GENESIS - CHAPTER 47
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
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.”
The fact of their having with them their flocks and herds confirms what we have noted already: those entering the Millennium will not be resurrected individuals, but living believers who will have survived physically the terrible Tribulation judgments. And also, as already noted, their having with them their flocks and herds, points to the fact that the whole creation (the earth and every creature on it) will enjoy the blessings of Christ’s millennial reign.
Resurrected believers of the Old Testament, Church, and Tribulation times, however, will be in heaven during the Millennium.
47:2. “And he took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh.”
Scripture makes it clear that there are going to be degrees of reward in heaven for Church-age saints, in proportion to the faithfulness of their service on earth. This selection of five brethren (the number of responsibility) for special honor indicates that there will be also degrees of reward in the Millennium for Tribulation-age saints, in proportion to the faithfulness with which they will have fulfilled their responsibility to God during that seven-year era of trial.
Contrary to what is believed by some, it does matter how we live on earth, “... for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body....” (2 Co 5:10).
47:3. “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.”
This interrogation by Pharaoh (in the present context a type of God the Father) indicates that there will in fact be for the Tribulation-age saints the equivalent of the Bema for the believers of this Church age. The significance of their being shepherds has already been discussed in our study of Ge 46:32-34, and need not therefore, be repeated here.
47:4. “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.”
As Jacob and his family, having just come from famine-stricken Canaan, looked forward with eager expectation to the enjoyment of Goshen’s comparative abundance, so will the remnant, in the interval between the end of the Tribulation and the establishment of the millennial kingdom, look forward with the same expect-ation to enjoying its blessings.
47:5. “And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee.”
47:6. “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.”
This continues to depict the preparation of Israel to enter the Millennium; and the appointment of Goshen as their dwelling place tells us symbolically that millennial Canaan (which Goshen here represents) will be the best part of the whole earth.
“Men of activity” is literally “strength or ability.” While Israel will be chief among the millennial nations, it seems that governmental positions will be assigned according to ability, and not every man has the capacity to rule. The parable of the talents in Matthew chapter twenty-five indicates that faithfulness in the earthly life while the Lord is absent will bring corresponding promotion when He returns, not only with respect to the Church, but also to the believers of the Tribulation era.
47:7. “And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.”
Clearly, in this present context, Pharaoh repre-sents, not the Father, but the Gentile nations in the Millennium, and Jacob’s blessing him tells us of the place of superiority that Israel will have then, for, “The less is blessed of the better” (Heb 7:7). It will be through Israel that the millennial nations will be blessed.
47:8. “And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou?”
Jacob’s obvious great age appears to have been a source of wonder to Pharaoh, indicating perhaps, that the Egyptians never reached such ages. If this is correct, then it reminds us that believers have eternal life, while the men of the world have only a few brief years of earthly life. It would remind us, too, that while other nations have come and gone, Israel has continued, when humanly speaking, she should long ago have ceased to exist.
47:9. “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.”
Jacob described his life as a pilgrimage, which means literally “sojourn,” that is, a temporary stay. It emphasizes that his permanent dwelling place was somewhere other than earth: it was, in fact, heaven. Like Abraham, and every other man of faith, “He looked for a (the) city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb 11:10). He was simply passing through this world on his way to that city. The fact that we, too, are simply “passing through” should invest our lives with the same pilgrim character.
By comparison with the lives of his fathers - Abraham, a hundred and seventy-five; and Isaac, a hundred and eighty - Jacob’s life had been short, and though he lived for seventeen more years, his whole life was still shorter than theirs. He described those years as having been also “evil,” that evil, however, being the result of his own self-willed living. The nation he represents will yet make that same confes-sion.
