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Author Topic: Genesis; The Road To The Top
Sa:ji:sdo:de
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Gen 40:4b-17


†. Gen 40:4b-8a . . After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men-- the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison --had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.

. . .When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh's officials who were in custody with him in his master's house: Why are your faces so sad today? We both had dreams; they answered, but there is no one to interpret them. Then Joseph said to them: Do not interpretations belong to God?


Actually, in the literal, Joseph said: Aren't interpretations with the gods? Because the word for "God" isn't Yhvh, rather, it's 'elohiym (el-o-heem') which isn't one of the creator's proper names; it's a generic plural noun for all gods, both the true and the false.

†. Gen 40:8b . . Please tell me.

There's no record up to this point of Joseph ever interpreting a dream, not even his own. He dreamed in the past (e.g. Gen 37:5-7, Gen 37:9) but at the time he didn't know what his dreams meant; and in this particular instance, I seriously doubt he believed himself able to interpret a one. I think he was just curious. Jail is boring; what else was there to talk about? So what's going to happen next was probably just as big a surprise to him as it was to them.

Incidentally, there's no record of God ever speaking one-on-one with Joseph. He believed God was providentially active in his life, but was given no apparitions of any kind whatsoever to corroborate his confidence other than the fulfillment of his interpretations of people's dreams; which aren't eo ipso evidence of God at work. (e.g. Acts 16:16)

People's dreams normally don't stick in their memories for very long; but these two men's dreams seemed (to them anyway) to be of a mysteriously symbolic significance, and so disturbing that they can't get the details out of their minds.

In psychoanalysis, dreams are of interest because they're often expressions of subconscious anxieties and inner conflicts rather than portents and/or omens.

Dreams are both common and normal, and surely no one should try to derive a message from God out of them. But these men's dreams defied psychoanalysis because they were so weird and unnatural.

Had they been at liberty, they no doubt would have contacted one of Pharaoh's astrologers, or an occultist or a diviner, or a highly intuitive wiz kid to tell them the meanings. But for now they're stuck with Joseph-- a nice enough young fellow; but a total unknown in their world regarding matters of paranormal precognition.

†. Gen 40:9-13 . .Then the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph. He said to him: In my dream, there was a vine in front of me. On the vine were three branches. It had barely budded, when out came its blossoms and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, pressed them into Pharaoh's cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand.

. . . Joseph said to him: This is its interpretation: The three branches are three days. In three days Pharaoh will pardon you and restore you to your post; you will place Pharaoh's cup in his hand, as was your custom formerly when you were his cupbearer.


From whence Joseph got his interpretation isn't stated. Genesis doesn't say he heard a voice, nor does it clearly say that God gave Joseph the interpretation. For all Joseph knew, (and them too) he was just taking a wild guess. It probably came right out of his head sort of like intuition or an imaginative locution.

†. Gen 40:14 . . But remember me when all is well with you again, and do me the kindness of mentioning me to Pharaoh, so as to free me from this place.

He will eventually mention Joseph; but not right away.

†. Gen 40:15 . . For in truth, I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews; nor have I done anything here that they should have put me in the dungeon.

Joseph was telling the truth, but not the whole truth. He was in prison for the crime of rape. Whether he actually did it or not is immaterial. And he wasn't realistic: Joseph couldn't reasonably expect a courtier to take the word of a criminal; and a slave at that.

†. Gen 40:16a . .When the chief baker saw how favorably he had interpreted,

Apparently, for reasons unstated, the baker was somewhat reluctant to share his dream with Joseph at first, but relented when the first dream had a happy ending.

†. Gen 40:16b-17 . . he said to Joseph: In my dream, similarly, there were three openwork baskets on my head. In the uppermost basket were all kinds of food for Pharaoh that a baker prepares; and the birds were eating it out of the basket above my head.

Birds are usually an ill omen in Scripture; sort of like the connotation borne by serpents. So, now it comes out why the baker was reluctant to tell his dream. If Pharaoh ever suspected that his food was being picked over by birds, he would be very disappointed in the quality of the care that a potentate had a right to expect from his own personal team of cooks. Food left uncovered, exposed and out in the open, is certainly not food fit for a king.

The baker's dream may have been his subconscious at work reminiscing the error of his ways. Up till now, the baker had no doubt insisted upon his innocence; which was nothing less than feigned since he knew very well with whom the real fault lay between himself and the cupbearer.

Apparently Pharaoh had actually gotten some sort of food poisoning, and the investigation underway by Potiphar sought to find the source; and likely to determine if it was in any way evidence of a conspiracy to assassinate Pharaoh.

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Gen 40:18-23


†. Gen 40:18-19 . . Joseph answered: This is its interpretation: The three baskets are three days. In three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and gibbet you upon a pole; and the birds will pick off your flesh.

It's lucky for the baker that he would be already dead before the gibbeting because a common method of gibbeting in those days was impaling; which was a grizzly spectacle. Wooden poles, about three to four inches in diameter were sharpened to a pencil point and forcibly inserted into the abdomen, up into the rib cage to catch on the spine in back of the throat; and the pole was then set upright to suspend the victim above the ground like human shish kabob.

I'm looking here at an impaling on an Assyrian stone relief-- in the July/August 2006 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review --commissioned by Sennacherib for his palace at Ninevah to celebrate the capture of Lachish. The victims are three Israelites who still have their heads; strongly suggesting that they were alive when the poles were run into their bellies and up into their upper torsos.

Nobody could possibly survive an injury like that for more than a few seconds. The pole would not only penetrate the stomach, but also the liver, diaphragm, lungs, some large blood vessels, and the bronchial tubes; resulting in almost instant death-- quite excruciating, and very bloody.

Public impaling was no doubt a very effective deterrent to insurrection; and nobody in those days seemed overly concerned about executing criminals in a "humane" manner. Cruel and unusual punishments were the norm; and nobody dared stage an "Occupy Wall Street" protest about them lest their days end in like fashion.

†. Gen 40:20a . . Pharaoh's birthday came three days later, and he gave a banquet for all his officials and household staff.

What really is the purpose of a birthday party anyway if not to celebrate the continuance of your own existence?

For guys in Pharaoh's position (e.g. Kim Jong Un of N. Korea, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and Thein Sein of Myanmar) life is good: better than what you could ever hope to ask for; and of course that's cause for celebration. But for the majority of their subjects, life wasn't all that good, and nothing to celebrate. No doubt relatively few Egyptians in that day derived a significant amount of pleasure from their own existence.

People normally count Job as one of the most righteous men who ever lived, yet when he lost his health and wealth, Job cursed the day of his birth and wished he was never born. (Job 3:1-26)

†. Gen 40:20b-23 . . He sent for his chief cup-bearer and chief baker, and they were brought to him from the prison. He then restored the chief cup-bearer to his former position, but he sentenced the chief baker to be impaled on a pole, just as Joseph had predicted. Pharaoh's cup-bearer, however, promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.

One might wonder how it was possible for the cup-bearer to not be thoroughly amazed enough at the fulfillment of Joseph's predictions to begin exclaiming his prison experience with such enthusiasm as to totally rivet the attention of every single one of Pharaoh's courtiers and instantly secure Joseph's freedom.

But if we take into account the hand of God in the glove of His people's history, then it seems reasonable to conclude that God didn't want Joseph in the limelight just yet; so he put a mental block in the cup man's head to silence him for the time being.

No doubt when Joseph was apprised of recent developments by his friend Potiphar, he was deeply disappointed, and probably a bit consternated too. Joseph probably assumed-- and with good reason --that those successful predictions were his ticket to freedom at last.

But even if Pharaoh had taken note of Joseph at this particular point in the narrative, he was still Potiphar's property, and would have to remain in custody because of his "affair" with Potiphar's wife. Dreams or no dreams, does anyone seriously believe that Pharaoh would have taken the word of a slave over one of his own trusted courtiers?

So even had the cup-bearer brought Joseph's ability to Pharaoh's attention, it probably wouldn't have succeeded in gaining him the degree of freedom he really wanted. In point of fact, it may have even resulted in his death because Pharaoh would certainly want to know why Joseph hadn't been summarily executed on the spot for rape. No; bringing Joseph to Pharaoh's attention at this point would have caused problems for both the slave and his master.

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Gen 41:1-8


†. Gen 41:1a . .Two years later

Poor Joseph. He's now at the very threshold of his fourth decade of life and still hasn't slept with a girl, nor does he even really have a life of his own. He was under his dad's thumb for seventeen years as a kid, and now he's been a slave in a foreign country for thirteen; and has nothing to show for it whatsoever. Everybody would like their lives to count for something; but it looks like Joseph's is slipping away like water through a leaky bucket.

The very young often don't think far enough ahead. It's not till they hit their thirties that the aging process begins to work wonders on their perspective. I'm 73 as of this writing, and every time I see someone in their eighties, it only serves to make me sad as I realize that it's my own near-future I'm looking at. One day I'll look back at 73 and be amazed how young that was in comparison. But right now; I feel very old.

†. Gen 41:1b-7a . . Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing by the Nile. And lo, from the Nile there came up seven heifers, sleek and fat; and they grazed in the marsh grass. Then behold, seven other heifers came up after them from the Nile, ragged and bony, and they stood by the other heifers on the bank of the Nile. And the ragged and bony heifers ate the seven sleek and fat ones. Then Pharaoh awoke.

. . . And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time; and behold, seven ears of grain came up on a single stalk, plump and good. Then behold, seven ears, shriveled and dehydrated by the east wind, sprouted up after them. And the shriveled ears devoured the seven plump and full ears.


Pharaoh's dreams are all the more disturbing because they contain incidents that are contrary to nature. Cows, as a rule, aren't carnivorous; and ears of grain derive their nourishment from the stems of their own parent plant, not dining upon each other.

The scenes in both dreams are extremely violent with the cows and the ears not just sitting down to dinner, but literally attacking their neighbors with desperate savagery, like ravenous caribes: eating everything-- flesh, hide, hooves, bones, grains, chaff, and all --raw and uncooked.

†. Gen 41:7b . .Then Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream.

The first dream was disturbing enough to wake Pharaoh from his sleep. But the second was so vivid and so real that when he awoke, he was actually surprised it was just a dream. And with that last dream, I'd not be surprised he was very relieved to discover it wasn't a reality.

†. Gen 41:8a . .The next morning, as he thought about it, Pharaoh became agitated as to what the dreams might mean. So he called for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt and told them about his dreams,

Magicians in those days were not the same as the sleight-of-hand entertainers of our own day. Those occultists were scary; they used dark arts that actually worked, and they were really and truly in touch with paranormal powers. The magicians who opposed Moses (Ex 7:11) were able to duplicate several of God's miracles; so ancient magicians were legitimately powerful sorcerers and to be seriously reckoned with.

I think it was mentioned previously that "wise men" were highly educated men of extraordinary intelligence; sort of like ancient college professors and wiz kids. Although Moses himself isn't stated to have been a wise man; he is stated to have been educated in all that Egypt had to offer. (Acts 7:22)

Incidentally, although Genesis never mentions God directly in Joseph's life, Stephen confirms that it was God's providence that made the young man so successful, and protected him from mortal harm. (Acts 7:9-10)

†. Gen 41:8b . . but not one of them could suggest what they meant.

No doubt the magicians and wise men would normally have guessed the meaning of Pharaoh's dreams in an instant via their connections with the dark world. But this time the dark world wasn't responsible for those two dreams, and apparently God held the spirits in check and prevented them from making any contact whatsoever with Pharaoh's counselors.

That had to be a very tense moment for the think tank. Potentates have been known to execute brain trusts for failure to produce. (Dan 2:1-12)

One might ask how the dark beings can interpret dreams to foretell future events. Well . . there's a lot of activity going on in the unseen world; and quite a bit of it is being done by good angels. All that the dark angels have to do is spy on the good angels and they can pretty much figure out what's coming up.

Whenever you see men digging a huge, deep, square hole in a city lot, then logic and experience tells you that a new building is going up. Well . . the dark world has had thousands of years of experience; so factor that in and it's not too difficult to understand how they come to know so much about the future. And then too, you have to expect that the dark world is digging their own holes at the same time; and they'd quite naturally be experts on the outcomes of those.

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Gen 41:9-14


†. Gen 41:9-13 . .Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh: Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.

. . . Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged.


Why wait till now to talk about Josephs' abilities? Well . . first off, God more than likely put a mental block in the cupbearers head to forget all about Joseph; and that mental block could have been something as simple as a very reasonable decision on the cupbearer's part. Pharaoh already had a corps of magicians and wise men who were actually very proficient at their jobs. What need was there to suggest taking on another one; and a Hebrew slave at that?

No doubt during the performance of his duties over time, the cupbearer had seen lots of dreams correctly interpreted, so Joseph's dog and pony show was nothing new to him. The kind of mental block where people talk themselves out of something, is quite normal and very common. But now, circumstances are going to twinge the cupbearer's conscience, not just about Josephs' ability, but the fact that Joseph had practically begged the man to talk to Pharaoh and get him released as a return for the favor.

†. Gen 41:14a . . So Pharaoh sent for Joseph,

Normally, Egyptians didn't associate with Hebrews (cf. Gen 43:32) and that cultural barrier no doubt factored in to the cupbearer's mental block. But Pharaoh was at his wit's end, and was favorably disposed to swallow his pride for a matter that, to him, seemed of the utmost importance to not only himself, but also to the welfare of his whole country.

†. Gen 41:14b . . and he was quickly brought from the dungeon.

All this was done so that Joseph could appear in court that very day, not some other time. Pharaoh was anxious.

†. Gen 41:14c . .When he had shaved and changed his clothes,

Shaving for an Egyptian meant not only trimming and sculpting their beards (by now, Joseph must have looked like Rumpelstiltskin) but also cutting their hair; actually shaving their scalps bald like Vin Diesel. According to Herodotus, the Egyptians had extreme care for cleanliness and would let their hair and beards grow out only during periods of mourning.

†. Gen 41:14d . . he came before Pharaoh.

Jiminy! Here's this no-account sheep rancher from the outback getting the full-on attention of one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, monarchs in the world of that day!

You know, there comes a day-- and that day may never come for some people --when you get that big break. It's at that moment when you better have your ducks in a row and your peas in their pods because opportunity knocks only for those who are prepared for it. For all others, it's bye-bye; and don't call us; we'll call you-- or worse. If Joseph blows his big moment, he could very well end up not just sent back to prison for life; but gibbeted just like the baker. This is a tense moment, and somebody's life is about to change.

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Gen 41:15-24


†. Gen 41:15 . . I had a dream last night; Pharaoh told him; and none of these men can tell me what it means. But I have heard that you can interpret dreams, and that is why I have summoned you.

Potiphar of course would have been responsible for delivering Joseph, and probably informed him of the purpose. But just to set his mind at ease, I'm assuming Pharaoh himself personally informs Joseph of the reason why he's there because when prisoners like Joseph were summoned to a Pharaoh, it was more than likely for trial.

†. Gen 41:16 . . It is beyond my power to do this; Joseph replied. But God will tell you what it means and will set you at ease.

A verse like that is ambiguous since the Hebrew word translated "God" in that verse is plural so that verse could just as accurately be read: "But the gods will tell you what it means . . ." However, Pharaoh would have no problem with the god being Yhvh because his land was literally infested with gods and were a common part of everyday Egyptian life.

Although Mr. Pharaoh is probably not going to like what he hears, at least he'll have the peace of mind of knowing what to expect. How many of us really want our doctors to lie to us? No, we want the truth; even if it's terminal cancer.

†. Gen 41:17a . . So Pharaoh told him the dream.

Pharaoh is really grasping at straws here since Joseph had no credentials nor could produce any references aside from the cup-bearer's to recommend him and vouch for his skills; and he had only one successful interpretation to his credit thus far; so you can see just how desperate Pharaoh really is.

†. Gen 41:17b . . I was standing on the bank of the Nile River; he said.

The Nile River's role in the dream is highly significant since it was a major factor in Egypt's economy; especially its agriculture. Every year the Nile overflowed it banks; leaving behind a deposit of silt; which kept the land's flood plain replenished with a nice new layer of fresh topsoil. Take away the Nile's flooding, and eventually the soils would become depleted in an era when hardly anybody knew anything about crop rotation.

Not only that, but winds coming in from the eastern deserts would not only dry the soils out and blow them away, but in the process leave behind sands that would eventually render the land unproductive like during America's depression era when its croplands turned into dust bowls.

Lower the Nile's water level significantly, and it would make irrigation very difficult in a time without pumps powered by internal combustion engines or electric motors.

Joseph is going to predict a famine; and in those days, as even now, famines were caused by insufficient rainfall. Reduced rainfall results in less natural irrigation and less runoff, so that Egypt's worst fears will be realized: crops will dry up, the Nile won't overflow its banks, and its levels will shrink.

Back in chapter 2, Genesis says that a flow welled up from the ground to water the whole surface of the earth, and a river watered the garden of Eden. River systems irrigate the subsoil and replenish aquifers. Lower a river system too much, and see what happens.

I can recall an instance, I think it was somewhere in Australia, where the natural aquifer below a farmer's land went down because a marsh nearby was drained for commercial purposes. The aquifer was like a dam. When it went down, salt water moved in to take its place and the stuff percolated up and flooded the man's property. All his trees died and the land became good for nothing. Tamper with nature too much; and nature will tamper with you.

†. Gen 41:18a . . when out of the river

That is so perfect because the Nile was Egypt's source of life; so that whatever happened to the Nile, or whatever the Nile produced, effected Egyptian life in a big way.

During Moses' confrontation with Pharaoh in the book of Exodus, the Nile was turned into blood (Ex 7:17-25), and subsequently Egypt's streams, rivers, ponds, and their pools. Next, God made the Nile produce myriads of frogs (Ex 8:1-6), so that the frogs were so thick, they became a serious infestation. So then, the Nile, which ordinarily was a blessing, became a superfund site.

†. Gen 41:18b-24a . . there came up seven heifers, sleek and fat; and they grazed in the marsh grass. After them, seven other heifers came up-- ragged and bony, I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. The hideous heifers ate up the seven fat heifers that came up first. But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as hideous as before. Then I woke up.

. . . In my dreams I also saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads sprouted-- withered and thin and dehydrated by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads.


This second dream sounds like a redux of The Little Shop Of Horrors.

†. Gen 41:24b . . I told this to the magicians, but none could explain it to me.

Since Pharaoh's brain trust couldn't figure out the dreams, then they certainly wouldn't be able to devise effective contingency plans to deal with their meanings. It's always nice to know the future so you can get ready for it; and certainly nobody likes to be kept in the dark.

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Gen 41:25-32


†. Gen 41:25a . .Then Joseph said to Pharaoh:

Note Joseph's quick response time. He didn't even go off and pray about it and wait for an answer from God-- no: right to it. Since Genesis doesn't say that God spoke inside Joseph's head, or by an audible dictation that only his own ears could hear; then I have to assume he figured out the meanings of those dreams by intuition.

That's not an unreasonable assumption. Even in the secular world, there are people who have the Midas touch; good investments just seem to come second nature to them. And how about "gifted" musicians, painters, and sculptors? I once watched spell bound as a young man drew pencil drawings of super heroes. He made no erasures, and the heroes came out in perfect physical proportion; in any posture he chose for them; and viewed from any angle.

I asked him how he did it. He said he didn't know; they just came out. Well; Joseph's gift wasn't music, or charcoal, or pencil, or mathematics, or paints, or sculpture, or architecture, or engineering. His gift was dreams; and he was really good at it too. But if you were to ask him how he did it; he'd not answer "I don't know; they just come out". Instead; he would no doubt answer it was a gift from the gods; especially one god in particular.

†. Gen 41:25b-32 . . Both dreams mean the same thing. God was telling you what he is about to do. The seven fat cows and the seven plump heads of grain both represent seven years of prosperity. The seven thin, ugly cows and the seven withered heads of grain represent seven years of famine. This will happen just as I have described it, for God has shown you what he is about to do.

