Making Major Life Adjustments
Explore the Bible Series
May 18, 2008
Background Passage: Genesis 46:1-47:26
Lesson Passage: Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30; 47:7-12
The Joseph narrative reaches its crescendo in Chapter
Forty-six. Years of estrangement and
difficulty give way to a marvelous reunion and restoration of long-broken
relationships. More importantly, God’s
sovereign purpose became clear to Jacob and his privileged family. All of the chosen family saw the hand of God
in relieving their immediate hardship (the severe famine) and shaping the
contours of redemptive history. God
determined to reveal his salvific plan through
In recent weeks we have studied several important themes:
I. The Reunion of Jacob’s Family (46:1-27)
B. The descendants of Jacob (vv. 5-27): The list, organized according to the lineage of Leah and Rachel (and their handmaidens), numbered seventy, including Joseph’s sons.
Jacob’s Settlement in
A. Joseph arranged a regal reception for his
family and persuaded Pharaoh to allow the covenant people to settle in a
fertile area called
B. Egyptian antipathy toward shepherds (46: 31-34): Why the Egyptians held shepherds in contempt remains a mystery. Kidner discounts the view that Egyptians held unfavorable memories of the Hyksos Dynasty (a Semitic group of monarchs), and his argument seems persuasive. Kidner goes on to posit that that the highly urbanized Egyptians may have seen the nomadic Hebrews as inferior and uncivilized.
C. Jacob’s audience with Pharaoh (47:1-12)
brought five of his kinsmen to Pharaoh (vv. 1-6): This initial meeting with
Pharaoh seems preparatory to a more important audience between Jacob and the
Egyptian monarch. Again, the kinsmen
affirm their long-standing nomadic practices and their reasons for coming to
2. Jacob’s blessing of Pharaoh (vv. 7-12): Two times, in this brief paragraph, the text describes Jacob’s kindness in blessing the king. The reference to Rameses, in verse eleven, gives some indication of the time of the writing of Genesis, the time of Moses.
III. Joseph’s Continued Administration During the Famine (47:13-26): This is a difficult passage, in some ways. Joseph seemed to take advantage of the severity of the famine to enrich Pharaoh and further impoverish the people. In light of the message of the Old Testament prophets and the preaching of Jesus, Joseph’s practices seem oppressive. However, one must recall that the Middle-Eastern ancients saw poverty and personal responsibility in a particular way. They believed, according to Derek Kidner, that a poor person should do anything possible to provide for himself and his family, even to the extent of selling himself into slavery. Later, Hebrew law made a similar claim, but the Law of Moses modified the Mid-Eastern practice by allowing for redemption from slavery (See Leviticus 25:25-28). In his historical context, Joseph may have reflected some of these ancient views.
A. The severity of the famine (v. 13): It proves difficult to determine a time frame for this paragraph. Obviously, the famine had already lasted two or three years, and there was no end in sight.
B. Desperate, hungry people came from all over the region to purchase grain (vv. 14-26). Monetary resources, of course, eventually gave out, and people resorted to selling their livestock for food. In time, Joseph amassed a huge fortune for Pharaoh, and, as resources failed, the people sold their lands and their own bodies. Egyptian culture did not allow Joseph to collect the resources of the pagan priests; so, these idolaters were exempt from some of the taxation imposed on others. After Joseph had collected the resources of the land, he gave the people seed-crop and permitted them to cultivate the land. After growing the crops, the people had to pay 1/5th of the harvest to Pharaoh. This system, it appears, resembled the sharecropping practices of the American post-Civil War Era.