Growing up, a family vacation meant a trip to either wild and wonderful West Virginia or Michigan. And in West Virginia we would spend time with grandparents and then walk up the hill to spend time with an aunt and uncle and cousins. Then we would walk down the hill to spend time with an aunt and uncle and cousins. And then an aunt and uncle and cousins would come across the hill to spend time with us. And on each occasion and at each location, no matter who it was, everyone called my Dad, Jim and me, Jimmy. In Michigan there are no hills. But there were grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. And on each occasion and at each location, no matter who it was, everyone called my Dad big Jim and me, you guessed it, little Jim.
Genesis 47 is not a family vacation, but there is a family. And on each occasion and at each location in the chapter, there seems to be this theme of contrast. Genesis 47 and this theme can be seen in four parts. First, there is Joseph preparing his brothers to meet Pharaoh and Joseph presenting his brothers to Pharaoh (Genesis 46:31-34; Genesis 47:1-6). Next, there are the brothers before Pharaoh and then their father before Pharaoh (Genesis 47:1-6; Genesis 47:7-10). Then, there is Joseph providing for his father, his brothers, his sisters-in-law; his nieces, his nephews; and Joseph providing for the people of Egypt and for Pharaoh, too (Genesis 47:12; Genesis 47:13-26).
But finally, there is Jacob at 130 years old and then there is Jacob at 147 years old (Genesis 47:9; Genesis 47:28). Jacob at 130 years old is with his son Joseph. And Jacob at 147 years old is with his son Joseph.
An End Without An Ending
Genesis 46 ends without an ending. It is about Jacob finishing his journey and taking all the he had to finish his journey which included more than seventy family members – sons and grandsons; daughters-in-law and granddaughters – taking all that they had to finish his journey. Their goal was to get to Egypt and a place in Egypt called Goshen. Now, in Genesis 47 we hear Goshen get called another name, which at the time of writing was its modern name – Rameses. Goshen was considered the best of the land (47:6). And the word Rameses reflects how good this land was for it means luxuriant, fresh and green. And consider that this is during a very severe famine.
And as this family nears Goshen, I love this, Jacob has his son Judah lead the way, almost carving out the way to Goshen. It is because here is where Jacob will meet his son Joseph. And to carve out the way, Judah just leaves behind him a trail of dust! And then Joseph, as soon as he gets word that his dad has arrived, prepares his chariot to move faster than ever to meet his dad. Think of the anticipation. How long has Joseph been waiting for this day? Since he was seventeen years old. And how long has Jacob been waiting for this day? Since Joseph was seventeen years old. And when this father and this son meet for the first time in nearly three decades, Joseph falls, it is like he throws himself upon his father. He embraced his dad. He wept over his dad. And this is my favorite part; this was for “a good while” (46:30).
And after a good while, Joseph turns to speak to his brothers. Think of it; these brothers had been watching this embrace for a good while, in fact, more than seventy people had been watching this embrace for a good while. There could not have been a dry eye! And through his watery eyes to their watery eyes, Joseph begins to prepare his brothers to meet Pharaoh. Joseph tells them what he will say; what Pharaoh will say; and what the brothers will need to say (Genesis 46:31-34). And the chapter ends. It ends without an ending; this family is left holding their luggage just waiting for someone to tell them where they can put it!
What Is Your Occupation?
And so, Genesis 47 begins. It begins with Joseph meeting with Pharaoh, telling him that his family is standing in Goshen, holding their luggage, waiting for someone to tell them where to put it. And so it happened; Joseph said what he would say to Pharaoh.
Now listen to verse two. “And from among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh.” Joseph only presented five of his brothers to Pharaoh. Why? I think he presented Dan, Naphtali; Gad; Asher and either Issachar or Zebulun; only because these five have not had much to do nor have been given much mention thus far in this family’s history. It is just interesting that he only presented five and we do not know which five. So, Pharaoh asks these five, “What is your occupation?” And it is exactly as Joseph prepared them. Notice what happened next; the brothers answered how Joseph told them to answer. “We are shepherds.” And finally, someone told this family where they could put all of their stuff. Pharaoh replied, “Settle your father and brothers in the best of the land.” But then, Pharaoh did something unexpected. He offered every able man in this family a job. And it was not just any job. It was an offer to be an officer of the crown, which came with every royal and legal protection. Pharaoh wanted these men to take charge of his livestock. Now think of it; shepherding was considered an abomination to the Egyptians (46:34). These men are shepherds and Pharaoh has livestock. Mark that down. This would be more than anyone could have imagined.