Though Jacob lived before the ten commandments had been written by God on the tables of stone, we have to remember that that moral law is the expression of what a holy God requires of man, and Ro 2:14-15 assures us that what was written on tables of stone for Israel, is written in the hearts of all men, “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these ... shew the work of the law written in their hearts....” That same moral law was written also on the hearts of those who lived before it was written on stone for Israel. A part of that moral law is, “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land....” (Ex 20:12); but Jacob had sought to deceive his father, and his shortened years may very well have been the Divine judgment upon his disobedience. The reasons for the commandment are apparent when we remember that each earthly father is but a figure of the Divine, and honoring the one is but the symbolic honoring of the Other, just as the attempt to deceive the one is in fact, an attempt to deceive the Other. Jacob’s few and evil days may be related to his having dishonored his father through deceit. God has said, “Them that honor me, I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Sa 2:30).
47:10. “And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.”
The repetition of the statement “Jacob blessed Pharaoh” may be to emphasize that in the Millennium, Israel will be the channel of blessing for the Gentiles. Its being said also that he “Went out from before Pharaoh” declares that in the Millennium, as in the past, Israel will also be separate from the Gentiles.
47:11. “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.”
So will the Lord also place Israel in Canaan, the best part of the millennial earth. Here, however, what has formerly been called the “land of Goshen” drawing near is now called the land of Rameses evil is the standard-bearer: thunder of the standard. The use of this second name for the land of Goshen obviously goes beyond mere selection of an alternative name, and inasmuch as the name has an evil connotation, we have to see that God is telling us something about millennial Canaan besides the fact that it will be the dwelling place of the remnant that will have “drawn near” to God. This may be intended to dispel the idea held by many, that the Millennium will be a time of sinless perfection. As has been noted in earlier studies, there will be sin on the earth during those years, restrained, but spilling out like a long pent up flood as soon as the Millennium has ended.
47:12. “And Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father’s household, with bread, according to their families.”
This speaks of God’s abundant provision for Israel in the Millennium. The fact that that nourishment is described as bread (always a symbol of the Word), declares that millennial blessings will be spiritual as well as temporal.
The use of the terms “his father” and “his brethren” and “his father’s household” is not mere verbosity (God never uses words unnecessarily), but rather the symbolic annunciation of truth relative to millennial Israel. It may be that “his father” has reference to Israel’s national status among the nations, since the father represents rule or authority; “his brethren,” to their relationship to Christ; and “his father’s household,” to the nations in general, for then the nations will be as members of one great family or household.
47:13. “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.”
This verse introduces a completely new section. Having shown us in symbol the process by which Israel will be brought from Tribulation judgment to millennial blessing, God now takes us back to show us that same process in regard to the Gentiles. The world-wide scope of those judgments is revealed in the extent of the famine: Egypt (the Gentile world), and Canaan (the Jewish world) were both held in its terrible grip. And again the reference to bread speaks of both literal and spiritual famine during those years when a rebellious earth will experience Divine wrath and judgment.
47:14. “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.”
Re 6:6 is generally taken to indicate that famine will be so great in the Tribulation that it will take all of an average man’s wages just to buy food. This same truth is depicted here in their having used all the money in Egypt and Canaan to buy corn.
Going beyond the literal, however, we see here the same truth that was taught in the returned corn money of Joseph’s brethren. All the money in the world can’t buy salvation. With all their money gone, they still faced death from famine. And as it was in Egypt, so was it also in Canaan, “Jews and Gentiles ... are all under sin” (Ro 3:9). All need to be born again; all need to accept God’s gift of eternal life.
Since Pharaoh, in the context of this section, continues to represent God the Father, Joseph’s bringing the money into Pharaoh’s house declares the truth that men must learn that all they have belongs to God, and is not theirs but His, they being simply stewards of what He has placed in their hands.
47:15. “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.”
While it is said that the money failed in both Egypt and Canaan, it is said that it was the Egyptians alone who came to Joseph. It seems that both Egyptians and Canaanites should have come, but the omission of the Canaanites may be to focus attention on the fact that this is the picture of God’s dealings with Gentiles (represented by the Egyptians) in the Tribulation.
The fact that the money was gone, and they were still hungry, continues to emphasize that salvation can’t be bought.
47:16. “And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle if money faileth.”
47:17. “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.”
