Genesis (Part 204)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis 45:14-20

14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.

16 When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. 17 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, 18 and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ 19 And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. 20 Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’”


In the aftermath of Joseph telling his brothers his identity, they weep together and Pharaoh offers Joseph’s family the best land in Egypt and to help transport Jacob’s household.

We get more detail as to the scene of the brothers weeping, from The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 45:14Genesis 45:15

And he (i.e. Joseph) fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. “Benjamin is the central point whence leads out the way to reconciliation” (Langs). “Here brotherly affection is drawn out by affection, tear answering tear” (Hughes; cf. Genesis 33:4). Moreover he kissed all his brethren,—”the seal of recognition, of reconciliation, and of salutation” (Lange)—and wept upon them. It has been thought that Benjamin stood when Joseph embraced him, and that the two wept upon each other’s neck, but that the brethren bowed themselves at Joseph’s feet, causing the expression to be, “and he wept upon them” (Lange). And after that his brethren talked with him—feeling themselves reassured by such demonstrations of affection.

Continuing on, Pharaoh is pleased by this turn of events, too. From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:

(16) It pleased Pharaoh . . . —It was of great importance, as regards the future position of the Israelites in Egypt, that they should go thither, not as men who had forced themselves on the country. but as invited guests. Hence the information that the arrival of Joseph’s brethren was a thing pleasing to Pharaoh, and hence also the fulness with which his commands are recorded.

Jacob’s family is invited to Egypt. We know from Abraham’s vision earlier in Genesis that they will remain in Egypt for four hundred years. To understand their circumstances fully, as Exodus begins, we need to see how they arrive and why. Continuing on with The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 45:17Genesis 45:18

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, This do ye; lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan; and take your father and your households, and come unto me. This may have been an independent invitation given by the Egyptian king to Joseph’s relatives; but it is more than likely that Joseph had already told him of the proposal he had made to his brethren, and that he here receives a royal confirmation of the same). And I will give you the good of the land of Egypt,i.e. the best part of the land, viz; Goshen (Rosenmüller, Lange, and others); though the phrase is probably synonymous with that which follows—and ye shall eat the fat of the land. The fat of the land meant either the richest and most fertile portion of it (Lunge, Kalisch), or the best and choicest of its productions (Gesenius, Keil). Cf. Deuteronomy 32:14Psalms 147:14.

Knowing what comes in the following book, we can intuit here why and how some of the eventual seeds of resentment for the Israelites comes into being. In the moment, it might seem fair and just to reward Joseph and his kin for saving Egypt and making it rich. Over time, though, Egypt will begin to wish it had been less generous. Continuing on:

Genesis 45:19Genesis 45:20

Now thou art commanded, this do ye;—an apostrophe to Joseph, Pharaoh manifestly regarding the cause of Joseph and his brethren as one (Rosenmüller, Keil, Lange, and others)—take you wagons out of the land of Egypt—the carriages here referred to (עַגָּלוֹת, from עָגַּל to roll) were small two-wheeled vehicles suitable for a fiat country like Egypt, or for traversing roadless deserts. They were usually drawn by cattle, and employed for carrying agricultural produce. Herodotus mentions a four-wheeled car which was used for transporting the shrine and image of a deity (2:63; vide Rawlinson’s edition, and note by Sir G. Wilkinson) for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Pharaoh meant them to understand that they had not only Joseph’s invitation, but his (Pharaoh’s) commandment, to encourage them to undertake so serious a project as the removal of their households to Egypt. Also regard not your stuff—literally, and your eyes shall not (i.e. let them not) grieve for your utensils (i.e. articles of domestic furniture), although you should require to leave them behind (LXX; Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Lange, et alii). The rendering of the Vulgate, nee dimittatis quicquid de supellectili vestra, conveys a meaning exactly the opposite of the true one, which is thus correctly expressed by Dathius: Nec aegre ferrent jacturam supellectilis suet. For the good of all the land of Egypt is yours—literally, to you it (sc. shall belong).

The Egyptian carts, for ferrying Jacob’s kin, provide the truth of the tale his sons will tell him about long, lost Joseph returning to them. Ellicott provides a note regarding the wagons themselves.

(19) Wagons.—Egypt being a flat country and carefully cultivated was adapted for the use of vehicles, and consequently they were brought into use there at an early period. Those depicted on the monuments had two wheels, and were drawn by oxen. The chariots of Pharaoh and Joseph were probably drawn by horses, which had about this time been introduced into Egypt.

Your little ones.—Heb., your “taf.” (See Note on Genesis 34:29.) The “taf” included the whole mass of dependants; and while “the household” (Genesis 45:18) would have reference chiefly to the men, the “taf,” in opposition to it, would consist of the female slaves and the children.

The latter part of this note provides a more clear explanation of the underlying words.

It might surprise some people to learn that there is a scholarly belief, by some, that the Israelites were never slaves in Egypt. The belief is that they were sojourners. Prof. Rabbi David Frankel writes, Israelites in Egypt: Slaves or Sojourners? for and I have embedded some of the article below:

The book of Exodus twice reminds Israel not to mistreat sojourners (גֵרִים)[1] in their land because they themselves were once sojourners in Egypt:

שמות כב:כ וְגֵר לֹא תוֹנֶה וְלֹא תִלְחָצֶנּוּ כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.

Exod 22:20 You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

שמות כג:ט וְגֵר לֹא תִלְחָץ וְאַתֶּם יְדַעְתֶּם אֶת נֶפֶשׁ הַגֵּר כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.

Exod 23:9 You shall not oppress a sojourner, for you know the feelings of the sojourner, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.[2]

The status of sojourner is what the patriarchs and matriarchs experience in Canaan. Abraham describes himself to the son of Heth (Gen 23:4): גֵּר וְתוֹשָׁב אָנֹכִי עִמָּכֶם “I am a sojourner and resident among you.” Similarly, the stories concerning the stay of Abraham and Isaac in Gerar, describe how the patriarchs make limited pacts with the local authority and navigate conflict with locals,[3] highlighting the difficulties that migrants need to navigate in a land that is not their own.

The laws against mistreating sojourners, which appear in the Covenant Collection—the most ancient of the Torah’s legal collections—seem to be envisioning something similar for Israel in Egypt, namely that the Israelites in Egypt were sojourners, like Abraham in Canaan, and faced the same kind of complicated interactions landless migrants must face when dealing with natives.

In contrast, the later Deuteronomic Collection portrays the Israelites as slaves in Egypt. This depiction is found, for example, when they are warned not to mistreat sojourners, widows, and orphans:

דברים כד:יז לֹא תַטֶּה מִשְׁפַּט גֵּר יָתוֹם וְלֹא תַחֲבֹל בֶּגֶד אַלְמָנָה. כד:יח וְזָכַרְתָּ כִּי עֶבֶד הָיִיתָ בְּמִצְרַיִם וַיִּפְדְּךָ יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ מִשָּׁם עַל כֵּן אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה.

Deut 24:17 You shall not subvert the rights of the sojourner or the fatherless; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pawn. 24:18 Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and that YHWH your God redeemed you from there; therefore, do I enjoin you to observe this commandment.[4]

In other words, while the Covenant Collection preserves an ancient conception where the Israelites’ stay in Egypt was a time of living as landless foreigners under Egyptian sovereignty, the Deuteronomic collection conceives of the same period in Egypt as one of harsh and oppressive slavery. This is reflected in other places as well where Deuteronomy revises Exodus.


This is just the set-up for the article’s discussion and I recommend reading it. It’s fascinating.

With travel plans now settled, Jacob’s sons will soon return to him with a big and welcome surprise.