May 14, 2017
Lord’s Day Worship
The sermon starts at 15:30 in the audio file.
Or, How Joseph Brought Blessing to All the Land of Egypt
There are only four more chapters until our study of Genesis is finished. There are many more chapters left in the Bible after Genesis, and there have been multiple chapters in the history of God’s work since John finished his book of Revelation. The main idea in Genesis 47 is not new, nor is it unique, but it is worth both understanding and repeating as God makes us able.
When God elected Abram to be His man, He told Abram that Abram would be a blessing to the nations through his offspring (Genesis 12:1-3). That blessing continues to come through the one seed, Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16), but blessings abounded from Abram’s own life and his descendants before Jesus. In Genesis 47, blessing comes through Jacob, Abram’s grandson, but Jacob’s blessing only comes because of the blessing of his son, Joseph. Joseph brings blessing to all the land of Egypt, to the royal palace, to all the Egyptians, and to his own father and brothers.
It took Joseph a long time to get to this position to be such a conduit of blessing. He endured two-plus decades of labor as a foreign slave, then as an unjustly accused prisoner. But he did endure, and God used him to save Pharaoh and the famished and his family.
In this chapter we’ll see how Joseph is part of blessing Pharaoh by settling his family in Egypt (verses 1-12), how Joseph is part of blessing Pharaoh by securing money and land and a future in Egypt (verses 13-26), and how Joseph is part of blessing Israel by promising to return him to the Promised Land (verses 27-31).
Joseph and his father and brothers met each other in Goshen at the end of chapter 46 (Genesis 46:28-29). Joseph knew where he wanted his family to settle (Genesis 45:10), and he explained to his family that he would go before Pharaoh on their behalf (46:31-32), and that they should answer Pharaoh about being shepherds (46:33-34). The scene moves to the palace as Joseph brings some of his family before the king.
Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, “My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that they possess have come from the land of Canaan. They are now in the land of Goshen.” This has the ring of an official report. But it moves from a just a report to include a personal introduction. And from among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh. Why only five? Which five? The five that looked the most noble and impressive? The five that looked the most weak and needy?
As Joseph anticipated, Pharaoh asked about their employment. ”What is your occupation?” And they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, as our fathers were.” They said to Pharaoh, “We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servant’s flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. And now, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.” The brothers go beyond Joseph’s catechism, but it’s all true, and it’s humble, referring to themselves as servants three times. They are shepherds, so they aren’t gunning for any important positions in the land. In fact, they came to sojourn, to be immigrants, not thinking it to be a permanent move. Though Joseph has promised them Goshen, and though that’s where their families and flocks were at the moment, they still don’t presume, they ask. This way they wouldn’t have to unpack twice.
Pharaoh turns to Joseph and authorizes him to take care of the needs of his family. ”Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you. Settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land. Let them settle in the land of Goshen, and if you know any able men among them, put them in charge of my livestock.” The welcome is official, and everyone has heard Pharaoh’s word. Goshen is nearby and apparently the land is still able to support pasture for animals.
It may have been moments later, or perhaps it was days later, after his father rested from the trip. But Joseph brought in Jacob his father and stood him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. The blessed is key, what happens when he came in is repeated in verse 10 when he went out. Usually the superior blesses the inferior (so says the author of Hebrews, 7:7). Jacob is not the political superior, but he is the spiritual superior. This blessing is more than just a greeting, “hello” and “goodbye.” Jacob is praying God’s favor and fruitfulness on Pharaoh, this pagan ruler of a foreign country (again this is what God promised to do through His chosen, Genesis 18:18 and more).
Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many are the days of the years of your life?” He didn’t speak directly to the brothers, but he shows honor to Jacob by addressing him. And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.” It’s not an exceptionally thankful or joyful sounding answer. 130 years is a lot, and Egyptian records show that they valued long life. 130 years is not as long as his grandfather Abraham (175) or his father Isaac (180), though he will live another 17 years, reaching 147, which is fairly close.
Most interesting is that he calls it sojourning. His family has been wandering, but this is not just a reference to the physical moves he and his fathers had made. There was a better country they were looking for (Hebrews 11:16). Jacob also described the years as few and evil. Just the parts we know about are challenging: father favoring his twin brother, bickering between brothers, stealing the blessing, leaving home and running to Laban, Laban changing his wages a dozen times, bickering wives, losing his favorite son, famine, now leaving the promised land. That said, he is alive, his son Joseph is alive, and doing quite well now actually. Here was a missed opportunity to witness to God’s blessings to him.
As he leaves he blesses Pharaoh again and went out from the presence of Pharaoh, not to see him again as far as we know.
