47:13There was no food, however, in the whole region because the famine was severe; both Egypt and Canaan wasted away because of the famine. 14Joseph collected all the money that was to be found in Egypt and Canaan in payment for the grain they were buying, and he brought it to Pharaoh's palace.
15When the money of the people of Egypt and Canaan was gone, all Egypt came to Joseph and said, "Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? Our money is used up."
16"Then bring your livestock," said Joseph. "I will sell you food in exchange for your livestock, since your money is gone." 17So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and he gave them food in exchange for their horses, their sheep and goats, their cattle and donkeys. And he brought them through that year with food in exchange for all their livestock.
18When that year was over, they came to him the following year and said, "We cannot hide from our lord the fact that since our money is gone and our livestock belongs to you, there is nothing left for our lord except our bodies and our land. 19Why should we perish before your eyes--we and our land as well? Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in bondage to Pharaoh. Give us seed so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate."
20So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. The Egyptians, one and all, sold their fields, because the famine was too severe for them. The land became Pharaoh's, 21and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to the other. 22However, he did not buy the land of the priests, because they received a regular allotment from Pharaoh and had food enough from the allotment Pharaoh gave them. That is why they did not sell their land.
23Joseph said to the people, "Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh, here is seed for you so you can plant the ground. 24But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for yourselves and your households and your children."
25"You have saved our lives," they said. "May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh."
26So Joseph established it as a law concerning land in Egypt--still in force today--that a fifth of the produce belongs to Pharaoh. It was only the land of the priests that did not become Pharaoh's.
Through all of the excitement of seeing his family reunited in Egypt, Joseph still had a job to do. For the land of Egypt, it was a crucial time: the continuing years of famine. Because of Joseph's wisdom in storing up provisions for the famine during the years of plenty, the government of Pharaoh was enriched considerably: "Joseph collected all the money that was to be found in Egypt and Canaan in payment for the grain they were buying, and he brought it to Pharaoh's palace" (vs. 14). Then, after their money was used up, "they brought their livestock to Joseph, and he gave them food in exchange for their horses, their sheep and goats, their cattle and donkeys. And he brought them through that year with food in exchange for all their livestock" (vs. 17). Then, after their livestock was gone, the people offered: "Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in bondage to Pharaoh. Give us seed so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate" (vs. 19). Joseph accepted their proposal, and "bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh" (vs. 20).
Now, in this day and age, in the comforts of our homes, in our land of prosperity, what Joseph did seems severe to us. One may ask, "How could Joseph be so cruel so as to buy the people and their lands in exchange for food?" But note: Joseph treated the people fairly. He apparently always offered to sell the grain at a fair price, for there were no complaints against him by the people who wanted to buy grain. On the contrary, the people were grateful that Joseph would accept what they offered in exchange for food. The people knew that they would have been dead from starvation, had it not been for the wisdom of Joseph.
After Pharaoh owned all the people and the land, Joseph set up, on behalf of Pharaoh, an exceptionally fair system of taxation upon the people: "So Joseph established it as a law concerning land in Egypt--still in force today--that a fifth of the produce belongs to Pharaoh. It was only the land of the priests that did not become Pharaoh's" (vs. 26). The people in Egypt did not (at that time) serve under a harsh servitude, but were taxed fairly--at twenty percent. The people were grateful for Joseph's fairness: "`You have saved our lives,' they said. `May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh'" (vs. 25).
One can only commend Joseph's wisdom and fairness, as well as his continuous faithfulness to his employer in his work. Make no mistake, Joseph's task was very difficult. He was presiding over the country during years of severe famine. Through the wisdom that God had given him, the government had enough food to get the country through the famine. It took great skill to distribute this food in a way that was fair to both the people and Joseph's employer. If Joseph had acted in a way that was not fair to the people, he risked inciting an uprising by the people. If Joseph had acted in a way that was not fair to his employer (the Pharaoh), he risked losing his job. If Joseph had lost his job, chances are that whoever would have succeeded him would not have been as fair and honest as Joseph was. In that case, there is no doubt that the bondage of the people would have been much more severe than the system of taxation that Joseph instituted.
27Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number.
28Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty-seven. 29When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, "If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, 30but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried."
"I will do as you say," he said.
31"Swear to me," he said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
48:1Some time later Joseph was told, "Your father is ill." So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him. 2When Jacob was told, "Your son Joseph has come to you," Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed.
3Jacob said to Joseph, "God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there He blessed me 4and said to me, `I am going to make you fruitful and will increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.'
5"Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine. 6Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers. 7As I was returning from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan while we were still on the way, a little distance from Ephrath. So I buried her there beside the road to Ephrath" (that is, Bethlehem).
After a long and eventful life, the last of the great patriarchs Jacob, also known as Israel (the name God Himself gave him), was nearing the end of his time on earth. Jacob (make no mistake) was a great man in God's sight. He was the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. As a demonstration of the significance of Jacob, in many places throughout the Bible, the True and Living God is identified as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The rest of Genesis 47, and all of Genesis 48 and 49 deal with Jacob tying up his affairs on his earth.
First, Jacob has a "death-bed" request for Joseph: "When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, `If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried'" (47:29-30). Despite the riches and comforts of Egypt, Jacob longed for God's land, though Canaan was always full of trouble for him. Why would Jacob desire so much that he be buried in Canaan? This desire did not come "from a mere romantic attachment to his native soil, nor, like his modern descendants, from a superstitious feeling for the soil of the Holy Land, but from faith in the promises." Jacob knew, through belief in the promise of God, that the future of his people would lie in the promised land, in the land of Canaan. In fact, this land would bear his name, and even now bears his name, the name of Israel.
The next piece of business that Jacob takes care of before his death concerns Joseph's sons. When Joseph brought his sons to Jacob, Jacob recounted to them the covenant promise of God, as God told it to him (see Gen. 28:13ff): "God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there He blessed me and said to me, `I am going to make you fruitful and will increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you'" (vs. 3-4). Jacob recounted the covenant promise to Joseph's sons because he was to make them his sons. Jacob told Joseph: "Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine" (vs. 5). Normally (in that culture), the eldest son inherited a double-portion as his birthright. So then, by adopting two of Joseph's sons, Jacob was in effect giving Joseph the birthright. In fact, we are explicitly told later in the Bible that Joseph was given the rights of the firstborn (see I Chron. 5:1-2).
Apparently, Ephraim and Manasseh accepted Jacob's arrangement, and became as Jacob's sons, for they each became one of the twelve tribes of Israel. This was commendable of them. As Joseph's sons, they could certainly have obtained posts in Pharaoh's government, and enjoyed the riches of Egypt. But instead, they chose to be identified as sons of Israel. "These young men were prepared to abjure all the hopes of high estate and great power in Egypt in order to cast in their lot with the people of God." In doing this, they showed faith in the covenant promise of God. Calvin notes: "But what is this! That a decrepit old man assigns to his grandchildren, as a royal patrimony, a sixth part of the land in which he had wandered as a stranger, and from which now again he is an exile!... By it hence appears with what firm faith the holy fathers relied upon the word of the Lord, seeing they chose rather to depend upon his lips, than to possess a fixed habitation in [Egypt]."
May we too follow their example, and long for the promises of God over the allurements of this world. May we seek to serve God and His Kingdom, rather than serve ourselves and the kingdom of our own desires. May we look ahead to our future glorious riches in Christ, rather than setting our eyes on the baubles and trinkets of this age. Lord, by Your Spirit, help us in this.