THE PENTATEUCH PART I: GENESIS
LESSON 19: Genesis 46:1-48:22
Joseph the Savior of His Family

Beloved Heavenly Father,
In Your wisdom, Lord, You instituted the human family.  You gave us families to teach us about human relationships, to teach us about self-sacrifice for the good of the family above the desires of the one, to teach us about mercy and forgiveness, and to teach us about loyalty and laughter.  The Christian family is an image of the communion of the divine Trinity - of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit, and in the birth of its children the family reflects Your work in creation.  Joseph loved and knew the value of family. Help us Lord to never take for granted the value of our families and the family's place as the fundamental unit that is incorporated into and comprises the basic foundation of the faith communities we call Your Church - our covenant family.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, bowed in reverence, as he leant on his staff.  It was by faith that, when he was about die, Joseph mentioned the Exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his own remains.  Hebrews 11:21-22

Bow down, then, before the power of God now, so that he may raise you up in due time; unload all your burden on to him, since he is concerned about you.  1 Peter 5:6

In the Genesis narrative both Joseph and Judah prefigure Jesus' redeeming work of salvation.(1) Joseph, the beloved son of his father, was sent to his brothers.  His brothers rejected him and sought his death.  They got rid of him through the agency of a third party (the slave traders), but God took their evil intention and through His grace brought about the means of the brothers' salvation and the restoration of the Jacob's family through Joseph's sufferings and elevation to the Vizier of Egypt.  In the same way Jesus, the beloved Son of God the Father, was sent to His "brothers" who rejected Him and sought His death, using the Roman governor.  What was a great evil in crucifying God the Son became, through God's grace, a great act of redemption for mankind in Jesus' atoning death and Resurrection which resulted in the gift of salvation being offered to His "brothers" and all "brothers" and "sisters" in the human family.

Judah's willingness to sacrifice his life for Benjamin prefigured the willing sacrifice of his descendant, Jesus of Nazareth, for His "brothers" in the family of man.  Judah was the first person in Sacred Scripture who willingly offered his own life to preserve the life of another; an act of self-sacrifice that healed the breach caused by the sin against Joseph and healed the disunity within his own family.  His unselfish love for his father and brother and his willingness to sacrifice his own life prefigures Christ's freely offered atoning death on the altar of the Cross which healed the breach sin caused between God and man in the human family. 

Judah as a "type" of Christ

Judah son of Jacob Jesus Son of God
Sent by his father to save his family. Sent by His Father to save the human family.
He willingly offered his life to free his brother from slavery and to restore him to their family. He willingly offered His life to redeem His "brothers" in the human family and to free them from slavery to sin.
His self-sacrificial act led to the reconciliation of his family, healing the breach caused by the sin against Joseph. His self-sacrificial death on the Cross healed the breach sin caused between man and God.

M. Hunt © copyright 2009

Joseph's endurance and final victory has depended not on Joseph's ingenuity but on the presence of God in his life.  From the beginning of his struggles, Joseph bowed down before the presence and power of God, and God raised him up to victory - but Joseph's mission was not yet completed. Joseph's first dream had been fulfilled when his eleven brothers bowed down to him at his banquet (Gen 37:6-8; 43:26, 28) but in this part of the narrative Joseph must complete the prophecy of the second dream when he saw the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowing down before him.  It was a dream that enraged his brothers and caused his father to rebuke him (Gen 37:9-11). 

However, it was more than Joseph's final dream that was being fulfilled in the journey of Jacob's family into Egypt during a time of famine.  The account of Jacob/Israel's journey into Egypt parallels the events of Abraham's journey to Egypt in a time of famine three generations earlier.  The link to past events illustrates that as God preserved the "promised seed" in the past, He continued to be watchful and faithful in the future.  The past isn't just history; it is an on-going story of God's plan of salvation that affects future generations who can learn from examples of acts of faith as well as from the human failures that cause suffering.  In studying the past we can be encouraged by God's acts of mercy and at the same time we should be warned to expect God's acts of judgment.

Abraham's family's journey into Egypt in a time of famine in Genesis 12:10-15 prefigured the journey of Joseph's family into Egypt.  Notice the comparison between the two accounts (Interlineal Bible, vol. I, pages 27-28 and 113-132):

Abraham: Genesis 12:10-15 Joseph: Genesis 41:54b-47:27
12:10: And famine was in the land 41:54b: And the famine was in all lands
12:11: and it was when he had drawn near to come into Egypt 46:28: and they came into the land of  Goshen (Egypt)
12:11: he said to his wife Sarai 46:31: And Joseph said to his brothers...
12:11: I know that... 46:31: I will go up and tell Pharaoh
12:12: And it will be when the Egyptians see you, they will 46:33: And it shall be when the Pharaoh calls you and
12:13: say... 46:34: says...
12:13: that it may be well with me for your sake and I might live. 46:34b: that you may live in the land of Goshen.
12:13: And the princes of Pharaoh saw her and praised her before Pharaoh. 47:1: And Joseph came in and made known to Pharaoh...
12:15: And the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. 47:2b: And he took five men from among his brothers and set them before Pharaoh.
12:16: And he treated Abram well... And he had sheep and oxen and he-asses...  47:6c: make them chief of livestock over what is mine.
13:2: And Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. 47:27: And they owned in it, and were fruitful and multiplied exceedingly.
M. Hunt © copyright 2009

Please read Genesis 46:1-7: Jacob/Israel and His Family Leave for Egypt
46:1So Israel set out with all his possessions.  Arriving at Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father (Elohei Aviv) Isaac. 2God (Elohim) spoke to Israel in a vision at night, 'Jacob, Jacob,' he said.  'Here I am,' he replied. 3'I am El [God singular], God of your father (Elohei Avicha),' he said.  'Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4I shall go down to Egypt with you and I myself shall bring you back again, and Joseph's hand will close your eyes.' 5So Jacob left Beersheba.  Israel's sons conveyed their father Jacob, their little children and their wives in the wagons Pharaoh had sent to fetch him. 6Taking their livestock and all that they had acquired in Canaan, they arrived in Egypt Jacob and all his offspring (seed*). 7With him to Egypt, he brought his sons and grandsons, his daughters and granddaughters - all his offspring.
(see Interlineal Bible, vol. I, page 126).