. . .The next seven years will be a period of great prosperity throughout the land of Egypt. But afterward there will be seven years of famine so great that all the prosperity will be forgotten and wiped out. Famine will destroy the land. This famine will be so terrible that even the memory of the good years will be erased. As for having the dream twice, it means that the matter has been decreed by God and that he will make these events happen soon.


The "twice" method was first seen in Gen 37:5-11. Peter's vision (Acts 10:9-17) was the same one three times over, while Joseph's and Pharaoh's two dreams apiece were redundant, indicating that God meant business and wasn't going to change His mind regarding this matter. You know though, with some people, no matter how many times, or in how many ways, you try to tell them something, they refuse to listen; like when a girl keeps saying NO to a boy's advances and he just keeps coming on anyway because for some strange reason the boy thinks she doesn't mean it; and he's somehow convinced that her protests aren't serious.

Everybody accepted Joseph's interpretation without question-- Pharaoh and all the magicians and wise men (Gen 41:37) --and that is pretty amazing in itself.

Suppose you were President Obama in San Diego for a one-night campaign fund raiser and a Secret Service agent assigned to protect the President said he heard that the Border Patrol had an illegal immigrant from Sinaloa in custody for rape down in San Ysidro who says he knows exactly how to balance the Federal budget, stop processed food from poisoning Americans, eradicate genetically engineered crops, solve all your problems with Iran and North Korea, and get America out of Afghanistan. Would you be interested? I don't think so; you'd have to be pretty desperate.

I believe that while Pharaoh and his corps of geniuses were listening to Joseph's interpretation, God was doing a number on their minds so that they would accept what Joseph was telling them; and by the time he finished, they were amazed that they hadn't thought of the interpretation themselves because it seemed not only quite simple, and obviously true; but also the only possible explanation.

God wasn't bringing all these things to pass for the purpose of embarrassing or of dethroning the king of Egypt (not this one anyway). As a matter of fact, Pharaoh's control over the country would be strengthened by these events. The underlying purpose of it all had to do rather with God's plans and purposes for the people of Israel. Therefore, not only did God give Pharaoh the dreams, and give Joseph the true interpretation of the dreams, but also provided an effective action plan for Egypt's survival.

People often complain that they can't respect a hell-fire God because He only uses the threat of eternal suffering as coercion to get people in line. But the Bible's talk of hell and eternal suffering isn't meant to intimidate people. No, it's just like Pharaoh's dreams: talk of hell and eternal suffering is meant as an early warning of things to come-- inevitable things.

A danger foreseen.
Is half-avoided.
Cheyenne Proverb

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Gen 41:33-36


†. Gen 41:33-36 . . Now therefore I suggest Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years.

. . . And have them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up grain under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.


A grain czar "wise and discreet" was necessary so that the man appointed wouldn't be tempted to profit from his own country's misfortune like so many of Wall Street's sociopaths are wont to do. Thank God Pharaoh had the cool to realize that what his country faced was not just long lines at the gas pumps, but nothing less than a full blown national emergency.

On the other hand, a central bureaucracy could easily lead to despotism, red tape, favoritism, cronyism, nepotism, corruption, payoffs, bribes, artificial shortages, black marketing, and political manipulation; especially if all the available food supplies were in the hands of self-serving corporations like
ENRON, Monsanto, Bechtel, and Nestlé.

The success of Joseph's plan relied heavily upon the integrity of its administrator. The right man would be a savior; the wrong man could become a tyrant; and if the top man was a crook, everybody under him could be expected to be crooked too, and instead of a program intended to help the poor, it would only serve as a golden opportunity to line the pockets of officials like Indian Agents of the old west who embezzled Native Americans out of thousands of dollars worth of food, tools, livestock, implements, shelter, and clothing.

It's been shown by historians that tithing was practiced in ancient Egypt and other nations, as a form of taxes or tribute to the king; but a 20 percent levy would be very unusual, and might well be resisted, especially if enacted by an unpopular sovereign. Thus, the chief administrator of Joseph's plan would have to be skilled in diplomacy and persuasion: a veritable expert on how to win friends and influence people.

Actually, the 20 percent wasn't a hardship. Egypt's agricultural production was so good that no doubt at least 20 percent went to waste anyway even after all the people were satisfied and Egypt's export commitments were fulfilled. (Here in the USA, we waste upwards of 40% of our annual purchases of food)

Some citizens might gripe at first, but it's hard to feel deprived when things are going good. The seven years of plenty would be a time of bumper crops and overabundance; and heck, you could give the children's food to the dogs and not hurt them. The only real malcontents in Egypt would be people who are never happy about anything anyway.

Americans themselves have so much left over that there's enough perfectly good food thrown out in the dumpsters behind super markets and fast food chains like Wendy's, Carl's Jr, Subway, McDonalds. Arby's, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Burger King to easily feed every homeless person in the USA three meals a day. And that's not even counting all the other restaurants and food courts that are tossing out literally tons of edible garbage every hour of the business day.

Although someone might get the wrong impression, there was really no indication in Joseph's presentation that he was throwing his hat in the ring. Such a thought could hardly have crossed his sheep-herder's mind. The last thing Joseph wanted was a long-term commitment to Federal employment in a foreign country when the only thing on his mind was getting back home to his dad in Hebron.

Joseph was not only an alien, but a slave; and a jailbird accused of rape. He had never held a political office of any kind whatsoever. His only experience in business management was the oversight of Potiphar's household affairs; nor had he any experience in either running or participating in a bureaucracy of the magnitude of which he spoke.

But there are people like Joseph who have a God-given natural aptitude in certain areas. The don't need training and they don't need experience. They're like some combat platoon sergeants who, when you throw them into the mouths of canons, don't panic and don't get flustered. They perform like they've been doing that sort of thing all their lives.

Joseph probably wasn't aware that he had a God-given knack for running a big show like a national food bank. But God was, and that's exactly why He's going to persuade those big shots to put His own man in charge because the very survival of the people of Israel heavily depends upon an effective contingency to meet those inevitable seven years of famine; and even after the famine ended, there would still yet be a time of recovery before Egypt got back up to speed.

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Gen 41:37-46a


†. Gen 41:37-38 . . Joseph's suggestions were well received by Pharaoh and his advisers. And Pharaoh said to his courtiers: Could we find another like him, a man in whom is the spirit of the gods?

If there was one thing those old-time pagans valued, it was a connection to the spirit world, and they sensed that Joseph had it. I think they were not only in awe of him, but maybe even just a bit afraid of him too.

The Hebrew word for "gods" is 'elohiym (el-o-heem') which is both plural and ambiguous, so you could just as easily translate it gods as God; but in the Egypt of that day and age, "gods" makes more sense.

Joseph is going to become very popular with Pharaoh, and it's all to the one true god's credit.

"God was with him . . . and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt." (Acts 7:9-10)

The Greek word for "favor" in that verse is charis (khar'-ece) which is the very word translated "grace" in English versions of the New Testament. So then, you could say that Joseph found grace in the eyes of Pharaoh just like Noah found grace in the eyes of God back in Gen 6:8.

Putting it all together, it says that Pharaoh was inclined to bless Joseph just like God was inclined to bless Noah; viz: to do good for him; provide for him, and protect him from harm. God trusted Noah, and assigned him the Herculean task of building the ark. Pharaoh trusted Joseph, and assigned him the Herculean task of implementing a plan to save his country from certain ruin. Noah's ark kept the human race alive. Joseph's plan kept the Egyptians alive (and his family too). Quite a few parallels in Noah and Joseph.

But in order for Joseph's plan to work, he had to have absolute power in the country of Egypt. Everybody had to fear him so they'd be sure to cooperate.

†. Gen 41:39-43 . .Then Pharaoh said to Joseph; Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you. So Pharaoh said to Joseph; I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.

. . .Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph's finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and men shouted before him, "Make way!" Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.


Pharaoh's signet ring was for signing documents and authorizing whatever purchases and requisitions Joseph might need to fulfill his duties; and for mustering and/or conscripting the necessary manpower to get it all done. That signet ring was terrifying. With it, Joseph could actually order people gibbeted if he wanted and nobody would question it. (Hag 2:20-23)

†. Gen 41:44 . . Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph; Though I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.

Although Joseph was directly responsible to Pharaoh and to no one else, his powers were limited. He couldn't wage war or set foreign policy. He had no say in the balance of trade, or the colonization of foreign lands. There were other people taking care of those operations. Joseph's jurisdiction for the moment was related to the task he was assigned, sort of like the head of homeland security, a drug czar, or a FEMA commander. Joseph's position was in supreme oversight of Egypt's domestic product.

†. Gen 41:45a . . Pharaoh then gave Joseph the name Tsophnath Pa'neach, and he gave him for a wife Asenath daughter of Poti-phera, priest of On.

Tsophnath Pa'neach was an Egyptian name, same as Moses is an Egyptian name; which reflected Joseph's transition from Palestinian goat-herder to a naturalized Egyptian citizen; which of course had the effect of emancipating him from slavery.

Poti-phera is essentially the same name as Joseph's original master: Potiphar.

The city of On was possibly Heliopolis, a city dedicated to the worship of the Sun god.

Priests were a highly respected caste in Egypt. Having a father-in-law in the priesthood secured Joseph a privileged social status appropriate for a man in his position, and no doubt landed some good connections right in his lap. There's no record that Joseph protested the marriage, but likely saw it as an advantage he could exploit.

Joseph's fortunes bring to mind the actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. For years The Terminator was just a big clunky muscleman; an ex body builder from Thal bei Graz Austria who made it good in Hollywood, and then one day found himself Governor of Cah-lee-forn-yah. Mr. Schwarzenegger though, in contrast to Joseph, is ambitious and worked hard for his success; it wasn't handed to him on a silver platter like Joseph's, but you kind of get the idea.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, like Joseph, married well too: a Kennedy girl no less. His marriage to Maria Shriver gave him an in with the Kennedy clan and access to the speaking and writing skills of an intelligent, widely respected, female journalist. A few political pundits are pretty sure that Maria's "Women Joining Arnold" website was responsible for gaining her husband a large block of female voters in the aftermath of his "groping" accusation. Good connections are always an asset in the political world.

Everything Pharaoh did for Joseph worked in his favor towards giving him a highly visible public profile.

†. Gen 41:45b-46a . .Thus Joseph emerged in charge of the land of Egypt. Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Joseph went from slave to aristocrat practically overnight; and with neither political, nor business experience on his résumé whatsoever.

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Gen 41:46b


†. Gen 41:46b . . Leaving Pharaoh's presence, Joseph traveled through all the land of Egypt.

That reminds me of how U.S. Presidents fly over disaster areas in a helicopter to "assess" the situation. Well Joseph didn't have a whirlybird at his disposal. If he was going to assess Egypt's agricultural assets first hand, and decide where to strategically locate his granaries, then he would have to do it in that spiffy government-provided conveyance that came with his job.

Joseph would actually get himself dirty down on the ground on Egypt's highways, byways, townships, and farmlands, rather than cruising aloft in the luxury and comfort of an Air Force One and delegating all the leg work to a corps of go-fers and fact-finders.

Joseph hasn't seen his dad for 13 years now, and if there ever was a golden opportunity for him to escape and get back to Canaan, this was it. But he couldn't. Joseph was in a catch-22. If he went back home at this point, the coming famine might destroy his own family. He had to stay and make sure Egypt became the world's bread basket so his kin would have somewhere to go and get food when those seven years of desperate want finally came along.

True, Pharaoh could just appoint someone else to the task if Joseph deserted his post, but Joseph couldn't take the chance his replacement wouldn't be a devil instead of a savior. Sometimes, when you want the job done right, you just have to do it yourself.

Then too, taking off now might cause Pharaoh to lose confidence in Joseph's predictions. He might suspect, and who wouldn't, that Joseph made it all up just so's he could get out of jail. Then Pharaoh would probably cancel any and all preparations for the years ahead; with tragic consequences. No, Joseph was stuck.

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Gen 41:47-52


†. Gen 41:47-49 . . During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.

When there's small amounts to work with, it's easy to use small containers to tally it. But Egypt's abundance was so great that it was impractical to tally the grain with standard containers. Instead, I would think Joseph did it simply by building his silos to a standard size and dimension. So, instead of tallying "bushels" of grain, Joseph simplified the process by tallying silos.

Although storing the grain near the communities where it was grown was a practical consideration for later distribution, it was also a wise diplomatic move. When people see their hard-earned things carted off to the unknown, it makes them nervous about getting their stuff back. Putting his granaries nearby, reassured local growers and consumers that Joseph meant well by them and wasn't just taxing their produce for personal profit.

I would like to think that Joseph employed local labor for the construction of his granaries rather than contracting it out to a global construction company that polished the apple with him via his father-in-law's contacts; thus once again showing good faith by injecting wages into local economies. Little by little, Joseph was gaining the Egyptians' trust, which must have no doubt pleased Pharaoh well and made him feel pretty good about his choice of man for the job.

Meanwhile, back on the home front, Joseph's marriage was holding up okay and he became the father of two boys.

†. Gen 41:50 . . Before the years of famine came, Joseph became the father of two sons, whom Asenath daughter of Poti-phera, priest of On, bore to him.

In the Bible, it's the fathers who determine tribal ancestry; so the two boys were Hebrews by birth rather than Egyptians. I don't know how Mr. Poti-phera felt about that, but what was he to do? One of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, monarchs on earth had arranged his daughter's marriage to Joseph so there really wasn't much he could say about it.

†. Gen 41:51 . . Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said; God has made me forget all my troubles and the family of my father.

The meaning of Manessah's name in Hebrew is self explanatory. However, there is just no way that Joseph forgot all about his family. That verse has to be interpreted according to the progress of the narrative.

I seriously doubt that God deleted Joseph's memory; but rather, helped him to get over doting about his misfortunes. Doting can lead to serious psychological damage, dark thoughts, and long term depression, and/or in the case of anger, it can lead to malice and sleepless nights plotting revenge, or rehearsing retorts over and over again to counter something someone said that you didn't like.

Though they weren't ideal, Joseph was at peace with his current circumstances. Exactly how God brought him to that point isn't stated. But in chapters ahead, Joseph will inform his brothers that his misfortunes actually benefited everyone so that Joseph became a savior; not only to Egypt, but to his own family as well (Gen 45:4-11, Gen 50:20).

So then, in the end, Joseph accepted his plight graciously and held no hard feelings towards anyone in particular, nor was he blue and sad about being away from home all those years because he was fully aware it all worked toward the greater good.

Since Joseph couldn't leave Egypt himself to go home and visit his family, then one has to wonder why he didn't dispatch a messenger to let his dad know he was okay. Well; for one thing, to do so would have exposed his brothers' murderous scheme, and who knows what kind of disharmony that would have created in Jacob's home. This was one of those cases where it's better to follow the advice of some Beatles' lyrics; "Words of wisdom: let it be."

But seriously, I doubt Jacob would have believed it was actually his very own Joseph in Pharaoh's court but would have automatically assumed it was a cruel hoax. Later, Joseph is going to be sure that his brothers understand that they weren't being told second-hand about his prosperity, nor being fed a rumor; but were hearing about it from their long-lost brother's very own lips. (Gen 45:12-13)

†. Gen 41:52 . . Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said; God has made me fruitful in this land of my suffering.

Ephraim's name actually means "doubly fruitful" viz: bumper-crop fruitful; which is obviously in recognition of God's providence in a place where a man of God would certainly least expect to find it.

I still think that Joseph had given up all hope of prosperity, and of having a family of his own; but as it turns out, he got both anyway in spite of his unfortunate circumstances. Maybe he'd rather have married a girl back home, but you know what they say: Beggars can't be choosers. At least Joseph was no longer a jailed slave locked up as an accused rapist with no future at all. Asenath and Poti-phera may not have been Joseph's ideal in-laws, but things could have turned out a lot worse.

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Gen 41:53-57


†. Gen 41:53-54 . . At last the seven years of plenty came to an end. Then the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had predicted. There were crop failures in all the surrounding countries, too, but in Egypt there was plenty of grain in the storehouses.

Joseph had made no mention of the misfortunes of Egypt's neighbors to Pharaoh. But now comes out the reason for Egypt's incredible over-abundance during the good years. It wasn't meant just to sustain their own selves that God had so blessed the Egyptians, no, all around them countries were effected, became desperate, and forced to look outside themselves for relief.

In order for the countries all around Egypt to experience the famine, it would mean that they too were experiencing severe reductions in annual rainfall. Though northern Egypt, around the Nile delta, normally receives very little rain to begin with, it's agriculture prospers because of heavy rainfalls way down in Africa that feed tributaries flowing into the Nile; e.g. the Blue Nile. We're talking about a massive watershed encompassing several thousands of square miles of Africa's countryside. And that, added to the surrounding countries, really adds up to an incredibly large geographic area effected by an unbelievable large-scale drought.

†. Gen 41:53-56 . .Throughout the land of Egypt the people began to starve. They pleaded with Pharaoh for food, and he told them; Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you. So with severe famine everywhere in the land, Joseph opened up the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians.

Advocates of a welfare state might question Joseph's ethical integrity and want to know why he "sold" grain to his fellow citizens instead of just doling it out in soup lines. Well, for one thing, quite a few of the Egyptians had good incomes (Ex 3:20-22, Ex 11:2). They were quite prosperous and could easily afford to pay-- at least at first. Secondly, Joseph answered to a higher power than himself. It was his duty to look out for Pharaoh's best interests, and make sure his boss received adequate taxes even during lean years (cf. Matt 25:14-30, 1Cor 4:1-2, 1Pet 4:10).

†. Gen 41:57 . . And people from surrounding lands also came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe throughout the world.

The "world" wasn't the whole planet, nor did the drought effect the whole planet as the Flood had. The famine was severe throughout the world, but not everywhere under the whole sky (cf. Gen 7:19); meaning that wherever the famine was, it was severe; as opposed to severe in some places while tolerable in others; viz: nobody had it good. Wherever that famine went, if it went there at all, then it was all bad rather than some bad and some not so bad.

At this point, Joseph had been away from home for twenty years (cf. Gen 37:2, Gen 41:46, Gen 41:53) and had seen neither his dad nor his brothers even once in all that time. When he was sold into slavery, Joseph was just a young teen-ager; now he's in his late thirties. He was just a boy then; now he's a man.

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Gen 42:1-8


†. Gen 42:1 . .When Jacob learned that there were rations of grain in Egypt, he said to his sons; Why do you just keep looking at each other?

You can just picture what was going on. One brother would turn to another and ask; What are we going to do for food? And the other would just shrug and raise his eyebrows. They must have been doing that a lot lately because apparently it was beginning to grate on their dad.

†. Gen 42:2-4 . . He continued: I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die. Then ten of Joseph's brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph's brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him.

To Jacob's knowledge, Joseph was dead. His mother was certainly dead, having died giving birth to Benjamin back in chapter 35. So, to Jacob's mind, all that's left of the love of his life is Benjamin. So that if something were to happen to him, he would have nothing left to remind him of Rachel, and that whole side of the family would be gone.

Benjamin, at this time, wasn't a little kid. He was born when the family moved south from Bethel to Hebron back in chapter 35. And as Joseph was now about 38, and sold into slavery at 17 while Jacob was at Hebron, then Benjamin is, at the bare minimum, at least 21.

†. Gen 42:5 . . So Israel's sons were among those who went to buy grain, for the famine was in the land of Canaan also.

That must have been an interesting sight. The brothers mingled in with caravans traveling to (and from) Egypt, and there must have been a lot of them because the drought had effected the whole land of Palestine, possibly even clear up into Syria and Lebanon. Traveling in a caravan had its benefits. With food so scarce, grain would be more valuable than money, and lone travelers would be easy targets for desperate clans; and brigands too.

†. Gen 42:6a . . Now Joseph was powerful in the land; the one who sold grain to all its people.

Apparently, before anybody could obtain grain, they had to first go by the Minister Of Agriculture's office and purchase a permit in the form of an official receipt, which was then taken to a designated silo and redeemed for grain. Apparently, collecting the money, and issuing permits, was a task that Joseph personally supervised himself rather than delegate to subordinates: which tells me that Joseph trusted no one. And no surprise.

