet, Rosenmüller, Delitzsch, Keil,
Kalisch, &c., &c.), the present rendering is not entirely free from difficulty,
since not until the next chapter is there any mention of Jacob's sickness; while
in favor of the reading, "And Israel bowed himself on the top of his staff"
(Septuagint), it may be urged:
(1) that it is adopted by the writer to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:21),
(2) that the Hebrew words for staff and bed differ only in the punctuation, and
(3) that the action of leaning on his staff was quite as suitable to Jacob's
circumstances as turning over and bowing on his bed's head.
The Sunset of a Long Life (vs. 27-31)
There is a touching beauty in this scene between the
· AN ILLUSTRATION OF HUMAN INFIRMITY. The supplanter,
the prince of God,
must succumb at last to the King of Terrors. “
must die.” Yet he is not afraid of death.
· STRENGTH IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS. Grace appears
brightest at THE END! His gray hairs have not been “brought with sorrow
to the grave,” although he feared they would. The lost son is the comforter
of his last days; to him he commits his dust to be laid with his fathers.
· PERSEVERANCE IS NOT THE FRUIT OF MAN’S
PERFECTION, BUT OF GOD’S MERCY. Jacob is faithful to the
covenant spirit to the end, although in many respects his character was a
mingled one. Yet he clung to THE DIVINE WORD! Seventeen years
could not wear out his love for the promised land. He knew the solemnity
of an oath, for had he not himself sworn and changed not? He would leave
behind him in his last wishes a testimony which would help to keep his
children faithful. “And
Septuagint, and the Syriac, and the Itala versions, with the reference in
Hebrews 11:21; by a slight change in the Hebrew vowels, have rendered the
words “he worshipped upon the top of his staff” — i.e. leaning on that which
had borne him through his pilgrimage, and thus, as it were, declaring the long
journey at an end. But whether he turned towards the bed’s head, as it
were away from the world towards God, or leaned on his staff, the idea is
the same — he bowed himself, like Simeon, saying, “Now, Lord, lettest
thou thy servant depart in peace.” (Luke 2:29) It was a lovely sunset
after a day of many clouds and much weariness and fear.
Jacob’s Residence in
· JACOB’S PEACEFUL OLD AGE. “And Jacob lived in the land of
years, during which Jacob had made largo experience of the ills of life,
having encountered adversity in forms both more numerous and severe
than are allotted to most, he had at length reached a happy harbor of rest in
the calm contemplative evening of old age, exchanging the anxieties and
toils of his previously wandering condition for a home of ease and comfort
in the fat
sorrows in the enjoyment of the tender care and rich love of Joseph,
Rachel’s son. Verily, with this old weather-beaten traveler it had become
light at eventide. It is
noticeable that Jacob lived as long a time in
Joseph had spent in Jacob’s
receiving an ample recompense for the affection he had lavished on his son.
Let parents be encouraged thereby to love and care for their children in the
tender years of infancy and youth; and let children see in Joseph an
example of the rich return which they should give their parents, cherishing
amid the infirmities of age those who have watched over them, and loved
them, and prayed for them with so much solicitude and affection.
· JACOB’S APPROACHING DISSOLUTION. “The time drew nigh
considerable period been anticipating. When he stood before Pharaoh he
informed that august but benevolent monarch that he reckoned his earthly
pilgrimage as good as closed. At least his words imply that he had no
expectation of living to the age of his revered ancestors. Consequently he
was not surprised, though he perceived that death was rapidly gaining
ground upon his feeble steps. Perfectly aware that it was appointed unto all
men once to die, he had been piously, while reposing beneath the shadow
of Joseph’s wing, reckoning up the number of his own days m particular,
and had found that the allotted span was nearly passed. Nor does it appear
that he was alarmed by the knowledge of that melancholy fact. The man
who had fought with God and prevailed was not likely to be dismayed by
the prospect of engaging with the king of terrors. He who had been so long
in the enjoyment of Jehovah’s friendship and salvation would scarcely
regard it as a hardship TO BE TRANSLATED INTO JEHOVAH’S
PRESENCE!. Let the saints learn to number their days that so they may
apply their hearts to heavenly wisdom (Psalm 90:12); to live in habitual
contemplation of the end, that they may not be afraid when death comes,
and to cultivate that holy alliance with the God of salvation which will
enable them to say, “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle
were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens.” (II Corinthians 5:1)
JACOB’S DYING REQUEST.