The key word in this passage is "God," used once in the singular, "El," and three times in the plural, "Elohim."  "El" is the first part of God's title that is used most frequently with the patriarchs: El Shaddai.  In this case, God only uses the first part of the title.

Jacob must have been residing at Hebron (Gen 35:27; 37:14) when he set out on his journey to Egypt.  He traveled 28 miles (Fr. McKenzie, page 87) from Hebron south to Beersheba where he stopped to offer sacrifices at the altar built by Isaac after he had a vision of God (Gen 26:23-25).  Isaac then made his home in Beersheba (Gen 26:23; 28:10).  Beersheba was also connected to his grandfather Abraham.  It was at Beersheba that Abraham dug a well, made a covenant with Abimelech, built an altar and worshiped Yahweh (Gen 21:29-33). 

It is in this final visit to Beersheba that Jacob will receive his final vision of the God of Abraham and Isaac.  This final communication between God and Jacob is to remind Jacob of God's promises to the patriarchs.  Notice that God addresses him by his former name - the name of the weak Jacob, perhaps because in his fear of leaving Canaan he is weak in his trust that God controls his destiny and the destiny of his family.  That Jacob is afraid is suggested in God's opening statement of assurance.

Question: What did God reveal to Jacob in his dream? Name God's statement of assurance which was followed by four promises.
Answer:

  1. He is not to be afraid of going to Egypt.
  2. God will make him into a great nation there.
  3. God will be with him in Egypt.
  4. God will bring him back to Canaan.
  5. Joseph will be with him when he dies.

God's promise: I will make you into a great nation there, is a repeat of the promises made to the Patriarch Abraham (see Gen 12:2; 15:13-15; 17:6, 20; 18:18; 21:13-18).  God will use the pagan nation of Ham's descendants (Gen 10:6), the mighty nation of Egypt, as the womb in which He will transform Israel from the embryonic single tribe of 70 men into a developed nation of a multitude consisting of from two to four million souls (Ex 1:7; Num 2:1-3:39). 

God's promise to Jacob/Israel: I myself shall bring you back again, will be fulfilled in part seventeen years later when Jacob dies in Egypt.  The promise has a double meaning. 

Question: In what two ways does God keep this promise?  See Genesis 49:29-32; 50:12-13 and 15:12-21.
Answer: The promise will be kept in the individual sense when Jacob's sons bring his body back for burial in the cave of Machpelah with the other patriarchs.  But there is also the corporate sense in which the promise is extended to his descendants who God will bring back to possess the land of Canaan.

Beersheba has been an important site in Jacob's life.  Years before it was from Beersheba that Jacob began his odyssey to Haran (Gen 28:10), and now it is from Beersheba that his odyssey to Egypt will begin.  It is also the border of the "promised land" to which Jacob knows his descendants must return.

The Toledoth of Jacob's Descendants in Egypt

Please read Genesis 46:8-15: Jacob's Sons and Grandsons by Leah
46:8These were the names of the Israelites, Jacob and his descendants, who arrived in Egypt: 9Reuben, Jacob's first-born, and the sons of Reuben: Hanoch, Palla, Hezron and Carmi. 10The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul the son of the Canaanite woman. 11The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath and Merai. 12The sons of Judah: Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez, and Zerah (Er and Onan had died in Canaan), and Hezron and Hamul sons of Perez. 13The sons of Issachar: Tola, Puvah, Jashub and Shimron. 14The sons of Zebulun: Sered, Elon and Jahleel. 15These were the sons that Leah had born to Jacob in Paddan-Aram, besides his daughter Dinah; in all his sons and daughters numbered thirty-three.

Jacob's (1) Descendants by Leah (bold = sons)

Reuben (2) Simeon (7) Levi (14) Judah (18) Issachar (24) Zebulun (29)
Hanoch (3) Jemuel (8) Gershon (15) Er * Tola (25) Sered (30)
Palla (4) Jamin (9) Kohath (16) Onan * Puvah (26) Elon (31)
Hezron (5) Ohad (10) Merai (17) Shelah (19) Jashub (27) Jahleel (32)
Carmi (6) Jachin (11)   Perez (20)
Sons = Hezron (21)
Hamul (22)
Shimron (28)  
  Zohar (12)   Zerah (23)    
  Shaul (13)   *not counted because they died before leaving Canaan    

Dinah = daughter (33)       

Please read Genesis 46:16-18: Jacob's Sons and Grandsons by Zilpah
46:16The sons of Gad: Ziphion, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi and Areli. 17The sons of Asher: Jimnah, Jishvah, Jishvi, Beriah, with their sister Serah; the sons of Beriah: Beber and Malchiel. 18These were the sons of Zilpah whom Laban gave to his daughter Leah; she bore these to Jacob - sixteen persons.

Jacob's Descendants by Zilpah (bold = sons)

Gad (1) Asher (9)
Ziphion (2) Jimnah (10)
Haggi (3) Jishvah (11)
Shuni (4) Jishvi (12)
Ezbon (5) Beriah (13)

Sons of Beriah:
Beber (14) and Malchiel (15)
Eri (6) Serah = sister (16)*
Arodi (7)  
Areli (8)  

* granddaughter of Jacob fathered by Asher; see Num 26:46; 1 Chr 7:30.

