God Rescues Egypt [Genesis 47:1–26 Study]

In Genesis 47, God rescues and blesses Egypt through Joseph. As Christian, we are sojourners, benefactors (instruments of blessing), and slaves.

God Rescues Egypt [Genesis 47:1–26 Study]
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  • I invite you to open your Bibles and turn with me to Genesis 47.
  • The title of today's Bible study is God Blesses Egypt.


  • Two weeks ago, we read Jacob utter the words, "It is enough."
  • Last week, we saw Jacob prepared to die because like Simeon in Luke 2, his eyes had see God's salvation.
  • In today's passage, we will witness God's blessing and salvation.

1. Pharoah Welcomes Israel (v.1-6)

  • Joseph's family arrive from Canaan to Goshen. (v.1)
    • (1) Joseph's father, (2) Joseph's brothers, (3) their flocks and herds, and (4) all their possessions.
  • "from among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh." (v.2)
    • Five is generally not an important number in the Hebrew Bible.
    • Five was enough to adequately represent their household without appearing too large and burdensome.
  • Following Joseph's instructions, his brothers testified to Pharoah, "Your servants are shepherds, as our fathers were." (v.3b)
    1. Egyptians disliked Hebrew shepherds. They could not eat and associate with Hebrews. "Every shepherds is an abomination to the Egyptians." (Gen 46:34 ESV)
    2. Pharoah will be persuaded to give them Goshen. Joseph's brothers were not looking for jobs. They needed land.
    3. Pharoah will not be threatened by Joseph's family. Joseph's family have no interest in pursuing political power or influence.
  1. Their Purpose: "We have come to sojourn in the land." (v.4a)
    • Hebrew verb גור means "to dwell as alien and dependant." (HALOT). "to take up residence or to inhabit as an alien." (DCH)
      • The root means to live among people who are not blood relatives; thus, rather than enjoying native civil rights, the gēr was dependent on the host nation's hospitality.[1]
    • Notice back in verse 3 that Joseph's brothers referred to themselves as Pharoah's servants.
    • Their intent is to settle and remain in Egypt long term, but they understood they will always be aliens and foreigners.
  2. Their Reason: "there is no pasture...for the famine is severe." (v.4b)
    • They acknowledged their dire straits. Because of the famine, they are in financial ruin without land to pasture their flock.
  3. Their Request: "Please let your servant dwell in the land of Goshen." (v.4c)
    • Everyone understood that the best land in Egypt was Goshen.
  4. Pharaoh's Response: "Settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land. Let them settle in the land of Goshen."
    • The land offer of Goshen was not trivial, measly, insignificant.
    • Pharoah even requests the brothers to take charge over his livestock.
      • Whatever Joseph did in Egypt, God gave Joseph success.
      • Pharoah was willing to entrust Joseph's family with his livestock expecting similar success and prosperity.
      • Hebrew noun שַׂר translated "in charge" (v.6), when used in a foreign land, meant "representative of the king, official." (HALOT)
  • In a similar way, Christians are sojouners.
    • We are not citizens of this earthly kingdom. We are aliens.
    • Paul wrote, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philippians 3:20)

2. God Blesses Pharoah (v.7-12)

  • Pharoah welcomed Joseph's brothers first.
    • The offer of Goshen was first made official.
    • Afterward, Joseph presents his father Jacob.
  • "Then Joseph brought in Jacob his father and stood him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh." (v.7)
    • Jacob invokes and enacts divine favor to Pharoah.
    • The Hebrew word ברך is used 63 times in Genesis and in the Piel stem is translated "to bless." This predicate verb is almost always used with God as the subject.
    • Genesis 1:22, 28 - "God blessed them [Adam and Eve]"
    • Genesis 9:1 - "God blessed Noah"
    • Genesis 12:3 - God told Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
    • Genesis 26 - God said to Isaac, "I will bless you."
    • Genesis 32 - As Jacob was wrestling with God, Jacob asked him [God], "Please tell me your name." But God said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there He [God] blessed him.
  • Jacob spoke as one superior to Pharoah.
    • Commenting on Melchizedek receiving tithes from Abraham and blessing him, the author of Hebrews wrote, "It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior." (Hebrews 7:7)
    • The inferior does not bless the superior.
    • The lesser does not bestow favor on the greater.
  • "The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years," (v.9a)
    • In Hebrew culture the esteem held for the aged was related to the assumption that the old had received divine favor and possessed wisdom[2]
  • "Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life." (v.9b)
    • Some suggest that Jacob is whining, perhaps pining for pity.
    • Jacob's life will be shorter than his father Isaac (180 years - Gen 35:28) and his grandfather Abraham (175 years - Gen 25:7).
    • Jacob acknowledged that his life has been difficult, more difficult than his ancestors.
  • "And Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from the presence of Pharaoh." (v.10)
    • Moses, with purpose, repeats in verse 10 that Jacob blesses Pharoah.
  • "Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father's household with food." (v.12)
    • Joseph's desire for his family to settle in Goshen was to prepare for the future. Because the famine was severe, there was still no food. Joseph had to provide food for his family (even though they had settled in the land of Goshen).
    • After the famine was over, the fertile land of Goshen will facilitate Israel's future prosperity and abundance.
  • We see Jacob's two identities
    1. Sojourner:
      • Jacob chronicles his life as a sojourner, and he comes from a family of sojourners. The life of God's chosen people is a life of sojourning.
    2. Benefactor:
      • Called by God, Jacob was God's conduit of blessing. Through Jacob and his seed, God will bless all the families of the earth.
      • Likewise, you and I are God's instrument of grace to our fallen world.

