|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
46:28-34 It was justice to Pharaoh to let him know that such a family was come to settle in his dominions. If others put confidence in us, we must not be so base as to abuse it by imposing upon them. But how shall Joseph dispose of his brethren? Time was, when they were contriving to be rid of him; now he is contriving to settle them to their advantage; this is rendering good for evil. He would have them live by themselves, in the land of Goshen, which lay nearest to Canaan. Shepherds were an abomination to the Egyptians. Yet Joseph would have them not ashamed to own this as their occupation before Pharaoh. He might have procured places for them at court or in the army. But such preferments would have exposed them to the envy of the Egyptians, and might have tempted them to forget Canaan and the promise made unto their fathers. An honest calling is no disgrace, nor ought we to account it so, but rather reckon it a shame to be idle, or to have nothing to do. It is generally best for people to abide in the callings they have been bred to and used to. Whatever employment and condition God in his providence has allotted for us, let us suit ourselves to it, satisfy ourselves with it, and not mind high things. It is better to be the credit of a mean post, than the shame of a high one. If we wish to destroy our souls, or the souls of our children, then let us seek for ourselves, and for them, great things; but if not, it becomes us, having food and raiment, therewith to be content.
Verses 33, 34. - And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation? Pharaoh's inquiry was characteristically Egyptian, being rendered necessary by the strict distinction of castes that then prevailed. According to a law promulgated by Amasis, a monarch of the 26th dynasty, every Egyptian was obliged to give a yearly account to the monarch or State governor of how he lived, with the certification that if he failed to show that he possessed an honorable calling (δικαίην ζόην) he should be put to death (Herod., 2:177). That ye shall say, Thy servants' trade hath been about cattle (literally, men of cattle arc thy servants) from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen. Joseph probably desired his brethren to settle in Goshen for three reasons.
(1) It was suitable for their flocks and herds;
(2) it would secure their isolation from the Egyptians; and
(3) it was contiguous to Canaan, and would be easier vacated when the time arrived for their return. For every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians. These are obviously the words not of Joseph, but of the historian, and their accuracy is strikingly corroborated by Herodotus (2. 47, 164), who affirms that the swine-herds, one of the seven castes, classes, or guilds into which the Egyptians were divided, were regarded with such abhorrence that they were not allowed to enter a temple or contract marriage with any others of their countrymen; and by existing monuments, which show that though the statement of Josephus ('Ant.,' 2:07, 5) is incorrect that "the Egyptians were prohibited from meddling with the keeping of sheep,' yet those, who tended cattle were greatly despised, Egyptian artists evincing the contempt in which they were held by frequently representing them as either lame or deformed, dirty and unshaven, and sometimes of a most ludicrous appearance (vide Wilkinson, 'Ancient Egyptians,' vol. 2. p. 444, ed. 1878). It has been thought that the disrepute in which the shepherd guild was held by the Egyptians was attributable partly to the nature of their occupation, and partly to the feeling excited against them by the domination of the shepherd kings (Wilkinson, Wordsworth, Murphy, and others); but
(1) while this might account for their dislike to foreign shepherds, it would not explain their antipathy to native shepherds;
(2) if, as some think, Joseph's Pharaoh was one of the shepherd kings, it is not likely that this rooted prejudice against shepherds would then be publicly expressed, however violently it might afterwards explode;
(3) there is good reason for believing that the descent into Egypt occurred at a period much earlier than the shepherd kings. Hence the explanation of this singular antipathy to shepherds or wandering nomads has been sought in the fact that the Egyptians were essentially an agricultural people, who associated ideas of rudeness and barbarism with the very name of a shepherd (Hengstenberg, Keil, Kurtz), perhaps because from a very early period they had been exposed on their Eastern boundary to incursions from such nomadic shepherds (Rosenmüller), and perhaps also because from their occupation shepherds were accustomed to kill the animals held sacred by the other classes of the community (Kalisch).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you,.... Order them to come before him, to see them, and have some conversation with them:
and shall say, what is your occupation? or your works (c), their business and employment, whether they exercised any manufacture or handicraft, and what it was.
(c) "opus vestrum", Pagninus, Montanus, "opera vestra", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius.
Genesis 46:33 Parallel Commentaries
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