It is interesting that Gad had seven sons.  He was the seventh son in birth order and the letters of his Hebrew name have the numerical value (gematria) of the number seven.

Please read Genesis 46:19-22: Jacob's Sons and Grandsons by Rachel
46:19The sons of Rachel wife of Jacob: Joseph and Benjamin. 20Born to Joseph in Egypt were: Manasseh and Ephraim sons of Asenath, daughter of Potiphera priest of On. 21The sons of Benjamin: Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim and Ard. 22These were the sons that Rachel bore to Jacob - fourteen persons in all.

Descendants of Jacob by Rachel (bold = sons)

Joseph (1) Benjamin (2)
Manasseh (3) Bela (5) Becher (6)
Ephraim (4) Ashbel (7)

Gera (8)

  Naaman (9) Ehi (10)
  Rosh (11) Muppim (12)
  Huppim (13) Ard (14)

It seems surprising that Benjamin, who cannot have been more than 30 years old, has fathered ten sons in Canaan, unless there were several multiple births.  This may reflect the inspired writer's manipulation of the list to achieve the symbolically desired number of names, including names of sons born after the migration into Egypt.

Please read Genesis 46:23-25: Jacob's sons by Bilhah
46:23The sons of Dan:  Hushim. 24The sons of Naphtali: Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer and Shillem. 25These were the sons of Bilhah whom Laban gave to his daughter Rachel; she bore these to Jacob - seven persons in all.

Jacob's Descendants by Bilhah (bold = sons)

Dan (1) Naphtali (3)
Hushim (2) Jahzeel (4)
  Guni (5)
  Jezer (6)
  Shillem (7)

Please read Genesis 46:26-27: The Total Number of Israelites in Egypt
46:26Altogether, the members of Jacob's family who arrived with him in Egypt - his own issue, not counting the wives of Jacob's sons - numbered sixty-six all told. 27With Joseph's sons born to him in Egypt - two persons - the number of Jacob's family who went to Egypt totaled seventy.

There were sixty-six persons who entered Egypt in the caravan from Canaan not counting Jacob, Joseph and his two sons born in Egypt.  But the total of the toledoth (notice the list is in descending numbers): 33 descendants by Leah + 16 descendants by Zilpah + 14 descendants by Rachel +7 descendants by Bilhah = 70 descendants of Abraham who will now reside in Egypt.

Genesis 46:26-27 and Acts 7:14 give three different tallies for the number of Israelites entering Egypt.  The inspired writer of Genesis manipulated the names to yield the first total of 66 persons by not counting Judah's dead sons, by counting a daughter and a granddaughter of Jacob, and by not counting Joseph, Jacob, Manasseh and Ephraim.  By adding the last four names to the count of 66 (three of whom were already in Egypt) he had the desired total count of 70 names.  This is a significant number - it is the product of two perfect numbers: 10 (perfection of order) times 7 (spiritual perfection). 

Question: Where have a significant 70 names been listed in salvation history previously?  See Genesis 10:1-32.
Answer:  Seventy is also the same number of the names as the descendants of Noah's sons in the Table of Nations in Genesis 10:1-32. 

The names in the toledoth in Genesis chapter 10 became the 70 fathers the nations of the world, while the 70 people of the toledoth in Genesis 46 – the descendants of the holy line of Shem - will give birth to the nation of Israel.  St. Matthew also manipulated Jesus' genealogy in Matthew 1:1-14 in much the same way to produce the desired pattern of three sets of 14 generations to yield the total of 42 generations in the line of Abraham (see the chart on St. Matthew's toledoth).

The Septuagint Greek translation of Genesis 46:27 recorded a total count of 75 names in Jacob's family.  It is the count which St. Stephen will quote in Acts 7:14.  In Genesis 48:5-6 when Jacob adopted Joseph's two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, he told Joseph: Ephraim and Manasseh shall be as much mine as Reuben and Simeon.  But with regard to the children you have had since them, they shall be yours, and they shall be known by their brother's names for the purpose of their inheritance.  It is assumed that the translators of the Septuagint (and St. Stephen) were either including Joseph's five other children in the count, or the five sons and grandsons of Manasseh and Ephraim who will be born years later but who are named in Numbers 26:29-36.  If the five included in the Septuagint's count are Joseph's other children who were raised Egyptian (unlike Manesseh and Ephraim who were to be raised as Hebrews in Jacob's camp and who were to receive Joseph's inheritance) and who received their inheritance not from Jacob but from Joseph's estate to include any inheritance that came to Asenath through her father, there is a good reason why they were not included in the count of 70 names who will give birth to the nation of Israel.

Please read Genesis 46:28-34: Joseph Welcomes His Family in Egypt
46:28Israel sent Judah ahead to Joseph, so that Judah might present himself to Joseph in Goshen. 29Joseph had his chariot made ready and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel.  As soon as he appeared he threw his arms round his neck and for a long time wept on his shoulder. 30Israel said to Joseph, 'Now I can die, now that I have seen you in person and seen you still alive.' 31Then Joseph said to his brothers and his father's family, 'I shall go back and break the news to (go up and tell*) Pharaoh. I shall tell him, "My brothers and my father's family who were in Canaan have come to me. 32The men are shepherds and look after livestock, and they have brought their flocks and cattle and all their possessions." 33Thus, when Pharaoh summons you and asks, "What is your occupation?", 34you are to say, "Ever since our boyhood your servants have looked after livestock, we and our fathers before us," so that you can stay in the Goshen region - for the Egyptians have a horror of all shepherds.
* = literal translation (Interlineal Bible, vol. I, page 128).

Jacob has found another son he can rely upon, and so he sent Judah ahead to warn Joseph of the family's arrival in Goshen.  

Genesis 46:29: Joseph had his chariot made ready and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel.  As soon as he appeared he threw his arms round his neck and for a long time wept on his shoulder.