Cattle, like everything else in Scripture, are used symbolically as well as literally. They seem to represent the ordinary business of life in relation to man’s earthly work, but for the believer, they represent also the material that constitutes his worship, for it was from his cattle that the Old Testament believer selected the offerings that he presented to God. This latter application, however, can’t be made in the present context, since these Egyptians represent unsaved Gentiles being dealt with by God in the Tribulation. Their being called upon, therefore, to give up their cattle, declares the truth that the man who would be saved must be willing to turn from the pursuit of things earthly to seek for that which is eternal and heavenly. Confidence in everything of earth must be exchanged for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We might note in passing that horses in Scripture represent human strength, and the horses were to be given up. Human power has no part in man’s salvation.
The ass represents the body as the servant of the old nature. For the man who would be saved, that service must end. The body must be devoted to the service of righteousness.
47:18. “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.”
This portrays the confession of utter helplessness that must precede conversion. There can be no salvation while there is confidence in anything except Christ. Before a man’s hands can be filled with eternal treasure they must be emptied of everything else. This principle is demonstrated in the case of Abraham, the father of all men of faith. He was called upon to give up everything of Chaldea before he was given anything of Canaan; but it was a sacrifice worth making, for he received incalculably more than he gave up. So is it always. The man who is willing to relinquish everything for Christ’s sake is assured, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Co 2:9).
47:19. “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.”
First they had brought their money, then their cattle, and now they bring themselves and their lands. There was nothing left to bring, and in this we see the truth that it is only when men are brought to an end of their own resources that God can act to bless them. As long as man relies on anything except Christ He cuts himself off from blessing.
The number three and its related thought of resurrection are clearly seen in this section: the presentation of themselves and their lands was the third approach to Joseph. But resurrection is seen in more than the number of this plea: it is to be seen also in their asking not only for bread, but also for seed, and seed speaks of resurrection life, for it presumes the death of the seed in order that there may be a future harvest. Those who have eternal life know God as the God of resurrection. That eternal life is available only because Christ Himself has died and risen again, as the man who receives it is raised out of spiritual death into eternal life.
“... give us seed” speaks of hope, for a man doesn’t procure seed unless he expects to plant it, and reap a harvest that will produce more seed than was sown. This is the very nature of the spiritual life obtained by faith. Here on earth it is like seed sown in the ground, but the abundance of the harvest will be seen in eternity.
We shouldn’t miss the significance of the repeated reference to the land in connection with this third plea. The land also is to be given to Joseph to preserve it from becoming desolate. A fact frequently overlooked is that by His death the Lord Jesus Christ has not only redeemed men - He has redeemed also the earth, and it with us awaits that day when it, too, will experience the enjoyment of that redemption during the Millennium, “Because the creature (creation) itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption....” (Ro 8:21).
47:20. “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.”
Joseph’s buying the land of Egypt (type of the world) for Pharaoh is a picture of what Christ did at Calvary. There He bought the whole creation for the Father. Here the Egyptians, giving up their land, represent believers giving up the world.
47:21. “And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof.”
In Ge 41:48 Joseph, “Laid up the food in the cities,” and now throughout the whole land of Egypt, He gathered the people from their desolate fields into the cities where the stored up grain was available.
Keeping in mind that the general picture is of God’s dealings with the Gentiles in the Tribulation, this bringing into the cities those Egyptians who had given themselves and their land to Joseph, becomes the symbolic revelation that in the Tribulation those who will have renounced the world and given themselves to Christ, will be gathered together in local groups or churches, just as believers of this present age are gathered. As literal food was available in those literal cities, so in the Tribulation will spiritual food be available in those local fellowships.
Since Egypt represents the world, the adoption of this procedure throughout the length and breadth of Egypt indicates that there will be such groups of believers all over the earth, a fact which Scripture generally confirms.
47:22. “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.”
At first sight it would appear that these priests represent good, but closer examination indicates otherwise. They didn’t come to Joseph, and typically this represents failure to come to Christ. They had no consciousness of need, and this represents a self-righteous attitude. They didn’t give up their land, and this speaks of failure to give up the world. To understand the significance of their having had “a portion assigned them by Pharaoh” it is necessary to recognize that Pharaoh is a double type. As the one who had promoted Joseph he represents the Father; but as the one who assigned the priests their portion, he represents what the Pharaoh usually typifies: Satan, the prince of this world. These priests represent those of the Tribulation age who will not trust in Christ.