3. God Saves Egypt (v.13-26)

  • We now see the constrast between Jacob's family and the rest of the Egyptians and the Canaanites.
  • Jacob's family lose no possessions. No land.
  • The Egyptians will soon lose their possessions and subject themselves to be slaves to Pharoah, the king of Egypt.

First Part of Famine (v.14-17)

  1. Egyptian's money depleted (v.14-15)
    • "Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone."
  2. Egyptian's livestock exchanged (v.16-17)
    • "Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses, the flocks, the herds, and the donkeys."

Second Part of Famine (v.18-22)

  • "There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land." (v.18b)
    1. Egyptian's land sold
      • It is the people of Egypt that appear to Joseph to buy their land for food.
      • At this point, the land of Egypt was worthless.
      • Joseph agrees to buy all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh in exchange for food.
      • He did not buy the land of the priests who had a fixed allowance. (v.22)
    2. Egyptian's freedom relinquished
      • "Buy us and our land for food, and we will our land will be servants to Pharaoh." (v.19b)
      • The people voluntarily offered to be servants of Pharaoh.

Further Observations

  • Some who read this passage will question the ethics of Joseph.
    • Joseph has used the opportunity of this famine to enslave Egyptian's general population.
    • Is Joseph exercising a rule of oppression and social injustice.
  • Note some observations and cultural facts
    • It was the Egyptian people who proposed the exchange of land and liberty for food. (v.19)
    • Debtor’s slavery was commonplace in the ancient Near East that typically showed stages of severity from forfeiture of land to indebtedness requiring the sale of dependents.[3]
    • In the ancient Near East, for a landowner to collect 20% and allow his tenure farmer to retain 80% of their produce was considered magnanimous. By ancient Near Eastern standards, 20 percent interest is low; the average was 33 1/3 percent.[4]
      • Nicholas of Lyra (1270-1349) wrote, “Here Joseph’s clemency toward the people is demonstrated by the fact that he gave back the land of Egypt to those who had sold it for one fifth of the produce, even though he had acquired it for the king in an honest deal,”[5]
      • Joseph's agreement with the Egyptian people was so popular that this policy continued through the day of Moses. (v.26)
    • Notice that the Egyptians expressed gratitude to Joseph.
      • "You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh." (v.25)
      • The Egyptians did not regard Joseph as a tyrant but a savior.[6]
  • The proper response to salvation is not entitlement. It is gratitude.
    • Due to famine, Jacob's family could not save itself. Neither could Egypt. They needed a savior; that savior was Joseph.
    • "You have saved our lives. May it please my lord. We will be servants."
  • Read Philippians 2:5-11: Jesus was doulos. He now is kurios.


Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must acknowledge our true identity in this life.

We are sojourners.

  • Don't hold our temporary home tightly.
  • Our world is falling apart and passing away.
  • Our citizenship is with God in the new heavens and new earth.

We are also benefactors.

  • We are God's instrument of blessing.
  • As God's church and royal priesthood, we are commissioned by our Lord Jesus Christ to make disciples of all nations.
  • People around us are hurting. They are dying, and they are going to hell.
  • God has entrusted us with the good news that is for all people: Christ came into the world to save sinners.
  • When the Philippian jailer asked Paul how he could receive deliverance and salvation, Paul answered, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." (Acts 16:31)

We are slaves.

  • We are bondservants to God.
  • We are twice God's.
  • God created us and therefore already has authority over us.
  • God has also redeemed us. He purchased us with the blood of Christ.
  • Ruth made a curious comment in Ruth 2. She told Boaz, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”
  • Our savior's title is Lord Jesus Christ: Kurios Iesous Christos.
  • We are doulos. Christ is kurios.

May we live out our identity today as sojourners, benefactors, slaves.

  1. Stigers, Harold G. 1999. “330 גּוּר.” In Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, edited by R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, electronic ed., 155. Chicago: Moody Press. ↩︎

  2. Mathews, K. A. 2005. Genesis 11:27–50:26. Vol. 1B. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers. ↩︎

  3. Mathews, K. A. 2005. Genesis 11:27–50:26. Vol. 1B. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers. ↩︎

  4. Waltke, Bruce K., and Cathi J. Fredricks. 2001. Genesis: A Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. ↩︎

  5. Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 8: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 45-50. ↩︎

  6. Waltke, Bruce K., and Cathi J. Fredricks. 2001. Genesis: A Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. ↩︎

Bible Studies on the Story of Joseph

  1. Introduction to the Joseph Narrative in Genesis
  2. Joseph the Dreamer (Genesis 37:2–11)
  3. Joseph Sold to Slavery (Genesis 37:12–36)
  4. Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38)
  5. Joseph Tempted by Potiphar's Wife (Genesis 39)
  6. God Remembers Joseph in Prison (Genesis 40)
  7. Pharoah's Dreams Interpreted (Genesis 41:1–36)
  8. Joseph Made Prime Minister (Genesis 41:37–57)
  9. Jacob's Sons' First Trip to Egypt (Genesis 42)
  10. Jacob Accepts Judah's Guarantee (Genesis 43:1–14)
  11. Joseph Reunites with Benjamin (Genesis 43:15–34)
  12. Joseph Plants His Silver Cup (Genesis 44:1–17)
  13. Judah's Plea for Benjamin (Genesis 44:18–34)
  14. Judah Becomes Surety for Benjamin (Genesis 44)
  15. A Portrait of Forgiveness (Genesis 45:1–8)
  16. It Is Enough (Genesis 45:9–28)
  17. Prepared to Die (Genesis 46)
  18. God Rescues Egypt (Genesis 47:1–26)
  19. "God Will Be With You" (Genesis 47:27–48:22)
  20. Lion of Judah: When All Is Said and Done (Genesis 49)
  21. God Meant It For Good (Genesis 50)