Genesis 45:16 - 47:31

Frank Binford Hole

There had been a considerable measure of secrecy in all these dealings between Joseph and his brethren, but now all secrecy was abandoned. Pharaoh and all his court were now fully apprised of what had taken place and it pleased them. Since "every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians," as we are told in the last verse of the next chapter, we might have been surprised at this did we not know, as we before remarked, that at this epoch the ruling powers in Egypt were not true Egyptians but an alien race, closely allied with the nomadic and shepherd folk to which Jacob and his sons belonged. It is quite probable that the Pharaoh of those days looked upon it as a stroke of good business to receive Jacob and his descendants. It would bring under his protection those who would be his natural allies.

Pharaoh therefore instigated the sending of beasts and wagons sufficient in number to effect the transport, and also the sending of the message and invitation, recorded in verses 17 and 18. Here again we find words which strongly remind us of New Testament language. We quote them: "Come unto me; and I will give you . . ." Of what does that remind you? We shall all surely answer that it reminds us of Matthew 11: 28 Come unto Me . . . and I will give you rest." Joseph's word was to be, "I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land." But that "good" would involve to them rest from their fears of famine and the wearying search for food during the years of famine; coming to Joseph they would find rest indeed.

There was now bestowed upon them bounty beyond all their thoughts, in the presence of which only one thing became them, and that was the obedience of faith. We read, "And the children of Israel did so." They did exactly as they were commanded. Everything necessary was conferred upon them, as verses 21-23 record. Thus they were dispatched to their father with the injunction, " See that ye fall not out by the way. "There was very rightly a little sting for their consciences in this. They fell out badly over Joseph many years before. As forgiven men they were now to manifest an entirely different spirit.

Back to Jacob they went with tidings of Joseph, astounding and to him almost unbelievable. But there were the wagons sent from Joseph with their full supplies. They were to him a foretaste and earnest of the good things to be found in Joseph's presence, and that wrought conviction and revived Jacob's heart. His nerve returned and he was ready for the journey. The words of Joseph had been supplemented by the firstfruits he sent.

Today, we have not only received the words of One far greater than Joseph, but we have received the firstfruits of His Spirit. Our spirits should indeed be revived and aglow, as we travel to the place where Jesus our Lord is.

The way in which Jacob's new name of Israel is introduced in the record is worthy of note. Jacob's heart had fainted because of unbelief, and then his spirit revived. But when his faith had revived, it is Israel who said, "It is enough." Again, when at the beginning of Genesis 46 we find the faith of his heart translated into positive action, it is Israel who gathers his possessions together and journeys, stopping at Beer-sheba to sacrifice to the God of his father Isaac. In these things he was acting in a way more worthy of one who was "Prince of God," than of one who was "Supplanter."

Beer-sheba too had been specially identified with his father Isaac, and from that spot the wanderings of Jacob had begun — see Genesis 28: 10. Jacob had now come full circuit, if we may so say, and was back at the point of departure. Hence we find God Himself intervening and dealing directly with him. Yet though there had been this response of faith on his part, God knew that the old Jacob nature was still strong in him, and addressed him as such. The repetition of his name added emphasis to the revelation God gave.

In Genesis 26: 2, we read of God appearing to Isaac and saying, "Go not down into Egypt." As a result of this command we do not find Egypt in the picture until we find Joseph carried there. Now however the Divine direction is exactly opposite and Jacob was not to be afraid to go. God's word to him was brief, but it contained four distinct promises.

First, that the sojourn in Egypt should be so ordered that there Jacob's family and descendants should increase and be welded into a great nation. Their experience should be that of Psalm 4: 1, "In pressure Thou hast enlarged me" (New Trans.). In the tribulations of Egypt, acting like a furnace of iron, they were welded into a nation, that God took for His own. The hour had now come for this trying experience to be theirs, though at the outset all seemed favourable.

But, in the second place, this result would only be achieved because God Himself would go down with them. Had He not done so, they would speedily have been swamped by the abounding evils of that land. As it was, they got infected by them, as their subsequent history showed; but the presence of God with them secured the testimony to Himself in their midst.

So in the third place, there was the promise that God in His own time would bring them up out of Egypt, so that once more they might be in the land that was theirs according to His word. God never swerves from His declared purpose, though to reach it He may pursue ways that seem to be contradictory to it. So verse 4 is an illustration of the difference between God's purpose and His ways; a difference that we need to bear in mind as to God's dealings with ourselves today. Called with an heavenly calling, we must firmly seize God's purpose for us as members of Christ, and on the other hand not be surprised at, nor stumble over, the ways He may take with us in achieving His purpose.

Lastly, there was a promise personal to Jacob, which inferred that he would not be parted from Joseph until his end. The happy reunion would last until the finish, and when he died Joseph would be at his side.