47:23. “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.”
Joseph’s having bought them and their land is the Old testament foreshadowing of the truth proclaimed by the redeemed in Re 5:9, “Thou ... hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”
“... and ye shall sow the land.” This assurance of coming harvests after the seven years of famine points to the abundance of the Millennium following the dearth of the Tribulation. But it speaks also to believers of every age, assuring them that following the dearth of earthly experience will come the eternal abundance of heaven.
47:24. “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.”
This assurance of coming abundance continues to emphasize that man’s fullest blessing is inseparably linked with the total submission of his life to Christ’s control.
It is apparent that they had been given back the lands and cattle which they had given to Joseph in exchange for bread, and the wisdom of their choice to yield up everything to Joseph is revealed by the contemplation of the fate of those who may have refused to make that transfer. They and their cattle would have died, and their vacated land would have been acquired by those who lived. The spiritual picture isn’t difficult to decipher. He who yields all to Christ is made rich, but he who refuses to yield, must die, and for all eternity be poor.
Five is the number of responsibility, and their giving the fifth part to Pharaoh was the acknowledgement that all belonged to him. It is the responsi-bility of every believer to acknowledge that we, together with everything we have, belong to God. They would have died had they not yielded themselves and all they possessed to Pharaoh, as will every man who refuses to yield himself and all he possesses to God. Our giving God his portion therefore, should never be anything but a willing joyful acknowledgement, that but for His grace, we would be but dead men.
“... and four parts shall be your own.” Four is the number of earth and testing, and inasmuch as four parts remained to them, we should not forget that the “four parts” left are not only for our use, but also to test us. How we use those “four parts” tests our love for Christ. The spiritual believer will never consider himself anything but a steward to whose charge the “four parts” have been committed, and he will use them for God’s glory, knowing that in a soon coming day, “We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” and render an account of our stewardship.
There is instruction for us also in what was to be done with those four parts. One part was “for seed of the field.” The seed represents the Word, and the field represents the world as the place where that seed is to be sown. In placing this first, God would emphasize that the believer’s first duty is to sow the good “seed” of the Gospel.
The second part was to be used “for your food,” and in this we are being shown the necessity of feeding on the Word.
The next part was to be used “for them of your households.” The household represents the local church. Elders should be careful to ensure that there is always an abundant portion of the Word for the “household” (the local church) over which God has made them shepherds, for contrary to popular belief, the principal function of elders is not to administrate, but to “feed” (teach) those entrusted to their care.
And finally, the fourth part was to be “for food for your little ones.” Whether the reference is applied to our own families, or to the spiritually immature in the church, both need the Word.
47:25. “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.”
This will be the grateful acknowledgement of the redeemed Gentiles passing out of the Tribulation into the Millennium, as it will be also of the redeemed out of every age. Their willingness to serve Pharaoh declares the truth that every believer should be equally willing to serve God, for the obedient life is the best expression of gratitude.
47:26. “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.”
The retention of this law by succeeding generations points to the fact that the reign of Christ (typified in Joseph’s rule over Egypt) will have no end. And its being decreed that Pharaoh should have the fifth part, continues to emphasize that men are responsible to obey God.
The spiritual significance of the priests’ retention of their land, as has been noted already, represents refusal to submit to Christ. Their continued retention of those lands through succeeding generations tells us that even in the Millennium there will be those who will refuse to submit to Christ, the outward compelled submission veiling the rebellion of the heart.
47:27. “And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly.”
This verse resumes the history of Israel as foreknown by God, and symbolically portrayed in the experiences of Jacob and his sons. Here we are being shown Israel in the Millennium, dwelling on the earth (Egypt), but in Canaan, the best part of that earth, and here represented by Goshen; and in their enrichment and multiplication we are being shown what will be true in even greater measure of millennial Israel.
47:28. “And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred and thirty and seven years.”