Without waiting for his family to come to him, Joseph immediately jumped into his chariot and raced to meet his father. That Joseph "went up to Goshen" may be a geographical detail; he may have been at the Hyksos winter capital at Memphis in the south.

Question: Compare God's mercy in giving Jacob a reunion with Joseph with God's mercy is sparing Isaac and returning him to Abraham in the command to sacrifice his son at Moriah in Genesis chapter 22. How does the experience of these two fathers and their sons prefigure Christ?
Answer: Figuratively both Abraham and Jacob received back sons who they believed were dead to them.  The "resurrection" of each son - Isaac released in the substitutionary sacrifice of the ram and Joseph found to be alive when he was believed to be dead - prefigures the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who was dead but was found to be alive (resurrected) on the third day.

Genesis 46:30: Israel said to Joseph, 'Now I can die, now that I have seen you in person and seen you still alive.'

Question: We have already made the comparisons between Joseph and Jesus - Joseph's life, struggles and victories present him as a "type" of Christ.  Where is a similar declaration to Jacob's joyful greeting of Jacob in Genesis 46:30 found in the New Testament in connection with Jesus?
Answer: It is similar to what the aged prophet Simeon said the first moment he beheld the child Jesus when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple for his presentation to the Lord in Luke 2:28:32.  When Simeon saw Jesus he said he could now "depart" (die) in peace because he had seen the promised Messiah, the Son of God, just as Jacob said he could now die because he had seen his son.

Simeon's song of praise is known as the Nunc Dimittis; the name of the canticle comes from the first two words of the canticle in Latin.  Jacob's 'Now I can die, now that I have seen you in person and seen you still alive' is his nunc dimittis.

Genesis 46:33-34: Thus, when Pharaoh summons you and asks, "What is your occupation?", 34you are to say, "Ever since our boyhood your servants have looked after livestock, we and our fathers before us," so that you can stay in the Goshen region - for the Egyptians have a horror of all shepherds.
Joseph says this twice, first in verse 32 and again in verse 34 (another doublet).

Question: Why did Joseph want his brothers to speak of their experience as herdsmen?  For what two reasons did he want them to live apart from the Egyptians in Goshen?
Answer: Joseph has made plans to settle his family in the rich pasture lands of Goshen, but he needs the final approval of his Pharaoh.  His Pharaoh will see the wisdom of settling the family in Goshen if he understands their occupation.  His family is only changing their location; they are not changing their life-style as herdsmen.  Not only was Goshen good for livestock, but in being separated from the Egyptians, not living in Egyptian towns, the Hebrews are more likely to retain their ethnic identity and not intermarry with the Egyptians.

For the Egyptians have a horror of all shepherds.

This is probably why the Egyptians were separated at a separate table at the banquet in Genesis 43:32.  One of the most powerful gods in the Egyptian pantheon was the god Amun, who was identified with the ram.(2) That the Hebrews sacrifice rams to their god would be abhorrent to Egyptians, and herdsmen were also in a continual state of ritual uncleanliness, another problem for the ritually purity conscious Egyptians.

Please read Genesis 47:1-4: Pharaoh's Audience with Joseph's Five Brothers
47:1So Joseph went and told Pharaoh, 'My father and brothers have arrived from Canaan with their flocks and cattle and all their possessions.  Here they are, in the region of Goshen.' 2He had taken five of his brothers, and he now presented them to Pharaoh. 2Pharaoh asked his brothers, 'What is your occupation?' and they gave Pharaoh the answer, 'Your servants are shepherds, like our fathers before us.' 3They went on to tell Pharaoh, 'We have come to stay in this country for the time being, since there is no pasturage for your servants' flocks, Canaan being stricken with famine.  So now please allow your servants to settle in the region of Goshen.' 4Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'They may stay in the region of Goshen, and if you know of any capable men among them, put them in charge of my own livestock.'

The number five may be significant to Joseph.  The number five is repeated five times in Joseph's narrative in Genesis 43:34; 45:6, 11, 22; and 47:2.  In the significance of numbers in Scripture, five is the number of power and the number signifying God's grace.   Joseph chose five of his brothers to attend an audience with his Pharaoh.  His brothers not only dutifully emphasize their occupation as herders, as Joseph instructed them, but they also made it clear that did not intent to permanently reside in Egypt: We have come to stay in this country for the time being, since there is no pasturage for your servants' flocks, Canaan being stricken with famine.  They had no idea that "for the time being" will stretch out to four generations of Israelites living in Egypt (Gen 15:13, 16).  The Pharaoh not only decided to settle Joseph's family in Goshen but offered to hire them to tend his herds of livestock. Goshen covered an area of approximately 900 square miles.  It was excellent land for grazing herds and flocks of animals with abundant water (multiple Nile tributaries), relatively lush vegetation (because of irrigation), and ideal for growing certain kinds of crops.(3)

Please read Genesis 47:5/6-12: Pharaoh's Audience with Joseph's Father
47:5/6Jacob and his sons went to Egypt where Joseph was.  Pharaoh king of Egypt heard about this and said to Joseph, 'Your father and brothers have come to you.   The country of Egypt is open to you: settle your father and brothers in the best region.' 7Joseph brought his father and presented him to Pharaoh.  Jacob paid his respects to (blessed*) Pharaoh. 8Pharaoh asked Jacob, 'How many years have you lived?' 9Jacob said to Pharaoh, 'The years of my stay on earth add up to one hundred and thirty years.  Few and unhappy my years have been, falling short of my ancestors' years in their stay on earth.' 10Jacob then took leave of (blessed*) Pharaoh and withdrew from his presence. 11Joseph then settled his father and brothers, giving them land holdings in Egypt, in the best part of the country, the region of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered. 12Joseph provided his father, brothers and all his father's family with food, down to the least of them.
*= literal translation (Interlineal Bible, vol. I,  page 130).