And Jacob Blessed Pharaoh
I love this next scene (Genesis 47:7-10). After Joseph presented his brothers before Pharaoh, he then presents his father before Pharaoh. There was no preparation for this; Joseph did not tell his dad what he would say or what Pharaoh would say or what Jacob needed to say. Jacob appears to be unmoved and unimpressed. He stood before the most powerful man in the world and spoke. Jacob spoke first. Jacob spoke last. And when he spoke, he did so boldly and bluntly. Listen to the end of verse seven. “And Jacob blessed Pharaoh.” First and last, Jacob blessed Pharaoh (see 47:10). This Hebrew word will be easy to remember. It is the word barak. How did Jacob bless Pharaoh? It can be simply and easily seen as this; Jacob prayed for Pharaoh. Pharaoh heard it and Jacob did this twice! Twice, Jacob prayed for this man. What could he have prayed? In the New Testament, Christians are commanded to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions.” Listen to the reasoning. “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Keep listening. “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.” Now watch this; what could Jacob have prayed for Pharaoh? Keep listening. “God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:2-4).
This old man prayed for Pharaoh, in the hearing of Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world. And it just said to me, how might I and how might we be a blessing to those who are in high positions over us? Pray for them! And pray what? Think; this is seen as a blessing! How did Pharaoh respond? “How many are the days of the years of your life?” I know, because I counted them. Jacob at this point, not including leap years, was 47,450 days old and counting, meaning he was not buying green bananas. But really, Pharaoh’s response was, “how old are you?” And listen closely to Jacob. Keep in mind that this is in the hearing of Pharaoh and Joseph, too. Jacob says that all the days of the years of his life have been “few and evil,” few and filled with pain. What pain? I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with his mom and dad. I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with Esau. I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with his two wives. I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with his father-in-law. I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with his daughter Dinah. I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with his sons. And I think Jacob is thinking about the relationship lost with Joseph. And perhaps, Jacob is thinking about his own responsibility in all of it. I just wondered, is he saying, “I wasted it. It was 47,450 days, too few and so filled with trouble of my own doing.” And he prayed for Pharaoh a second time.
And Then Joseph Provided Food
And then Joseph provided food (47:12). He provided food for his father and his brothers and his sisters-in-law and his nieces and his nephews. But then read verse thirteen. “Now there was no food in the land.” But Joseph still provided food! This is to say that all those who were living in the land had run out of food and not only had they run out of food, but money too. Those living in the land had spent all their money on food. So they come to Joseph with the plea, “Why should we die before your eyes?” (47:15). So, in Joseph’s cool wisdom, notice he does not panic, he proposes that those wanting food, exchange their livestock for food (47:16). Where have we seen the word livestock before?
So, the people are thankful and exchange their livestock for food. Then a year goes by, and there is no food in the land, meaning all those who were living in the land had run out of food and not only had they run out of food, but livestock too. Guess who owns the livestock now? Pharaoh, and who is in charge of Pharaoh’s livestock? Joseph’s family. Just amazing. So, now the people come back to Joseph and say, “Why should we die before your eyes?” This time the people propose, “Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh” (47:19). And in this moment, Joseph provided for the people of Egypt and for Pharaoh, not just for the next year, but for years upon years. From this day forth, Pharaoh will be responsible for the people and the land, and in return the people will give Pharaoh food, a fifth of the harvest, themselves keeping four-fifths. Their response: “You have saved our lives!” (Genesis 47:25). Note that subtle theme here of living and dying (cf. 42:2; 43:8).
And Jacob Lived in the Land of Egypt
It is this next part that has grabbed my attention. Listen to verse twenty-eight. “And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt.” How long did he live in Egypt? Jacob lived in Egypt for seventeen years. The time will draw near for him to die and when that time draws to a close, Jacob will be 147 years old. He will call upon Joseph for one final and important favor. He desires to not be buried in the land of Egypt. But rather, he wants to be buried back in the land of promise. This is rather interesting. Jacob was carried by his sons to Egypt (46:5). But he asks Joseph to be the one who carries him out of Egypt to the land of promise (47:30). This part got to me.
But do notice that Jacob lived in Egypt for seventeen years. These were seventeen seemingly silent years. But who did he spend those years with? It was Joseph. And this is too good, how many years did Jacob spend with Joseph, before Joseph was sent off to Egypt? It was seventeen years.
And I think it is all just a continuation of Genesis 46 and the life of Jacob. How are you finishing? Jacob looked at 88.4% of his life and saw how short and how pain filled it was, and I think he recognized his own hand in it. But these final seventeen years, seemingly silent, seemingly good and really short, Jacob is beholding God’s promise. Jacob is beholding that nothing will thwart God’s will, God’s plan and God’s purpose.
Moses wrote this chapter. He wrote all the previous chapters too. And as he stared at his own finish, he gave these final words. And no matter the age, this is to be kept in view. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).