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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

November 30, 2016

Genesis 46:31-47:27

  1. Chapter 46 verses 31-34. One of the things we have to always keep in our minds is how God guides us through various circumstances. Joseph encouraged his family to be completely honest with Pharaoh (46:34). Dishonesty has long plagued Jacob’s family, but now Joseph led them out of this destructive behavior. Joseph’s honesty is now blessing the family as opposed to the dishonesty that Jacob lived by. Why did Joseph place such emphasis on having his family live in Goshen? Goshen had some of the best pastureland in all of Egypt, and Goshen was located near to Joseph’s place of residence (45:10). Goshen would keep the Hebrews isolated and insulated from the culture and religion of Egypt since the Egyptians considered sheep unclean and Hebrews detestable. Goshen would also give Joseph’s family room to grow and multiply. Shepherding was considered dirty work and looked down upon by the city dwellers of downtown Egypt. It was seen as low class work and menial labor, but this was going to make the people of God strong.

  2. Chapter 47:1-7. Joseph explains to Pharaoh the needs of his family. He even introduces five of his brothers to Pharaoh. After the brothers answer Pharaoh’s questions, they ask his permission to live in Goshen. Pharaoh tells Joseph that his family can live in the land of Goshen. He even offers any capable brothers a job--to be put in charge of Pharaoh’s livestock. This would come in handy later. Joseph knows God is favoring him so he brings his father before Pharaoh and Jacob blesses Pharaoh. Jacob’s blessing of Pharaoh is unusual since it implies that in one sense (i.e., as one of God’s elect) Jacob was superior to Pharaoh. Pharaoh was a man of immense worldly power and influence. But this is a case of “the lesser is blessed by the greater” (Heb 7:7).

  3. Verses 8-10. Pharaoh says to Jacob, “How many years have you lived?” Jacob answers, “The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning.” When we first encountered Jacob he was struggling inside his mother’s womb with his twin brother. As we come to the end of Jacob’s days, he is struggling for his life in a famine-devastated Canaan. In between these first and last moments of struggle have been many trying experiences for Jacob. His life has had more sorrow than joy. This was by his own doing, since he stubbornly wanted to do things his way. Jacob, who deceived his father and thereby gained the blessing, must not only die outside the Promised Land but also, we learn here, his years were few and difficult. Jacob sought to get the blessings of God by deceit when he should have learned to trust God more.

  4. Verses 11-12. Joseph settled his father and his brothers and generously provided them “the best of the land.” This was a time of reward for Jacob. Not by his doing, but by Joseph’s doing through the favor of God. Of course, Jacob’s life had been full of ups and downs. There had been times of deceitfulness and immaturity. There had been times of self-pity when he swore he would spend the rest of his life in mourning. But all the desires of his heart were given to him. All the sufferings and the trials had been counteracted. Why? Because God is gracious and loves to reward His people. He does the same for us as we follow after Him. The people of God receive good land in a famine.

  5. Verses 13-19. For two years now the famine has been severe in Egypt and Canaan (45 :5). All private reserves of wheat have been exhausted, and all the money of Egypt and Canaan had been spent in buying government grain from Joseph. And the famine lingered on and on. In desperation the Egyptians approached Joseph, reminding him of their plight. Joseph knew that while their money was gone their wealth was not, for they still possessed many cattle. Had these cattle remained the possession of the Egyptians they would have perished, for there was no grass for pasture and no grain for feed. And who but Pharaoh would want them, for no one could sustain them through these years of drought? In this sense Joseph did the Egyptians a favor to take the cattle off their hands by exchanging them for grain which they must have to survive. Some of these livestock may have been purchased by the Israelites, who were keepers of flocks (46:34) and who were relatively unaffected by the famine (47:27). Many, if not all, of the flocks which Joseph purchased for Pharaoh may have been cared for by Joseph’s brothers (cf. 47:6). The sale of their livestock enabled the Egyptians to live through another year. As the following year approached, they found themselves once again appealing to Joseph for life-sustaining grain. They did not have either money or cattle, but they still possessed two valuable commodities: land and labor. At their own suggestion, the Egyptians exchanged their land and their labor for grain to survive the famine. Their land would belong to Pharaoh, they said, and they would be his slaves. Joseph also agreed to provide them with grain for seed when the famine ended and planting time came. And so the ownership of the land in Egypt changed hands--that is, all the land except that being acquired by the Israelites (verse 27) or maintained by the priests, who were supported (like the Israelites) by Pharaoh.

  6. Verses 20-26. Apparently up to this moment Pharaoh didn’t really tax the people. It seems like Pharaoh was rich, but didn’t control all the land. During this time of famine, most of the land was sold to Pharaoh. In exchange for the land, Joseph comes up with a plan to let the Egyptians live on the land as long as they gave 20% of the harvest back to Pharaoh. The people seemed to actually like the deal, since it was either that or die. The text gives the impression that the folks were good with that for now. It also becomes clear that the Children of Israel were excluded and protected from this arrangement. This is bondage, but it is a very good deal, since the folks get to keep 80% of their harvest. During America sharecropping the sharecroppers would receive the opposite type of arrangement which was almost slavery since one worked and received only about 20% of their harvest.

  7. Verse 27. This highlights that the Israelites were able to prosper in spite of the fact that the majority of Egyptians were struggling. It is interesting to note that the Israelites were not always struggling in Egypt. At one point they were very prosperous. While the locals are selling land, Jacob’s family is buying land and experiencing the favor of Pharaoh. It is easy to see how they would not want to move later until they found themselves under harsh persecution.

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