The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Genesis 47

Gen 47:7

Gen 47 brings into close proximity two figures, each striking in himself, but extraordinary when viewed alongside one another. There is the old man Jacob, burdened down by a lifetime of privations and sufferings and sorrows. And there is the young and eminently powerful "god-man" Pharaoh, lord of the world. How will these two men -- who have lived in totally different worlds -- behave when they come face to face?

Gen 47:9

MY YEARS HAVE BEEN FEW: Cp Abraham (175) and Isaac (180). An acknowledgment of "pilgrim" status (Heb 11:13).

AND DIFFICULT: "Spiritual riches, which can be ours even now, bring no conclusions of disgust or sadness, nor any fear of being robbed. They will not save us from the sorrows of human life, but they will help us to bear the pain. They do not arrest the process of decay in the dark streets of a Gentile city, but they give us hope of a better city to come. The patriarch Jacob illustrated the truth of the matter in the 'few and evil days' of his pilgrimage, He was not cast in heroic mould as a warrior or a king to be admired of men. He was 'a plain man dwelling in tents', without much animal courage or worldly skill. His virtue was the only one that will count in final issues. He had faith in God and tried to serve Him. All temporal blessings brought him sorrow. The good parents from whom he had to part, the riches which aroused jealousy of kinsmen, the wife who was taken from him, the daughter who brought shame, the wicked sons who caused him such grief, and the virtuous one who unwittingly brought the most pain of all. When he saw Joseph again, now honoured and powerful, his eyes were growing dim with age -- and the time for another parting was near. It seemed almost that with the end of bitter trials came the end of life.

"Yet although Jacob perhaps had to endure more pain than ever came to his worldly brother, he was upheld by a spiritual blessing which brought no reaction of evil. He was sustained through all his life by the consciousness of divine control. Even in the time of final parting there was hope, well grounded and sure. He is among the few who are mentioned by name as certain to be in the Kingdom of God.

"Such spiritual blessing may be ours, bringing no addition of sorrow [Pro 10:22], but helping us to bear the evils which are our natural inheritance. It is a comfort to know that God has matters in hand, and the contemplation of the coming Kingdom would be some consolation even apart from the hope of personal participation. Some permanent good will come out of temporary evil, some of our fellow creatures will be chosen and redeemed from among men, and the purpose of God will be accomplished. This thought is a consolation" (PrPr 192,193).

AND THEY DO NOT EQUAL THE YEARS OF THE PILGRIMAGE OF MY FATHERS: "There are those who imagine that if only they could live longer, perhaps they might achieve a better standing before God. Though Jacob lived twice the life span most of us might expect today, his own summary of his days is that they were 'few and evil.' It is a blessing that 70 years is our allotted span, and in that time is more than enough opportunity to sufficiently come to grips with the awesome Grace of God, and to embrace His righteousness with an attitude of gratitude" (CY).

Gen 47:10

Not the other way around: "Without contradiction the lesser is blessed by the greater" (Heb 7:7). With the gravity of old age, the quiet faith of a true believer, and the authority of a patriarch and a prophet, Jacob besought the Lord to bestow a blessing upon Pharaoh. He acted as a man not ashamed of his faith; and who would express gratitude to the benefactor of himself and his family.

Gen 47:21

JOSEPH REDUCED THE PEOPLE TO SERVITUDE: As per LXX. Or, alternatively, HE MOVED THE PEOPLE INTO THE CITIES (AV): To insure an efficient supply of food as needed: Gen 41:35 (WHGT 451).

Gen 47:22

HE DID NOT BUY THE LAND OF THE PRIESTS: Joseph could not interfere with the priests, who were sons of Ra (the sun), the greatest god in Egypt.

Gen 47:23

HERE IS SEED FOR YOU SO YOU CAN PLANT THE GROUND: Cp 2Co 9:10. Here Joseph supplies seed to the sower. In 2Co Jesus supplies "seed" to the sower and "bread" to the hungry, so that they in turn can help others who are in need.

Gen 47:29

Now at last Jacob can acknowledge the dreams of Joseph: "Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow down ourselves before you?... His father observed the saying" (Gen 37:10,11).

PUT YOUR HAND UNDER MY THIGH: A euphemism probably referring to the organ of procreation: Gen 24:2,9. "A transaction of great and solemn import." Showing faith in promises made to Abraham regarding his seed (v 7). The old man Jacob has a simple faith that God will remember him -- even in the grave -- and will raise him up to bless him again.

Gen 47:30

BUT WHEN I REST WITH MY FATHERS, CARRY ME OUT OF EGYPT AND BURY ME WHERE THEY ARE BURIED: This would involve going back to Machpelah before Mamre, which is Hebron (Gen 23:19). Sarah was buried there (Gen 23:19), and so was Abraham (Gen 25:9). Isaac and Rebekah and Leah were also (Gen 49:31). And now Jacob wishes to join them and wait for the Kingdom of God -- in hope of the resurrection (Mat 22:32).

Gen 47:31

ON THE TOP OF HIS STAFF: As per LXX. Cp Heb 11:21. The staff points to frailty of age, and a pilgrim worship (cp staff in hand: Exo 12:11). AV has "upon the bed's head" (the staff was probably kept at the head of the bed). The Heb for "bed" is mittah, and for "staff" is matteh. So without vowel pointings the two words are identical. The best guess? prob "staff": sym rulership, as in Jacob a shepherd ruling over his flock -- his sons, grandsons, etc.

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