Thus instructed and encouraged of God, Jacob pursued his way from Beer-sheba into Goshen, the easterly part of the land of Egypt, sending Judah before him to direct their route. We are given a list of sons and grandsons and told their number as 70. If we refer to Exodus 12: 37, we shall see the great increase that took place while they were in Egypt, and how God fulfilled His word as to making them a great nation.

In verse 29 we again see Joseph in a very favourable light and as a man of a very tender heart. The splendour of his present position had not spoiled him. He had reached it through sorrow, which has a mellowing and softening effect upon those who go through it with God. Moreover he undertook to be their mediator in regard to Pharaoh and instructed them how to approach him. They were to emphasize that their occupation had been with sheep and cattle. The Pharaohs of that dynasty being of the so-called, "Shepherd Kings," this would ingratiate them with the ruling monarch, and also make the Egyptians content to have them as far away as possible in the land of Goshen, since they detested shepherds.

It is easy to see how this suited the purpose of God, which was to make a nation of them, free from admixture of alien blood. Though under Egyptian jurisdiction, there was to be a line of demarcation from the outset between them and the natives of Egypt. So in the early verses of Genesis 47 we read how simply and naturally all this came to pass. Pharaoh was most benign in his attitude. He welcomed them, allotting to them the best of the land in Goshen, and offering to them posts of importance as rulers of his cattle. Bearing in mind that Egypt, in common with the rest of the world, was in the midst of a great famine, such favourable treatment was indeed extraordinary, and only to be accounted for by the moving of God's hand behind the scenes.

Then comes the touching scene of old Jacob being presented by Joseph in the presence of Pharaoh. At the age of 130 he must have seemed a very old man in Egyptian eyes, but twice over, in verse 9, do we find him using the word, "pilgrimage." It is true of course that his life had been of a nomadic type, but nevertheless it indicates that these God-fearing patriarchs, as Hebrews 11 shows, ever had the eyes of their hearts upon the future, and knew that the present life was in view of a destination yet to be realized. If it was thus with them, how much more so should it be thus with us, who are partakers of a heavenly calling?

And moreover, twice in this paragraph, is it stated that Jacob blessed Pharaoh. The one thing cited in Hebrews 11, as showing his faith is his blessing of the sons of Joseph. That we get presently, but we remember the statement of Hebrews 7: 7, "without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better." The patriarch, though at that moment but a displaced person and a refugee in the presence of the great king, was consciously superior to him in his knowledge of the true God. He knew enough of Him to be conscious that to have His pledged presence and guidance was something greater than all the glory that Egypt had to offer. He possessed the better, while Pharaoh for all his outward majesty, possessed the less. In the light of the faith and glory of Christ the position of the Christian is much accentuated. Are we always alive to the favour wherein we stand, and therefore lifted above the favours and allurements of the world?

Joseph's father and brethren being placed in the best of the land and nourished there, we now turn to consider the state of things prevailing among the Egyptians. This occupies verses 13-26. As the dreams had foretold, the famine became progressively worse. The people were fed, but not as those in Goshen. They had to buy their food from Joseph, who acted for Pharaoh. They brought their money, and when that failed their cattle, and when those failed they had to sell their land. The only exception made was in the case of the priests, men who wielded great power because through their idol gods they were in touch with the supernatural.

Thus bit by bit everything in Egypt fell into the hands of Pharaoh, and a law made by Joseph was that his proprietorship should be acknowledged by a rent paid in kind—the fifth part of all the produce. This was oppressive legislation indeed, but the sort of thing that was quite ordinary in those days. We can see how in the course of many years it may have helped to provoke that uprising of the ancient Egyptian dynasty, which is recorded in Scripture as, "There arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph." (Ex. 1: 8).

Though this action of Joseph strikes us as oppressive, particularly perhaps his removing of the people from one end of the land to another, we cannot but think it has a typical value, setting forth how completely he was "lord of all Egypt," and thus a figure of Christ. Now the Lordship of Christ is absolute, for if He is not Lord of all and of every detail, He is not Lord at all. Moreover as Lord He subdues everything to God and disposes of everything according to the Divine mind. A time will come, "when all things shall be subdued unto Him" (1 Cor. 15: 28), and when as a result, God shall be all in all. But that which the Lord Jesus will bring to pass, though it will involve the execution of judgment, will be for the ultimate blessing of the universe of God.

In the closing verses of our chapter we return to Jacob in the land of Goshen. Seventeen more years rolled over him, so he remained until the dreadful years of famine were only an unpleasant memory. Then the time came that he had to die. Jacob indeed he was, but he spoke as Israel when he extracted from Joseph a vow that he would not bury him in Egypt, but lay his body with those of his fathers in the land which was theirs by promise. Joseph readily acceded for, as we shall see, he too had the same faith. They had received the promises and believed them, and they knew that the promised Seed would be connected with that land.

« Previous chapterNext chapter »