Those permits were a golden opportunity for graft and/or embezzling. A dishonest clerk could smuggle some of those permits out of the office and distribute them to friends and relatives and/or peddle them on the black market because they were just as valuable as Cap & Trade emission permits and food stamps. You could probably scalp those grain coupons for at least double what somebody paid for them.

†. Gen 42:6b-8 . . So when Joseph's brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. Where do you come from? he asked. From the land of Canaan, they replied, to buy food. Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him.

One can hardly blame Joseph for acting like a stranger. For all he knew, his brothers were still toxic; and might be inclined to find new ways to mess up his life yet once more like they did when he lived at home. When people have been burned by someone they trust; that trust is not easily regained; nor does it deserve to be. Those men tried to murder Joseph-- his own flesh and blood kin tried. That's something that's neither easily forgotten, nor easily forgiven; and shouldn't be. Joseph's reluctance to befriend his brothers at this point is fully justified. Only a fool would try to kiss a rattlesnake after one bites him on the nose.

But at the same time, this presents a dilemma for Joseph. No doubt he's anxious for an update of his father Jacob's health and welfare, and also of his one full brother Benjamin; against whom Joseph harbored no bad feelings whatsoever. I sincerely believe that if it wasn't for Joseph's concern for his father and kid brother back home, that he never, ever would have told his brothers anything about himself. They would have come and gone with no consciousness at all that they'd ever passed his way.

It's not surprising that Joseph's older brothers didn't recognize him. He was just a shiny-faced, 17 year-old teen-ager the last they saw him. They haven't seen their kid brother for the past 21 years. In that time his face and his voice had aged to that of a matured 38 year-old man. Plus he's cultured far different than any of Palestine's sheep herders. He has an Egyptian hair cut, an Egyptian beard, speaks the Egyptian language, wears the expensive clothing of Egyptian aristocrats; and he's a top-of-the-heap Egyptian government official; a position in which they would never in a million years expect to find their sheep-herding kid brother.

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Gen 42:9-14


†. Gen 42:9a . .Then he remembered his dreams about them

When Joseph had those dreams back in chapter 37, he probably had no clue as to how they would be fulfilled. He was only aware, from his father Jacob's interpretations, that he would be lord over his whole family, including his parents. Now it's becoming clear to him just exactly how those dreams were to play out in real life.

†. Gen 42:9b . . and said to them: You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.

That was a reasonable suspicion. Incursions into Egypt by Asians coming via the Way of Horus-- a military highway from Canaan that led through Gaza to El-'Arish --were a recurrent problem. So it would be only natural to assume that if Egypt was raided from the northeast during normal years, it could be expected to be raided even more often, and with greater boldness, during a food-related crisis that was effecting a huge part of the world of that day.

Foreign invaders would of course be encouraged to think that maybe the Egyptians were so distracted by just trying to survive that they'd let their guard down and have no heart for fighting. A nation in crises is a plausible target of opportunity for any ambitious conqueror. It of course fell to Joseph's responsibility to carefully screen foreigners to be certain of their true purposes for entering Egypt. Were they looking for food; or were they looking for weak points in Egypt's defenses?

Joseph really had no good reason at all to trust his own brothers. Not only had they been so callous as to plot their own kid brother's murder, and sell him to slave traders, but he no doubt remembered how two of them viciously hacked to death the entire number of men in the town of Shechem back in chapter 34. So far as he was concerned, they were capable of anything, even of pillaging a vulnerable Egypt under the guise of ordinary people just looking for something to eat like everybody else.

†. Gen 42:10-11 . . But they said to him: No, my lord! Truly, your servants have come to procure food. We are all of us sons of the same man; we are honest men; your servants have never been spies!

Ten men all together is too obvious. I think that professional spies would split up and not travel together nor even enter Egypt on the very same day. Perhaps they hoped that by divulging details about their family, it would help convince their inquisitor that they weren't entering Egypt for military purposes. But even that story could be perceived as a cover to an official in Joseph's position.

†. Gen 42:12 . . And he said to them: No, you have come to see the land in its nakedness!

A word like "nakedness" can imply any number of things. One is that the once majestic, and superior, land of Egypt was debased and embarrassed by it's severely reduced agricultural production. It was world famous for abundance, and proud of its independence. Egypt needed help from no one, and asked for none. On the contrary, Egypt was everyone else's ace in the hole in times of trouble. However, during this particular famine, the once proud nation's agriculture was in ruins just like everybody else's and would have been destitute just like everybody else too except for one thing: Joseph and his federally-funded grain silos.

†. Gen 42:13 . . But they replied: Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.

For the second time they volunteer personal information about themselves; and probably for the same reason as the first. However, it was music to Joseph's ears because no doubt when he didn't see his kid brother Benjamin traveling with his eldest brothers, he began to be concerned that they had done to him what they had previously wrought upon himself. Although they lied about the "one" who is no more (lying about Joseph was by now probably a reflexive habit) they certainly weren't lying about the youngest because there was no reason to. If Benjamin were dead, then they simply would have said "two" are no more.

†. Gen 42:14 . . Joseph said to them: It is just as I told you: You are spies!

With Joseph's intelligence, and from his day after day experience with an endless stream of truly desperate people, he would have known by now (especially with that incredible intuition of his) that the ten weak-knees guys standing before him certainly weren't professional soldiers. He's being deliberately obtuse, and it's becoming obvious now (at least to us Bible students who know Joseph's true identity) that he's feeling his brothers out to ascertain whether or not they're the very same unrepentant, unremorseful, cold-blooded, steely-eyed, dirty rotten scoundrels they were in the past. Until he's certain they can be trusted, Joseph isn't going to afford them the even tiniest hint of who he really is.

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Gen 42:15-24a


†. Gen 42:15-17 . . By this you shall be put to the test: unless your youngest brother comes here, by Pharaoh, you shall not depart from this place! Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain confined, that your words may be put to the test whether there is truth in you. Else, by Pharaoh, you are nothing but spies! And he confined them in the guardhouse for three days.

During those three days the brothers must have felt like they were in a purgatory as they endured unbearable anxiety while conferring amongst themselves about their current state of affairs. They were no doubt positive that Jacob would never allow his favorite little boy to be taken down to Egypt where this obtuse Egyptian big shot just might lock him up with the others so that in the end, all surviving eleven of Jacob's sons would never be seen again.

†. Gen 42:18-20a . . On the third day Joseph said to them: Do this and you shall live, for I am a God-fearing man. If you are honest men, let one of your brothers be held in your place of detention, while the rest of you go and take home rations for your starving households; but you must bring me your youngest brother, that your words may be verified and that you may not die.

This reversal of terms couldn't have done anything other than to reinforce the brothers' fears that not only was this Egyptian big shot obtuse, but also unpredictable.

Turning loose nine of the ten men would be dumb because, militarily, sacrificing one to save nine is an acceptable loss. Joseph's excuse for this obvious military blunder is that he's a "God-fearing" man; viz: just in case their story is true, he didn't want to be responsible for the starvation of innocent families.

Joseph had the advantage of knowing far more about their family than they dreamed. As it turned out, Jacob would have gladly sacrificed the brother who will be chosen to remain behind in order to protect Benjamin, except that to not return, meant certain starvation; and no doubt Joseph easily foresaw Jacob's dilemma in that matter. He really had them in a catch-22.

†. Gen 42:20b . . And they did accordingly.

The men agreed to Joseph's terms, but not without going around the room about it first. These guys are dumber than a stack of bricks. They discussed their current predicament, and their consciences, all within Joseph's hearing. (Never assume foreigners don't know your language just because they aren't speaking it.)

†. Gen 42:21-23 . .They said to one another: Alas, we are being punished on account of our brother, because we looked on at his anguish, yet paid no heed as he pleaded with us. That is why this distress has come upon us. Then Reuben spoke up and said to them: Did I not tell you, do no wrong to the boy? But you paid no heed. Now comes the reckoning for his blood. They did not know that Joseph understood, for there was an interpreter between him and them.

Apparently the interpreter had been either dismissed and/or sent on an errand and left Joseph guarding the men by himself while they deliberated amongst themselves.

Isn't it interesting that those men carried the guilt of their treatment of Joseph all those 21 years that he was away from home? This probably wasn't the first time they blamed their bad luck on Joseph. Probably every time one of them hit his thumb with a hammer, or bumped his head on a shelf, he thought of Joseph.

Those men's minds hadn't enjoyed a moments peace since the day the slave traders carted their kid brother off to the big unknown in Egypt. At night, when the demons come, their minds would once and again, for the Nth time, rehearse his awful wailing and begging down in that hole, and see the pain on his face, a pain that was burned into their memories like a rancher's cattle brand. No doubt those poor guys all suffered from recurring nightmares about the incident too.

All those 21 years, Jacob hadn't stopped grieving for Joseph; so that every morning, those guys were treated to the sight of their father all blue and depressed at the loss of his favorite boy. Those poor guys. It was impossible to forget Joseph with their dad moping around all the time in a sorrowful state to remind them.

†. Gen 42:24a . . He turned away from them and wept.

Genesis offers no explanation whatsoever for Joseph's weeping; and I half suspect it's because unless somebody has actually themselves lived through an experience similar to his, then there is just no way even the brightest of Bible students can fully relate to what Joseph was feeling at that moment no matter how skillfully the best writers on earth tried to explain it. His weeping wasn't a matter of the mind; no, it was a matter of the heart; and oftentimes those kinds of matters can't be put into words by the very people themselves who are awash with those kinds of emotions.

Joseph certainly had no good reason to feel any particular bonding with his brothers. If anything, he should be feeling totally disconnected from them. They were never his friends, and not once did anything good by him; the rather, he was disowned in his own home by the very people who by all rights should have loved and supported him the most.

Although Joseph grew up with big brothers, he didn't, if you know what I mean. His only trusty companions at home were his dad Jacob, and his kid brother Benjamin; and it seems clear to me that it's for their sakes alone that he's tolerating these ten felons for even another minute. It must have taken a Herculean effort on Joseph's part to restrain his natural impulses to order their bodies immediately gibbeted and set out for the vultures.

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Gen 42:24b-29a


†. Gen 42:24b . . Returning, he talked some more with them. He then chose Simeon from among them and had him shackled in their sight.

Rueben had shown some good colors back at the pit in chapter 37, so the lot fell to Simeon seeing as how he was next in the line of seniority of the ten brothers (Gen 29:31-33). Simeon was a good choice since he and his brother Levi had so far shown themselves to be the cruelest among the brothers in the matter of Dinah back in chapter 34. Let's just give Simeon a taste of mortal fear for a change and see how he likes it.

Later, at home, neither Jacob nor the others will seem overly concerned that Simeon was selected to be detained, and the total focus will be upon Benjamin's safety rather than upon Simeon's rescue; in fact, Jacob will write him off as dead.

Apparently, Simeon wasn't all that appreciated by his own family: and no wonder with that savage nature of his. They were probably all, including Jacob, relieved to be rid of his company. Joseph's own lack of popularity among his elder brothers was a natural friction stemming from old fashioned sibling rivalry. But Simeon was just plain mean; while Joseph was likely a pleasant sort of guy and easy to get along with. Difficult people shouldn't be surprised when others around them spit on their graves.

†. Gen 42:25-26 . . Joseph then ordered his servants to fill the men's sacks with grain, but he also gave secret instructions to return each brother's payment at the top of his sack. He also gave them provisions for their journey. So they loaded up their donkeys with the grain and started for home.

Returning his family's money was something that Joseph did for himself. How could he possibly make his own desperate kin pay for food under his control? He couldn't. In his position, Joseph could easily provide for all of them at no cost to themselves whatsoever.

"But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." (1Tim 5:8)

Joseph was a man of honor. No doubt he made up for their payment out of his own pocket so that no one could accuse him of abusing his privileges and giving Pharaoh's grain away for nothing to people who had demonstrated that they had the wherewithal to pay for it. A man's reputation, after all, is his singular most valuable asset.

"Choose a good reputation over great riches; for being held in high esteem is better than having silver or gold." (Pro 22:1)

Giving them free provisions for the trip would have included food and water not only for themselves, but also their beasts. That was a diplomatic gesture, and would go a long ways towards making the family feel welcome down in Egypt, and encourage them to return since they had certainly been given a degree of fair treatment way beyond what they had any right to expect from a foreign dignitary.

†. Gen 42:27-28 . . As one of them was opening his sack to give feed to his burro at the night encampment, he saw his money right there at the mouth of his bag. And he said to his brothers: My money has been returned! It is here in my bag! Their hearts sank; and, trembling, they turned to one another, saying: What is this that God has done to us?

Why is it people always tend to blame God for their misfortunes? But in this case, their perceived misfortune is not that at all. If only they hadn't been so infected with guilt they would have easily seen that the Egyptian big shot was demonstrating that he meant only the best by them. But no; instead, they go off the deep end and interpret their host's graciousness as an ill omen rather than a token of good will. Some people are so suspicious of anything nice that people do for them-- always looking for an ulterior motive.

†. Gen 42:29a . .When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan

If Jacob was still living in Hebron, the distance the men traveled to get back home was roughly 250 miles if Joseph's headquarters was possibly either in, or near to, the city of Memphis, which is about ten miles south of today's Cairo.


NOTE: In the millennia prior to mechanized conveyances, the greatest obstacle to travel was distance. Today the average American zips around in a vehicle that can easily travel 55 miles in just one hour. That same distance would take eleven hours at a burro's pace. In other words; in the time it takes a burro to walk 55 miles, an automobile at 55 miles an hour can travel 605.

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Gen 42:29b-36


†. Gen 42:29b-34 . . they told him all that had befallen them, saying; The man who is lord of the land spoke harshly to us and accused us of spying on the land. We said to him: We are honest men; we have never been spies! There were twelve of us brothers, sons by the same father; but one is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in the land of Canaan.

. . . But the man who is lord of the land said to us; By this I shall know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, and take something for your starving households and be off. And bring your youngest brother to me, that I may know that you are not spies but honest men. I will then restore your brother to you, and you shall be at liberty to move about in the land.


When they got home, they proceeded to report to their father Jacob the details of their experience. In spite of his age, which was near 130, Jacob was still the dominant figure in the family; and apparently well respected since no one seems to feel inclined to question his authority.

†. Gen 42:35 . . As they were emptying their sacks, there, in each one's sack, was his money-bag! When they and their father saw their money-bags, they were alarmed.

It must have seemed to Jacob that his sons stole the grain, or why else would they still have their money? To the men, it must have seemed like the obtuse Egyptian big shot was toying with them; to set them up for a charge of theft. As these thoughts raced through every man's head, Jacob became paranoid; which Webster's defines as: a psychosis characterized by delusions of persecution.

†. Gen 42:36a . .Their father Jacob said to them: You have deprived me of my children.

Jacob held his eldest sons responsible for Joseph's demise. But he is even more complicit. Jacob should have known better than to send his young teen-age son all by himself to find the others a good many miles from home in a mostly wilderness area. That was irresponsible.

†. Gen 42:36b . . Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!

Poor ol' Jacob. Little did he know that the night gets darkest before the dawn. Mr. Israel had little to celebrate at this point; but morning was right around the corner.

They all, including Jacob, should have thought the whole situation through for a minute. The big shot accused the brothers of spying. So now why would he trump up a charge of theft against them? Which is worse, spying or theft? Spying, of course, is much worse than theft. And how ever could thievery prove the big shot's much more serious charge of spying against them?

It couldn't. No proficient spy is going to do something dumb that is sure to draw attention to himself. When Joshua's spies entered Jericho (Josh 2) did they begin shop-lifting, or taking things off of people's clothes lines? No. They were discreet. Jericho's authorities still caught on to them anyway, but at least it wasn't for something stupid.

So the men must have reasoned that the big shot was hedging his bets. If he couldn't get them on a charge of spying, then he would get them for the lesser charge of theft. But they should have asked themselves: Why would the obtuse big shot be so anxious to nail them at all? Is that how he amused himself; by framing people and throwing them in jail for something they didn't do? That's not an unusual police activity. In our own day, Iraqi authorities, under the auspices of Saddam Hussein, used to do that all the time.

For some reason, it just never occurred to the men that maybe the big shot down in Egypt simply pitied them. He had, after all, professed to fear God; and by doing so, implied that just in case their story were true, he didn't want to be responsible for causing their families any undue hardship; but no, they assumed the worst instead.

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Gen 42:37-38


†. Gen 42:37 . .Then Reuben said to his father: You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back.

It would have been interesting to ask Reuben's boys how they felt about their dad's rash offer to trade their lives for Benjamin's. That is the very same stupid kind of deal that Lot offered the Sodomites back in chapter 19, only Lot's was dumber because he offered to trade his wife's babies for two perfect strangers' lives. What did men in those days think their offspring were? Cattle? Commodities? God pity kids that grow up in a home with parents that think so little of them.

And did Reuben really think that slaying Jacob's own grandchildren would somehow make him feel any better about losing Benjamin? That's like burning my house, and then stealing my car to make me feel all better about the loss of my home. Reuben either had a very low IQ, or must have been out of his cotton-picking mind! Sometimes I think Joseph rather pitied his elder brothers for being such imbeciles. Small wonder God chose Joseph to go down to Egypt. The rest of them had no more intelligence than a bar of soap.

†. Gen 42:38 . . But he said: My son must not go down with you, for his brother is dead and he alone is left. If he meets with disaster on the journey you are taking, you will send my white head down to sheol in grief.

Some translators render sheol (sheh-ole') as the grave; a place to inter a corpse. But though sheol can include one's grave; it's not the whole picture. The specific Hebrew word for grave is qibrah (kib-raw') e.g. Gen 23:4.

Qibrah is the equivalent of the New Testament Greek word mnemeion (mnay-mi'-on) which means a remembrance, i.e. cenotaph (place of interment); viz: grave, sepulchre, tomb (e.g. Matt 27:60). So then, while qibrah indicates a corpse's disposal site; sheol indicates not only its grave, but includes a separate place for interring the spirit of the person who at one time occupied their body before it passed away. (cf. Jonah 2:1-6, Matt 12:40, Ps 16:8-10, Acts 2:22-31)

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Gen 43:1-14


†. Gen 43:1-7 . . But the famine in the land was severe. And when they had eaten up the rations which they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them: Go again and procure some food for us.

. . . But Judah said to him: The man warned us "Do not let me see your faces unless your brother is with you". If you will let our brother go with us, we will go down and procure food for you; but if you will not let him go, we will not go down, for the man said to us "Do not let me see your faces unless your brother is with you".

. . . And Israel said: Why did you serve me so ill as to tell the man that you had another brother? They replied: But the man kept asking about us and our family, saying "Is your father still living? Have you another brother?" And we answered him accordingly. How were we to know that he would say bring your brother here?


Judah is direct, and right to the point. If Jacob doesn't let the brothers take Benjamin with them on the next trip, then the family is certain to go without food. It's just that simple, and there's no use in sugar coating it.

†. Gen 43:8-10 . . Then Judah said to his father Israel: Send the boy in my care, and let us be on our way, that we may live and not die-- you and we and our children. I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible; if I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, I shall stand guilty before you forever. For we could have been there and back twice if we had not dawdled.

At this point, the number of kin for whom Jacob was directly responsible to provide numbered well over 70, upwards of 100, because the list in chapter 46 doesn't include his sons' wives, nor any of the wives of his grandsons. Truly, if Jacob wasn't careful, he would cause the loss of his entire clan in the interest of saving just one. Since the whole clan was now in mortal danger, they really had nothing to lose by risking Benjamin's life. He would die anyway from hunger; so why not have him die trying to obtain some additional grain from Egypt? It was an acceptable risk given the circumstances.

During all this discussion, the Egyptian big shot is only referred to as "the man" which means Joseph didn't tell the brothers his official Egyptian name Zaphenath-paneah; and they couldn't have gotten it off their grain permits because Joseph signed all government documents with that signet gadget given to him by Pharaoh back in chapter 41.

†. Gen 43:11-14 . .Then their father Israel said to them: If it must be so do this: take some of the strength of the land in your baggage, and carry them down as a gift for the man-- some balm and some honey, labdanum, pistachio nuts, and almonds.

