Genesis (Part 209)

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

Genesis 47:1-6

47 So 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.” And from among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to his brothers, “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 servants’ flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. And now, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “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.”

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Joseph tells Pharaoh that his family has arrived and he presents some of them to him.

From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:

(1) Behold, they are in the land of Goshen.—Though Joseph had all along wished this to be the dwelling-place of his brethren, yet it was necessary to obtain Pharaoh’s permission; and at present Joseph only mentions that they had halted there. In Genesis 47:4 they ask for the necessary consent.

There is a sense that Joseph assumed he would get consent for his plan, but he nevertheless goes through the formalities. Continuing on:

(2) Even five men.—As the number “five” appears again and again in this narrative (Genesis 43:34Genesis 45:22), it may have had some special importance among the Egyptians, like the number seven among the Jews.

The Pulpit Commentaries note for verse 2 includes some thought as to how the five were chosen:

Genesis 47:2

And he took some of his brethren, even five men,—literally, from the end, or extremity, of his brethren; not from the weakest, lest the king should select them for courtiers or soldiers (the Rabbis, Oleaster, Pererius, and others); or the strongest and most handsome, that the Egyptian monarch and his nobles might behold the dignity of Joseph’s kindred (Lyre, Thostatus, and others); or the youngest and oldest, that the ages of the rest might be therefrom inferred (Calvin); but from the whole body of his brethren (Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, et alii) he took five teen—and presented them unto Pharaoh (cf. Acts 7:13).

The comment refers to other commentaries which preceded it, but I am not sure how any of them can do more here than merely speculate. Continuing with The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 47:3

And Pharaoh said unto his (i.e. Joseph’s) brethrenWhat is your occupation? (vide Genesis 46:33). And they said unto Pharaoh,—as directed (Genesis 46:34)—Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers.

Here is the relevant section from the previous chapter:

31 Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. 32 And the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock, and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have.’ 33 When Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ 34 you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ in order that you may dwell in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.”

By telling Pharaoh that they are shepherds, they help make the case to him that they should be kept away from the rest of Egypt. Joseph achieves the goal of keeping his family separate. He might though have also planted the seeds here that eventually grow into resentment. A people who are hated by Egyptians now live on their doorstep and in a rich part of the country.

Genesis 47:4

They said moreover (literally, and they said) unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come;—an unconscious fulfillment of an ancient prophecy (Genesis 15:13)—for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks (it was solely the extreme drought that had caused them for a season to vacate their own land); for the famine is sore (literally, heavy) in the land of Canaan: now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell (literally, and now might thy servants dwell, we pray, the future having here the force of an optative) in the land of Goshen.

Ellicott also addresses verse 4:

(4) To sojourn.—Joseph’s brethren ask for permission only for a temporary stay. Apparently, too, in spite of the famine, there was pasture for cattle in Goshen. They had been able hitherto to keep them alive even in Canaan; and probably the Nile, though it did not overflow, yet on reaching the delta lost itself in swamps, which produced a great quantity of the marsh grass described in Genesis 41:2. We find in this chapter that not only were Pharaoh’s herds intact, but also those of the people.

It’s interesting to pause and consider Abraham’s family. They are called Hebrews by the Canaanites. What Does the Word “Hebrew” Mean? [excerpt from the article below]

Abram was called “Abraham the Hebrew” in Genesis 14:13, which is the first time that the word is used in the Bible. Where did this term come from, and what does it mean?
The word “Hebrew” in the Hebrew language is עברי (Ivrie). The root letters are used to mean cross over, or pass through. Today in Israel, we can use the word to talk about moving houses, transgressing laws, going through some difficulties, crossing the road, crossing over a river, and so on. Traversing, passing, or crossing over, essentially. In the Bible, it seems to have primarily referred to those who traversed rivers. The symbolic meaning of this should not be lost on us who love the Word of God!

I recommend reading the rest of the article. There is a symbolic connection between the people identified in the earliest days of Abraham as wanderers and at the end of Genesis in the same way. In the beginning of this family saga, and at its end, they are promised a land of their own. The promised land becomes a part of the Hebrew identity.

Finishing this section with The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 47:5Genesis 47:6

And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: the land of Egypt is before thee (cf. Genesis 20:15); in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell. Wilkinson thinks it possible that Jacob’s sons “may have asked and obtained a grant of land from the Egyptian monarch on condition of certain services being performed by themselves and their descendants”. In the land of Goshen let them dwell. Robinson (Gen 1:1-31 :78, 79) speaks of the province of es-Shar-Kiyeh, which corresponds as nearly as possible with ancient Goshen, as being even in modern times exceedingly productive and thickly populated. And if thou knowest any men of activity among them,—literally, and if thou knowest, and there be among them, men of strength—chayil, from chul, to twist (εἰλύω ἐλίσσω), the idea being that of strength as of twisted rope—then make them rulers over my cattle—literally, and thou shelf make them masters of cattle over that which belongs to me. “The shepherds on an Egyptian estate were chosen by the steward, who ascertained their character and skill previous to their being appointed to so important a trust”.

Pharaoh gives Joseph’s family the land of Goshen as a dwelling and he appoints some from among them to oversee his own livestock. In one very swift turn of events, Joseph’s family take stewardship of much of Egypt’s wealth.

We can see here as Genesis nears its end how they can both grow strong over the ensuing centuries but also to incur local animosity.