In this account we have another doublet - a second audience with Pharaoh but this time it was Joseph's father who was received at Pharaoh's court.  In the interview Jacob was properly respectful, but as the chieftain of Israel and the servant of Yahweh he was not subservient as his sons were in their audience with the Pharaoh, describing themselves as Pharaoh's "servants" three times (47:3, 4 twice).  It is important to note two significant aspect of this passage:

  1. That Jacob blessed Pharaoh two times - Pharaoh had blessed Joseph in elevating him to his exalted position as Vizier, and now true to God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, Jacob, in his role as God's prophet, blessed Pharaoh.  This is another doublet.
  2. Joseph made his family landholders in Goshen (47:11).

Genesis 47:8-9: Pharaoh asked Jacob, 'How many years have you lived?'  9 Jacob said to Pharaoh, 'The years of my stay on earth add up to one hundred and thirty years.  Few and unhappy my years have been, falling short of my ancestors' years in their stay on earth.' 

The Egyptians were impressed with anyone who was blessed by the gods to reach such an advanced age.  Jacob humbly added that his life span was less his fathers: Abraham lived to be 175 years and Isaac to 180 years.  He also alluded to his struggles and probably his grief over the loss of Joseph for many years. 

Genesis 47:10: Jacob then took leave of (blessed*) Pharaoh and withdrew from his presence.  At the end of the audience, Jacob blessed the Pharaoh again as part of his farewell.  Some translations blank on the blessing and just record the farewell but the double blessing of the Pharaoh is significant.  His blessings are fulfilled in Genesis 47:13-26 when Joseph greatly expands his Pharaoh's power over the Egyptians.

Genesis 47:11: Joseph then settled his father and brothers, giving them land holdings in Egypt, in the best part of the country, the region of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered.  The region of Rameses is the district in the northeastern part of the Delta, also known as the region of Qantir.  It was near the Hyksos capital of Avaris. 

Please read Genesis 47:13-26: Joseph's Agrarian Policy Enslaves the Egyptians
47:13And on all the earth around there was now no food anywhere, for the famine had grown very severe, and Egypt and Canaan were both weak with hunger. 14Joseph accumulated all the money to be found in Egypt and Canaan, in exchange for the supplies being handed out, and put the money in Pharaoh's palace. 15When all the money in Egypt and Canaan was exhausted, all the Egyptians came to Joseph, pleading, 'Give us food, unless you want us to die before your eyes!  For our money has come to an end.' 16Joseph replied, 'Hand over your livestock and I will issue you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money has come to an end.' 17So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for horses and livestock, whether sheep or cattle, and for donkeys.  Thus he saw them through that year with food in exchange for all their livestock. 18When that year was over, they came to him the next year, and said to him, 'We cannot hide it from my lord: the truth is, our money has run out and the livestock is in my lord's possession.  There is nothing left for my lord except our bodies and our land. 19If we and our land are not to perish, take us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will become Pharaoh's serfs; only give us seed, so that we can survive (live*) and not die and the land not revert to desert!' 20Thus Joseph acquired all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh, since one by one the Egyptians sold their fields, so hard pressed were they by the famine, and the whole country passed into Pharaoh's possession, 21while the people he reduced to serfdom from one end of Egypt to the other. 22The only land he did not acquire belonged to the priests, for the priests received an allowance from Pharaoh and lived on the allowance that Pharaoh gave them.   Hence they had no need to sell their land. 23Then Joseph said to the people, 'This is how we stand: I have bought you out, with your land, on Pharaoh's behalf.  Here is seed for you to sow the land. 24But of the harvest you must give a fifth to Pharaoh.  The other four-fifths you can have for sowing your fields, to provide food tor yourselves and your households, and food for your children.' 25'You have saved our lives!' they replied.  'If it please my lord we will become serfs to Pharaoh.' 26So Joseph made a law, still in force today, as regards the soil of Egypt, that one-fifth should go to Pharaoh.  Only the land of the priests did not go to Pharaoh.

"Egypt and Canaan" are repeated three times in the description of the wide ranging devastation of the famine.  Joseph was committed to his family, and the Israelites continued to prosper as the Egyptians fell on increasingly more difficult times.  But Joseph was also completely committed to serving his Pharaoh.  It was Pharaoh's welfare and his consolidation of power in Egypt that was at the forefront of Joseph's agrarian policy.

Question: As the famine continued how did the lives of the Egyptians become more desperate?  Give the three stages of their desperation which corresponded to an increase in Pharaoh's power.
Answer:

  1. First, they paid for grain with money until their money was gone; their money went into Pharaoh's treasury.
  2. Next, they paid for grain with their livestock, until all their livestock belonged to Pharaoh.
  3. Then the common people paid for grain by selling their land, with private land ownership coming to an end in Egypt.  This reduced the common Egyptian to the condition of serfs working on the land that no longer belonged to them but to Pharaoh.

Question: When most the land passed into control of the central government, who retained private land ownership in Egypt?  See Genesis 47:11 and 26.
Answer: The priests and the Israelites retained control of their lands.

The Egyptian priests lived off a subsidy from the Pharaoh which provided for their supplies and the Israelites, who will later become a "kingdom of priests," lived off what Joseph provided for their care. 

Question: It was in Joseph's interest to provide for both these groups.  Why?
Answer: He promised his family he would provide for their every need, and he is related to the priesthood through his marriage to Asenath - his younger sons will probably receive an inheritance from their grandfather, the priest of On.

Genesis 47:19: If we and our land are not to perish, take us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will become Pharaoh's serfs; only give us seed, so that we can survive (live*) and not die and the land not revert to desert!' 
This is the third time this phrase is repeated: first by Jacob in 42:2; then by Judah in 43:8, and now by the Egyptians in 47:19.

