Genesis 47:21
And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof.
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(21) He removed them to cities.—Joseph’s object in this measure was most merciful. As the corn was stored up in the cities, the people would be sure of nourishment only if they were in the immediate neighbourhood of the food. As a consequence, possibly, of Joseph’s policy, the number of cities in the Valley of the Nile became so enormous that Herodotus computes them at 20,000. Thus the people would not dwell at any distance from their lands, while it would be impossible for them to reside actually on their plots of ground, as these every year are overflowed by the Nile.

Genesis 47:21. He removed them, &c. — He transplanted them, to show Pharaoh’s sovereign power over them, and that they might, in time, forget their titles to their lands, and be the more easily reconciled to their new condition of servitude. How hard soever this seems to have been upon them, they themselves were sensible of it as a great kindness, and were thankful they were not worse used.

47:13-26 Care being taken of Jacob and his family, which mercy was especially designed by Providence in Joseph's advancement, an account is given of the saving the kingdom of Egypt from ruin. There was no bread, and the people were ready to die. See how we depend upon God's providence. All our wealth would not keep us from starving, if rain were withheld for two or three years. See how much we are at God's mercy, and let us keep ourselves always in his love. Also see how much we smart by our own want of care. If all the Egyptians had laid up corn for themselves in the seven years of plenty, they had not been in these straits; but they regarded not the warning. Silver and gold would not feed them: they must have corn. All that a man hath will he give for his life. We cannot judge this matter by modern rules. It is plain that the Egyptians regarded Joseph as a public benefactor. The whole is consistent with Joseph's character, acting between Pharaoh and his subjects, in the fear of God. The Egyptians confessed concerning Joseph, Thou hast saved our lives. What multitudes will gratefully say to Jesus, at the last day, Thou hast saved our souls from the most tremendous destruction, and in the season of uttermost distress! The Egyptians parted with all their property, and even their liberty, for the saving of their lives: can it then be too much for us to count all but loss, and part with all, at His command, and for His sake, who will both save our souls, and give us an hundredfold, even here, in this present world? Surely if saved by Christ, we shall be willing to become his servants.The seventh year is now come. The silver and cattle are now gone. Nothing remains but their lands, and with these themselves as the serfs of the soil. Accordingly they make this offer to Joseph, which he cannot refuse. Hence, it is evident that Pharaoh had as yet no legal claim to the soil. In primeval times the first entrants into an unoccupied country became, by a natural custom, the owners of the grounds they held and cultivated. The mere nomad, who roamed over a wide range of country, where his flocks merely cropped the spontaneous herbage, did not soon arrive at the notion of private property in land. But the husbandman, who settled on a promising spot, broke up the soil, and sowed the seed, felt he had acquired by his labor a title to the acres he had cultivated and permanently occupied, and this right was instinctively acknowledged by others. Hence, each cultivator grew into the absolute owner of his own farm. Hence, the lands of Egypt belonged to the peasantry of the country, and were at their disposal. These lands had now become valueless to those who had neither provisions for themselves nor seed for their ground. They willingly part with them, therefore, for a year's provision and a supply of seed. In this way the lands of Egypt fell into the hands of the crown by a free purchase. "And the people he removed into the cities." This is not an act of arbitrary caprice, but a wise and kind measure for the more convenient nourishment of the people until the new arrangements for the cultivation of the soil should be completed. The priestly class were sustained by a state allowance, and therefore, were not obliged to alienate their lands. Hence, they became by this social revolution a privileged order. The military class were also exempted most probably from the surrender of their patrimonial rights, as they were maintained on the crown lands.21. as for the people, he removed them to cities—obviously for the convenience of the country people, who were doing nothing, to the cities where the corn stores were situated. Under the cities are here comprehended the villages and lands belonging to the territory and government of each city; for the seed which he gave them was not to be sown in cities, but in the country: but the

cities only are here mentioned, because they were sent thither first, either for the conveniency of nourishing them during this famine out of the public storehouses which were there; or that they might all profess their subjection to the governments of the several cities, which was convenient for the management of that numerous and tumultuous people; or that the cities might be first and most replenished with inhabitants, as being the principal honour, and strength, and security of a kingdom, and that arts, and trades, and merchandise might flourish, without which the commodities of the country would have been of less price and use. But the cities being first supplied, the residue, which doubtless was vast, were dispersed in the country.

