Genesis 47 Study Notes


47:1-6 True to his word, Joseph met with Pharaoh. Joseph then presented only five of his brothers, possibly to prevent the Egyptian leader from thinking the clan would present a numerical threat to the land. As expected, Pharaoh asked Joseph’s brothers what their occupation was, probably wanting to make sure the immigrants could make a contribution to Egyptian society and would pose no threat. When he learned that they were shepherds who wanted to settle in the land of Goshen—far away from the centers of Egyptian civilization in Joseph’s day—he was pleased. Pharaoh decreed to Joseph that the clan of Jacob was to settle in the land of Goshen, the best part of the land. Seeking to use the immigrants’ talents for Egypt’s benefit, Pharaoh requested that the most capable men among them care for Pharaoh’s own livestock.

47:7-10 The climax of the family’s visit to the royal courts of Egypt was the introduction of the clan patriarch to the most powerful man in the world, as Joseph presented Jacob to Pharaoh. Jacob’s initial (v. 7) and concluding (v. 10) blessings of Pharaoh fulfilled earlier prophecies (28:14; cp. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18). In the brief ceremonial meeting Pharaoh asked Jacob one question: How many years have you lived? Jacob’s response of 130 years marks him as one of the oldest men in post-flood history. He would live to age 147 (v. 28), but was surpassed by the years of his fathers Abraham (175 years; 25:7) and Isaac (180 years; 35:28).

47:11-12 The land of Rameses is an alternate name for the land of Goshen and may be the result of a later scribe updating the place names, since the city named Pi-Ramesses (modern Qantir, sixty-five miles northeast of Cairo) served as Egypt’s capital only from 1295 to 1065 BC—much later than the time of Jacob.

47:13-17 Just as the Lord had revealed to Joseph, the famine was so severe that neither Egypt nor Canaan could produce food. However, because of Joseph’s wise planning, the people could still purchase the grain he had stored up. But as the famine progressed, the region’s inhabitants spent all their money. Joseph therefore authorized a barter system to trade livestock for food.

47:18-22 Consistent with cultures throughout Asia and Africa at that time, the Egyptians asked their government to buy them as slaves once all their resources were exhausted. Slavery was a universal practice in the region, and even impoverished Israelites were permitted to sell themselves as slaves during the OT period (Lv 25:39-43). Such slavery was often temporary and might be terminated when the debt was paid (Dt 15:12).

Joseph accepted their offer. Members of the Egyptian priesthood were exempted from the land contract since the land was an allowance from Pharaoh. The Hebrew text, unlike the Septuagint, suggests that Joseph took the additional step of relocating the people to the cities during the famine; if the Hebrew text represents the accurate reading, perhaps Joseph adopted this policy in order to make the food distribution program more efficient.

47:23-26 Though the citizens gave up ownership of their land, Joseph permitted them to continue working their old fields. The requirement to give a fifth of their produce to Pharaoh was far less than the two-thirds to one-half rate that eighteenth-century bc Iraqi farmers paid Hammurabi after expenses. Egypt’s citizens gratefully accepted Joseph’s program. Joseph’s policies produced such a stable society that they remained in effect hundreds of years later in the days of the biblical writer.

47:27 While the Egyptians were losing their possessions, land, and freedom because of the famine, the clan of Israel/Jacob prospered. The contrast at this point between Egypt and Israel could hardly be more striking, though the situation would be reversed later (Ex 1:8-11).

47:28-31 As Jacob’s death approached, he called for his son Joseph (cp. 46:4) and made him swear a solemn oath while his hand was under Jacob’s thigh, an act that expressed great trust and accompanied only the most serious requests (cp. 24:2-4). Jacob asked that his son not bury him in Egypt, but rather that he be buried in the promised land with his fathers . . . in their burial place near Hebron in the cave at Machpelah (23:19; 25:9; 35:27-29; 50:13).


Hebrew pronunciation [pah RAH]
CSB translation be fruitful
Uses in Genesis 15
Uses in the OT 29
Focus passage Genesis 47:27

Parah means be fruitful (Gn 1:22) or sprout (Is 45:8). In some verses the sense is to have plenty of fruit (Is 17:6; 32:12). Parah refers to many offspring or descendants, appearing as become numerous (Ex 23:30) or increase (Jr 3:16). This sense was applied to a mother with numerous children (Ps 128:3). It regularly stands alongside other verbs with similar meanings. Exodus 1:7 lists four in a row to emphasize that God blessed Israel as he originally intended to bless creation (Gn 1:22,28). In 15 verses parah occurs together with rabah meaning fruitful and multiply. Israelites linked the two verbs (Gn 28:3) in imitation of the Lord’s repeatedly stressed intention for his creation (e.g., Gn 8:17; Lv 26:9; Ezk 36:11). Participles denote fruitful or bearing fruit (Dt 29:18). Causative verbs indicate make fruitful (Ps 105:24).