Genesis 47 - Jacob’s Request

November 08, 2019

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 land of Goshen.

2 And he took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh.

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.

4 They said morever 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.

5 And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee:

6 The 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.

7 And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.

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.

10 And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.

11 And 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.

12 And Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to their families.

13 And 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.

14 And 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.

15 And 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.

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.

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.

20 And 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.

21 And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof.

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.

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.

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.

26 And 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.

27 And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly.

28 And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years.

29 And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, 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 thee, in Egypt:

30 But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their buryingplace. And he said, I will do as thou hast said.

31 And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head.

Events:

1. Joseph introduces five of his brothers to the Pharaoh.

2. Joseph takes his father to visit the Pharaoh.

3. Joseph wisely manages Egyptian affairs through the famine years.

4. Jacob makes Joseph swear that he will bury him in the land of Canaan.

What does this passage teach us?

Verses 1–6. Shall God’s people separate from worldly people, or integrate into the businesses and politics of this world? There is no easy answer to this question. While separation from the world of lust and pride is the Christian’s constant obligation, this does not mean we are to separate from all of the people who operate by lust and pride (1 Cor. 5:11). Most of us will run into unbelievers every day in classrooms, stores, governments, companies, and neighborhoods. In these casual meetings and business interactions, we are still to maintain adherence to God’s laws. We cannot count on unbelievers playing by God’s laws. It is for us to be sure that we are obeying God on our side of the conversation, in our side of the business transaction, and in the decisions we make when we engage the political sphere. 

Joseph is a good example for believers today. He was virtually surrounded by unbelieving pagans, while intimately involved in the affairs of the government of the great Egyptian empire. As part of his duties, he provided the pagan priests with grain for food. If he disagreed with the religious cult of Egypt, did he compromise his relationship with the true God by his public work? Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with selling or giving food to unbelievers, even to those who may engage in immoral activities. Moreover, Joseph was working under the authority of the Pharaoh. It must have been the established policy of Egypt that the religious cult be supported by the state. He was in no position to reverse this policy. To exceed his authority as a civil magistrate would be to exercise rebellion against God’s established order. A God-fearing man would not do this. Joseph’s respect for Egypt’s established policies did not constitute an implicit endorsement of their false gods. Given that Joseph was unable to use his political position to “impact” pagan Egypt and its state-endorsed idolatry, why did God put this godly man in this country? Without question, Joseph’s wise administration of resources preserved the Egyptian people from complete annihilation. But this is not why God brought him to Egypt. Joseph’s first priority was to protect and preserve God’s people. This is always the first priority for every true believer who works in the socio-economic systems of this world (Gal. 6:10; Luke 16:8–9).

After their meeting with Pharaoh, the family solidified an economic plan that would provide them with sustenance while they sojourned in the land of Egypt. The men made it clear that they were “just visiting.” They would live apart from the Egyptians as they assumed the despised occupation of shepherds, content to live lives that were separate from this pagan civilization. Later, we find Moses leaving his position in the courts of the Pharaoh to become a shepherd and lead the people of God out of Egypt. The life of faith seldom values those things that the world values.

Verses 7–10. In these verses, Jacob meets the Pharaoh and blesses him. These blessings given by godly men like Jacob, are appropriate and often have long-lasting effects on the civil society that is blessed.

Jacob’s brief statement hardly provided any sort of wise counsel to the Pharaoh, but it does lend some insight into his assessment of his own life. As he approached death, Jacob looked upon his life as a pilgrimage, or a long visit to some foreign country. In the words of the writer to the Hebrews, he looked for “a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city.” Jacob also spoke of his years on earth as few and evil, an accurate view of life in a sinful world that perpetually lies in the throes of wickedness, suffering, and death. This is a painful, evil life, and only hope in a resurrection and final glorification can possibly mitigate the pain and make life worth living.

Verses 11–26. Typically, human empires always become slave-based economies, where people rely more on the state than they do on their families and local churches. This is the nature of empires. Instead of taking responsibility for themselves and saving for the years of economic downturn (which are inevitable), people live for the moment. Similar to the character named Passion in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, they insist on enjoying all of the good things now. Over time, they sink deep in debt as they seek to satisfy their immediate desires. Consequently, they consume all their present capital and leave their children bankrupt. As the character of their nation continues to degrade, especially during economic downturns, they instinctively turn to the civil government for womb-to-tomb security. This is the fate of most western nations and of all other nations who have followed the West. Therefore, it is hard to blame the growth of the power of the state and increased centralized control on anybody but the citizens themselves. This is especially true in Western democracies or constitutional republics where the people have some access to the vote.