The announcement of Joseph's policy is presented in three parts:

  1. Joseph will give the people seed at 20 percent interest (47:22-24)
  2. The people gratefully accept their bondage (47:25).
  3. The narrator provides the information that the 20 percent royal land use tax continues and is in effect at the time the narration was written.

During the seven years of plenty Joseph took a 20 percent royal tax from the populace.  Now he instituted a plan where he will take 20 percent of the harvest as a land-use tax for the privilege of being a serf farming crown property.  Joseph will, however, provide the serfs with seed to plant the crops, and he will allow them to keep four/fifths of their harvest.  According to ancient documents the average land tax in the ancient Near East was 33 and 1/3 percent (Waltke, page 591).  Joseph's tax was reasonable when compared to the land tax in other Near Eastern nations during this time.

What Joseph instituted in Egypt will not be a practice that will be allowed in the "Promised Land."  Under the laws of the Sinai Covenant all the land belonged to Yahweh, who distributed the land among the members of the twelve tribes.  Once given, the land could never be sold nor could a king ever confiscate an individual's land (see Lev 25:29-28; 1 Sam 8:13-16; 30:25).

The biblical account of the demise of private land ownership in Egypt is historically accurate.  According to Egyptian records at some time during the 18th - 17th centuries BC, all the land in Egypt came under the control of the pharaohs and, with the exception of the temple lands, private land owners was never reinstituted in Egypt during the Pharaonic age.

Please read Genesis 47:27-31: Jacob in Egypt
47:27Thus Israel settled in Egypt, in the region of Goshen.  They acquired property there; they were fruitful and grew very numerous. 28Jacob lived seventeen years in Egypt; thus Jacob's total age came to a hundred and forty-seven years. 29When Israel's time to die drew near he sent for his son Joseph and said to him, 'If you really love me, place your hand under my thigh as pledge that you will act with faithful love towards me: do not bury me in Egypt!' 30When I lie down with my ancestors, carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their tomb.'  'I shall do as you say,' he replied. 31'Swear to me,' he insisted.  So he swore to him, and Israel sank back on the pillow (bowed on  the head of the bed*).
* = literal translation (Interlineal Bible, vol. I, page 132)

Genesis 47:28: Jacob lived seventeen years in Egypt; thus Jacob's total age came to a hundred and forty-seven years. 

It is now 12 years after the famine (see 45:6).  Fearing that his death was imminent, Jacob made Joseph swear to return his body to Canaan and to bury him in the burial cave of the patriarchs at Hebron.  When Joseph had his audience with the pharaoh after he arrived in Egypt, he told the pharaoh that he was 130 years old.  That was seventeen years ago - now Jacob is 147 years old.  It is interesting to note the factoring of the life spans of the patriarchs follows a pattern:

In this pattern the squared number increases by one each time and the coefficient decreases by two. 

Question: Do you notice anything else about the patterns associated with the ages of the patriarchs?  What is the sum of the factors in each pattern?
Answer: It is also interesting that in each case the sum of the factors equals 17.

Question: What is significant about the mention of seventeen years in verse 28?
Answer: This is another doublet.  Joseph was seventeen when he was taken into Egypt.  He lived seventeen years with Jacob in Canaan, and now Jacob has lived seventeen years with Joseph in Egypt.

Notice the serious act of swearing an oath that is a repeat of the Unnamed Servant swearing an oath to Abraham in Genesis 24:2 and 9 by gripping the genitals of the one to whom the oath-taker is bound to fulfill the oath.  The implication was if one did not fulfill the oath, may that person lose what was held in the oath swearing and all the implications thereof.

And Israel sank back on the pillow (bowed on the head of the bed*).  In the Septuagint translation the word "bed" (mittah) was translated as "staff (matteh), making Jacob "bow over his staff" as this verse is interpreted in the New Testament Book of Hebrews: By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, bowed in reverence, as he leant on his staff.  It was by faith that, when he was about die, Joseph mentioned the Exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his own remains (Heb 11:21-22; see NJB, page 75, note "h").

Please read Genesis 48:1-7: Jacob Announces His Intention to Adopt Joseph's Two Elder Sons
48:1Some time later, Joseph was informed, 'Your father has been taken ill.'  So he took with him his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim. 2When Jacob was told, 'Look, your son Joseph has come to you,' Israel, summoning his strength, sat up in bed. 3'El Shaddai appeared to me at Luz in Canaan,' Jacob told Joseph, 'and he blessed me, 4saying to me, 'I shall make you fruitful and numerous, and shall make you into an assembly of peoples and give this country to your descendants after you, to own in perpetuity." 5Now your two sons, born to you in Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, shall be mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be as much mine as Reuben and Simeon. 6But with regard to the children you have had since them, they shall be yours, and they shall be known by their brother's name for the purpose of their inheritance. 7When I was on my way from Paddan, to my sorrow death took your mother Rachel from me in Canaan, on the journey while only a short distance from Ephrath.  I buried her there on the road to Ephrath - now Bethlehem.'

Old and feeble Jacob's mind is wandering between his life's greatest experiences - his first encounter with God in the theophany at Luz/Bethel where God gave Jacob and his descendants the promises of the Abrahamic covenant, and the other great event of his life' his love for Rachel and the loss of his greatest love when she died near Ephrath/Bethlehem.  Recalling both events has caused Jacob to be concerned about Joseph's descendants and their inheritance in the divine promises.  Jacob's one desire is for Joseph's line to be continued in the promised Israelite nation.  He knows that Joseph will never leave Egypt and that his children by Asenath are being raised as Egyptians. 

