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“…deal kindly…”

We can go through all of life with everything we want (as opposed to everything we need). As we grow older we can grow in personal security and prosperity. But, this is not necessarily how we should be or how God wants us to live. (Personal note: I speak of others – at no time in my life thus far have I had what I wanted! As some know, much of my working life was spent in poverty and so I never expected respite in this world. And I have rarely known ease).

Those who cannot be bothered to listen to God, or to follow the route He gives are just as poor as those who reject God completely. They might gather into their own barns and know worldly prosperity. Compared to others they will think their lives have been good and wonderful. But, if they have not followed God’s plan for their lives, even if they are Christians, they will not be at peace, and will know God’s judgement. Yes, heaven is where they will go – but not until God has judged their past lives, and has awarded them fewer crowns. Is this how we wish to end our lives? I hope not.

Some lose everything, once. It has been my privilege to lose everything regularly! At the time it is far from welcome. But, after the dust settles following a major upheaval, I learn deep truths about myself and about God. He would not give me these trials if it were not to purify me! Thus, each trial is emotionally trying but spiritually edifying making me privileged... though, frankly, this can take a while to be a reality in my heart!

Joseph was extremely privileged, but not for his own gain. He was given a throne with immense status, power and wealth. He used his position to save thousands if not millions of lives, including those of his own family. His family fulfilled his teenage prophecy – they bowed down before him in obeisance. Yet, Joseph had reverence for his father, as he ought. And, at the end of his life, Jacob bowed not to Joseph but to God, Whose plans were being wrought in eternity – before Jacob was born, during his life, and after his death. Even the coming enslavement of the Hebrews was a blessing on the people, a forerunner of something wildly amazing.

With Jacob we must tell Pharaoh (all who ask) that we are merely pilgrims in this world. Let us put our earthly desires to the test and give them all back to God, for He owns everything anyway! When we do so, He will give it all back to us again, but multiplied many-fold. Remember, it is what we need that we should pray for, not what we want.

Verses 1-6

  1. “Then Joseph came and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen.

  2. And he took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh.

  3. And Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers.

  4. They said moreover unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come; for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan: now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen.

  5. And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee:

  6. The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.”

Once again, we find Joseph’s brothers were blessed with plenty because of him. He took five of his brothers to meet Pharaoh. When the audience came, Pharaoh asked them what they did for a living and they answered as Joseph had instructed – they were shepherds. They told Pharaoh that Canaan could no longer sustain life, so they had moved to Goshen. Though Pharaoh had given them the land, they diplomatically requested to stay there.

Pharaoh responded as generously as he had done previously. He told Joseph that as his whole family had come to see him, he could give them the best that Egypt could offer. Goshen had the best grazing land in all of Egypt, so they could stay there with his blessing. On top of that he asked Joseph if any of his brothers were “men of activity” who could become rulers over his cattle. By ‘activity’ he meant chayil, or ability and efficiency. Thus, some brothers were suddenly taken from poverty to being rulers or overseers of Pharaoh’s droves and flocks! Not because of who they were, but because of Joseph. Again, we see that even those who have not done good are treated with kindness by God, because of God’s people amongst them. If they then turn on those godly people, God will remove His protection and blessings. Even in earthly terms, if a manager is good, an owner is more likely to employ others who the manager puts forward, because the manager’s reputation is sound. Thus, acting fairly and with good intent engenders a like-minded response.

Verses 7-12

  1. “And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.

  2. And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou?

  3. And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.

  4. And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.

  5. And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded.

  6. And Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to their families.”

After the general introduction of his brothers, Joseph then brings his father before Pharaoh. Jacob, we are told, blessed Pharaoh. Modern Christians might ask how Jacob could bless an unbeliever. But, the word barak can have one of several meanings, including to kneel before someone, to salute, or to praise. We cannot be sure in this instance if Jacob blessed Pharaoh as he would a fellow believer, or if he merely thanked him with praise for what he had done. There are, of course, implications to blessing people who do not belong to God’s family. For example, we have no right to bless evil people who do wicked things.

Pharaoh asked Jacob how old he was, and he replied, ‘130 years of age’. He added that whilst that was a good age, he had a way to go before reaching the ages lived by his forefathers. By contrast, the days of his life had been “few and evil”. What did he mean by ‘evil’?

The word ra can mean bad or malignant, but this can hardly be applied to a man chosen by God. Therefore, one must apply the other interpretations, such as ‘unhappy’ or ‘miserable’ or ‘afflicted’. That, then, is how Jacob saw the span of his life. Perhaps he was referring to the times when his sons acted wrongfully, or when to the period when Joseph was missing: both left him in misery. Contextually, the word did not mean ‘sinful’.

