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The First Slaves of Egypt — Genesis Chapter 47

This blog post will cover the devotionals #188-190 for Genesis Chapter 47.

Please note that this devotional book is for sale as a physical (paperback) &/or digital (PDF) book on my website.

[188] Genesis 47:1-12

Once Joseph had reunited with his father, he came to speak with Pharaoh about his family. He told them they’d left Canaan with all their belongings and family members and were waiting in Goshen. He introduced five of his brothers to Pharaoh, who asked them the very question Joseph had discussed with them: “What is your occupation?” They responded just as their brother had instructed, “Your servants are shepherds, both us and our fathers also. We have come to sojourn in the land; because your servants have no pasture for their flocks; because the famine is grievous in the land of Canaan: now therefore, we beg you, let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.” Joseph had chosen Goshen for his family because it’d provide good pastures and plenty of water. He knew they could also worship God there without distraction of the idol worshipping ceremonies the Egyptians practiced. When Pharaoh found out they were shepherds, he allowed Joseph to set up his family in the best part of Egypt’s country—just as he’d predicted. Pharaoh also told Joseph, “If you know any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.” So even in his distaste towards shepherds, he still offered Joseph’s family the best, and chose to employ them to care for his own cattle. Once Pharaoh was finished speaking with Joseph’s brothers, Joseph brought his greatly honored father, Jacob before him. Jacob wasn’t impressed by the flashiness of the monarch, or of the glorious environment of his courts. He’d fellowshipped with a greater Monarch in the beautiful surroundings of nature. He was conscious of his superiority over Pharaoh and lifted his hands to bless him for being so kind to his son. Pharaoh was impacted by Jacob’s appearance—apparently greatly respected and full of wisdom and experience. He asked Jacob, “How old are you?” Jacob responded, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty; the years of my life have been few and evil and have not reached the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” Jacob claimed his life had been short and evil—in other words, he’d seen a lot of trouble and experienced much complication—which cut his life short. He didn’t have a smooth, peaceful life. His jealous wives created a bad string of events. His children had made his life bitter through their grievous actions. Yet, his final years were more peaceful because his sons had departed their wicked ways, he was reunited with his beloved son, Joseph, and provided with all the comfort Egypt’s governor could give. After his short meeting with Pharaoh, Joseph took Jacob and his family to Rameses (the best part of Goshen in Egypt) and provided his entire family with food. Jacob was once again sojourning in a strange land, but God continued to provide for him all along.

[189] Genesis 47:13-26

The famine got so bad that there was no food left at all. Joseph gathered all the money that existed in both Egypt and Canaan and brought it to Pharaoh. When the money failed, Joseph was approached by the Egyptians, who begged him for food. Joseph told them to give their cattle in exchange for food. They gave him horses, flocks, cattle, and donkeys in exchange for a year of food. After that year was finished, they returned to him and admitted that their money was spent, and now their cattle was gone as well—so they had nothing left to exchange for more food, except for their bodies and their land. They said they’d rather be enslaved and give up their land than to die of starvation, so they offered to sell themselves and their land to Pharaoh in exchange for food. All of Egypt was purchased for Pharaoh, and the people became slaves and dispersed from border to border. The only land that remained was the priests’ (which had been given to them by Pharaoh—along with the portion of food). Joseph told the people that he’d purchased them and their land in exchange for food—as they’d requested. He gave them seed to sow the land they’d sold to Pharaoh. When the food would be harvested, a fifth of the food must be returned to Pharaoh. The rest would stay with them to re-sow the field and feed them and their families. The Egyptians told Joseph he’d saved their lives. A law was passed in Egypt that the fifth portion would be Pharaoh’s (except for that of the priests). In doing this, Joseph made a way for them not to be so miserable as to be actual slaves. He allowed them to be royal tenants of the king’s new lands that they’d surrendered, and to pay an annual tribute of the results of their labor.

[190] Genesis 47:27-31

As we saw in devotional #189, the majority of Egypt’s slaves were Egyptians long before the majority of them were Hebrews. Jacob’s family wasn’t placed in the same position as the Egyptians. Unlike most of the Egyptians, the Israelites weren’t slaves. They didn’t sell their cattle, land, or themselves for food. They’d been given a portion of land to dwell in—as a thank offering to Joseph from Pharaoh for all he’d done for Egypt. Joseph’s wisdom (in managing the kingdom and preparing for the extensive famine) was greatly appreciated by Pharaoh. Thus, Pharaoh not only gave his family the best part of Egypt to live in, but also waived them from being taxed and liberally supplied them with food throughout the entire famine. Pharaoh told his counselors, “Are we not in debt to Joseph’s God, and to him, for this abundant supply of food? We have enough, while other nations are perishing. His management has greatly enriched the kingdom.” Jacob’s family did extremely well and multiplied into a great nation. Just as we saw, in devotional #185, how God had promised Jacob at Beersheba, He did indeed go to Egypt with his family, and blessed him greatly. Jacob lived in Egypt for seventeen years, until the age of 147. For that time, he'd been gently and calmly approaching his death—after the positive turn that his life took (especially concerning his sons). He knew the end was near, and he reached out to Joseph and said to him the same thing his grandfather, Abraham, had said to his trusted servant, Eleazar, when he wanted him to go find Isaac a wife. “I beg you, put your hand under my thigh.” What did Jacob want from Joseph? “If I have found grace in your sight now, I beg you, put your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; I beg you, do not bury me in Egypt: but I will lie with my fathers, and you will carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burial place.” Recall, from devotional #114, that the action of putting your hand under someone’s thigh (essentially letting them sit on your hand) when you make an oath to them is done as a sign of submission to their authority—you’ll obey and do what you promised to do. Jacob was adamant about wanting to be buried in the cave of his family, because he was still clinging tightly to God’s promise concerning the possession of Canaan. He wanted to be buried in the Promised Land, not in Egypt. He repeated the instructions once more (after he blessed each of his sons) in Genesis 49:29-32. Joseph said he’d do what he’d asked, but Jacob needed more—he required a solemn oath that he’d be laid with his fathers in the cave of Machpelah. Joseph swore to him, and Jacob bowed himself on the head of the bed.

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