. . . And take with you double the silver, carrying back with you the silver that was replaced in the mouths of your bags; perhaps it was a mistake. Take your brother too; and go back at once to the man. And may El Shaddai dispose the man to mercy toward you, that he may release to you your other brother, as well as Benjamin. As for me, if I am to be bereaved, I shall be bereaved.


The "choice" fruits would have to be limited to produce that doesn't spoil easily since it was probably three weeks travel time via burro.

Balm was a good gift, since it was a trade item (Gen 37:25) and a valuable first aid treatment.

Labdanum is a soft dark fragrant bitter oleoresin derived from various rockroses (genus Cistus) and used in making perfumes. Another trade item.

Before the advent of processed sugar and artificial sweeteners, honey was a lot more popular than it is now. There is no Hebrew word for sugar in the entire Old Testament. A little-known fact about natural honey is its medicinal value. Honey fights bacteria in wounds in several ways, including the steady production of hydrogen peroxide, an antiseptic. One type of honey-- Manuka --is especially effective.

Honey was valued in the old world; as evidenced by it being one of the nouns to describe the qualities of the promised land (Ex 3:8). The Hebrew word for honey-- debash (deb-ash') --is a bit ambiguous. It can mean the kind of organic goo produced in nature by bees and/or can indicate a thick, intensely sweet syrup produced from dates and grape juice; which Arabs call dibs. In this story, either one would have been as good as the other since neither were easy to obtain.

I would think that honey-bee honey would be the more prized since there's been found no evidence of scientific agriculture in the Palestine of that day. Any honey gathered would have to be found by first searching for it in the wild, and then braving its angry owners in order to collect it. (cf. 1Sam 14:24-27)

The almonds, honey, and pistachios were just treats; but the other items, given by a man, to a man, were about the equivalent of giving a girl jewelry. They weren't cheap. And considering the austere conditions in the land caused by the intense drought, anything edible would certainly be appreciated far more than normal.

Jacob knew God as Yhvh as well as by His name El Shaddai (Gen 27:20, Gen 28:13) but in this instance he depends upon God as El Shaddai; the God of Abraham's covenant (Gen 17:1-2, Gen 35:10-12) the god powerful enough to control nature and make the impossible happen. (cf. Eph 3:20)


NOTE: I'm not sure just how well-informed the ancients were about the nutritional benefits of almonds; but they are an excellent source of natural riboflavin (B2).

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Gen 43:15-29


†. Gen 43:15-18a . . So the men took that gift, and they took with them double the money; as well as Benjamin. They made their way down to Egypt, where they reported to Joseph.

. . .When Joseph saw Benjamin with them; he said to his house steward: Take the men into the house; slaughter and prepare an animal, for the men will dine with me at noon. The man did as Joseph said, and he brought the men into Joseph's house.


It's highly unlikely Joseph recognized Benjamin since he was just a little boy when big brother went off to Egypt. At this point, Benjamin is much older-- over 21 --and likely much older than that since, at this point, Joseph had already been in Egypt for at least that long. Later, Joseph will interrogate his elder brothers to make sure they actually brought him.

†. Gen 43:18b . . But the men were frightened at being brought into Joseph's house.

They had good reason to be frightened. It was common for Egyptian big shots to have dungeons under their homes where they kept their own private little penal colony.

†. Gen 43:18c . . It must be, they thought; because of the silver, replaced in our bags the first time, that we have been brought inside-- as a pretext to attack us and seize us as slaves, with our pack animals.

That's actually a pretty good mob trick; it's in movies like Godfather, and in TV programs like The Sopranos all the time. The mark is thrown off guard with courtesy, forgiveness, kindness, sympathy, generosity, and friendship; until the moment of truth when the guns, knives, garrotes, anchor chains, and/or bags of concrete come out. The men are justifiably worried; and so rather than wait and be confronted about the silver, they come forward to cop a plea.

†. Gen 43:19-22 . . So they went up to Joseph's house steward and spoke to him at the entrance of the house.

. . . If you please, my lord, they said; we came down once before to procure food. But when we arrived at the night encampment and opened our bags, there was each one's money in the mouth of his bag, our money in full. So we have brought it back with us. And we have brought down with us other money to procure food. We do not know who put the money in our bags.


No true thief of course would go to all the trouble of actually bringing the silver back; sort of like people who are given too much change from a purchase and keep it; saying nothing.

†. Gen 43:23a . . He replied: All is well with you; do not be afraid. Your god, the god of your father, must have put treasure in your bags for you. I got your payment.

In the steward's thinking; which god is the god of your father? If he had used the name Yhvh it would be easier to answer that question. But in light of the times and the circumstances, it isn't unreasonable to assume that the steward had no idea who their own personal god was, nor did he care; since gods were plentiful in Egypt and the brothers would probably be like everybody else and simply worship the one they inherited and grew up with at home: whichever that might be.

†. Gen 43:23b-25 . . And he brought out Simeon to them. Then the man brought the men into Joseph's house; he gave them water to bathe their feet, and he provided feed for their burros. They laid out their gifts to await Joseph's arrival at noon, for they had heard that they were to dine there.

In the brothers' minds; all the leniency and courtesy being extended to them was little more than a pretext designed to accomplish just one purpose: to give them a false sense of security so they wouldn't suspect the real purpose for being brought to Joseph's home; which they truly believed was to confiscate their goods and their livestock, and to harness themselves in slavery.

†. Gen 43:26-28 . .When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts that they had brought with them into the house, bowing low before him to the ground. He greeted them, and he said: How is your aged father of whom you spoke? Is he still in good health? They replied: It is well with your servant our father; he is still in good health. And they bowed and made obeisance.

The Hebrew word for "obeisance" is shachah (shaw-khaw') which means to prostrate oneself in homage. That very same word is translated "worship" in other places. (e.g. Gen 22:5, Gen 24:26, Ex 34:14)

†. Gen 43:29a . . As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother's son, he asked: Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?

No doubt Joseph could tell by the looks on everybody's faces that it was indeed Benjamin so he didn't have to wait for an answer before responding.

†. Gen 43:29b . . May God be gracious to you, my son.

To be "gracious" is the Hebrew word chanan (khaw-nan') which means to stoop or bend in kindness to an inferior; viz: fraternize with someone below you; viz: waive the privileges of rank and descend to a less formal or less dignified level-- a mandated Christian social skill.

"Don't be conceited, and think so highly of yourself as to avoid associating with people below you." (Rom 12:16)

Somebody might be curious why Joseph called Benjamin "son" instead of brother. The Hebrew word for son (ben) is ambiguous and has a pretty wide application. It can mean not only a direct descendant, but also a grandson; or the result of an action like city building or township founding. It can also mean a subject, like citizens in a kingdom. In that respect, the potentate is regarded a father. (e.g. Isa 9:6)

It was no doubt in the "subject" aspect that Joseph applied it to his kid brother-- not as kin, but as below himself in rank because in Egypt, nobody was higher than Joseph except his own boss Pharaoh; which made Pharaoh a father to everyone under his jurisdiction; including Joseph. And besides, Joseph is not quite ready to reveal his true identity; so he has to maintain an air of aristocracy in order to keep them guessing.

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Gen 43:30


†. Gen 43:30 . .Then Joseph made a hasty exit because he was overcome with emotion for his brother and wanted to sob. Going into his private room, he wept there.

Only people who have found long-lost relatives can understand the wave of emotion that swept Joseph at this moment. It's a strange human experience.

When my own full brother found me after losing track of each other for almost 26 years, I broke down and had to call in sick to work the next day. It was overwhelming; and I don't even like the man. My brother and I were never friends. In point of fact, our reunion took place over the phone and via US Mail: we never did actually meet up face to face. I informed him, in no uncertain terms, that if he ever came to my home I would call the Sheriff. Anon, I took steps to insure he never wrote me, nor called me, ever again. If my brother should die before me, I don't want to be told about it; and won't go to his funeral.

Somebody might ask: Why don't you forgive your brother and let bygones be bygones. No; they don't understand. My brother is toxic. He's on a third marriage and has left behind him a wake of broken-hearted, psychologically damaged wives and children. Everyone is secondary to his business ambitions. Nobody is on a plane with those ambitions-- nobody. He's extremely competitive, supercilious, and always has to be the center of attention at the expense of everyone else's self respect. My brother is cursed with a natural talent for making people in his presence feel bad about themselves.

No, it's not as simple as bygones-- it's as simple as self defense. I am not going to let my brother close enough to de-humanize me all over again, and I am certainly not going to let him near any of my own family. It's just not going to happen unless he goes through some very miraculous changes first.

Haven't you noticed how cautious Joseph has been with his own brothers? That's the lesson of this section; don't miss it. Joseph has been carefully gauging his elder brothers' reactions through all this to make very, very sure he can trust them enough to let them back into his life. There was too much at stake.

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Gen 43:31-34


†. Gen 43:31-32 . .Then he washed his face and came out; and regaining his composure, said: Serve the food. So they set him a place by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.

Apparently the brothers didn't think anything of Joseph eating alone. Maybe they just thought (as common Egyptian culture dictated) the other Egyptians were too far below their host to be considered worthy of an invitation to sit at his table. In their minds, to do so would have been fraternization; viz: associating with people of lower official rank; thus implying that they were equal in worth.


NOTE: If the steward had told them Joseph was a Hebrew, I wonder how Jacob's sons would have reacted to that?

†. Gen 43:33 . . And they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth; and the men looked in astonishment at one another.

Reuben was the natural firstborn; but due to his incestuous tryst with Bilhah (Gen 35:22) Jacob transferred the position to Joseph (1Chrn 5:1). However, seeing as how Joseph wasn't seated with his brothers, then what would've been his position around the table defaulted to Reuben.

The seating arrangement wasn't at the brothers' discretion. It was totally under their host's control and that's why they were all so amazed. According to permutation, the odds of seating the 11 men according to their respective ages by coincidence is like 39,917,000 : 1

Since they had no reason to believe that Joseph knew any more about their family other than what they had already told him, perhaps at this point they suspected he was either clairvoyant or else blessed with an amazing degree of intuition; and they would have certainly been correct on that account even if circumstances had been different because any man with the ability to correctly interpret dreams should have no trouble figuring out birth orders.


NOTE: A Jewish Midrash (Genesis Rabba 92:5) has Joseph pretending to "divine" their seating order by means of his special silver goblet-- a key item coming up in just a few more verses.

†. Gen 43:34 . .Then he took servings to them from before him, but Benjamin's serving was five times as much as any of theirs. So they imbibed and were merry with him.

Every time I read that passage, my mind, like a knee-jerk reflex, instantly fantasizes a really hulking, heaping, ranch-size platter of vittles placed before Benjamin like is so often seen at buffets. Instead of making more than one trip to the food bars, there's invariably at least one person who piles everything they'll ever want onto just one plate, like Mt. Vesuvius, and then does a delicate balancing act while cautiously maneuvering their way to a table.

But a 5x serving isn't eo ipso a large amount; it would really depend upon the size of a standard portion. And if the food was served a' la carte, then five standard portions of just one item wouldn't necessarily take on the appearance of a banquet. Gourmet foods, especially, are typically small presentations that would barely qualify as an hors d'oeuvre to a strapping man like an ice-road trucker or a Pacific northwest logger. Five servings of gourmet food to one of those guys would amount to little more than an appetizer. But the point is: Benny's plate contained quite a bit more than his brothers' and that had to raise some curious eyebrows.


NOTE: The Hebrew word for "merry" is shakar (shaw-kar') which means to become tipsy; in a qualified sense, to satiate with a stimulating drink or (figuratively) influence; which indicates that the beverage Joseph's brothers were served had alcohol in it.

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Gen 44:1-13


†. Gen 44:1-2 . .Then he instructed his house steward as follows: Fill the men's bags with food, as much as they can carry, and put each one's money in the mouth of his bag. Put my silver goblet in the mouth of the bag of the youngest one, together with his money for the rations. And he did as Joseph told him.

When the brothers threw Joseph into that pit back in chapter 37, they fully intended to leave him there to die; all alone. So it makes sense that Joseph would want to gauge their reaction to his kid brother Benjamin being placed in a similar danger. Would they do to Benjamin what they had done to Joseph? . . . just leave him in Egypt to rot in a dungeon while they went back home to comfort and safety?

†. Gen 44:3-5 . . As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their burros. They had not gone far from the city when Joseph said to his steward: Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them "Why have you repaid good with evil? Isn't this the cup my master drinks from and also uses for divination? This is a wicked thing you have done."

Divination cups were usually made out of silver and adorned with symbols, spells, and religious phrases; and oftentimes the owner's name was inscribed on it too. Diviners used their goblets in various ways. Some read surface patterns when a few drops of one liquid (e.g. oil) was dripped into a second liquid (e.g. water). Others divined by the movement of objects floating upon, or sinking within, the goblet's contents. Others yet studied the patterns that particles of gold formed when they settled to the bottom. Divining cups were a kind of crystal ball for determining future events or solving current mysteries. I would suspect that Joseph's divination cup was a personal gift from his father-in-law Mr. Poti-phera; priest of On.

†. Gen 44:6-8 . .When he caught up with them, he repeated these words to them. But they said to him: Why does my lord say such things? Far be it from your servants to do anything like that! We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found inside the mouths of our sacks. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master's house?

The brothers' appeal to reason was of course a waste of righteous passion. It's well known that kleptomaniacs suffer a persistent neurotic impulse to steal without economic motive to do so. Booty to them is like blood to a vampire; viz: just the sight of it excites. Every once in a while, a famous celebrity gets caught shoplifting and we're all amazed that a millionaire would stoop to such a petty crime.

†. Gen 44:9 . . If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord's slaves.

The brothers' rash response evidences their complete confidence that there is just no way on God's green earth that any of them would ever steal anything at all; let alone from an Egyptian big shot's home. Many a poker player has lost it all on just one hand with that kind of confidence. Sometimes, you just can't tell what the other guy is holding; and in this case, the situation is a stacked deck.

†. Gen 44:10 . .Very well, then; he said; let it be as you say. Whoever is found to have it will become my slave; the rest of you will be free from blame.

Either the steward wasn't listening, or he was instructed to say just exactly those words. They all volunteered to enslave themselves, but he'll settle on just the one who allegedly took the goblet, and it's because Joseph wants to gauge the elder brothers' reaction to his own kid brother's danger. If they failed to prove themselves honorable men, then I really think Joseph planned to harbor Benjamin and dispatch an escort for his father; but permanently bar the brothers from ever returning to Egypt. They would just have to make do on their own the best as they could till the famine was over regardless of their blood kinship.

†. Gen 44:11-13 . . So each one hastened to lower his bag to the ground, and each one opened his bag. He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest; and the goblet turned up in Benjamin's bag. At this they rent their clothes. Each reloaded his pack animal, and they returned to the city.

"they" didn't really have to go back; Joseph's steward had already pre-released them. But surprise of surprises; instead of leaving Benny to rot in slavery like they had done to his big brother many years previously, they accompany him back to Egypt.

This turn of events wasn't due to a sincere concern for Benny's safety. As it turned out, the real concern was for their father Jacob and how he would handle the loss of yet another of Rachel's babies.

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Gen 44:14-34


†. Gen 44:14-17 . .When Judah and his brothers re-entered the house of Joseph, who was still there, they threw themselves on the ground before him. Joseph said to them: What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that a man like me practices divination?

. . . Judah replied: What can we say to my lord? How can we plead, how can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered the crime of your servants. Here we are, then, slaves of my lord, the rest of us as much as he in whose possession the goblet was found. But he replied: Far be it from me to act thus! Only he in whose possession the goblet was found shall be my slave; the rest of you go back in peace to your father.


Surely Jacob wouldn't blame the older boys for the loss, since he was fully aware of the risks involved when he sent his sons back to Egypt for food; and the evidence against Benjamin made it appear he had no one to blame but himself for getting into trouble. And this time, the men wouldn't have to fake a death like they did Joseph's. It was a perfect situation; and I really think Joseph fully expected them to take advantage of Benjamin's plight and go back home without Joseph's brother; clapping themselves on the back for their good fortune at ridding themselves of yet one more "favorite" sibling.

I can only imagine Joseph's surprise to see them all, to a man, including the Terrible Trio-- Rueben, Simeon, and Levi --following his steward home with their clothing ripped, and their heads hung low with fear and anxiety.

Then, as if that wasn't surprise enough; Judah steps forward and pins the blame, not on Benjamin, but on all eleven of their own selves; thus demonstrating a degree of solidarity that I have no doubt Joseph had never before seen among his prone-to-rivalry elder brothers. Instead of asking how can Benjamin prove "his" innocence, Judah asks how can "we" prove "our" innocence. So then, Benjamin's alleged guilt is the whole family's guilt, rather than an individual matter; and in point of fact, it is a national matter too because those twelve men (counting Joseph) as a unit, represented the blossoming nation of Israel.

†. Gen 44:18 . .Then Judah went up to him and said: Please, my lord, let your servant appeal to my lord, and do not be impatient with your servant, you who are the equal of Pharaoh.

Joseph didn't dispute Judah on the matter of being the equal of Pharaoh. Not that he was a pharaoh; but that to Egypt's people, Joseph was as close to being the actual pharaoh as anybody under a pharaoh could possibly get. Compare Dan 7:13-13 where a human being is honored with the powers of God; so that God's subjects have to bend the knee to that highly exalted man just as if he were God in person. (cf. Ps 110:1 and Php 2:9-11)

†. Gen 44:19-34 . . My lord asked his servants: Have you a father or another brother? We told my lord: We have an old father, and there is a child of his old age, the youngest; his full brother is dead, so that he alone is left of his mother, and his father dotes on him. Then you said to your servants: Bring him down to me, that I may set eyes on him. We said to my lord: The boy cannot leave his father; if he were to leave him, his father would die. But you said to your servants: Unless your youngest brother comes down, you will not see my face.

. . .When we came back to your servant my father, we reported my lord's words to him. Later our father said: Go back and procure some food for us. We answered: We cannot go down; only if our youngest brother is with us can we go down, for we may not see the man's face unless our youngest brother is with us.

. . .Your servant my father said to us: As you know, my wife bore me two sons. But one is gone from me, and I said: Alas, he was torn by a beast! And I have not seen him since. If you take this one from me, too, and he meets with disaster, you will send my white head down to death in sorrow.

. . . Now, if I come to your servant my father and the boy is not with us-- since his own life is so bound up with his --when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will send the white head of your servant our father down to death in grief. Now your servant has pledged himself for the boy to my father, saying: If I do not bring him back to you, I shall stand guilty before my father forever.

. . .Therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord instead of the boy, and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father unless the boy is with me? Let me not be witness to the woe that would overtake my father!


Judah's impassioned plea isn't for Benjamin's sake, but for the sake of his father. That is an incredible turn-around since nobody seemed to care much about Jacob's feelings back in chapter 37 when they all to a man manipulated their dad into concluding Joseph was mauled to death by a wild animal.

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Gen 45:1-3


†. Gen 45:1-2 . . Joseph could stand it no longer. Out, all of you! he cried out to his attendants. He wanted to be alone with his brothers when he told them who he was. Then he broke down and wept aloud. His sobs were so loud that the Egyptians could hear, and so the news reached Pharaoh's palace.

The brothers have repeatedly proven their integrity, their family unity, and their filial loyalty. Joseph could gain nothing more conclusive than Judah's impassioned plea by additional stratagems; and by now, his own emotional tension was becoming overwhelming; even for a big strong man like himself, and it was all he could do to order his entourage out of the room before totally losing his composure right in front of everybody.

I can well imagine the shock and confusion that Joseph's housekeeping staff must have felt when their normally rock steady, no-monkey-business master broke down and began sobbing like a little girl who just lost her favorite Barbie down the garbage disposal. They had probably never once seen the second highest man in Egypt make an open display of emotion like this before; and the palace grapevine was instantly abuzz about it.

†. Gen 45:3a . . I am Joseph: he said to his brothers. Is my father still alive?

