Design By Humans

Genesis 47. Israel must die!

Genesis 47.

1 Then Joseph came and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen.

 Joseph goes and tells Pharaoh that his family have arrived.

2 And he took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh.

 Joseph has brought five men with him to demonstrate to Pharaoh that his family have arrived. Presumably these are Joseph's nephews, does it matter which five? we did learn all of their names in the last chapter, it would be a shame not to use them now that we know them.

3 And Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers.

 Pharaoh makes small talk by asking what it is they do and the five lads answer. To me this reads like they answered in unison, robotically parroting what Joseph told them to. I can imagine them repeating "Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers." all the way from Goshen just to make sure they got it right when the time came.

4 They said moreover unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come; for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan: now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen.

 Then they get down to what they really came for and ask Pharaoh if they make Goshen their home. They basically want to set up a village sized religious community made up entirely of one family. I've seen this kind of societal model play out in different places over the years; it never seems to go well.

5 And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee:


6 The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.

 Pharaoh falls over himself to give Goshen to the Jisrael(Jacob/Israel - See earlier chapters) family and even goes as far as to give them control of all of his cattle.

7 And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.

 Joseph the brings Jisrael in front of Pharaoh, I'd have thought he'd have wanted to present the head of the family first

8 And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou?

 Pharaoh inquires after Jisrael's age. For that to have been Pharaoh's first question, Jisrael must be looking decidedly aged.

9 And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.

 I'm not certain that Jisrael has answered Pharaoh's question here. Is the length of his pilgrimage also the length of his life, if so, why the distinction? Is it just flowery poetic language? I thought that maybe we had a useful data-point here that we could use to further the timeline, but I'm not so sure. Maybe this will be clarified later.

10 And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.

 With this second blessing, Jisrael is now the third non-god to bless someone. First Isaac blessed Jisrael when Jisrael conned Isaac by pretending to be Esau, then Laban, Isaac's brother-in-law Blesses his children and now Jisrael is Blessing Pharaoh. All other blessings so far have been issued by 'The LORD' or 'El, God of Israel' (I'm still doubting that they are the same being). Now, If we are to infer that the ability to emit blessings is bestowed upon one by The LORD or El, and we can tell from the narrative that both Isaac and Jisrael are pretty special characters, how did Laban come by the power of blessing? He doesn't seem to have a very large role. In fact, by being an honest man who gets ripped off by one of our heroes he's clearly one of the villains of the piece, so why can he bless people?

11 And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded.

 Is this Pharaoh Rameses? Or is this named the land of Rameses for nostalgic purposes? Either way Jisrael and his tribe(s) now have a home to settle into.

12 And Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to their families.

 Joseph brings nourishment to his family, presumable from the enormous stores that he collected up prior to the famine.

13 And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine.

 Because Joseph is in charge of the stores, and while he literally filled them by taxation he isn't handing the food back now that it is needed. It doesn't seem just some how.

14 And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought: and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh's house.

 Right... So Joseph has been charging expensively for the corn in the stores, so much so that he is now effectively in possession of all of the money in Egypt and Canaan.

15 And when money failed in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? for the money faileth.

 Joseph has ruined the Egyptian economy. There's no currency in circulation and the people recognize the injustice of there being national stores of food, which they filled during the times of plenty and which they now have no access to because Joseph bankrupted them.

16 And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail.

 Joseph, not satisfied to have bankrupted the entire citizenry of Egypt and Canaan has come up with the marvelous plan of taking their material assets in exchange for the stored food.

17 And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year.

 And desperate for food with no other vendor in town, the people capitulated and handed over their working animals, their actual livelihoods in exchange for a year's food.

18 When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him, We will not hide it from my lord, how that our money is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle; there is not ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands:

 The year ends and unsurprisingly the people realize that they have only their land and themselves left to trade for food...

19 Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate.

 ...and still unsurprisingly that is exactly what the people offer to stay alive.

20 And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh's.

 Bought? More like extorted or stole, Joseph has with what seemed initially like noble purpose, taxed food in years of plenty in order to sell it back to those that produced it during times of famine at a price such that every man in Egypt was forced to sell everything they had in order to eat.

21 And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof.

 Having stolen their lands, Joseph moves everyone into cities, presumably because they no longer have any homes.

22 Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands.

 Of course the priestly class were exempted from this land grab, they always are.

23 Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land.

 Ahh, OK. Joseph has made them all share-croppers.

24 And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.

 Yes, exactly that, they are all now share-croppers.

25 And they said, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's servants.

 How na├»ve are these people? Saved your lives? He's robbed you blind!

26 And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh's.

 Of course he did.

27 And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly.

 What kind of possessions? Where Joseph's family exempted from the land grab along with the priests? They didn't even contribute to the stores.

28 And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years.

 Jisrael dies in 2255AE.

29 And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt:

 ...but did not want to be buried in Egypt, so much so that he made Jacob swear to bury him elsewhere while cupping his balls. When did this ball cupping tradition die out? I'm glad it did.

30 But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their buryingplace. And he said, I will do as thou hast said.

 Joseph agrees to bury Jisrael in the buryingplace of his forbears.

31 And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head.

 As above, but with more swearing.

What have we learned?

  • Jacob/Israel has died. He's been alive for practically half of this book.
  • Joseph has managed to take all of the land in Egypt away from the land owners. He's done this by forcing a compulsory trade by which he has taken the land in exchange for food, the very same food that he took from the land owners compulsorily over the years of plenty.
  • For some reason, along with the priests, Jacob's own family have been exempted from the land grab.
  • The only land-owners left in Egypt are now, The state (AKA Joseph), The Priests (I'm not sure how they are separate from the state), and Joseph's family... Not a whiff of corruption here then. 
Essentially, the Israelites own Egypt.


  1. I've enjoyed reading your Genesis annotations, and I've added links to them from the SAB. I hope you continue through the rest of the Bible!

    1. Hi Steve, Long time no speak.
      I haven't updated this blog in a long time as life got busier, but I do intend at least to get the last three chapters of genesis finished. Exodus looks like a blast though so I may not be able to resist.

  2. Awesome that I found this site. I've been doing the same thing - blogging through each chapter of Genesis, and who knows how much I'll get to after that - maybe I'll burn out after Genesis too :) It's so mind blowing what stories are in there if you just read it. I couldn't help but start writing it down because of how jarring it was when I came across these surprising twists again, and again, and again, and again as I read through the OT histories. Hope you finish up Genesis and maybe share some more thoughts, nice to find other perspectives out there. I'm sure I will be referencing and comparing notes with your blog as I continue.


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