Genesis 47:1-31. JOSEPH'S PRESENTATION AT COURT.
1. Joseph . . . told Pharaoh, My father and my brethren--Joseph furnishes a beautiful example of a man who could bear equally well the extremes of prosperity and adversity. High as he was, he did not forget that he had a superior. Dearly as he loved his father and anxiously as he desired to provide for the whole family, he would not go into the arrangements he had planned for their stay in Goshen until he had obtained the sanction of his royal master.
2. he took some of his brethren--probably the five eldest brothers: seniority being the least invidious principle of selection.
4. For to sojourn . . . are we come--The royal conversation took the course which Joseph had anticipated (Genesis 46:33), and they answered according to previous instructions--manifesting, however, in their determination to return to Canaan, a faith and piety which affords a hopeful symptom of their having become all, or most of them, religious men.
7. Joseph brought in Jacob his father--There is a pathetic and most affecting interest attending this interview with royalty; and when, with all the simplicity and dignified solemnity of a man of God, Jacob signalized his entrance by imploring the divine blessing on the royal head, it may easily be imagined what a striking impression the scene would produce (compare Hebrews 7:7).
8. Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou?--The question was put from the deep and impressive interest which the appearance of the old patriarch had created in the minds of Pharaoh and his court. In the low-lying land of Egypt and from the artificial habits of its society, the age of man was far shorter among the inhabitants of that country than it had yet become in the pure bracing climate and among the simple mountaineers of Canaan. The Hebrews, at least, still attained a protracted longevity.
9. The days of the years of my pilgrimage, &c.--Though a hundred thirty years, he reckons by days (compare Psalms 90:12), which he calls few, as they appeared in retrospect, and evil, because his life had been one almost unbroken series of trouble. The answer is remarkable, considering the comparative darkness of the patriarchal age (compare 2 Timothy 1:10).
11. Joseph placed his father and his brethren . . . in the best of the land--best pasture land in lower Egypt. Goshen, "the land of verdure," lay along the Pelusiac or eastern branch of the Nile. It included a part of the district of Heliopolis, or "On," the capital, and on the east stretched out a considerable length into the desert. The ground included within these boundaries was a rich and fertile extent of natural meadow, and admirably adapted for the purposes of the Hebrew shepherds (compare Genesis 49:24, Psalms 34:10;,78:72).
13-15. there was no bread in all the land--This probably refers to the second year of the famine (Genesis 45:6) when any little stores of individuals or families were exhausted and when the people had become universally dependent on the government. At first they obtained supplies for payment. Before long "money failed.
16. And Joseph said, Give your cattle--"This was the wisest course that could be adopted for the preservation both of the people and the cattle, which, being bought by Joseph, was supported at the royal expense, and very likely returned to the people at the end of the famine, to enable them to resume their agricultural labors."
21. as for the people, he removed them to cities--obviously for the convenience of the country people, who were doing nothing, to the cities where the corn stores were situated.
22. Only the land of the priests bought he not--These lands were inalienable, being endowments by which the temples were supported. The priests for themselves received an annual allowance of provision from the state, and it would evidently have been the height of cruelty to withhold that allowance when their lands were incapable of being tilled.
23-28. Joseph said, Behold, &c.--The lands being sold to the government (Genesis 47:19,20), seed would be distributed for the first crop after the famine; and the people would occupy them as tenants-at-will on the payment of a produce rent, almost the same rule as obtains in Egypt in the present day.
29-31. the time drew nigh that Israel must die--One only of his dying arrangements is recorded; but that one reveals his whole character. It was the disposal of his remains, which were to be carried to Canaan, not from a mere romantic attachment to his native soil, nor, like his modern descendants, from a superstitious feeling for the soil of the Holy Land, but from faith in the promises. His address to Joseph--"if now I have found grace in thy sight," that is, as the vizier of Egypt--his exacting a solemn oath that his wishes would be fulfilled and the peculiar form of that oath, all pointed significantly to the promise and showed the intensity of his desire to enjoy its blessings (compare Numbers 10:29).
31. Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head--Oriental beds are mere mats, having no head, and the translation should be "the top of his staff," as the apostle renders it (Hebrews 11:21).