Genesis 47
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics

I. TESTIMONY TO POWER OF CHARACTER. Joseph's influence. The five brethren selected perhaps with a view to their appearance, and in the number five, which was regarded as a significant number among the Egyptians. The monarch's reception of the strangers due to Joseph's influence. Generally diffused. There is much graciousness in the heathen monarch, although partly to be ascribed to national characteristics, for the Egyptians were a very different race from the Canaanites; still we may believe that the conduct of Pharaoh was mostly due to the effect of Joseph's ministry and personal exemplification of the religious life. One true man is a great power in a country.

II. A conspicuous EXAMPLE of Divine grace. The old patriarch is presented. He plainly impressed the monarch as extremely aged, perhaps indicating that the centenarian was a great rarity then among heathen nations. His long life was a long course of gracious dealings. The effect of a religious life in prolonging the years is exemplified. It is said that since Christianity obtained its legitimate, or more of its legitimate influence in Europe, the average length of human life has been doubled. Yet, as Jacob confesses, he is not as old as his fathers. His life had been a pilgrimage in a wilderness. His days few and evil, compared with what they might have been. Seventeen years longer they were lengthened out - a testimony to the effect of peace and prosperity in preserving life when it is under the blessing of God. Jacob blessed Pharaoh. The less is blessed of the greater. The two princes stood face to face - the prince of God - the prince of Egypt.

III. A PROPHETIC PACT: the world shall be blessed through the heirs of the Divine promise. Jacob had much to be thankful for; and although he thanked God first, he teaches us by his example not to forget the claims of fellow-creatures in our gratitude, even though they be separated from us in faith and religion. - R.

Few and evil, yet 130 years; and how many blessings temporal and spiritual had been received during their course. We need not suppose him unthankful. But blessings do not of themselves make a man happy. Some worm may be at the root. And in Jacob's case early faults cast a shadow over his whole life. The remembrance of early deceit, his natural shrinking from danger, his family cares, his mourning for Rachel (Genesis 48:7) and for Joseph, gave a tinge of melancholy not entirely to be taken away even by receiving his son as it were from the dead. The retrospect of his life seemed that of a suffering man.

I. ABIDING SORROW IS THE FRUIT OF EARLY FAULTS, THOUGH REPENTED OF (1 Corinthians 15:9). It does not necessarily imply separation from God, or doubt of personal salvation. If "a godly sorrow," it works repentance, i.e. a more complete turning to God. But just as early neglect of the laws affecting bodily health produces a lasting effect, however carefully these laws may be attended to in after years, so neglect of God's moral and spiritual laws produces sorrow, varying in kind, and in the channel by which it comes, but bearing witness to the truth of God's unceasing watchfulness.

II. THE DISCIPLINE OF LIFE IS NOT IN ANGER, BUT FOR OUR PURIFICATION. Thus suffering may be a blessing. But for sorrow Jacob might have sunk into taking his ease. His besetting danger was worldly carefulness (Genesis 30:41). So sorrow, from outward circumstances or from inward reflection, often brings us nearer God. It teaches the vanity of earth that we may realize the blessedness of the inheritance above; that frail and weary we may cling more closely to the promises of the rest which remaineth (Hebrews 4:9).

III. THIS LIFE IS INTENDED TO BE A PILGRIMAGE, NOT A REST. Its blessedness consists not in present enjoyment, but in preparation for the rest to come (Luke 12:20, 21). We are reminded that there is a goal to be reached, a prize to be won (1 Corinthians 9:24; 1 Peter 1:3-9), and that the time is short, that we may put forth all our efforts (Ecclesiastes 9:10) to overcome Besetting faults and snares of worldliness. A pilgrim (Hebrews 11:14) is seeking a country not yet reached. The remembrance of this keeps the life Godward. True faith will work patience and activity; true hope will work cheerfulness under hindrances, and, if need be, under sufferings. And the love of Christ (John 14:2, 3), and the consciousness that we are his, will constrain us "to walk even as he walked." For what are you striving? to lade yourself with thick clay? To gain honor, renown, admiration, bodily enjoyment? or as a pilgrim (Numbers 10:29) walking in Christ's way, and doing Christ's work? - M.

