In Genesis 12, God told Abraham “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.”
As we consider Genesis 47, see how God blessed and spared the Egyptians when they valued the people of God.
vv. 1–6 - Although Pharaoh had invited Joseph’s family to Egypt, it had taken considerable time to move everyone down. As such, an appointment is eventually made for Pharaoh to meet Joseph’s family. However, Joseph limits it to five of his brothers. Furthermore, while Joseph had mentioned Goshen twice, Pharaoh had not mentioned it. So Joseph tactfully mentions that his family is currently in Goshen and the brothers then confirm their desire to stay where they are. This location created a natural and important separation between the Egyptians and the children of Israel. Pharaoh confirms this plan, authorizing Joseph to carry out the details of vv. 11–12. He also encourages Joseph to appoint any of his gifted brothers to be superintendents of the royal cattle. Such a position would give them increased protection from Pharaoh.
vv. 7–10 - Joseph then brings his father to stand before Pharaoh, and Jacob does an unusual thing. He blesses the foreign king at the commencement and close of their interaction. This signified, in a subtle fashion, his superiority as an older man who knew God. Though he was not as rich as Pharaoh, he was still in a position to bless him. Pharaoh discerns Jacob as an aging man. Scholars tell us the ideal Egyptian lifespan of 110 years. Jacob’s answer communicates humility. As old as he is at 130, he has had a hard life, and he’s not as old as his father’s.
vv. 11–26 - the record then gives us a summary of Joseph’s agrarian policy, beginning with his concern for his brothers and their families. The remaining years of famine mean that the Egyptians become dependent upon the state in order to survive. Joseph displays his wisdom in saving the people. The nationalization of the land and livestock turns the populace into tenant farmers of the state. This record of Joseph’s care for Egypt and the prosperity of the nation shows the thankfulness of the Egyptians. As such, it instructed the Egyptians who joined the children of Israel in leaving Egypt. It showed to them the wicked ingratitude of the Pharaoh in their day, of whom it is said, “knew not Joseph” (Ex. 1:8). In v. 18 there’s a challenge to understand the year. The second year of the famine? Two years after the arrival of Jacob? The desire for seed appears to reflect the expectation that the end of the famine was approaching. v. 21 probably refers to removing farmers from nationalized lands and putting them in cities to care for them. Some read this entire passage as if Joseph is acting like a tyrannical governor. But such ignore the testimony of the people, “thou hast saved our lives.”
vv. 27–31 - the record regarding Joseph’s family is resumed, summarizing the prosperity enjoyed by everyone. We are then introduced to the approaching death of Jacob. He has Joseph take an oath to bury him in the promised land, using the same gesture Abraham requested of his servant.
Men should seek to have a skilled occupation. We have noted this from the opening chapters of Genesis. Men are identified by the work they do. God has built great diversity of skill and interests into the human race, but it is incumbent that all men be employed in work which provides for them and their dependents. One blessing of the protestant reformation was that it resulted in increased literacy, advanced technology, and produced a broader range of employments for men to give themselves to. I’ve heard it said that if you cannot bring honey into the hive you will be cast out as a drone. There are few excuses for young men today. Let me urge you boys and young men to be diligent in developing marketable skills. Your interests should make economic sense. It is hard to justify your choices if those choices mean your wife is anxious and your children are starving. Add value to your skillset and the marketplace generally rewards you.
Every kingdom looks for able men. Pharaoh is quick to perceive that Joseph’s abilities are most likely not unique. That his brothers may also have expertise that would be profitable for Egypt. The world understands the value men of gift can bring, and while God’s work advances despite the fact that “not many mighty, not many noble, are called”, yet we must be proactive to utilize gifting in the church. Dear Christian, do not sit on the sidelines in the kingdom. Get involved. Show up at everything, and I can almost promise you that God will find something for you to do for His name.
Dramatic changes in government can happen in a few short years. In the space of seven years, the abundance in Egypt flipped, resulting in changes which made the country almost unrecognizable. This is a reminder that nations can change quickly, for good and for ill. History shows us this happening economically, politically, and religiously. This should keep us from the extremes of despair as well as pride. It is also why we must pray over the Lord’s Prayer, since it expresses both hope and humility for us and our nation.
Taxes are necessary even under godly government. Joseph has received a lot of criticism for the tax rate he imposed on Egypt. We don’t know if there were other taxes, but if they were paying a flat 20%, it would be very acceptable. Many argue that the Israelite paid 23%. In our modern world, we pay income taxes, sales taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes, estate taxes, capital gains taxes, etc, and after all is said and done, you would be thankful for a flat 20% tax rate. Let us not be found complaining over such things as if they are prosperity depends on our tax rate. God imparts wealth. Let us trust Him, not good government.
A man’s word ought to be as sure as a written contract. When Jacob asks Joseph to promise to bury him in Canaan, a cultural gesture and his word was sufficient to alleviate his concerns. While written contracts are a helpful and necessary tool, believers ought to so speak that their word is as sure as a contract. We may fall short at times, but just as a contract reminds us of our obligations, so it should be when we are reminded of the things we have said.
Dying wishes ought to reflect a life of faith. Jacob’s desire to be buried in Canaan conveyed his own faith in God’s promises, but also communicated to Joseph where his faith needed to be. By this time, it would have been easy for Joseph to feel as much Egyptian as he was Hebrew, but his father’s words were a reminder to him that he did not ultimately belong in Egypt. Parents, make sure your children know what is important to you. What you consistently value is likely to have a profound impact on them. Do not miscommunicate your values. It could destroy their souls.
“The sovereignty of God is a delightful theme to the poor in spirit, they love to see the Lord exalted, and have no quarrel with Him for exercising the prerogatives of His crown. It is the fictitious wealth which labors to conceal real poverty, which makes men cavil at the reigning Lord, but a deep sense of spiritual need prepares the heart loyally to worship the Redeemer King. On the other hand, the King has a special delight in the humbled hearts of His contrite ones, and exercises all His power and wisdom on their behalf, even as Joseph in Egypt ruled for the welfare of his brethren.” — Charles Spurgeon