That question is so unnecessary that it makes no sense he would even ask. The brothers had mentioned Joseph's dad no less than fourteen times up to this point. Reading between the lines, and given the stress of the moment, what Joseph actually said was: Is my father really, really still alive!? And I don't think he asked that question of his brothers; but of himself; like a lottery winner who asks themselves: I won!? Me!?

I think, that as the years in Egypt accumulated, Joseph had given up his dad for dead and fully expected never to see him again. The news of Jacob's continuing existence has been just beyond belief, and way too good to be true. No doubt some of us feel very strongly that the world would be a much better place to be rid of our own dads; but not Joseph. He enjoyed a normal relationship at home, and was in fact his own dad's favorite son over all the others.

Joseph was a very fortunate man to have lived with a dad who filled his developing years with love, nurturing, attention, and acceptance. Some of us, your host included, have no clue what that must be like; and never will. I've seen a report online indicating that upwards of 80% of prison inmates were victims of child abuse. Following are some interesting "father" facts.

Only about 50% of America's kids will spend their entire childhood in an intact family. 24,000,000 children in America sleep in homes where their natural fathers do not live.

Approximately half of the kids in the United States will live in a single parent home at some point before the age of 18.

Nationally, 40% of kids whose fathers live outside the home have zero contact with them. The other 60 percent have contact an average of just 69 days during the year.

Kids from father-absent homes are 5x more likely to live in poverty, 3x more likely to fail in school, 2 to 3x more likely to develop emotional and behavioral problems, and 3x more likely to commit suicide.

Up to 70% of adolescents charged with murder are from fatherless homes; and up to 70% of long-term prison inmates grew up in a fatherless home.

People like that can't be expected to connect with Joseph's feelings for his dad. Reading this section in Genesis is about as emotional an experience for them as reading the Wall Street Journal. I'm not criticizing; I'm only pointing out that it's difficult for some people to relate to this section of Genesis all because they were emotionally mangled in the meat grinder of a affection-starved childhood.


NOTE: The physical growth of thousands of North Korean children is being stunted by malnutrition; while here in America where our cities' homeless eat like kings in comparison, the emotional development of thousands of children is being stunted by filial neglect and indifference. I really don't know whom to say is the worse off . . NK children or US children.

†. Gen 45:3b . . But his brothers could not answer him, for his sudden emergence was making them palpitate.

I think part of their internal shivering was due to the fact that they instantly realized that this man, whom they assumed was a foreigner, knew their language and perfectly understood everything they had been discussing in his presence all along. Coupled with that was their instant terror that their long-lost kid brother was in a pretty good position for revenge: to do unto them as they had done unto him. And the brothers were utterly powerless to prevent him from doing so.

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Gen 45:4-13


†. Gen 45:4a . .Then Joseph said to his brothers: Come close to me.

You can just safely bet they had reflexively shrunk back from him as far as the boundaries of the room would permit.

†. Gen 45:4b-7 . .When they had done so, he said: I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be disappointed in yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a progeny on earth and to save your lives by a great rescue.

If it was only God's ambition to preserve Israel's future, He could have easily prevented the famine. And if He was looking ahead to Israel's rescue from Egyptian slavery, then couldn't He have just simply ordered Jacob to move everybody down to Egypt? No, that wouldn't have worked because the Hebrews were an abomination to the Egyptians. They would never have allowed the Hebrews to immigrate and settle in Egypt's choicest land under normal circumstances. So then, God set things up so that Egypt would owe the Hebrews a big favor; and would welcome them in spite of their disgust. Pharaoh and the Egyptians couldn't just take Joseph's providence for granted; no, they were deeply indebted for saving them all from starvation and possibly conquest by foreign powers.


NOTE: Famines are the result of climate change; which is a natural earth cycle. Nowadays, climate change is depicted as a man-made evil; but in reality, climate change is normal and would happen anyway regardless of the amount of fossil fuel man burns or doesn't burn. In other words: God didn't cause the famine in Josephs' day as a special event like the Flood; no, He simply saw it coming before anybody else did; just as He had seen many like it in the past.

†. Gen 45:8 . . So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh; lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.

The sense in which Joseph was a "father" to Pharaoh, was in the capacity of a guardian; viz: of a provider and a protector. If not for Joseph, Pharaoh's kingdom would have surely collapsed.

The Hebrew word for "father" is 'ab (awb); which is ambiguous in that it has several applications. It can apply to a genetic ancestor (e.g. Gen 2:24), an inventor of skills and trades (e.g. Gen 4:20-21), a political big shot (2Kgs 5:13), a spiritual counselor (2Kgs 6:21), and God. (Ps 44:1)

†. Gen 45:9-11 . . Now hurry back to my father and say to him "This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don't delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me-- you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.

Goshen was the fertile region in northeastern Egypt; situated to the west of today's Suez Canal: a district of about 900 square miles; which is pretty much the eastern half of the Nile delta.


NOTE: When Moses left Goshen, he didn't go directly to Palestine along the coastal trade route; but took Yhvh's people a bit south first towards the modern city of Suez (Ex 13:17-18). In his day, the Gulf Of Suez arm of the Red Sea extended about 50 miles farther north than it does now. Lake Timsah-- at the current town of Ismailia --and The Great Bitter Lake, and the Little Bitter Lake are all that remain as witnesses to that portion of the ancient sea bed.

†. Gen 45:12-13 . .You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.

Jacob would want to know just exactly how the brothers learned Joseph's Egyptian identity. By getting the news right from the horse's mouth, there would be no reason for Jacob to doubt their story.

Joseph didn't refer to Jacob as "our" father; no, he made his association with Jacob far more personal than that. He referred to Jacob as "my" father; which reminds me of another's statement.

"Go to my brethren, and say unto them: I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." (John 20:17)

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Gen 45:14-28


†. Gen 45:14-15 . .Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.

I seriously think the ten brothers were so consternated to the point of paralyzing terror as to be rendered utterly mute until Joseph adequately allayed their fears, and proved his good will towards them with all his blubbering and hugging; and I also think they never took their eyes off his hands the whole time, half expecting him to draw a jeweled dagger and pierce it through each man's liver in turn.

There was a time when the older brothers were so infected with rivalry towards Joseph that any conversation they had with him, if they had any at all, was punctuated with hostility (Gen 37:4). I think you can safely bet that at this point, their conversation is re-punctuated with supplication, humility, hats in hand, and profuse apologies rather than hostility.

Joseph was an extremely magnanimous man; with a degree of self control that is really quite amazing. If anybody in the Old Testament was justified to nurse a grudge, it has to be him. Surely he deserves some recognition for exemplifying at least one of Jesus' beatitudes.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Matt 5:9)

There are some people in this world who are simply implacable. They refuse to bury the hatchet and move on. No, for them, rivalry, revenge, spite, retaliation, stubbornness, and grudging are a way of life: every disagreement is an act of war-- they're emotional and reactive, and they thrive on criticism, sarcasm, chafing, carping, finding fault, thoughtless remarks, demeaning comments, insults, contempt, ridicule, bickering, retort upon retort, endless yeah-buts, telling other people off, and giving people a piece of their mind.

It should go without saying that warlike people can't possibly be allowed into heaven because God's home is a place of peace. It just wouldn't be fair to the others to let confrontational people loose in paradise to wreck it for everybody.

†. Gen 45:21-22a . .The sons of Israel did so; Joseph gave them wagons as Pharaoh had commanded, and he supplied them with provisions for the journey. To each of them, moreover, he gave a change of clothing;

Their "change of clothing" wasn't just some fresh clothes. The changes were actually garments suitable for formal occasions like an audience with a king, or hob-nobbing with aristocrats (e.g. Gen 41:14, 2Kgs 25:27-30). So the changes were pretty expensive; like Valentino suits.

†. Gen 45:22b . . but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and several changes of clothing.

You know, some people just never seem to learn. It was because of favoritism that Joseph's brothers were provoked to malicious sibling rivalry in the first place; and here he is repeating the very same mistake grandpa Isaac made in chapter 25, and the very same mistake papa Jacob made in chapter 37. Benjamin had done nothing to deserve preferential treatment over and above his elder brothers. The only reason that Joseph treated him better than the others is simply the fact that they shared the same mother; that's all: which Webster's defines as nepotism.

†. Gen 45:23-24 . . And he sent to his father these things: ten jack burros loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female burros loaded with grain, bread, and food for his father for the journey. So he sent his brothers away, and they departed; and he said to them: See that you are not distracted along the way.

Apparently the trade route from Egypt to Canaan offered diversions aplenty to entertain grown men; which Joseph would like his brothers to avoid this time around because he was anxious to get his dad moved into Egypt as soon as was practical. In point of fact, time was of the essence what with five more years of famine conditions yet to come; with each succeeding year much worse than those preceding it. I think Joseph wanted his dad settled in before the worst of it took hold of the region and put them all, including their livestock, in very imminent danger of perishing.

†. Gen 45:25-26 . . So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. They told him: Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt. Jacob was stunned and didn't believe them.

He didn't believe them because for one thing; he was led to believe all these years that Joseph was dead; hence Jacob was incredulous and one could hardly blame him. As an example, suppose a total stranger should walk up to your door some day and announce you won a 42 million-dollar Powerball lottery. Now add that to the fact that you have never bought a Powerball lottery ticket in your whole life. Would you begin jumping up and down and shouting hallelujah? I don't think so. I think you would be skeptical; just as skeptical as Jacob.

The actual Hebrew of Gen 45:26 says that Jacob's heart became sluggish; viz: his blood pressure dropped and he quite literally paled. You have to remember that Jacob was 135 years old at this point in his life, and would live only another seventeen more (Gen 47:28). Older people don't do well with shock; it can actually kill them.

†. Gen 45:26-28 . . But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, their father Jacob's strength returned. And Israel said: I'm convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.

No doubt Jacob had to sit down-- more likely lay down with his feet elevated --while his sons related their adventures in Egypt; and quite possibly it was right then that they confessed to their selling Jacob's favorite son into slavery. Better they tell him now than wait till he finds out later from Joseph.

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Gen 46:1-30


†. Gen 46:1 . . So Israel set out with all that was his, and he came to Beer-sheba, where he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.

I would imagine that Jacob was a bit uncertain as to whether or not he should leave the promised land and go to Egypt, even though his granddad had migrated for that exact same reason back in chapter 12. Jacob was promised a multitude of offspring who were supposed to inherit Palestine, and how ever could that happen if he wasn't even living in the land? And it seemed every time a patriarch left Palestine they got into trouble. Jacob had to wonder: Was he walking into a trap?

Jacob, being a prophet, may have suspected that the prediction below was somehow related to his present circumstances.

"Then Yhvh said to Abram: Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions." (Gen 15:13-15)

†. Gen 46:2-4a . . God called to Israel in a vision by night: Jacob! Jacob! He answered: Here. And He said: I am 'El, the god of your father. Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you there into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I myself will also bring you back;

Although El's promise to accompany Jacob in Egypt was generous; He pretty much had to because back in Gen 28:15 Yhvh said "Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

Since Jacob was destined to die in Egypt, God's promise to "bring you back" would be quite hollow unless He intended to raise Jacob from the dead some day; which He does. (Matt 8:11)

There were so many 'els out and about in Jacob's day that it was necessary for Jacob's god to pick His words carefully in order to make sure people fully understood who He was so they didn't confuse Him with one of the other deities popular in that day. By identifying Himself to Jacob as the "god of your father" there was no mistaking who was speaking.

†. Gen 46:4b . . and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes.

That must have been a comforting prediction for Jacob. Not the dying part, but the fact that he would die in Joseph's company, rather than dying somewhere distant only for Joseph to hear about it later before he had a chance to say his farewells.

†. Gen 46:5-7 . . So Jacob set out from Beer-sheba. The sons of Israel put their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to transport him; and they took along their livestock and the wealth that they had amassed in the land of Canaan. Thus Jacob and all his offspring with him came to Egypt: he brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons, his daughters and granddaughters-- all his offspring.

Not mentioned as participants in the wagon train were the slaves; the "wealth that they had amassed in the land of Canaan" would have included them as well as the livestock. If Isaac passed down granddad Abraham's army to Jacob; then the whole troupe-- family, wagons, slaves, and of course the herds; composed of sheep, goats, cows, burros, and camels --must have been a very impressive sight traveling down the road to Shur into Egypt.

The Hebrew word for "daughter" is ambiguous. It can mean an immediate female offspring (e.g. Gen 46:15) or even all the females in a whole country (e.g. Gen 28:8). But in this case, the females referred to were limited to Jacob's own biological children (vs 7 and vs 26) rather than including every female in the camp.

†. Gen 46:8-27 . .These are the names of the Israelites, Jacob and his descendants, who came to Egypt-- all the persons belonging to Jacob who came to Egypt --his own issue, aside from the wives of Jacob's sons --all these persons numbered 66. And Joseph's sons who were born to him in Egypt were two in number. Thus the total of Jacob's household who came to Egypt was seventy persons.

The number would have to include both Joseph and Jacob in order to come out right. The nose count has its problems with other portions of scripture that contain the rosters. Expositors with higher IQ's and better educations than mine haven't had much luck at harmonizing those discrepancies so I could hardly expect myself to do any better.

†. Gen 46:28-29a . . He had sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph, to point the way before him to Goshen. So when they came to the region of Goshen, Joseph ordered his chariot and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel;

Judging from all past events, and the current ones; Judah appears to have been the most grown-up (mature and serious) of all the other brothers, and a man whom Jacob could reasonably depend upon to look after business and not goof around or allow himself to get distracted.

Judah's going ahead of Jacob wasn't really to get instructions as to where Jacob should settle (the Hebrew of "point the way before him" is a bit difficult) but rather, as point man (liaison) to inform Joseph of his father's imminent arrival. Subsequently Joseph gassed up his Federally-provided conveyance and roared off to meet his father and personally guide him to the correct location.


NOTE: Some feel that Joseph's headquarters were in the vicinity of Ramses; which supports Gen 45:10 that Jacob would settle where he would be "near me"; that is: in Joseph's neighborhood-- sort of.

†. Gen 46:29b-30 . . he presented himself to him and, embracing him around the neck, he wept on his neck a good while. Then Israel said to Joseph: Now I can die, having seen for myself that you are still alive.

There's sometimes an overtone of sadness at reunions as kin become shaken a bit by the too obvious damage that the aging process wreaked upon loved ones during the years of their absence; plus the sadness of not being a part of the years that long-lost kin have lived their lives without us.

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Gen 47:1-7a


†. Gen 47:1-2 . .Then Joseph came and reported to Pharaoh, saying: My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that is theirs, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in the region of Goshen. And selecting five of his brothers, he presented them to Pharaoh.

Aren't you curious which five of the eleven brothers Joseph selected; and what guided his decision?

When Christ went up on a mountain to transfigure (Matt 17:1, Mark 19:2) he took along only three of his twelve hand-picked apostles. Some expositors believe he took Peter, James, and John not because they were the strongest in faith of the twelve; but on the contrary, the weakest. But who really knows. It could be that Christ chose those three men because he knew for himself they could be trusted to keep a secret. (cf. Mark 9:9-10)

Quite possibly, Joseph had carefully gauged all eleven brother's reactions under the stress to which he only just recently had subjected them and noted the ones who were not easy to intimidate. These would be his best choice to meet the king because the last thing Joseph needed was his kin stammering and shivering in the audience of his boss; the Pharaoh of Egypt. He wanted them to leave the impression that they knew what they were doing in the world of animal husbandry. (This is all conjecture of course because I don't really know why Joseph selected the five.)

†. Gen 47:3 . . Pharaoh said to his brothers: What is your occupation? They answered Pharaoh: We your servants are shepherds, as were also our fathers.

Bang! Direct question/Direct answer-- no stammering, no shivering, no apologizing, and no beating around the bush as if they had anything to be ashamed of for being ranchers.

†. Gen 47:4 . .We have come; they told Pharaoh; to sojourn in this land, for there is no pasture for your servants' flocks, the famine being severe in the land of Canaan. Pray, then, let your servants stay in the region of Goshen.

After first assuring the king that they had no intention of settling permanently in his jurisdiction, they then boldly request exactly what they want. It's a pity more people don't pray like Joseph's brothers because there's no need to circumnavigate the issue with God. He already knows what's on your mind before you even open your mouth so you might just as well get right to the point.

"And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." (Matt 6:7-8)

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb 4:16)

The Greek word for "boldly" is parrhesia (par-rhay-see'-ah) which means all out-spokenness, i.e. frankness, bluntness, and/or confidence.

In other words: God's people shouldn't be shy about speaking up and telling Him exactly what's on their minds. Rote mantras like the Ave Maria and/or the Our Father etc. are not what I call forthright, out-spoken, frank and/or speaking up.

†. Gen 47:5-6 . .Then Pharaoh said to Joseph: As regards your father and your brothers who have come to you, the land of Egypt is open before you: settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land; let them stay in the region of Goshen. And if you know any capable men among them, put them in charge of my livestock.

Communication between the brothers and Pharaoh was probably of the very same nature as their own first encounter with Joseph; which was through an interpreter. In this case, Joseph is the interpreter; viz: actually a mediator between king and subjects. A mediator doesn't only interpret, but also looks out for the best interests of both parties and brings about a resolution of their differences; if any. The brothers were foreign herders, and for that reason, the king was loathe to speak with them; much less to associate with them. If not for Joseph, there would have been no audience; the men would have been barred from Pharaoh's court.

Joseph was both an Israelite and an Egyptian. He understood, and moved about, in both cultures; consequently he was accepted by each party as one of their own.

In the same way; remove Christ, and nobody would ever be able to contact God; not even anybody in the Old Testament. Since Christ is both Divine and Human, he is perfectly capable of resolving the differences between God and Man; and he is accepted by both because he's one of their own.

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1Tim 2:5)

†. Gen 47:7a . .Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in and presented him before Pharaoh.

Probably no other moment in Pharaoh's life would be more historic than this one. Standing before him, as a feeble old common rancher, was one of the most significant men who ever lived on this earth; but Pharaoh could have never guessed it under the circumstances. How was Pharaoh to know that this tired, broken down old man standing before him was to be the progenitor of a monarch that would dominate not only the entire over-world; but even the netherworld.

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of Adam, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; that all peoples, nations and men of every language should worship him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is the one that will never be destroyed." (Dan 7:13-14)

"God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is supreme-- to the glory of God the Father." (Php 2:9-11)

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Gen 47:7b-13


†. Gen 47:7b . . and Jacob blessed Pharaoh

As a rule, the lesser is blessed of the better (Heb 7:7). However, it's possible for the better to be blessed by the lesser too. (e.g. Ps 16:7, Ps 26:12, Ps 34:1, et al). It all depends on the nature of the blessing. There's nothing a man can do to improve God's lot in life, but there's certainly a lot God can do to improve a man's lot in life; however, either can say nice things about the other.

Precisely what form Jacob's blessing took is difficult to know for certain; but it could have been something like: Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground (Gen 1:28) or maybe: God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine; let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee; be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee; cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee (Gen 27:28-29) or even as simple as: Let my lord the king live forever. (1Kgs 1:31)

†. Gen 47:8-9a . . And Pharaoh said unto Jacob: How old are you? 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

The word "evil" isn't restricted to moral awfulness; but can indicate hard times as well as just plain old bad luck (cf. Job 5:7, Isa 45:7). The days of Jacob's life weren't totally disagreeable, though he makes it sound like that.

However, he did spend a good number of years in the outdoors, in all sorts of weather, tending herds. That's not an easy life. Then there was the grief visited upon him by the sons of his own flesh; Dinah was no help either. And the peace in his home wrecked by the tension caused by the bitter sibling rivalry between his wives Leah and Rachel; not to mention all the headaches uncle Laban contributed.

Jacob also endured the latter years of his life with a handicap resulting from his encounter with a divine being in chapter 32. It's odd how human nature tends to dwell upon its misfortunes instead of spending more time reflecting upon its blessings. For some, the glass is half empty, and for others it's half full, and yet for others: the glass is too big.