I. A CONSUMMATION. Distinctly the act of Joseph, under the command of Pharaoh.

1. The fruit of righteousness reaped.

2. The fulfillment of God's word.

II. A NEW LIFE BASED UPON THE TESTIMONY OF DIVINE GRACE. The weak things have been proved mighty, the elect of God has been exalted. The "best of the land is for the seed of the righteous: The meek shall inherit the earth." Goshen the type of the Divine kingdom.

Genesis 47:13-26
Genesis 47:13-26. The policy of Joseph is faithfully employed for his monarch. The advantage taken of the people's necessities to increase the power of the throne is quite Eastern in its character - not commended to general imitation, but permitted to be carded out through Joseph, because it gave him greater hold upon the government, and perhaps wrought beneficially on the whole in that early period of civilization. The honor of the priesthood is a testimony to the sacredness which the Egyptians attached to religious persons and things. The earliest nations were the most religious, and there is no doubt that the universality of religion can be traced among the tribes of the earth. An atheistic nation never has existed, and never can exist, except as in France, at a revolutionary period, and for a short time. - R.

There is a touching beauty in this scene between the veteran Israel and the prosperous Joseph.

I. An illustration of HUMAN INFIRMITY. The supplanter, the prince of God, must succumb at last to the King of Terrors. "Israel must die." Yet he is not afraid of death.

II. STRENGTH IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS. Grace appears brightest at the end. His gray hairs have not been "brought with sorrow to the grave," although he feared they would. The lost son is the comforter of his last days; to him he commits his dust-to be laid with his fathers.

III. PERSEVERANCE IS NOT THE FRUIT OF MAN'S PERFECTION, BUT OF GOD'S MERCY. Jacob is faithful to the covenant spirit to the end, although in many respects his character was a mingled one. Yet he clung to the Divine word. Seventeen years could not wear out his love for the promised land. He knew the Solemnity of an oath, for had he not himself sworn and changed not? He would leave behind him in his last wishes a testimony which would help to keep his children faithful. "And Israel bowed himself upon the becks head." The LXX., and the Syriac, and the Itala versions, with the reference in Hebrews 11:21; by a slight change in the Hebrew vowels, have rendered the words "he worshipped upon the top of his staff - i.e. leaning on that which had borne him through his pilgrimage, and thus, as it were, declaring the long journey at an end. But whether he turned towards the bed's head, as it were away from the world towards God, or leaned on his staff, the idea is the same - he bowed himself, like Simeon, saying, Now, Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." It was a lovely sunset after a day of many clouds and much weariness and fear. - R.


1. It was not anxiety about temporal support, for that had been generously made sure to him by his son Joseph.

2. It was not concern about the future fortunes of his family, for these had been graciously taken under God's protection.

3. It was not uncertainty as to his own personal acceptance with Jehovah, for of that he had long ago been assured.

4. It was scarcely even fear of his approaching death, for besides being a thought with which Jacob had long been familiar, to a weary pilgrim like him the event itself would not be altogether unwelcome.

5. It was dread lest his lifeless body should be interred in Egypt, far from the graves of his ancestors in the holy land.


1. From the deeply-seated instinct in human nature, which makes men wish, if possible, to sleep beside their fathers and friends. Though religion teaches us to believe that every spot on earth is in a manner holy ground, yet it does not induce a spirit of indifference as to the last resting-place where we shall lie.

2. From a firm faith in the Divine promise that his descendants should yet return to Canaan. Even if Jacob did not anticipate that this would immediately occur, if, as is probable, he had already dark forebodings that the period of exile and servitude spoken of by Jehovah to Abraham was about to commence, he was yet able to detect a silver lining in the cloud, to see the happy time beyond, when his children, in accordance with the promise "I will surely bring thee up again," should return home to their presently abandoned inheritance.


1. By Joseph's promise. Requested by his aged parent to convey his body back to Canaan, when the life had departed, Joseph solemnly, engages to carry out that parent's wishes to the letter. "I will do as thou hast said."

2. By Joseph's oath. As if to remove every possible ground of apprehension, the old man further binds his son by an appeal to heaven. "And he said, Swear unto me; and he (Joseph) sware unto him." The venerable patriarch's anxieties were at an end. "And Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head." - W.

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