Genesis 48:5: 5Now your two sons, born to you in Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, shall be mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be as much mine as Reuben and Simeon. 6But with regard to the children you have had since them, they shall be yours, and they shall be known by their brother's name for the purpose of their inheritance.

Question: What has Jacob determined he must do to preserve Joseph's line in the people of Israel?  Why did Jacob mention Reuben and Simeon?  See Genesis 49:3-4 and 1 Chronicle 5:1.
Answer: To preserve Joseph's line in Israel and their inheritance in the "promised land," Jacob has determined that he must adopt Joseph's two eldest sons and raise them as Israelites.  Reuben and Simeon are Jacob's first two sons in the birth order.  Manasseh and Ephraim will take their place in the hierarchy of birth order.  Reuben will be disinherited and his portion of the birthright will be given to Joseph's sons along with Joseph's portion - they will receive a double portion

Joseph's other children can remain Egyptian and receive the inheritance that was due their brothers from Joseph and their Egyptian family. Manesseh and Ephraim will receive what was to have been Joseph's inheritance from Jacob.

Please read Genesis 48:8-13: Jacob Begins the Adoption Ceremony
48:8When Israel saw Joseph's two sons, he asked, 'Who are these?' 9'They are my sons, whom God has given me here.' Joseph told his father.  'Then bring them to me', he said, 'so that I may bless them.' 10Now, Israel's eyes were dim with age, and he could not see.  So Joseph made them come closer to him and he kissed and embraced them. 11Then Israel said to Joseph, 'I did not think I should ever see you again, and now God has let me see your children as well!' 12Then Joseph took them from his lap (out from his knees*) and bowed to the ground. 13Then Joseph took the two of them, Ephraim with his right hand so that he should be on Israel's left, and Manasseh with his left hand, so that he should be on Israel's right, and brought them close to him.
* = literal translation (Interlineal Bible, vol. I, page 133).

Genesis 48:12 Then Joseph took them from his lap (out from his knees*) and bowed to the ground.  
Joseph took his sons from between Jacob's knees where they stood close to Jacob so he could kiss them, and then he positioned his sons in front of Jacob so that Jacob's right hand would naturally rest on the head of his elder son, Manasseh, while his left hand would rest on the head of the younger son, Ephraim.  Joseph then bowed to the ground to receive his father's blessing.  This was evidently part of the adoption rite (see NJB, note "c", page 77).

Please read Genesis 48:14-22: Jacob Places Ephraim Above Manesseh
48:14But Israel held out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, the younger, and his left on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands - Manasseh was, in fact, the elder. 15Then he blessed Joseph saying: 'May the God in whose presence my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd from my birth until this day, 16the Angel who has saved me from all harm, bless these boys, so that my name may live on in them (may be called by my name*), and the names of my ancestors Abraham and Isaac, and they grow into teeming multitudes on earth!' 17Joseph saw that his father was laying his right hand on the head of Ephraim, and this he thought was wrong, so he took his father's hand and tried to shift it from the head of Ephraim to the head of Manasseh. 18Joseph protested to his father, 'Not like that, father!  This one is the elder; put your right hand on his head.' 19But his father refused.  'I know, my son, I know,' he said.  'He too shall become a people; he too will be great.  But his younger brother will be greater, his offspring will be sufficient to constitute nations.' 20So he blessed them that day, saying" 'By you shall Israel bless itself, saying, 'God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!'  putting Ephraim before Manasseh. 21Then Israel said to Joseph, 'Now I am about to die.  But God will be with you and take you back to the land of your ancestors. 22As for me, I give you a Shechem more than your brothers, the one I took from the Amorites with my sword and bow.'
* = literal translation (Interlineal Bible, vol. I, page 133).

Genesis 48:15: Then he blessed Joseph saying: 'May the God in whose presence my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd from my birth until this day, the Angel (messenger) who has saved me from all harm, bless these boys, so that my name may live on in them, and the names of my ancestors Abraham and Isaac, and they grow into teeming multitudes on earth!' 

Joseph will receive two blessings (another doublet), the first during the adoption ceremony of his two sons and a second blessing when his father is on his death bed in Genesis 49:22-26. 

Jacob's blessing begins as a blessing over Joseph: Then he blessed Joseph saying..., but then the focus of the blessing moves forward to embrace Joseph's young sons.  Like the blessings/anit-blessings Jacob will give on his death-bed, this blessing reaches beyond the present generation. Dr. Sailhamer describes this blessing as "a storehouse of key thematic terms" that are present in the book of Genesis as well as Jacob's "catechism of faith" (The Pentateuch as a Narrative, page 232). 

Jacob begins his blessing by recounting God's faithfulness to him: the God who has been my shepherd from my birth until this day, the Angel (messenger) who has saved me from all harm.

Question: What major themes of the Pentateuch are mentioned in the body of Jacob's blessing in verses 15-16?
Answer:

  1. The God of Jacob is the same God worshiped by his forefathers.
  2. Throughout their lives the patriarchs "walked" with God.
  3. God's covenant relationship with man is generational.

The mention that Abraham and Isaac "walked" with God serves to make a connection to the pre-flood patriarchs who "walked with God" (Gen 5:22, 24; 6:9) and to emphasize the theme of God's continuing commitment to His covenant people "who walk in his ways" down through the ages.  It is this continuing faithfulness to those who "walk in his ways" that Moses spoke of in his last homily before sending the children of Israel to take possession of their "promised land": If you obey the commandments of Yahweh your God, which I am laying down for you today, if you love Yahweh your God and follow (walk in) his ways, if you keep his commandments, and his laws and his customs, you will grow numerous, and Yahweh your God will bless you in the country which you are about to enter and make your own.(Dt 30:16).