At this point in his life Jacob is wore out: he's winding down, and ready to retire. Aging folks tend to be a little on the negative side, and sometimes dwell more on the bad memories rather than the good. It's wise to consider that the aged weren't born that way. In reality; they're children who've been alive for a long time. When I was a kid, I tended to think that senior citizens were a species; not appreciating, till later in life, that I was actually looking at my future.

†. Gen 47:9b . . in the days of their pilgrimage.

Jacob's use of the word "pilgrimage" reflects the cruel reality that none of us comes into this world to stay. We're here for a while, but that's all: just a while.

"Where are your forefathers now? And the prophets: do they live forever?" (Zech 1:4-5)

"For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that's visible for a little time, and then vanishes away." (Jas 4:14)

†. Gen 47:10 . . And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.

Just how impressed Pharaoh was with Jacob is difficult to know, but the king had to wonder to himself just how on earth a genius like Joseph could ever arise from such humble root stock as this broken down, insignificant old man who just walked out of his court. But one thing I know for sure: of the two men; Jacob holds the higher rank in the grand scheme of things.

†. Gen 47:11-12 . . So Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses, as Pharaoh directed. Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father's household with food, according to the number of their children.

Jacob's clan nourished themselves with seafood too.

"We remember the fish we ate in Egypt" (Num 11:5)


NOTE: My early childhood was cultured on John Wayne and cowboy westerns in which the native Americans were usually either Apache or Comanche, dwelling in arid regions nowhere near an ocean. Imagine my surprise to learn of the Wampanoag people of Massachusetts baking clams centuries before the first Europeans invaded their land.

Joseph's family lived in an area also known as Zoan (Ps 78:12) which was up in the north, near the Mediterranean Sea in the East Nile delta. The area had access to the sea, and there was lots of water and wetlands; so that seafood and migratory fowl were never in short supply. Actually, all told, Jacob's family fared quite well in Egypt in spite of the famine's overall severity. Meanwhile, the famine wrecked everybody else.

†. Gen 47:13 . .There was no food, however, in the whole region because the famine was severe; both Egypt and Canaan wasted away because of the famine.

As mentioned earlier back in chapter 41, famines are usually the natural result of insufficient rainfall.

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Gen 47:14-20


†. Gen 47:14 . . Joseph gathered in all the money that was to be found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, as payment for the rations that were being procured, and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh's palace.

Some people accuse Joseph of profiteering; of exploiting the people's hardship. But they fail to realize that he wasn't acting on his own. Joseph answered to a higher authority: to Mr. Pharaoh. If Joseph had gone behind Pharaoh's back and gave the Egyptians grain for free, then Joseph himself would have been arrested and either put right back in prison or, worse, gibbeted. Then who would his clan look to for representation with Pharaoh?

"it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." (1Cor 4:2)

The New Testament Greek word for "faithful" is pistos (pis-tos') which means: trustworthy. Webster's defines "trustworthy" as worthy of confidence; viz: dependable.

To be dependable implies looking out for your boss' best interests rather than either your own or anybody else's. (cf. Luke 11:12-27)

†. Gen 47:15-17 . .When the money of the people of Egypt and Canaan was gone, all Egypt came to Joseph and said: Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? Our money is used up. Then bring your livestock; said Joseph. I will sell you grain in exchange for your livestock, since your money is gone. So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and he gave them grain in exchange for their horses, their sheep and goats, their cattle and donkeys. And he brought them through that year with grain in exchange for all their livestock.

This is the very first mention of a horse in the Bible.


NOTE: Most Native Americans had never seen a horse until the Spanish brought them here sometime around 1540. It's believed the Pueblo people were the first to make good use of the horse; but not by choice. It was as slaves and laborers on Spanish ranchos that they learned how. After the Pueblo revolted, they became prosperous horse traders; and by that means the Plains Indians obtained horses; which greatly improved their nomadic way of life; and their tactics in warfare too.

The Old Testament Hebrew words for "horse" are cuwc (soos) and cuc (soos); which means not only a horse (as leaping), but also a swallow (from its flight style). Both swallows and horses are quite nimble; and of the two, I'd say the swallows are more so. They can flit like bats when in pursuit of winged insects.

Horses were the animal of choice for pulling chariots in ancient Egypt. (e.g. Ex 14:9)

Putting horses on the list of saleable livestock indicates that even relatively prosperous breeders were falling on hard times too, so that no matter whether the Egyptians were rich or poor, the famine was effecting them all-- the rich have to eat too, just like everybody else; and money alone makes poor nourishment. Here in America, when the last bit of arable land is finally bulldozed for residential housing, and paved over for shopping centers, office buildings, super highways, cemeteries, malls, light rails, factory sites and warehouses: that's when we'll finally catch on that money isn't everything.

Only after the last tree is cut down,
The last of the water poisoned,
The last animal destroyed:
Only then will some realize
They cannot eat money.

-- Cree Indian Prophecy --

†. Gen 47:18-19a . .The next year they came again and said: Our money is gone, and our livestock are yours. We have nothing left but our bodies and land. Why should we die right in front of you? Buy us and our land in exchange for food; we will then become servants to Pharaoh.

Joseph's plan had no intention of shackling the Egyptians in grinding poverty and humiliation like the African slaves of America's pre civil war days. Though they became Pharaoh's slaves, they also become share-croppers; which is a very tolerable arrangement in comparison to slaves who are permitted to keep none of the fruits of their labors. In effect then, the Egyptians would actually be afforded the dignity of working for compensation; and it was pretty generous too.

†. Gen 47:18-19b . . Just give us grain so that our lives may be spared and so the land will not become empty and desolate.

They not only needed grain for food, but also enough to sow their fields in anticipation of next season's crop. Whether the Egyptian populace at large was aware of the famine's predicted duration can't be known for certain, but farmers often sow even in famine years because who can tell if the weather is going to change for the better or not. Joseph, of course, was privy to knowledge of the famine's end, and I would think that he would surely share that information with the delegations that negotiated with him in this matter.

†. Gen 47:20 . . So Joseph gained possession of all the farm land of Egypt for Pharaoh, every Egyptian having sold his field because the famine was too much for them; thus the land passed over to Pharaoh.

It's reasonable to assume that Pharaoh's only interest would be what's known as Egypt's so called "black" land; which is primarily the arable soil located adjacent to the Nile's river banks and was at one time subject to seasonal flooding; which replenished the soil with fresh deposits of silt each year.

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Gen 47:21-26


†. Gen 47:21-22 . . and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to the other. However, he did not buy the land of the priests, because they received a regular allotment from Pharaoh and had food enough from the allotment Pharaoh gave them. That is why they did not sell their land.

That regular State allotment must have made religion seem like an attractive career path. Their constituents may have been suffering, but the priests were doing just fine and coasting right through all the hard times.

I think it's notable that God doesn't permit Judaism's priests to own land; nor permit them to feed at the Federal trough either, thus making them fully dependent upon the prosperity of ordinary pew warmers. Thus the Aaronic priests were highly motivated to keep the people in a good standing with God in order to keep themselves fed because lack of good standing could easily result in a poor economy in Israel. (cf. Deut 28:1-68)

When Saul was king, there was a time in Israel when the priests didn't even have enough food of their own on hand to supply David's escape (1Sam 21:1-6). That was a pretty good indication that Saul's kingdom had fallen into spiritual decline during his administration; and definitely time for a change in leadership.

†. Gen 47:23-24 . . Joseph said to the people: Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh, here is seed for you so you can plant the ground. But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for yourselves and your households and your children.

Four-fifths is equal to 80% which is a pretty good percentage for share-croppers. In addition, there's no mention of either rents or leases. In other words, the Egyptians lived on Pharaoh's land essentially for free. The only rent they paid, if you could call it that, was the one-fifth of the land's produce.

That was a very good deal for the Egyptians because it was flexible. In other words; no matter how well or how poorly the land produced in any given year, whether little or much, the percentage never changed. Thus they were always able to satisfy their obligation to Pharaoh even in years when disease and/or insects decimated their crops. It was virtually impossible to ever fall behind in payments.

Since Pharaoh owned all the land, and exacted neither rent nor lease from share-croppers; it became possible for Egypt's poor to apply for a piece of acreage. While the drought was a curse for some people; it was a blessing for others.

†. Gen 47:25 . .You have saved our lives; they said. May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.

The word "bondage" is from 'ebed (eh'-bed) which includes all kinds of servitude; including outright slavery. Another word for "servant" is sakiyr (saw-keer') which is a person who works for wages; viz: an employee.

It's reasonable to assume that not everyone in Egypt took up farming as there would still be the need for goods and services like metal smiths, butchers, seamstresses, barbers, shipwrights, wagon and chariot builders, longshoremen, pottery, merchant marine, general mercantile, weavers, shoemakers, freight haulers, and building contractors; et al: every sort of trade and commercial enterprise imaginable.

Pharaoh had all the money. So then, the barter system probably thrived in Egypt-- the farmers trading out of their 80% and the merchants and tradesmen paying Pharaoh his one-fifth out of what trickled down from the farmers. In other words: in that economy, food was gold.

Apparently few, if any, complained. One thing you could say about the Egyptians; they didn't look a gift horse in the mouth. If not for Joseph's providence, they would have all surely died, and lost everything, and they knew it too. Thanks to him, instead of dying, they all enjoyed a pretty good standard of living. There were some sacrifices to be made, yes, but all in all, they fared pretty well under Joseph's administration.

†. Gen 47:26 . . So Joseph established it as a law concerning land in Egypt-- still in force today --that a fifth of the produce belongs to Pharaoh. It was only the land of the priests that did not become Pharaoh's.

The "today" in that passage of course refers of the author's own day.

The 20% flat tax was fair across the board for everybody; rich, poor, and middle class alike-- no deductions and no exemptions.

Thank God Joseph was a man of integrity because the kind of power he wielded has a way of tempting men to do some very greedy things; for example: enforcement of the so-called law of supply and demand. Of one thing we can be pretty sure: Pharaoh's approval rating no doubt broke all the records thanks to his selection of Joseph to manage Egypt's affairs during a very serious national crisis.

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Gen 47:27-30a


†. Gen 47:27-28 . . Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number. Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty-seven.

Jacob immigrated to Egypt when he was 130 (Gen 47:9) so he spent as many years with Joseph at the last as he had at the first-- seventeen (cf. Gen 37:2). At this point, the famine had been done and over for 12 years, since it was during the second year of the seven-year famine that the people of Israel arrived (Gen 45:11).

During those 12 years, and no doubt the other five too, Jacob's clan did very well for themselves; so that they eventually became a political element to be reckoned with (Ex 1:6-10). By the time of the Exodus, the Israelites numbered over 600,000 adults, not counting children. Israelites were accounted "children" until the age of 20 (Num 26:2). Here in America, we let children of 18 vote for Presidents. Now that's scary.

It's interesting that another Pharaoh, in the future-- who would enslave them in the book of Exodus --wasn't worried about the Israelites increasing to the point of taking over his country, no, he was concerned they might up and leave it. What's that saying? It's saying, that as a people, Jacob's clan were excellent, productive citizens who accounted for a significant portion of Egypt's gross national product.

The palace itself benefited from their ranching skills (Gen 47:5). No doubt Hebrew beef from the Nile delta became a highly sought commodity everywhere in Egypt. Jacob's people not only maintained a fishing industry, but they farmed too (Num 11:5). And among them were experts in the construction trades (Ex 1:11) and in every manner of skill and artifice (Ex 31:1-6, Ex 35:20-36:7).

That all tells me that the Israelites weren't freeloaders by any means. They were hard workers who put their noses to the grindstone and contributed their fair share to Egypt's prosperity just like today's Hispanic immigrants contribute their own fair share to America's prosperity. In point of fact, if today's Hispanic work force should all up and return to their native lands, America's economy would really feel it. So is it really any wonder then why the US Government does all it can to accommodate Hispanic immigrants; even the illegal ones?

†. Gen 47:29a . . And when the time approached for Israel to die, he summoned his son Joseph

Normally, the patriarchs would convene with a natural firstborn son for serious family business, but that position was transferred to Joseph because of Reuben's tryst with his father's concubine. (1Chrn 5:1)


NOTE: The reason genealogies aren't reckoned by birthright is because the status is conferrable upon a younger sibling; which of course would produce an inaccurate family chronology.

†. Gen 47:29b . . and said unto him: If now I have found grace in thy sight,

The phrase "found grace in they sight" seems to be a Genesis colloquialism for someone disposed to do you a favor; e.g. Gen 6:8 where God singled out Noah to survive the Flood.

†. Gen 47:29c . . put your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me.

This is the second, and last, place in Genesis where a hand was placed under a patriarch's thigh during the making of a promise. The first was Gen 24:2-3, with Abraham.

†. Gen 47:29d-30a . . Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.

Jacob's statement underscores the fact that when people are gathered to their ancestors, it doesn't necessarily indicate burial because Jacob's remains would be stored in Egypt until such a time as he could be transported back to Canaan. So he would already be at rest with his ancestors prior to actually being buried with them later. (cf. Gen 49:33, Gen 50:3, and Gen 50:12-13)

When you think about it, choosing the location of one's burial site has no practical advantages to speak of. Some people want to buried overlooking the sea or an orchard. But do they themselves really get much of a view? No, they're gone on to the netherworld; and their remains, being underground and quite without life or eyesight, have only the inky blackness of a subterranean pit to view, if that.

So then, is there really any significance to Jacob's request? Yes, it means that Jacob believed the land of Canaan was on his own property; rather than just the land of his nativity. He wanted to be buried at home, rather than on foreign soil. God had promised Jacob deed and title to that land back in chapter 35; and although he never really possessed it in his own days, Jacob was confident that God was a man of integrity who would eventually make good on His promises. The patriarchs were amazingly patient. (Heb 11:13-16)

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Gen 47:30b-31


†. Gen 47: 30b-31a . . He replied: I will do as you have spoken. And he said: Swear to me. And he swore to him.

The Hebrew word for "swear" is shaba` (shaw-bah'). It's basically a promise, guaranteed by repeating it seven times. When God's name is dragged into a shaba` then it becomes a sacred oath; e.g. Gen 24:2-3. Christ okayed promises, but frowned upon sacred oaths. (Matt 5:33-37)

†. Gen 47:31b . .Then Israel bowed at the head of the bed.

There's differences of opinion among the experts how best to interpret that verse; but in context, it appears to me that Jacob has become bedridden, and is-- as best he can for a man of his age and health --doing obeisance to Joseph as a courtesy in the manner that Abraham did with the Hittites back in chapter 23. In other words; Jacob lowered his eyes and nodded his head in a sort of salute; which, courtesy aside, was somewhat equal to saying: Okay then; we're good.

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Gen 48:1-4


†. Gen 48:1a . . Some time afterward, Joseph was told "Your father is ill"

The Hebrew word for "ill" is chalah (khaw-law') and can mean not only sick, but also weak (Judg 16:17) sad (1Sam 22:8) suppliant (1Kgs 13:6) injured (1Kgs 22:34) in pain (Jer 4:31) drunk (Hos 7:5) and evil: as disaster or misfortune. (Ecc 5:13)

†. Gen 48:1b . . So he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.

The visit was probably just a comfort call; like visiting a friend or relative at the hospital. I really don't think it was prompted by a fear that Jacob was going to die at any moment. Joseph's boys apparently came on their own, rather than by request, because Jacob wasn't expecting them; and what kid can resist a trip to grandpa's house.

The boys by this time were young men, having been born during the seven years of plenty, prior to the beginning of the seven years of famine (Gen 41:50). Jacob lived in Egypt at least seventeen years prior to this current event (Gen 47:28), and immigrated during the second year of the seven years of famine (Gen 45:6, Gen 45:11). So his grandsons Manasseh and Ephraim were both in their early twenties by now.

†. Gen 48:2 . .When Jacob was told "Your son Joseph has come to see you" Israel gathered his strength and sat up in bed.

No greetings or social graces are recorded from this meeting; though they must have occurred. Surely Jacob wouldn't just launch into a speech the moment his kin walked through the door. How weird would that be; especially since Joseph was Jacob's very favorite son? But Genesis skips over that part of the meeting, and without even so much as hinting how the topic came up at this point in the visit; just goes right to the meat of it.

The speech Jacob is going to make was probably one he had been rehearsing in his mind for some time as he sensed the nearness of his impending death; which would certainly serve to remind him that he was running out of time; so if he was ever going to get these things off his chest, he better do it at the very next opportunity, while he was able, because who really knows how many more opportunities one might have left?

People often put off important things-- e.g. making out their will --till sudden death, or the onset of dementia finally closes the door. Jacob had something important to say about his two grandsons, so it was fortuitous that they came along with their dad to visit grandpa that day.

†. Gen 48:3a . . And Jacob said to Joseph: El Shaddai appeared to me at Luz

El Shaddai-- the god who controls the laws of nature (cf. Col 1:17) --is also Yhvh because that's an appellation Genesis labels Him at Bethel (Gen 28:13). And an appellation Jacob labeled Him too, at the very same site. (Gen 28:16-20)

Luz is Bethel (Gen 28:10-19, Gen 35:6-7). That location was an especially sacred site for Jacob because it was his very first personal encounter with God. You know, hearing about God, and reading about God, and praying to God, just aren't the same as actually meeting God. Not the same at all. Head knowledge is one thing, personal experience is quite another; yes, quite, quite another. There's nothing like a close encounter with God to set someone's faith in concrete.

†. Gen 48:3b . . and He blessed me

At this point, Jacob paraphrases the essential elements of El Shaddai's Luz blessing, with the exception of one element which I would esteem even more valuable than the prosperity elements: God's ever-abiding companionship.

"Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." (Gen 28:15)

†. Gen 48:4 . . and said to me; "I will make you fertile and numerous, making of you a nation; and I will assign this land to your offspring to come for an everlasting possession."

Although Israel's possession of Palestine is eternal, their occupation of it isn't, as the Jews' past evictions have easily demonstrated.

Jacob's statement of the blessing is selective, and left out a couple of items; one of which is that God also assigned the land to Jacob himself, not just to his offspring (Gen 28:13) so God will have to resurrect Jacob in order to make good on that portion of the blessing.

Exactly how Ephraim and Manasseh felt about the next event in Jacob's life isn't stated; nor would they have had a say in it anyway as Jacob was the reigning paterfamilias at the time; and within his own clan, Jacob was only one step in rank below Yhvh.

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Gen 48:5-7


†. Gen 48:5-6 . . Now, your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, shall be mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine no less than Reuben and Simeon. Progeny born to you after them shall be yours; but they shall be recorded under the names of their brothers in their inheritance.

Jacob set a rather odd precedent by adopting his own two grandsons Manasseh and Ephraim; thus giving them tribal positions equal in rank to his twelve boys. Jacob did that in order to add two sons to Rachel's brood.

His motive for adopting Manasseh and Ephraim was in sympathy for his deceased wife being cut off during her child bearing years, which subsequently prevented her from having any more children of her own. Manasseh and Ephraim brought Rachel's total up to six, two boys of her own, two by her maid Bilhah, and two by Joseph's wife Asenath.

†. Gen 48:7 . . As I was returning from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan while we were still on the way, a little distance from Ephrath. So I buried her there beside the road to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).

This obscure bit of patriarchal prerogative has managed to evade the notice of modern Jewry as evidenced by their stubborn rejection of Christ as a valid candidate for David's throne on the basis that the boy didn't descend from Solomon biologically. By demanding a strictly biological connection to Solomon, they have effectively locked themselves into perpetual error; and have impudently, and shamefully, taken it upon themselves to overrule Jacob's precedent.

How do I know that Joseph adopted Mary's baby? Easy Peasy.

The Lord spoke to Joseph in a dream and ordered him to take part in naming Mary's child.

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus" (Matt 1:21)

Joseph obeyed.

"And he gave him the name Jesus." (Matt 1:25)

A child's name in those days wasn't chipped into stone until its father agreed. For example; John the Baptist's dad Zacharias was ordered to give his impending child the name of John.

"The angel said to him: your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John." (Luke 1:13-14)

And later on, "John" wasn't accepted until Zacharias gave his consent.