me not in
with my fathers, and thou shalt carry
me out of
burying place.” This request was addressed to his son Joseph, whom he
had hastily summoned to his side. It is not quite certain that at this moment
Jacob was confined to bed, or that he was actually so near his decease as
he imagined. The probability is that he survived for some little while
longer, but that with the knowledge that his departure from the earth could
not be long delayed, he desired to leave his last instructions for his funeral
with his honored and beloved son. Accordingly, in a conversation, he
explained that he was anxious that Joseph should convey his remains to the
family vault at
It was a natural desire that the old man should seek to sleep among his
kindred; but the wish had a higher origin than simply the instincts of nature.
though as yet a long interval must elapse before his children could enter on
its possession, he would manifest his faith in the Divine promise by laying
his bones in the sacred soil. It becomes God’s people to imitate the
patriarch in still holding on to God’s sure word of promise, although the
fulfillment should be long delayed, and in particular to remember that as
with Jacob so with them, God’s best promises will be realized not on earth,
but in the better country, even an heavenly.
· JACOB’S DEEP ANXIETY. “And he said, Swear unto me.” It might
have been supposed that Joseph’s word of promise, “I will do as thou hast
said,” would be sufficient to allay the aged patriarch’s apprehensions, but it
was not. Remembering the old form of oath which Abraham had employed
in connection with Eliazer (ch. 24), he imposed it on his son, as if to bind him
by the holiest obligations to fulfill his last request. Joseph, we may be sure,
would have honored his aged parent’s wish without the additional ceremony
of swearing; but inasmuch as it was not necessarily sinful, and it would tend
to dispel his father’s fears, he consented to the proposal, “and he swore
unto him.” Jacob perhaps might have dispensed with the oath, and certainly
Christians should be satisfied with a simple “yea” or “nay,” remembering
that whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil (Matthew 5:37); but sons
may learn from Joseph to bear with an aged parent’s infirmities and to humor
his inclinations, when these are not sinful.
· JACOB’S SOLEMN WORSHIP. “And Jacob bowed himself upon the
bed’s head,” or “worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.” But
whatever was the exact position of the patriarch, his exercise was devotion.
With reverent inclination of his aged head he poured out his soul in grateful
adoration to his God, who had enabled him so successfully to arrange
everything connected with his funeral that he had now nothing left to do
but die. And in this too the patriarch might advantageously be followed by
his spiritual children. Happy they who before being summoned to put off
this tabernacle are able to say as Jesus, “Father, I have finished the work
thou gavest me to do!” (John 17:4) It is a special mercy for which they may
well give God thanks.
Jacob’s Apprehension (vs. 28-31)
· WHAT IT WAS.
Ø It was not anxiety about temporal support, for that had been generously
made sure to him by his son Joseph.
Ø It was not concern about the future fortunes of his family, for these had
been graciously taken under God’s protection.
Ø It was not uncertainty as to his own personal acceptance with Jehovah,
for of that he had long ago been assured.
Ø It was scarcely even fear of his approaching death, for besides being a
thought with which Jacob had long been familiar, to a weary pilgrim like
him the event itself would not be altogether unwelcome.
It was dread lest his lifeless body should be interred
the graves of his ancestors in the holy land.
· WHENCE IT AROSE.
Ø From the deeply-seated instinct in human nature, which makes men
wish, if possible, to sleep beside their fathers and friends. Though religion
teaches us to believe that every spot on earth is in a manner holy ground,
yet it does not induce a spirit of indifference as to the last resting-place
where we shall lie.
Ø From a firm faith in the Divine promise that his descendants should yet
immediately occur, if, as is probable, he had already dark forebodings that
the period of exile and servitude spoken of by Jehovah to Abraham was
about to commence, he was yet able to detect a silver lining in the cloud, to
see the happy time beyond, when his children, in accordance with the
promise “I will surely bring thee up again” (ch. 46:4) should return
home to their presently abandoned inheritance.
· HOW IT WAS REMOVED.
Ø By Joseph’s promise. Requested by his aged parent to convey his body
carry out that parent s wishes to the letter. “I will do as thou hast said.”
Ø By Joseph’s oath. As if to remove every possible ground of
apprehension, the old man further binds his son by an appeal to heaven.
“And he said, Swear unto me; and he (Joseph) sware unto him.” The
venerable patriarch’s anxieties were at an end. “And
himself upon the bed’s head.”
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