Joseph then formally and officially led them back to the land given to them by Pharaoh – Goshen, the “land of Rameses (‘child of the sun’)”. As in many other examples, this was a city yet to be built. It was the land they were commanded to take. From that time onward Joseph ‘nourished’ his father and brethren. That is, he kept the whole family in food and protection.

Verses 13-20

  1. “And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine.

  2. And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought: and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh's house.

  3. And when money failed in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? for the money faileth.

  4. And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail.

  5. And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year.

  6. When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him, We will not hide it from my lord, how that our money is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle; there is not ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands:

  7. Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate.

  8. And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh's.”

Egypt and the Middle East continued to suffer as they entered the third year of severe famine. Joseph gathered up all the payments he had received from Egyptians and other nations for corn over the previous 2 years. This was actual money, or silver. It seems that the cash had been kept in strategic towns. He then took it to Pharaoh’s palace, to put in his treasury.

Very soon, as had almost happened to Jacob, the people of Egypt ran out of money and had nothing with which to pay for corn. They begged Joseph not to let them die. The reply from Joseph might shock Christians today – he told the Egyptians that if they had run out of money, they must give their cattle and other animals to Pharaoh as payment instead. Then they could have corn. Was Joseph over-zealous?

Perhaps not… rather, from what I can see, he was acting with solid business sense. Rather than allow people to just slaughter animals to eat, which would only last them a short while, he gathered in the animals as collateral. There was still plenty of corn, thanks to his years of wondrous management. In this way, Joseph did not ‘steal’ animals when the people were vulnerable – he was saving them from their own folly. At the same time, he built up Pharaoh’s wealth and power. Can this be called bad, when Pharaoh had been so good to Joseph and others? The land lived another year by such detailed planning.

When the fourth year came around, with yet more famine, the people wondered what they would now do, and went again to Joseph with their petitions. They told him that he already had their money and their animals – now all they had left was their land and their bodies. This time, it was they who suggested Pharaoh take their land as payment for corn. Thus, all the people would become Pharaoh’s servants, working to his command.

Then came the biggest sale of real estate known on this earth: Joseph literally bought the entire land of Egypt and gave it to Pharaoh! This in itself is an interesting social and economic note. It shows us that individual Egyptians owned their own land and businesses, and kept their own areas in money and goods. Now, the land was nationalised and owned by the state. If Joseph lived today every mogul on earth would be head-hunting him for his business sense!

Verses 21-26

  1. “And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof.

  2. Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands.

  3. Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land.

  4. And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.

  5. And they said, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's servants.

  6. And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh's.”

Because all the animals were now in strategic towns, and the land bore no fruit, there was no point in them living on what were formerly their family estates. They would just have died there. So, Joseph organised a massive country-wide exodus of people, from their homes in the country to the towns and cities. This made eminent sense, for that was where the granaries were. By centralising everything it was easier to administer. Only the priest classes were allowed to keep their lands. This was because Pharaoh had previously given them lands as a gift. They also enjoyed a privileged status as Pharaoh gave them food, too.

When the movement of people had been completed, Joseph put out an edict, that all people would now work the land as servants of Pharaoh. Interestingly, he implies that the seed they would plant would come to some kind of fruition.

Joseph reminded the people he had bought their land and so they now belonged to Pharaoh. Though all this is strange to modern men, it nevertheless happened, and nothing in the text suggests God’s disdain or anger. Therefore, we must simply accept the matter as it stands. Those days are very far off and times were obviously different.

The people were told to sow the seed in the land. When the land produced grain the people had to give one-fifth of the produce to Pharaoh, and, in an act that shows mercy and love, he told the people they could keep the rest for themselves, and, enough to sell. The people were amazed by his wisdom and said so… you have saved our lives; find favour with us and we shall gladly serve Pharaoh! It seems, then, that though there was a famine, the people could still grow a limited amount of grain.

The only people who did not come under this new law were the priests, because theirs was a special dispensation of Pharaoh. Note that the text does not tell us it was a dispensation of Joseph.

Verses 27-31

  1. “And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly.

  2. And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years.

  3. And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt:

  4. But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their buryingplace. And he said, I will do as thou hast said.

  5. And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head.”

The next 17 years saw Jacob thrive. His family grew into a large tribe and became wealthy. Jacob dies at age 147. When he was close to death, Jacob called for Joseph. Israel/Jacob asked that if he was praiseworthy in Joseph’s eyes, then Joseph should put his “hand under (his) thigh” as a kindness. This would have been the outer part of his thigh. In those times this was a sign of pledge, a promise to do something.

The promise was to bury Jacob in his own homeland, and not in Egypt. He made Joseph swear to keep the promise, so Joseph did so. Then, Jacob sat up in bed and bowed (to God). In earlier days he and his sons had to bow before Joseph who would have sat on a throne. But, at the end, he bowed to God in obedience and praise.


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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
United Kingdom