"So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. His mother answered and said: No; he shall be called John. But they said to her: There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name. So they made signs to his father— what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying: His name is John." (Luke 1:59-63)

Thus, by participating in the naming of Mary's baby, Joseph as much as declared himself to be its father.

"Isn't this Joseph's son? they asked." (Luke 4:22)

By law; he sure was. In point of fact, according to Luke 2:21 and Luke 2:27, Mary and Joseph stood together as parents when her baby was given the name Jesus. Luke identified them as Jesus' parents again at Luke 2:41 and Luke 2:48.

It was necessary that God instruct Joseph to follow Jacob's precedent in order to place Mary's baby in line for Solomon's throne because David's crown never passes down through Solomon's female descendants; no, only his males. Though Jesus is biologically connected to David via Heli and his daughter Mary, they are biologically connected to Solomon's brother Nathan; which, as far as the Davidic dynasty is concerned, isn't a valid path to the throne.

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Gen 48:8-14


†. Gen 48:8a . .When Israel

At this point, Genesis switches from Jacob's earthly name to his God-given name; viz: his spiritual name; probably because the first portion of the interview was personal business while the second half will be conducted in Jacob's official capacity as a prophet.

The Hebrew word for "prophet" is nabiy' (naw-bee') which just means an inspired man. Abel was a prophet (Luke 11:50-51) and Abraham was a prophet (Gen 20:7).

People needn't be high powered prognosticators like Isaiah to be prophets. Anybody whom God empowers with a degree of spiritual intuition is a prophet because prophets aren't necessarily predictors of the future, nor revealers of sacred secrets, but also just simply savvy in the knowledge of God.

Where did they get that savvy? From seminary and yeshiva? From rabbis and Sunday school teachers? No. From God's Spirit.

"Turn you at My reproof: behold: I will pour out My Spirit unto you, I will make known My words unto you." (Prv 1:23)

It was Moses' wish that all of Yhvh's people were prophets. (Num 11:29)

In the future, they will. (Ezek 36:24-27)

†. Gen 48:8b-10a . . saw the sons of Joseph, he asked: Who are these? They are the sons God has given me here; Joseph said to his father. Then Israel said: Bring them to me so I may bless them. Now Israel's eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see.

The leading cause of eyesight problems in older people is a condition known as Macular Degeneration. The cone cells within the human eye work hard all our lives, and when their waste products build up faster than the body can clear them, tiny yellow spots can form around the fovea. As a person ages, those plaques, along with leaky blood vessels, tend to interrupt normal rod and cone functioning.

When you add MD into the mix with cataracts, glaucoma, and stiffening of the lens, then the victim is really in a bad state of affairs; and in Jacob's day, there was absolutely nothing people could do about it.

I've heard young people say that old people are cute; and that's probably because of the grandpa/grandma charisma connected with senior citizens. Well; let me tell those youngsters something: getting old is neither fun nor cute; no, not at all. The aging process is cruel and disagreeable.

It disfigures our faces, puts bags under our eyes, diminishes our libido, thins our hair, dulls our hearing, misshapes our figures, makes us smell, sags our flesh, adds pounds where we don't want them, shrinks our muscles, stiffens our joints, weakens our stomach, recedes our gums, robs of us vitality and stamina, makes us look haggard, turns down the corners of our mouths giving us permanent frowns, and seriously diminishes our quality of life.

It would be difficult to believe that Jacob didn't recognize his own grandsons; but with failing eyesight, it's to be expected that he would require verbal authentication of their identities before proceeding with the sacred business at hand.

†. Gen 48:10b-12 . . So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them. And Israel said to Joseph: I never expected to see you again, and here God has let me see your children as well. Joseph then removed them from his knees, and bowed low with his face to the ground.

I seriously doubt the boys were sitting on Jacob's knees since they were grown men; but the wording suggests they had each taken a turn kneeling between Jacob's knees so he could embrace them and then got up and stepped back to let the other in. In the next sequence, the brothers likely knelt again, only this time one on either side, so Jacob could reach the tops of both their heads from a sitting position.

I'm guessing Joseph's bow was either a gesture of whole-hearted approval and/or submission to Jacob's position as the supreme, God-appointed patriarch over Yhvh's people at that time so that whatever Jacob says, goes, regardless of how anybody else in the family, including Joseph, might feel about it.

Would to God the elderly were treated with such respect nowadays. One of my favorite movie lines is from "Moonstruck" starring Cher and Nicolas Cage wherein the grandpa makes this statement at the breakfast table one morning prior to offering his son a father's advice. "I am old; and the old are not wanted. And if they say it, they have no weight."

In other words: the typical young person really doesn't care too much for an elderly person's opinions; nor even for their feelings. There was a time when my grown son would force me to give him room in a narrow hallway so he wouldn't have to shoulder me aside as we passed. He not only wouldn't yield to a senior citizen, but he wouldn't even yield to his own biological father; and to this day— in his thirties and no less inconsiderate, no less arrogant, and no less aggressive than when he was in college —actually has the chutzpah to regard himself a mature Christian man.

†. Gen 48:13-14 . . And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel's left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel's right hand, and brought them close to him. But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim's head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh's head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.

Jacob's inspired intuition guided his hands to the boy God wanted to have the higher rank in spite of the natural dictates of primogeniture.

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Gen 48:15-16


†. Gen 48:15a . .Then he blessed Joseph

All three men there that day were "Joseph" so the blessing wasn't really directed to Mr. Joseph himself alone but rather to his tribe as a unity.

†. Gen 48:15b . . saying: The god in whose ways my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the god who has been my shepherd from my birth to this day--

On the surface it might appear that God was Jacob's shepherd beginning at chapter 28, when he was on the lamb from Esau; but in truth, God was Jacob's shepherd from day one, beginning with Rachel's pregnancy in chapter 25 when God decreed the elder would serve the younger.

That's an interesting note; because it indicates that God foreknew each and every human being who would value spiritual things; and from eternity, he began making sure they survived any and all misfortune in order to take advantage of His salvation. (cf. Eph 1:4-5)

†. Gen 48:16a . .The Angel

Referring to God as an angel may be unusual; but certainly not disrespectful. The Old Testament patriarchs never did see The True God in person; they encountered only representations and apparitions either as voices, fire, wind, smoke, or human forms. Those served as proxies for God, and as such, had to be worshipped and respected as God.

The "angel of The Lord" appears many, many times in the Old Testament and really means: the messenger of the Lord; which of course we know by now at this point in Genesis was actually the rather curious divine being whose name is his master's.

†. Gen 48:16b . . who has redeemed me from all evil--

The word "redemption" is often associated with salvation from the wrath of God; but it primarily means to rescue, spare, and/or provide for and protect. (e.g. Gen 38:6-10, Lev 25:25, Lev 25:47-49, and Ruth 3:1-4:12)

†. Gen 48:16c . . may He bless the lads.

Jacob himself was blessed by The Angel in Gen 32:24-29.

Webster's defines "bless" as 1) to speak well of; viz: approve, 2) to confer prosperity or happiness upon, 3) to protect, to preserve, 4) to endow, and 5) to favor.

I suppose there's a middle ground somewhere between blessing and cursing, which could probably be labeled a zone of indifference: but in regards to God, indifference is dangerously close to a curse because where there's indifference, there's no blessing. Some might consider indifference a blessing in itself, but personally I would far rather be blessed than ignored. To be ignored is to be neglected, and in regards to matters of eternal consequence; that can't be a good thing.

†. Gen 48:16d . . And may my name live on in them, and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;

Jacob certainly got his wish. The Israelites have survived some pretty extreme genocidal attempts on their existence, but they're still here, and in them, the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have remained famous; and a perpetual reminder of the Bible's God.

What is the purpose of Yhvh's people anyway? To chafe and annoy the world with their arrogance and their superiority complexes and their famous master-race mentality? No, they hold the distinction of being the one political body on earth who's sacred duty is to prevent the knowledge of God from becoming lost forever; a virtual human depository of divine revelation.

"Moses was in the assembly in the desert, with The Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us." (Acts 7:38)

"the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God." (Rom 3:2)

What Jacob conferred upon Manasseh and Ephraim wasn't just the dubious fortune to be identified with the world's most famous patriarchs, but rather, the solemn duty of perpetuating the patriarchs' religion too. That's a heavy responsibility; one that Esau himself scoffed, and finally traded for a temporary pleasure.

Identification with Israel is not something to brag about; rather, it's something to be frightened about.

"Hear this word, O people of Israel, that Yhvh has spoken concerning you, concerning the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt: You alone have I singled out of all the families of the earth-- that is why I will call you to account for all your iniquities." (Amos 3:1-2)

In other words; people called to an association with the Bible's God are held to a higher standard than outsiders.

†. Gen 48:16e . . And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.

The Hebrew word for "grow" is dagah (daw-gaw'); which means to spawn.

Webster's defines "spawn" as: to produce young; especially in large numbers.

Curiously, this one verse is the only instance in the entire Old Testament where dagah appears.

Increasing by spawning is quite a bit different than increasing by other means like adoption or naturalizing; so the blessing of spawning that Jacob conferred upon the two men is somewhat similar to the blessing of fertility that God conferred upon Adam and his wife at the very beginning. (Gen 1:27-28)

Being fruitful just means being fertile, and doesn't automatically imply generating a multitude, whereas spawning implies both fertility and massive numbers of offspring together. As an example of the proliferation implied by spawning; Coho salmon lay an average of 3,096 eggs per fish in just one run upriver.

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Gen 48:17-22


†. Gen 48:17-19a . .When Joseph saw that his father was placing his right hand on Ephraim's head, he thought it an error; so he took hold of his father's hand to move it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's. Not so, Father; Joseph said to his father; for the other is the firstborn; place your right hand on his head. But his father objected, saying: I know, my son, I know.

Joseph himself was an inspired man; so you'd think he'd instantly perceive that Jacob's prioritizing Ephraim over Manasseh was from God; but didn't. That's curious, and tells me that inspired people aren't always 100% inspired all the time. Inspiration is, after all, a Divine prerogative rather than a personal talent. God is under no one's beck and call; and inspired people are able to understand certain things only as God himself decides when, where, and how to get in their heads and clear things up.

For example according to 1John 2:26-27 all believers are endowed with a special anointing that enables them to grasp God's meanings; but does that mean they can get by on their own without Spirit-empowered Bible teachers? No. It's via Spirit-empowered Bible teachers that God communicates His meanings. (Eph 4:11-15)

†. Gen 48:19b . . He too shall become a people, and he too shall be great. Yet his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall be plentiful enough for nations.

This is now the third instance in Genesis where the right of the firstborn is seen transferred to a younger sibling. The first instance was Jacob and Esau, and the second was Joseph and Reuben. The important lesson to be learned from this is that in the Bible, the male born first isn't eo ipso the firstborn. That may seem trivial but when its applied to Christ, it's a really big deal.

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." (Col 1:14-15)

Was Christ the first human born in all creation? No; Adam was; and there was a time when Adam was the creation's senior patriarch; but not any more. That honor has been transferred to Christ so that there is not a man on earth superior to that one. (Dan 7:13-14, Matt 28:18, Php 2:9-11)

†. Gen 48:20-22 . . So he blessed them that day, saying: By you shall Israel invoke blessings, saying: God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh. Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. Then Israel said to Joseph: I am about to die; but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers. And now, I assign to you one portion more than to your brothers, which I wrested from the Amorites with my sword and bow.

There exists no specific Biblical record of Jacob's own personal conquest of Canaanite peoples; so what Jacob is doing here is apparently predicting Joshua's conquest of Canaan as something so certain to take place that he could speak of it as an historical fact already accomplished; similar to the manner in which the apostle John reported many of his visions in the book of Revelation as having taken place as he watched them.

Jacob was an inspired man, so it shouldn't surprise anyone if he was permitted a vision of his offspring's future successes in Palestine. Whatever Joshua was to conquer in later years, would certainly be credited to Jacob's sword and bow just as surely as if he'd been there and led the attacks himself because it was his own blood kin who eventually did all of it, which would be in keeping with his prediction that "God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers." Joseph's body returned to the land as a mummy. But the prediction is a reality: Joseph will return to the land some day, not just to be buried, but to take up residence. (Ezk 37:1-14, Dan 12:1-2, Heb 11:8-16)

The "one portion more than to your brothers" was in keeping with the custom of the firstborn son inheriting a double portion of his father's estate.

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Gen 49:1-7


†. Gen 49:1-4 . . And Jacob summoned his sons and said: Come together that I may tell you what is to befall you in days to come. Assemble and hearken, O sons of Jacob; hearken to Israel your father:

. . . Reuben, you are my first-born, my might and first fruit of my vigor, exceeding in rank and exceeding in honor. Unstable as water, you shall excel no longer; for when you mounted your father's bed, you brought disgrace-- my couch he mounted!


Reuben was clearly a reckless, impetuous individual ruled by the passions and impulses of human nature rather than better judgment. Compare Isa 57:20 where the ocean is depicted subject to the forces of nature rather than under its own control.

The affair to which Jacob referred occurred in Gen 35:22. Even today in modern industrial societies, it is not only unthinkable for a man to sleep with one of his father's wives; but even with one of his girlfriends. True, Bilhah and Jacob weren't officially married but still, she was the legal mother of two Israeli tribal heads: Dan and Naphtali.

Because of his illicit tryst, Reuben lost the firstborn's position (1Chrn 5:1) demonstrating once again that the biblical rank of firstborn isn't restricted to the son born first, but is a transferable status that can be bestowed upon a younger male sibling.

†. Gen 49:5 . . Simeon and Levi are a pair; their weapons are tools of lawlessness.

With Rueben demoted, Simeon would have been next in primogeniture, and after him; Levi. But the two men are alike as peas in a pod and brothers in arms-- they're both criminals who simply cannot be trusted to conduct themselves in a manner befitting the honor and the dignity properly associated with the position of Israel's firstborn. If Reuben was water, then Simeon and Levi are leaky boats with no oars, no sail, no rudder, and no compass.

Ironically, Levi produced Aaron, Israel's line of high priests; and the whole tribe of Levi is exempt from war though they were sired by a bloody man. It would appear then, that the office of Israel's firstborn is far more sacred than any of the Levitical priests, including the Aaronic category.


NOTE: Moses descended from Levi. (Ex 2:1-10)

†. Gen 49:6a . . Let not my person be included in their council, let not my being be counted in their assembly.

Simeon and Levi were not the kind of people from whom a sensible person would deem it wise to seek advice and counsel. In other words; they were a bad influence.

Jacob's initial reaction to the murders committed by two of his eldest sons back in chapter 34 was one of concern for his family's safety, and the effect the deed had upon his reputation in those parts. Not till now does he excoriate the two men for their conduct; and the denunciation is severe.

†. Gen 49:6c . . For when angry they slay men, and when pleased they maim oxen.

Simeon and Levi not only committed malicious murders; but also took satisfaction in cruelty to animals. People like that always justify their cruelty by saying they're teaching the animal a lesson and/or breaking it of a bad habit. But in their case it's a lie. They're just heartless and violent; that's all.

One could almost excuse Cain for murdering his kid brother in a fit of rage because in his day there were no divine prohibitions against murder and/or manslaughter. But Simeon and Levi had no excuse. They didn't act upon a sudden provocation, and both of those men knew full well God prohibited murder and manslaughter because they lived many years after grandpa Noah came off the ark. (cf. Gen 9:5-6)

By all rights, Jacob should have had those two sons of his executed for what they did back in Shechem; but like they say: blood is thicker than water. Jacob let them get away with murder because they're kin, which is the sin of partiality; defined by Webster's as inclined to favor one party over another; viz: bias.

†. Gen 49:7 . . Cursed be their anger so fierce, and their wrath so relentless. I will divide them in Jacob, scatter them in Israel.

Jacob was speaking for Yhvh in the last sentence; and the purpose of dividing and scattering was apparently to make it all the more difficult for the two tribes to unite in a dastardly cause.

Jacob cursed only his sons' anger rather than the sons-- actually, their category of anger; which he described as fierce and relentless.

Webster's defines "fierce" as a behavior exhibited by humans and animals that inspires terror because of the wild and menacing aspect of fury in attack. Ferocity is an aspect commonly seen among roaring, snarling lions savagely attacking prey. There's neither sportsmanship nor sympathy in ferocity; only sheer terror, brutality, and blood lust.

Webster's defines "relentless" as: 1) not softening or yielding in determination; viz: tough, hard, and stern, and 2) not letting up or weakening in vigor or pace; viz: constant, persistent.

The wrath of God is depicted in much the same way. (Isa 13:9)

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Gen 49:8-15


†. Gen 49:8 . .You, O Judah, your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the nape of your foes; your father's sons shall bow low to you.

Reuben was the original ranking brother, then the position passed to Joseph, and finally to the family of Judah's grandson David; and that's where it remains to this day. (Ps 89:20-27)

†. Gen 49:10a . .The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the scepter from between his feet

Refer to: 2Sam 7:16, 2Sam 23:5, Ps 85:35-38, Ps 89:4 , and Ps 89:30

†. Gen 49:10b . . And the homage of peoples be his.

The "peoples" of that verse are non Jews; viz: Gentiles. The jurisdiction of Davidic monarchs is normally limited to their own country, among their fellow Jews; but one is coming in Judah's family who will one day rule the entire world. (Dan 7:13-14 and Ps 2:7-9)

This next prediction is the scariest one of all.

†. Gen 49:11 . . He washes his garment in wine, his robe in blood of grapes.

See: Isa 63:1-6, and Rev 19:15-16

†. Gen 49:13 . . Zebulun shall dwell by the seashore; he shall be a haven for ships, and his flank shall rest on Sidon.

Zebulun never did actually occupy a Mediterranean shore (Josh 19:10-16) but their proximity to the coast, via the territory of Ashur, gave them opportunity to earn their livings in sea related trades like stevedoring, ship building, and possibly crews on fishing vessels and cargo ships owned and operated by the Philistines and Phoenicians.

Zebulun's flank didn't extend to the coastal city named Sidon, but to a region generally known as Sidonia-- which included the city of Trye --a territory often labeled Sidon for short.

†. Gen 49:14-15 . . Issachar is a strong-boned burro, crouching among the sheepfolds. When he saw how good was security, and how pleasant was the country, he bent his shoulder to the burden, and became a toiling serf.

Men like Zebulun, and Issachar are the invisible people. They don't want much out of life; and they're never really in the news as movers and shakers; the paparazzi don't follow them around, nor are they among the rich, famous, and powerful. Zebulun, and Issachar represent the blue collar labor force, the non-professional working men and women who make a country productive in goods and services.

Unfortunately, the two tribes, on the whole, believed in peace at any price, and were wont to trade their independence for corvee labor in order to avoid conflict with overlords and invaders-- the two notable exceptions being Zebulun's response when mustered for duty with Gideon (Judg 6:35) and the two tribes responses when mustered by Barak (Judg 5:14-15) but they rarely took the initiative to go on the offensive.

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Gen 49:16-21


†. Gen 49:16 . . Dan shall govern his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.

That prediction alludes to Dan's autonomous attitude towards the other tribes. In point of fact, Dan's tribe didn't join forces with the others in the north to help repel oppressors. (Judg 5:17)

A good example of Dan's autonomous attitude is Mr. Samson. During his tenure as a Judge in Israel (Judg 13:1-16:31) Samson never mustered an army nor led his own men in a charge up a San Juan hill. He fought alone, and he died alone; and seemed to prefer it that way. Definitely neither a commander nor a team player.

†. Gen 49:17 . . Dan shall be a serpent by the road, a viper by the path, that bites the horse's heels so that his rider is thrown backward.

A number of poisonous snakes-- e.g. rattlesnakes --don't hunt for food by chasing their prey in racy pursuit but choose rather to coil up and patiently wait along the edges of paths for something to come along. They're typically sluggish on the move but very speedy on the strike. Rattlers, especially, are powerful strikers that don't even have to clamp down to bite. Their strike inertia is powerful enough to drive their fangs into a target's flesh like sewing needles.