By the use of the name Israel in the preceding verse, God is declaring the spiritual state of the man, as He is declaring also the spiritual state of the millennial nation that will yet spring from that man. In the use of the name Jacob, however, we are being reminded, that though perfect as to his spiritual standing with God, he was, like every believer, imperfect as to his natural state.
It is significant that in regard to Israel it is said not just that he dwelt in Egypt, but that he dwelt in Goshen (drawing near); but when the name Jacob is used there is no mention of Goshen. The natural man, to which the name Jacob refers, lives in Egypt (the world), but he doesn’t dwell in “Goshen” - he doesn’t draw near to God. The use of the name Jacob would remind us that millennial Israel will be still an earthly people.
Jacob’s years in Egypt were seventeen, a fact which is undoubtedly meant to teach us something about Israel’s experience on the millennial earth, and clearly that message lies in the meaning of the number seventeen. As has been noted in earlier studies, the procedure to be followed in ascertaining the meanings of prime numbers seems to be that the number is first to be divided into two parts by removing one (the number of God), and then factorizing the remainder, which in this case is sixteen, the factors of which are two raised to the fourth power. Two is the number of witness or testimony, and its being raised to the fourth power (the number of earth and testing) tells us that millennial Israel, in union with God (one), will be the testimony on the earth to the redemptive power of that same God. The same responsibility devolves upon spiritual Israel (the Church) to be such a testimony on the earth during this present age.
We are given also Jacob’s total age, a hundred and forty-seven years, a number whose factors are 3 x 72. Since three is the number of resurrection; and seven, of perfection or completeness, the spiritual message of this number is that millennial Israel will be the revelation of the perfection of God’s power and wisdom in resurrection. The multiplication of the seven may point to the perfection of that power, not only in bringing out of physical death, but out of spiritual death also.
47:29. “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.”
Since Israel is the name associated with the new nature, it would seem that in the matter of his death, Jacob, the name associated with the old nature, should have been used. The Holy Spirit, however, has made no mistake. Like the death of all believers, this that is to happen to Israel has more the character of sleep than death, for it is in anticipation of the resurrection of life. The man with only the Jacob nature has no such hope, for while he, too, will die and have a resurrection, it will be the resurrection of death, a procedure that will transport body, soul and spirit into a far more terrible state of death in the lake of fire.
What was to happen to Israel was simply to take him from earthly experience into the blessedness of the heavenly. And no one will miss the significance of his calling for Joseph, and having from his lips the assurance that burial would not be in Egypt, but Canaan. (Burial in Egypt represents the death of the unsaved; but burial in Canaan, the death of the believer). As Joseph guaranteed Israel a burial among the other men of faith, so does Christ guarantee every believer a similar burial.
It is significant that there doesn’t appear to be any Scriptural record of the burial of any believer in Egypt. When Joseph died it is said that “They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt” Ge 50:26, but he wasn’t buried in Egypt. Jacob and Joseph were both carried out of Egypt and buried in Canaan.
Another point worth noting in connection with its being said that it was Israel, rather than Jacob who was about to die, is that we see in this the truth that millennial experience will come to an end, for it is only a part of Israel’s hope. The expectation of every believer lies beyond earth, even the millennial earth: our eternal dwelling place will be in that eternal city described in Revelation chapters twenty-one and twenty-two. There will be no death there, and no end to the blessedness of those privileged to enter that city.
47:30. “But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying place. And he said, I will do as thou hast said.”
The end of Jacob’s tempestuous life stands in sharp contrast to the “few and evil” days of which that life consisted. He had Joseph’s promise that he would sleep in Canaan in the company of those, who like himself, are heirs of life. Death may touch the body, but only to bring a sleep that will end with the glorious awakening to the resurrection of life, and translation into the eternal enjoyment of blessings far better than even the Millennium could offer.
47:31. “And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head.”
This bowing upon the bed’s head has been interpreted by some to mean that Jacob died immediately, but the following two chapters make it clear that such was not the case. It seems far more likely that this was an act of worship in which he prostrated himself on his face on the bed (in those days simply a mat), as an expression of his gratitude for the assurance that he would be buried in Canaan. The implications of that burial furnished the reasons for his worship.