Jacob and His Family Settle in Egypt (47:1–12)
13–22 In these verses we are told how Joseph provided the people of Egypt with food during the years of famine. Most of the people did not store up any grain during the seven years of plenty; they had already been required to give a fifth of their grain to Pharaoh during those years (Genesis 41:34,37). So now they were forced to purchase grain from Pharaoh’s stores, which were under the management of Joseph.
When the people’s money ran out, Joseph had them bring their livestock to him in exchange for grain (verse 17). And when they had no more livestock to bring, Joseph took their land in exchange for grain, thus turning the people into landless tenants (verse 20). The land that formerly belonged to them now belonged to Pharaoh; the people were reduced to servitude (verse 21).
23–26 Joseph’s actions sound cruel to our modern ears, but in ancient times such actions were considered proper—and still are in many parts of the world. Joseph was not “exploiting” the people; he was giving them the means to survive. He gave them seed to plant, and allowed them to keep four-fifths of all the produce for themselves.134 Yes, the people had lost their ownership of the land, but they now had both food and security. And they were grateful. “You have saved our lives,” they told Joseph (verse 25).
27 In spite of the famine, Jacob’s family prospered in Goshen, acquired land, and increased greatly in number—all this in fulfillment of God’s earlier promises to Jacob (Genesis 35:11; 46:3).
28–31 Seventeen years had now passed since Jacob arrived in Egypt, and his life was drawing to an end. He had one final request to make: “Do not bury me in Egypt” (verse 29). He wanted his bones to rest in the land that had been promised to Abraham’s descendants, the land of Canaan. The bones of Abraham and Isaac were already there in the cave near Mamre, which Abraham had purchased from the Hittites for a burial site (Genesis 23:17–18). Joseph was asked to put his hand under Jacob’s thigh (Genesis 24:2) and swear an oath that he would do as Jacob asked. And indeed, when Jacob died, Joseph and his brothers carried his body to Canaan and buried it there in the cave near Mamre (Genesis 50:12–13).