When rattlers bite large animals like horses, it's not for food, but generally a reflexive response to a perceived threat; which suggests that Dan's tribe would have hair-trigger tempers that flair up at every provocation-- real or imagined --totally surprising the objects of their fury. People like that are extremely reactive: they're never rational and objective, no, they are emotional, thin-skinned and easily insulted; they get mad over nothing, and every disagreement is an act of war.

It's conceivable that the viper-ish nature of Dan's tribe reminded Jacob of Gen 3:15's prediction to crush the head of the Serpent who caused Man's ruin; and possibly prompted his next remark.

†. Gen 49:18 . . I wait for your deliverance, O Lord!

Everyone becomes curious at one time or another how the Old Testament's luminaries were saved prior to Christ's crucifixion. Well, the interesting thing is: they were all aware that Christ was on the way.

"Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow." (1Pet 1:10-11)

A prophet is simply an inspired man-- the earliest known were Abel (Luke 11:50-51) Enoch (Jude 1:14) Noah (2Pet 2:5) and Abraham. (Gen 20:7)

In other words: pre-crucifixion believers looked forward to Christ, while post-crucifixion believers look back.

"Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad." (John 8:56)

†. Gen 49:19 . . Gad shall be raided by raiders, but he shall raid at their heels.

Gad's tribe, along with Rueben and Manasseh, chose to settle on the wrong side of the Jordan River instead of crossing over into Canaan (Num 32:1-32). Their decision effectively isolated them from the other nine tribes and left their eastern flank vulnerable to desert marauders; which were more nuisance than anything else as Gad's tribe were competent warriors and able to hold their own. (cf. 1Chrn 5:18)

Though the major portion of Christ's ministry was confined within the national borders of Israel, he crossed over the Jordan on occasion to visit the three tribes on the east side (Matt 11:21, Mark 6:45). Gad was the region of the famous swine-herd suicide. (Mark 5:1-13)

†. Gen 49:20 . . Asher's bread shall be rich, and he shall yield royal dainties.

Asher's tribe was apportioned land bordering Zebulun and Naphtali, along the Mediterranean coastline in the region of ancient Tyre. The area was famed for its fertility (Deut 33:24). Ashur was located in a Phoenician stronghold of political and commercial activity. The phrase "he shall yield royal dainties" possibly alludes to the tribe's best produce being sold to supply the homes of Phoenician dignitaries.


NOTE: This chapter in Genesis wasn't recorded in prose, but rather, Hebrew poetry, making it difficult, if not impossible, for translators to correctly interpret some of Jacob's sayings. The poem contains tricky metaphors rather than clear facts; which only complicates the section even more.

†. Gen 49:21 . . Naphtali is a hind let loose, which yields lovely fawns.

A hind is a female of the red deer species-- males are harts. (e.g. Ps 42:1)

Red deer aren't a domestic breed; so the metaphor refers to a captured hind being returned to the wild rather than butchered for its meat. Apparently, this particular hind was pregnant when captured, and the hunter knew the unborn would certainly die if he killed their mother. By returning the expectant hind to the field, the hunter helped assure the survival of local herds; and he no doubt intended to hunt the fawns as adults in the future. That was not only humane, but also a very wise conservation measure too.

Exactly what Jacob meant to convey by this metaphor is difficult to ascertain with confidence. It could be that Naphtali's people exhibited artifice, artistry, intelligence, abilities and aptitudes that their enemies would recognize as far too valuable to waste by just indiscriminately killing them off in wholesale slaughter simply to seize their lands and goods.

As an example; some of Nazi Germany's scientists were brought to American and became very useful in developing the USA's rocket science, and subsequently NASA's space program. What if the US had executed those scientists because they were responsible for the buzz bombs that devastated London? No, sometimes human resources are well worth the restraint to spare them.


NOTE: Barak, an ordinary man recruited by Deborah to become a military commander, was of Naphtali. (Judg 4:4-5:31)

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Gen 49:22-33


†. Gen 49:22 . . Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.

Jacob's assessment of Joseph is similar to the assessment of a blessed man in the very first Psalm.

"Blessed is the man who has not followed the counsel of the wicked, nor taken the path of sinners, nor joined the company of the insolent; rather, Yhvh's teaching is his delight, and he studies that teaching day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, whose foliage never fades, and whatever it produces thrives."

†. Gen 49:23 . . Archers bitterly assailed him; they shot at him and harried him.

The "archers" in that sentence are the kind who wait in ambush.

Well, that certainly happened to Joseph. He was totally ambushed by his very own brothers, and then later on, ambushed by Potipher's wife. But he escaped them all. They thought to ruin Joseph, but he prospered instead.

†. Gen 49:24-25a . .Yet his bow stayed taut, and his arm were made firm by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob-- there is the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel --the God of your father who helps you, and Shaddai who blesses you

It is so easy to admire Joseph's perseverance in the face of overwhelming adversity while overlooking the real reason behind his success. It was Yhvh's providence all the way. Left to himself, it's very likely Joseph would have been dead before he was thirty years old; either by murder, execution, or suicide.

†. Gen 49:25 . .With blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lurk below, blessings of the breast and womb.

Those blessings consist of rain, dew, and abundant water resources; all of which depict fruitfulness of the soil and the fecundity of both man and beast.

†. Gen 49:2 6. .Your father's blessings surpassed the blessings of my ancestors, to the utmost bounds of the eternal hills. May they rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the elect of his brothers.

Compare Deut 33:13-17 where Manasseh and Ephraim are indirect recipients of Joseph's blessings, and will apparently conquer and colonize quite a bit of the earth some day in the future.

Jacob pronounced Joseph the "elect" of his brothers not out of a spirit of favoritism, but out of a spirit of prophecy. You can easily tell that Yhvh is micro-managing the entire meeting.

Compared to man, the hills really are eternal; viz: perpetual from one generation to another. Jacob's ancestors included Abel, Seth, and Noah. They were good men but none of them inherited the promises God made to Abraham; which are promises just as eternal as the hills; if not more so.

†. Gen 49:27 . . Benjamin rends in pieces, like a wolf-- in the morning he consumes the prey, and in the evening he apportions the booty.

That is hardly the picture of a peaceful, agrarian society. Israel used to be a land of milk and honey (Ex 3:8) and you have to wonder what on earth happened that caused the transformation of a tribe of herders and farmers into human predators.

As a testament to the cruel nature of the tribe of Benjamin, Israel's first king-- ego-driven, selfish Mr. Saul --came from there. (1Sam 9:1-2)

The nightmarish events of Judges 19 and 20 took place in Benjamin's borders and led to the tribe's decimation in a brief civil war.

†. Gen 49:28 . . All these were the tribes of Israel, twelve in number, and this is what their father said to them as he bade them farewell, addressing to each a parting word appropriate to him.

Numbering the tribes of Israel is tricky because Jacob has twelve birth sons, and two adopted sons; which adds up to fourteen. But the tribes are always listed so that the numbering comes out to twelve. Compare the list at Rev 7:5-8 where everybody but Dan and Ephraim are named so that the number again comes out to twelve. The same strange numbering system was employed in counting the Lord's apostles. Even after Judas was eliminated, they were still referred to as the twelve. (1Cor 15:5)

†. Gen 49:29-33 . .Then he instructed them, saying to them: I am about to be gathered to my kin. Bury me with my fathers in the cave which is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave which is in the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre, in the land of Canaan, the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site-- there Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried; there Isaac and his wife Rebecca were buried; and there I buried Leah --the field and the cave in it, bought from the Hittites.

. . .When Jacob finished his instructions to his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and, breathing his last, he was gathered to his kin.


The phrase "gathered to his kin" is an action separate from being buried side by side with kin in a cemetery. Jacob was gathered to his kin immediately upon expiration, but wasn't buried with them till more than seventy days after his demise.

According to Christ, though Jacob's flesh expired many centuries ago in Egypt, he continues to exist somewhere else.

"But now, as to whether the dead will be raised-- even Moses proved this when he wrote about the burning bush. Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, he referred to Yhvh as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. So He is the God of the living, not the dead. They all live unto Him." (Luke 20:37-38)

There is a region in the netherworld where faithful Israelites were at one time warehoused waiting for the resurrection of their bodies. (e.g. Luke 16:19-31, cf. Matt 17:1-9)

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Gen 50:1-3


†. Gen 50:1 . . Joseph threw himself upon his father's face and wept over him and kissed him.

It almost looks like Joseph smothered his dad; but in reality that scene was probably a bit difficult to put in writing because there's so much emotion. I think what we're actually looking at there is a one last cheek-to-cheek farewell with Joseph clutching his father's hand; and I would not have liked to be in the room when it took place because Joseph was terribly broken up by his dad's passing.

The word for "wept" is bakah (baw-kaw') and means not just to weep, but to bemoan; which Webster's defines as: to express deep grief and/or distress. Deep grief is what people undergo when they experience loss.

If there is one salient characteristic of Jacob's family, I would have to say it was a lack of affection. Joseph seemed the only one in the entire home who was truly bonded with his dad. His siblings were somehow detached; and I think that the multiplicity of their mothers might have something to do with that.

When I found out that my own dad had two sons besides me by two other women, it destroyed any notion I had of feeling special in my own home; especially when the only son my dad was ever really proud of was one that didn't even live with us; but with whom my dad stayed in contact over the years without telling me.

†. Gen 50:2 . .Then Joseph ordered the physicians in his service to embalm his father, and the physicians embalmed Israel.

It is apparently well known that mummification, with all its elaborate ritual, played a crucial role in Egyptian religion and was bound up with the cult of Osiris and concepts of the afterlife. Survival of death was taken for granted by the Egyptians. Central to this notion was the belief in the importance of the physical preservation of the deceased's body. They took meticulous care to prevent the putrefaction of the corpse in order to ensure the right of the dead to immortality.

I seriously doubt Egypt's religion played a role in Joseph's decision to embalm his dad. His reason was simply one of practicality. The body was to be transported to Palestine for burial, and if care wasn't taken to preserve it, poor old Jacob would be in a terrible state of decay by the time they arrived; and very smelly too.

Joseph's own personal physicians performed the task rather than professional morticians, thus assuring nobody would come around to defile Jacob with pagan rituals, garments, and/or enchantments and spiritual potions. Jacob's life, and afterlife, were fully consecrated to Yhvh; and no pagan deities were permitted an attempt to claim a share of his future. (cf. Jude 1:9)

†. Gen 50:3 . . It required forty days, for such is the full period of embalming. The Egyptians bewailed him seventy days

I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the bewailing wasn't mandatory like that of North Korea's when Kim Jong Il passed. Citizens of that country are not only denied the freedom of speech, but they don't even have the freedom of tears.

There exists no information about embalming procedures from Joseph's era but there is some available from the fifth century BC and from the late Hellenistic period. Herodotus (Histories 2.86) reports that bodies were soaked in niter (potassium nitrate) for seventy days.

Diodorus of Sicily (Histories 1.91) describes a thirty-day dressing of the corpse with oils and spices and seventy-two days of public mourning for a king. That practice probably corresponds to the American flag being raised at half mast for deceased dignitaries and notable personages.

Jacob was afforded royal honors no doubt brought about by Josephs' influence, and his connections with Egypt's aristocrats; sort of like John F. Kennedy Jr's burial at sea from the US Navy's Spruance class destroyer USS Briscoe.

J.F.K. Jr. never served in the US military, nor in any Federal civil service capacity whatsoever; ergo: he certainly did not merit burial at sea from a US Navy vessel; but the Kennedy dynasty is very influential, and well connected; and has been for a good many years beginning with patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. That just goes to show that there's undue advantages to being connected in this world.

Anyway, under his son Joseph's auspices, Jacob's was the most grandiose funeral of any of Israel's primary patriarchs, including Abraham the paterfamilias of the entire family.

†. Gen 50:4a . . and when the wailing period was over, Joseph spoke to Pharaoh's court

It's curious that Joseph didn't meet with Pharaoh in person; I mean, after all, Joseph was second in command over the entire country of Egypt, and certainly outranked all of Pharaoh's courtiers. It's guessed by some that in the Egypt of Joseph's day, a dead man's close kin were deemed unfit to approach a Pharaoh. Whether it was for religious reasons, or just simply customary propriety is unknown.

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Gen 50:4-9


†. Gen 50:4a-5a . . saying; Do me this kindness, and lay this appeal before Pharaoh: "My father made me swear, saying; I am about to die. Be sure to bury me in the grave which I made ready for myself in the land of Canaan."

Apparently some time in the past, prior to his immigration to Egypt, Jacob spent some time in Abraham's cemetery preparing a spot in it for his own burial so that his surviving kin only had to take him there-- no muss, no fuss, no money problems, and no legal hassles. It's a good idea for people to make arrangements for their own burials rather than leaving it all up to the inconvenience of their kin.

†. Gen 50:5b . . Now, therefore, let me go up and bury my father; then I shall return.

It's quite probable that Joseph's assurance of his return anticipated Pharaoh's anxiety that Joseph might stay back in the land with his brothers if permitted to leave the country and thus The Man would lose the services of not only his kingdom's best cattle ranchers but also the services of an extraordinarily capable bureaucrat.

†. Gen 5:6 . . And Pharaoh said: Go up and bury your father, as he made you promise on oath.

Pharaoh's choice of words, though inadvertent, were quite appropriate. Travel to Israel is to go "up" and to leave it is to go down. Israel is biblically regarded as the top of the mountains. (Isa 2:2-3)

†. Gen 50:7-8 . . So Joseph went up to bury his father; and with him went up all the officials of Pharaoh, the senior members of his court, and all of Egypt's dignitaries, together with all of Joseph's household, his brothers, and his father's household; only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the region of Goshen.

Leaving the children and the flocks back in Egypt was not only a practical consideration but served to reassure Pharaoh that Joseph and his family fully intended to return as he had promised; which sort of reminds me of a scene in Goodbye Girl when Richard Dreyfuss leaves his guitar behind when he goes to a new acting job to assure Marsha Mason he'll be back.

When people pick up and move; lock, stock, and barrel; you pretty much know they aren't coming back; which is probably why a later-to-come Pharaoh wouldn't let Moses go to worship with everything his people possessed. (Ex 10:24)

Precisely why Pharaoh's courtiers, and all of Egypt's dignitaries came along is hard to understand unless protocol and custom demanded they pay their respects because of Joseph's rank. Though he wasn't really a home boy, Joseph's marriage to the daughter of the priest of On, and his Pharaoh-given name of Tsophnath Pa'neach, made him a naturalized Egyptian; and he was entitled to just as much of the nation's respect afforded its native sons.


NOTE: I've heard it said that the reason half of us go to funerals is to pay our respects to people we couldn't be bothered with when they were alive.

†. Gen 50:9 . . Chariots, too, and horsemen went up with him; it was a very large troop.

The unit of fighting men was no doubt to safeguard all the dignitaries. Palestine was a frontier in those days; and a caravan of aristocrats would be a really tempting target for brigands.

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Gen 50:10-21


†. Gen 50:10 . .When they came to Gorena ha-Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they held there a very great and solemn lamentation; and he observed a mourning period of seven days for his father.

A geographic location described as "beyond the Jordan" suggests the east side of the river but the term is ambiguous and can just as easily mean west (e.g. Deut 3:18-20).

The Hebrew word for Gorena is goren (go'-ren) which identifies smooth places; e.g. threshing floors or any cleared space like a parade ground. Judging by the size of Joseph's cortege, I'd have to say Gorena ha-Atad comprised some appreciable acreage.

Seven days became a traditional period of Jewish mourning (e.g. 1Sam 31:13, Job 2:13)

†. Gen 50:11 . . And when the Canaanite inhabitants of the land saw the mourning at Goren ha-Atad, they said; This is a solemn mourning on the part of the Egyptians. That is why it was named Abel-mizraim, which is beyond the Jordan.

Abel-mizraim means Meadow of the Egyptians. Unfortunately, it's precise location has been lost in antiquity.

†. Gen 50:12-14 . .Thus his sons did for him as he had instructed them. His sons carried him to the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, the field near Mamre, which Abraham had bought for a burial site from Ephron the Hittite. After burying his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.

If Joseph and his brothers were aware of the prediction Yhvh made to Abraham back in Gen 15:13-14, then they probably returned to Egypt with heaviness knowing in advance the slavery and the oppression in store for their progeny.

†. Gen 50:15 . .When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said: What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrong that we did him?

Where did they get the idea that Joseph was bearing any grudge at all, let alone "still" bearing a grudge? You know what they did? They did just what Laban did to Jacob back in chapter 31 when he threatened Jacob with Divine retribution if he abused Rachel and Leah or dumped them for other women.

Jacob had worked for Laban, on his ranch, up close and personal for twenty years and never gave Laban one single reason to either believe, or suspect that Jacob might do unkind things to his wives. In other words: Laban projected; that is: he assumed everyone was like himself. Now that's an ego!

Joseph's brothers had a wicked conscience. It wasn't beyond them to project their own base motives upon everybody else and assume everybody else would do the very same things they themselves would do in their place. They totally brushed aside the gracious reception they received in Joseph's house back in chapter 45 and replaced his hospitality with their own corrupt imaginations; not to mention the seventeen years just past when they lived a very good life in Egypt under Joseph's generous auspices.

Nobody's reputation is safe in the hands of people like that who fail to take into consideration someone's impeccable track record.

†. Gen 50:16-17a . . So they sent this message to Joseph: Before his death your father left this instruction: So shall you say to Joseph; Forgive, I urge you, the offense and guilt of your brothers who treated you so harshly. Therefore, please forgive the offense of the servants of the God of your father.

That is one of the most bold, bare-faced lies in the entire Bible. If Jacob had desired Joseph to let his brothers off like they said, he would have met with Joseph and said so himself in person rather than elect the brothers as his messengers posthumously.

†. Gen 50:17b . . And Joseph was in tears as they spoke to him.

The people referred to as "they" were not the brothers, but rather, the messengers they sent. I've not doubt whatsoever that Joseph suspected the message was a lie concocted by his brothers as a desperate measure to save their own skins. His disappointment in them for not trusting him must have been overwhelming. Joseph had never done even one single thing in his entire life to deliberately injure his brothers and this is how they react?

†. Gen 50:18-21 . . His brothers went to him themselves, flung themselves before him, and said: We are prepared to be your slaves. But Joseph said to them: Have no fear. Am I a substitute for God? Besides, although you intended me harm, God intended it for good, so as to bring about the present result-- the survival of many people. And so, fear not. I will sustain you and your children. Thus he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

They say repetition is an effective teaching aid; and it's probably because some people just don't pay attention. Joseph had already made a similar speech to his brothers once before already in chapter 45 and here he is having to do it all over again. Their lack of trust in his word as a man of honor and integrity is just unforgivable.

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Gen 50:22-26


†. Gen 50:22-26 . . So Joseph and his father's household remained in Egypt. Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. Joseph lived to see children of the third generation of Ephraim: the children of Machir, son of Manasseh, were likewise born upon Joseph's knees.

. . . At length, Joseph said to his kin: I am about to die. God will surely take notice of you and bring you up from this land to the land that He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. So Joseph made the children of Israel swear, saying: When God has taken notice of you, you shall carry up my bones from here.

. . . Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.


Josephs' "coffin" was probably an ornate mummy case; and kept in storage above ground in a special location sort of like a shrine or a memorial. As they say: Out of sight, out of mind. Keeping Joseph's remains perpetually on view would make it difficult for the people of Israel to forget him.

Did Joseph ever make it back home again? Yes; he finally did.

"Now the Israelites went up armed out of the land of Egypt. And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph, who had exacted an oath from the children of Israel, saying: God will be sure to take notice of you; then you shall carry up my bones from here with you." (Ex 13:18-19)

"The bones of Joseph, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought for a hundred kesitahs from the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, and which had become a heritage of Joseph's progeny." (Josh 24:32)

Genesis records Jacob purchasing the property (Gen 33:17-20). But Stephen said it was Abraham's transaction (Acts 7:15-16) which strongly suggests that the county recorder in the community of Shechem was a bit careless with his paperwork and let Abraham's deed slip through a crack; necessitating Jacob pay for the lot all over again; no doubt at a higher price the second time around.


-- The End --

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