Question: List the three blessings Jacob pronounced over Joseph's sons.
Answer:

  1. It is Jacob's prayer for the sons of Joseph that Jacob's name may live on in them, that they will be counted among the tribes of Israel ("called by his name").
  2. That they may inherit a share in the Abrahamic promises.
  3. That they may have multitudes of descendants on earth

These three blessings recall God's first blessings to Abraham in chapter 12:2-3.

Question: What were those three original blessings?
Answer:

  1. I shall make you a great nation
  2. I shall bless you and make you name famous (great)
  3. You are to be a blessing; all clans on earth will bless themselves by you

Question: What happened in the adoption ceremony that concerned Joseph and which he attempted to correct?  What was the significance of this action biblically?
Answer: His father crossed his hands and his right hand rested on Ephraim.  Jacob was blessing Ephraim, the younger, as the "firstborn" above his elder brother Manasseh.  It is another event in the repeated theme of a preference for the younger over the elder.

When Joseph saw that his father's right hand was resting upon his younger son he attempted to adjust the blessing, but Jacob stopped him.  Jacob recognized that it was God's providence which gave precedence to Ephraim, the younger, over Manasseh, the elder.  1 Chronicles 26:10 records another instance of a younger son being promoted over the elder and points to the uniqueness of the occasion.

Genesis 48:21-22: Then Israel said to Joseph, 'Now I am about to die.  But God will be with you and take you back to the land of your ancestors.  16As for me, I give you a shechem [shoulder/ridge] more than your brothers, the one I took from the Amorites with my sword and bow.'

The in Hebrew the word shechem means "shoulder" or "ridge."  There may be a word play associated with a pun on shechem/shoulder. The phrase is ambiguous and there are several interpretations:

  1. Jacob was giving Joseph's sons the land he purchased near the city of Shechem since he was "shoulders" above his brothers (in merit).
  2. Jacob was giving Joseph's sons a ridge of land - interpreting "shoulder" to mean ridge of land.
  3. Jacob was giving Joseph' sons one more portion of land beyond what his brothers will receive (double portion) - interpreting "shoulder" to mean "a portion."
  4. Jacob was claiming to own all of the lands of Shechem which his sons took by the sword and bow.

The third option will be part of Jacob's final blessing to his sons; Joseph (and his sons) will receive the "double portion" of the blessing.  The fourth option seems odd since Jacob was not a man of war; he was described as a "quiet man, staying among the tents (25:27).  Jacob condemned his sons' violence and will disinherit Simeon and Levi for their military conquest (with swords) of the city of Shechem, and lamented that if the Canaanites joined forces against him that he would be destroyed (34:30).  The other problem is that the citizens of Shechem were Horites (Hivites) not Amorites. It is possible that Jacob was referring to a military encounter that is not recorded in Scripture or to a military conquest that will happen in the future when Jacob/Israel's people will conquer a Canaan ruled mostly by the Amorites: In the fourth generation they will come back here, for until then the iniquity of the Amorites will not have reached its full extend (prophecy to Abraham concerning his descendants' conquest of Canaan in Gen 15:16).  Since Jacob's statement that precedes this phrase (verse 21) prophesized the return of Israel to the "promised land," it is more likely that the mention of the "sword and bow" (verse 22) refers to the future conquest of Canaan when Israel returns.  The tribe of Ephraim will take the land once associated with Shechem with the "sword and bow" (Josh 16:1-10; 20:7; although the town of Shechem would later be given to the tribe of Levi = Josh 21:21).

The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh will play an important role in Israel's history.  They will be given equal status in the land and when the tribe of Levi is denied a portion of the Promised Land, Ephraim and Manasseh will keep the tribal count at twelve (Dt 33:17).  The tribe of Ephraim will possess the city of Shechem with its territory extending from Shechem in to north to Bethel in the south.  It will become the largest and most powerful tribe after the tribe of Judah.  Joshua (Hosea), the leader of the Conquest of Canaan was an Ephraimite (Num 13:8; Josh 1:1-5).  A prince of Ephraim will become the Judahite kings' rival for power and after a civil war will form the Northern Kingdom of Israel (1 Kng 11:26-27; 12:20).

Question for group discussion:

The institution human family began with the marriage of Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter 2.  Marriage is divinely instituted and as is the product of marriage - the family.  Read CCC 1113, 1603, 1613-15, 1617, 1661, 2201-04, 2232-33.  How do the Sacrament of marriage and the unity of the human family image Christ and His Church?

Endnotes:

1. CCC 128-30

2. Egyptian religious beliefs are one of the most fascinating aspects of ancient Egyptian culture.  They believed in an afterlife, which was a continuation of the pleasures they had enjoyed on earth, only better. They also thought of their gods as more of less living lives very similar to their own.  The god Amun, who appeared in the Egyptian pantheon as early as the Eleventh Dynasty (2055 – 1985 BC), was the principal god of Thebes and came to be worshiped as the "king" of the gods after the Theban princes overthrew the Hyksos in c. 1550BC.  Amun was usually represented as a man or as a man in body with a ram's head; the ram was sacred to the god Amun.  Amun's chief cult center was the temple at Karnak in Thebes (Egypt, God's Myths and Religion, Lucia Gahlin, pages 24-27).

3. A document discovered in the tomb of Horemhab (c. 1350 BC), a general of the 18th Dynasty (of Pharaoh Tutankhamen) who later ruled Egypt as Pharaoh, recorded that a group of "Asians" (an Egyptian term for Semitic peoples) sent a request for permission to settle in Egypt.  In their petition they stated their request was "after the manner of their father's fathers from the first times."  Therefore, the request of Jacob's family was not that unusual and the petition in Horemhab tomb citing as precedence a past Semitic migration might be referring to the Israelite migration into Egypt in the time of Joseph (McKenzie, "Goshen," page 320; Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, # 251). 

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2009 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for Genesis 46:1-48:22

46:7

2201-04, 2232-33