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 Israel’s lengthy sojourn in Egypt.


In recent weeks we have studied several important themes:


  1. God’s sovereign preservation of his chosen people:  All kinds of forces conspired to derail the Lord’s design: sexual misconduct, family jealousy, filial betrayal, Joseph’s slavery and unjust imprisonment, and generations of deception.  Against all human odds, God worked wisely and powerfully to reveal progressively his glorious purpose.
  2. Joseph’s faithfulness despite unspeakable hardship:  Again and again, our ancient brother showed himself faithful and confident in the Lord’s good purposes.  Two aspects of Joseph’s wisdom stand out in the text.  First, Joseph labored diligently, even in demeaning situations.  God had promised, in Joseph’s adolescence, to make him a great man. Nevertheless, the young man continually found himself in dismal circumstances.  In all situations, Joseph worked carefully, and, in a sense, he enjoyed God’s favor, even in slavery and imprisonment.  Eventually, all of the Lord’s promises came true. Second, Joseph exercised great wisdom in dealing with his sinful brothers.  Last week’s lesson outlined the steps Joseph took to reconcile with his unfaithful, cruel siblings.  He refused to fall into two traps: bitterness or naivety.  Gradually, over the course of more than two years, Joseph gave his brothers a chance to demonstrate that they regretted their cruelty and had reformed from their previous pattern of life.  When they had proven themselves, Joseph revealed his identity and restored his relationship with Jacob’s sons.
  3. God’s ability to transform lives:  Jacob’s sons did some terrible things, most notably; they sold their brother into slavery and deceived their father.  More than twenty years passed between the brother’s betrayal and their encounter with Egypt’s prime minister, Joseph.  Apparently, during these years, the brothers reflected on their malicious actions and they seem to have experienced a genuine change o character.  Joseph recognized their contrition and restored his relationship with his brothers.  God still changes lives.  Joseph demonstrated great wisdom and compassion in gradually rebuilding his connection with these men who had treated him so badly.

Lesson Outline:


I.                   The Reunion of Jacob’s Family (46:1-27)

A.    Jacob’s worship at Beersheba (vv. 1-4): Jacob’s return to Beersheba is significant.  This region served as a base of settlement for Isaac, and Jacob’s worship at Beersheba demonstrate his sense of connection with the covenant God made with Abraham and Isaac.  As Jacob offered sacrifices to Jehovah, the Lord appeared to the worshipper and reaffirmed the divine promise.  God comforted Jacob and assured him that he must not fear the journey to Egypt. 

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.


II.                Jacob’s Settlement in Goshen (46:28-47:12):

A.     Joseph arranged a regal reception for his family and persuaded Pharaoh to allow the covenant people to settle in a fertile area called Goshen, in the bountiful delta region of the Northern Nile (46:28-30).

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)

1.      Joseph 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 Egypt.

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.