From one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof; far from their native soil and ancient patrimonies, that none of them might plead prescription, but that all might be forced to acknowledge that they owed their estates not to their own wit and industry, nor to their parents’ gift, but wholly to the king’s favour; and that the remembrance of their patrimonial lands might be worn out, and therewith the grief which would arise from their resentment of their loss of them, which probably would be matter of tumults and seditions, to which that people were very prone. And it is probable that he so disposed of this affair, that those who were apt, and likely, and used to unite together in seditious insurrections, whether kindred or others, should be separated one from another as far as might be. If any think that Joseph dealt hardly with them, and made an ill use of their necessity, he will see how moderately and mercifully he deals with them, Genesis 47:24.

And as for the people, he removed them,.... From the places where they dwelt, that it might appear they had no more property there, and might forget it, and be more willing to pay rent elsewhere; and their posterity hereafter could have no notion of its being theirs, or plead prescription; and besides, by such a removal and separation of the inhabitants of cities, some to one place, and some to another, sedition and mutiny might be prevented: he had them

to cities, from one end of the borders of Egypt, even unto the other end thereof; according to the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, those that dwelt in provinces, or in country towns and villages, he removed to cities, and those that dwelt in cities he removed into provinces, and placed them at the utmost distance from their former habitations, for the reasons before given; and the above Targums suggest another reason, to teach the Egyptians not to reproach the Israelites with being exiles and strangers, when they were all of them removed from their native places, and were strangers, where they were.

And as for the people, he {g} removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof.

(g) By this changing they signified that they had nothing of their own, but received everything from the king's generosity.

21. he removed them] Better, as Samar., Sept. and Vulg., he made bondmen of them, from &c. The reading in the text, followed by the R.V., in all probability is due to the recollection of Joseph’s policy of storing the grain in the cities, Genesis 41:35; Genesis 41:48. The reading of R.V. marg., which is that of the versions, differs extremely slightly from that of the Massoretic text. The verb “he removed” only differs from the verb “he enslaved” by one letter; the former having “R” (ר) and the latter “D” (ד); cf. Genesis 10:3-4. The latter gives a distinctly better sense. Genesis 47:20 has already described the sale of the land, and now Genesis 47:21 describes how the people became servants, or serfs, to Pharaoh. Thus Genesis 47:20-21 describe the carrying out of both parts of the people’s proposal in Genesis 47:19.

to the cities] R. V. marg. according to their cities. The rendering “to the cities” agrees with the verb “he removed.” But, with the preferable reading “he made bondmen,” we should here read “for slaves or serfs,” as LXX εἰς παῖδας. The difference in the Hebrew text, between “to the cities” and “for slaves,” is very slight.

There would have been no advantage to be derived from the redistribution of the people in the cities except for convenience in feeding them. They were needed to work the soil which now belonged to Pharaoh.

Verse 21. - And as for the people, he removed them - not enslaved them, converted them into serfs and bondmen to Pharaoh (LXX., Vulgate), but simply transferred them, caused them to pass over - to cities - not from cities to cities, as if changing their populations (Onkelos, Rosenmüller, Kalisch), but either from the country districts to the towns (Targums Jonathan and Jerusalem, Lange, Schumann, Gerlach, Murphy), or according to the cities, i.e. in which the grain had been previously collected (Keil) - from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof. Not that the people were transported from one side of the country to the other as a high stroke of policy to complete their subjugation (Jarchi, Grotius, Rosenmüller, Kalisch, and others), but that throughout the land they were moved into the nearest cities, as a considerate and even merciful arrangement for the more efficiently supplying them with food (Calvin, Keil, Lange, Wordsworth, Speaker's Commentary). Genesis 47:21Thus Joseph secured the possession of the whole land to Pharaoh by purchase, and "the people he removed to cities, from one end of the land of Egypt to the other." לערים, not from one city to another, but "according to ( equals κατά) the cities;" so that he distributed the population of the whole land according to the cities in which the corn was housed, placing them partly in the cities themselves, and partly in the immediate neighbourhood.
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