This seven-year famine was terribly devastating to the lands of Canaan and Egypt, producing a severe economic downturn. Had it not been for Joseph’s keen foresight, careful planning, and management skills, millions of people would have starved to death. What we find in Egypt is still a far cry from the redistribution of the wealth schemes operating in modern western nations. For those who did not have the foresight to save for a rainy day or a drought, their only resort was to appeal to the Pharaoh. But Joseph’s food distribution was not a government welfare program, which always destroys the character, the work ethic, and the productivity of a nation. Welfare programs serve only to create more dependence upon the socialist slave state, and this was something that Joseph refused to do. Although the old Egyptian state was well-known for its frequent use of chattel slavery, Joseph refused to place the entire population into bond slavery. He suggested an approach that was better than total subjection to a family-disintegrating, absolutely-tyrannical slave state. Far more preferable was what we call “feudalism,” or a rent-based economy. Since the people had exchanged their property for food, the Pharaoh retained ownership of a great deal of property. But the people could still rent the farm land and obtain seeds in exchange for 20 percent of the harvest. This, therefore, was not a tax, but a business trade between individual families and the Pharaoh. In the end, the result was still an expansion of the Pharaoh’s wealth and ownership of the land. Joseph made the best out of a bad situation.  This is what all righteous men must do when they work with fallen men in a fallen world.

Verses 27–31. Jacob was still a man of the covenant. Though he was about to die in a foreign land, his commitment was still to God and to the promises God had made to Abraham, Isaac, and to himself. It had been over 250 years since God first revealed the promise to Abraham and now Jacob still clung to it.

The place where a man is buried is highly significant to himself and to his heirs. It bears a testimony to his legacy and his roots. Therefore, when Jacob made Joseph swear that he would bury him in the promised land, this became a testimony to all his heirs. This burial would work strongly on Moses’ mind four hundred years later as he prepared to return God’s people to the land of promise. Jacob’s final request was a tremendous act of faith.

How does this passage teach us to walk with God in faith and obedience?

1. We should not become overly attached to the things of this earth. Of course, we can own houses, work our businesses, get good Christians elected to government, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Our work on earth is important, but we work on earth in anticipation of a heavenly inheritance.

2. Unbelievers ignore God’s laws in business and politics. The only difference between political parties that are controlled by unbelievers is found in the particular laws of God they choose to break. Party A may choose to ignore some aspect of the 8th commandment. Meanwhile, Party B is ignoring some aspect of the 6th or the 7th commandment. Thus, Christians cannot very well align themselves with any political party governed by unbelievers. 

3. The highest priority for a Christian in politics is to protect God’s people from the tyranny of the state. This means that they should protect the family’s freedom to worship and to raise their children in the fear of the true God. They should also protect the church from state controls on the pulpit. Secondarily, the Christian in politics preserves society from destroying itself. Thus, laws against cannibalism, murder, abortion, infanticide, and homosexuality help to preserve a society from self-annihilation (Gen. 9:4-6, Lev. 18:22,27). 

4. Regrettably, some level of slavery is inevitable for humans living in this sin-drenched world. It is not a preferred condition. Without strong character and self-control, it is impossible to be free. Nevertheless, godly leaders must still work hard to minimize slavery as best as they can. But we are always limited by the character of the nation that we lead. Certainly, Christians ought to oppose all efforts to enslave people by civil government. Above all people, we should stand against the constant pressure to increase taxation, government expenditures, government debt, and redistribution of the wealth. These are all paths to slavery. Policies which increase the people’s dependence on government through welfare and “social security,” as well as those programs that erode family responsibilities, produce this slave state. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” and righteous men would never support these slave state policies. In fact, the biblical limit to taxation is 10 percent (1 Sam. 8:15).

Questions:

1. What are the themes of Chapters 1 through 47?

2. Was it wrong for Joseph to provide sustenance for pagan priests? Explain. 

3. What arrangements did Jacob’s family make with Pharaoh?

4. Why did Jacob call his years on earth a “pilgrimage?”

5. How were Joseph’s policies on grain distribution different from those of the modern welfare state?

6. How did Jacob’s request to be buried in Canaan serve as a testimony to his faith?

Family Discussion Questions:

1. Do we believe God’s promises? 

The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” Do we believe this? 

Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Do we believe that Jesus is preparing a place for us? 

The Bible says, “Honor your father and your mother, that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” Do we really believe that promise? 

If we really believed God’s promises, how would this affect the way we live our lives? 

2. How much of our money is taxed on all levels (by federal, state, and local governments)? How much slavery do we contend with in our situation today? To what extent are we enslaved to banks through debt? To what extent are we enslaved to powerful governments? Would you call America a slave state?