Friday, November 30, 2012

Genesis Chapter 47 ~ God's Sovereignty, God's Blessing, & God's Promise

Genesis Chapter 47

Settling in Goshen
Joseph told Pharaoh that his family was coming from Canaan, and that they were in Goshen. He took 5 from among his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh asked what their occupation was. They responded, "Your servants are shepherds, as our fathers were...We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants' flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. And now, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen." (vs. 3-4)

Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you. Settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land. Let them settle in the land of Goshen, and if you know any able men among them, put them in charge of my livestock." (vs. 5-6)

Jacob Blesses Pharaoh
Joseph brought Jacob in and they stood before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh (vs. 7). Pharaoh asked, "How many are the days of the years of your life?" Jacob responded, "The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning." (vs. 9) And Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from the his presence (vs. 10). Then Joseph settled his family in Egypt, the land of Rameses, and Joseph gave them all provisions and food.

There was no food in the land because of the famine; Egypt and Canaan languished. Joseph gathered all the money in Egypt and Canaan in exchange for grain. When all the money was spent in Egypt and Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, "Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone." (vs. 15) Joseph answered, "Give your livestock, and I will give you food." (vs. 16) So they did, and he did.

After that year they came again and said, "We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent. The herds of livestock are my lord's. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate." (vs. 18-19) So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, and made servants of the people from one end of Egypt to the other. The only land he didn't buy was the land of the priests, because they had a fixed allowance form Pharaoh.

Joseph said to the people, "Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones." (vs. 23-24) They responded, "You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh." (vs. 25) So Joseph made it a statute that Pharaoh would have the fifth of all the land with the exception of the land of the priests.

Israel's Settlement
So Israel settled in Goshen, in Egypt, and they gained possessions and were fruitful and multiplied greatly. Jacob lived in the land 17 years, he lived a total of 147 years. (vs. 28)

Joseph's Vow to Bury Jacob in Canaan
When the time drew near to Israel/Jacob's death, he called Joseph and said, "If now I have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place." (vs. 29-30) Joseph answered, "I will do as you have said." (vs. 30) And Jacob said, "Swear to me." Joseph swore to him. Then Israel/Jacob bowed himself upon the head of his bed [or staff]. (vs. 31)

Reflections on Genesis 47
(1) God's Sovereignty
First, God is providing richly for Israel (also Egypt and the entire region) in the face of this famine. Even though Joseph is managing everything with Pharaoh's permission, we can't forget that God revealed what would happen, and established both of them in their positions at this particular time to be able to do what they do here. Further, it is God who makes plants grow - He is the true source of their food and all their provisions. If it weren't for God's creative and continual sustaining sovereign power, all peoples would have no hope of life.

(2) God's Blessing
Second, Jacob blesses Pharaoh from a position of humility. What exactly does this mean? Bless generally means to bestow goodness: emotionally [i.e. happiness], materially, or even spiritually. In verse 7 "bless" can also be translated "greeted" (i.e. Gen. 27:23), and in verse 10 it can be translated "said farewell" (i.e. Gen. 24:60; 28:1). If it is translated as "greeted" and "said farewell" in these verses, it carries the implication of including pronouncements of blessing in both the coming and going. 

So, what exactly is going on here? It's clear that God is showing that even though Jacob is inferior in the world's eyes, he is superior because of God's choice and favor. Hebrews 7:7 says, "It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior." Socioeconomic conditions, and someone's dependence on another, is not an indication that they are inferior to the one who is perceived to have more. All men are in the same condition regardless of their possessions and power, they are in need of God's grace. Jacob is inferior to Pharaoh in many ways, so it's important to recognize that his ability to bless Pharaoh doesn't come from his own power and superiority; rather, God's. Notice how he describes himself, "Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life." (Gen. 37:9) He sounds like a broken and humble old man, dependent on God's grace. God chose Jacob to be His own. God chose to set His love upon Jacob. Now, from this favored relationship with God, by no merit of his own, Jacob is able to "bless" others. This is clearly the beginning of the fulfillment of God's covenantal promises, "and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him." (Gen. 18:18; 22:18; 26:4) Ultimately, we are all dependent on God regardless of our circumstances. God is no respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34, KJV) Even though God's covenant people appear inferior here (and many times throughout history), in Jacob they go before the super-power of the world at the time, and pronounce a blessing. And consider this, through Egypt, God's promise to bless all the nations of the earth through His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be further extended: (1) In Israel's involvement in Egypt, a nation that has influence over much of the world; (2) as the history of how Egypt was sustained, and its role in sustaining others at this time of famine is retold time and time again; (3) and also through the events that will come to pass in the next 400 years. 

I think Victor Hamilton gets close to the point of what's going on here: "Jacob knows what it means to be the object of blessing. . . . Jacob once the recipient of blessing, now becomes the source of blessing." (Hamilton, 611) Replace "source" in Hamilton's quote with "instrument" or "conduit" and I think we're getting even closer to the point. God is blessing Pharaoh. Instead of being the source, Jacob knows what it is to be the object of God's blessing, both directly from the hand of God, but also through instruments in God's hands (even Pharaoh). This is similar to how Christians (people who know what it is to be extended grace through Jesus Christ), of all people, should be instruments of God to be dispensers and conduits of God's grace to all nations. Most of all by sharing the message of gospel of Jesus Christ with all peoples. (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8)

(3) God's Promise
Thirdin this chapter we see that God makes good on His promises to Jacob from chapter 46. He provides richly for Israel as he and his family walk by faith in God's promise to be with them as they go to Egypt. Further, Jacob has Joseph make a vow that will be part of the fulfillment of God's promise that, "I will also bring you up again." (46:4) This is also in fulfillment of what God said to Abraham: "Then the Lord said to Abram, 'Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.'" (Genesis 15:13-14) God established a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and here Jacob is reminding Joseph of this by having him make a vow in a similar mode to how Abraham had his servant make a vow with him. (Gen. 24:2, 9) [1] As we see here, and as we will continue to see, God will keep His promises. You can bank on it.

As Genesis begins to come to a close, we can see that it is connected to the historical events that follow in Exodus. It's the same story. God is sustaining this family through whom He will bring the Promised One from Eve; the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the One who will come to conquer sin, death, and Satan (i.e. Gen. 3:15).
[1] See my earlier post Genesis Chapter 24 ~ Isaac Marries Rebekah. Also, I don't know if there is a connection between the mode of the vow and God's touching Jacob's hip socket as he wrestled with Yahweh. (i.e. Gen. 32:32, see my earlier post Genesis Chapter 32 ~ Jacob Wrestles With Yahweh)

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