Joseph settled his father and his brothers 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. “Rameses” was another name for Goshen more familiar to Moses’ readers.
The final two verses of this section sum up the blessing that Joseph was to his family. He got them a place and made sure they had provisions, for all of them, according to the number of their dependents. In the midst of a serious famine, as the next paragraph points out, Joseph’s family had all that they needed. It was by Joseph’s endurance, when he couldn’t have known what would come of it, that God put him in place to be a blessing to his family in part of Egypt.
It might appear that the center section of chapter 47 doesn’t belong. The first twelve verses and the final five verses are about Jacob and family settling in Egypt and then making arrangements to be buried in Canaan. This part of the story seems unrelated to Jacob.
But since it’s bookended by references to God’s chosen family, it’s right to see this as part of the blessing Joseph brought to Egypt, part of the blessing that Jacob just prayed over Pharaoh. Pharaoh blessed Jacob by invitation and honor, so God fulfills His promise to “bless those who bless you” (Genesis 12:3). Through Joseph Pharaoh’s holdings increase beyond his imagination and the lives of the people of Egypt are saved.
Now there was no food in all the land, for the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished by reason of the famine. In verse 13 they are probably a little more than halfway through the seven years of distress as Joseph prophesied. People came and bought food from Joseph, and he gathered up all the money…in exchange for the grain that they bought…and brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. The word gathered up is used for “gleaning or picking up scraps…implying the people bringing every last penny to buy food” (Wenham). Grain is a different word than “food” in verse 17 and “seed” in verse 23. This is the national economy now in one pile, and Joseph didn’t keep it for himself.
Not long after when the money was all spent…all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone.” A combination of things are happening here. The famine is still awful, they have not saved enough for themselves, and they have nowhere else to go. So Joseph makes a new deal. ”Give your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money is gone.” The food is not Joseph’s to give away for free, the food is Pharaoh’s. Joseph is being a good steward. He supplied them with food in exchange for all their livestock that year.
And when that year was ended, they came to him the following year and said to him, “We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent. The herds of livestock are my lord’s. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land. And they ask again, ”Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land?” So they propose this time, ”Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.” They are virtually bankrupt, this is all they have left.
Verses 21-22 summarize that Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh. Joseph was part of bringing the blessing to Pharaoh as his holdings grew substantially. As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. It could be that Joseph “put them in cities,” but I’m not as convinced by that description, especially in light of how the people refer to themselves as servants. The only land that Joseph didn’t take was the land of the priests, but that’s because Pharaoh already owned and gave that land to them any way.
The seven years of famine are coming close to being over, so now seed will be important again. Joseph said, ”Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.” Nothing enables government expansion like trouble, be it war or natural disaster. People want a fix more than freedom.
The Egyptians, however, are anything but irritated or resentful. They see all this as good for them. They said, “You have saved our lives.” They aren’t irritated that the State didn’t give them something for nothing, a bailout. They don’t complain against Joseph: #notmyprimeminister. It “did not affect his approval ratings” (MacArthur). ”May it please my lord, we will be Pharaoh’s servants.” Resentment levels appear to be zero, even with his family living in the land of in Goshen. The 20% tax was still in effect at the time when Moses wrote.
In the final scene of the chapter the focus returns to Joseph’s family. Jacob is dying and calls Joseph to promise that he won’t bury Jacob in Egypt.
Israel settled in the land of Egypt, but unlike the Egyptians who gave away to Pharaoh all their money and livestock and lands, the Israelites gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly. These last two verbs are the same as found in Genesis 1:28. God was making Israel into a great nation (Genesis 46:3) and they are thriving while others are languishing. The famine is over at this point. We may ask why Jacob has not returned to Canaan?
At some point of Jacob’s deterioration, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If now I have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place.
”Swear to me”; and he swore to him. Jacob made Esau “swear” when he sold his birthright (Genesis 25:23).
Then Israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed, a sign of humble worship.
Jacob still has a couple more things to do before he dies. In chapter 48 he blesses Joseph’s two sons, and in chapter 49 he “blesses” all of his own sons.
In chapter 47 it is Joseph who brings blessing to all the land of Egypt.
Joseph is a great example, and God calls all His people to blessing and to be blessers as they are able.
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)
Life is hard and then you die. Sometimes life is hard because of what Adam did (Genesis 3:17-19), sometimes life is hard because God is showing you off to Satan (i.e., Job), sometimes life is hard because you were foolish and God is discipling us (Hebrews 12:11). But however hard it is, this is a sojourn, and how you walk through it will show others whether you think God is great or not. Fight sin, walk honorably, adorn goodness, bless others.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11–12, ESV)