Genesis 47

GENESIS:  
“The Gospel According to Torah” 
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Summer Reading 2018 

COMPLETING YOSEF’S CYCLE 

Reading Week from July 22 

Garret Talk Tues July 24 

Genesis 43-48: Mon July 23 to Sat July 28 

 

Friday July 27: 

Chapter 47

The chapter begins with a mash-up of traditions about where ‘we’ settled in Egypt, and why.  Pharaoh interviews Yosef in one version, and Yaakov in another, to land in Goshen or Rameses.  Are we farmers or nomadic herders?  Our tribal traditions differ – but we do better off on the edge of Egypt, closer to the promised lands.  ‘Land o’ Goshen’ was adopted by many in North American settler culture to describe our homesteads. 

The next narrative is often overlooked, as Yosef as the chief civil servant uses the leverage of food stores to impoverish and enslave the Egyptians, demanding that they surrender their land titles after their cash, and become share-croppers in perpetuity.  There are echoes of Esav’s choice to surrender his birthright for a bowl of red stew.  How do we surrender agency, a step at a time, to tyranny? 

These nuggets of political wisdom are more interesting to me because Yosef is cast as the evil genius who imposed tyranny, at least in civil service of the tyrant, rather than as a messianic figure on the side of the starving farmers.  Certainly this is our moral place, among what Ron Sider called ‘Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger’.  More recent scholars call us ‘servants of empire’, inviting us to confession our complicity rather than victimhood. 

Genesis Chapter 47

NRSV

So Joseph went and told Pharaoh, ‘My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that they possess, have come from the land of Canaan; they are now in the land of Goshen.’ 

 2From among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh. 3Pharaoh said to his brothers, ‘What is your occupation?’ And they said to Pharaoh, ‘Your servants are shepherds, as our ancestors were.’ 4They said to Pharaoh, ‘We have come to reside as aliens in the land; for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks because the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, we ask you, let your servants settle in the land of Goshen.’ 

 5Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Your father and your brothers have come to you. 6The land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land; let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know that there are capable men among them, put them in charge of my livestock.’ 

7 Then Joseph brought in his father Jacob, and presented him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. 8Pharaoh said to Jacob, ‘How many are the years of your life?’ 9Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The years of my earthly sojourn are one hundred and thirty; few and hard have been the years of my life. They do not compare with the years of the life of my ancestors during their long sojourn.’ 10Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from the presence of Pharaoh.  

11Joseph settled his father and his brothers, and granted them a holding in the land of Egypt, in the best part of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had instructed.12And Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their dependants. 

13 Now there was no food in all the land, for the famine was very severe. The land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine. 

 14Joseph collected all the money to be found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, in exchange for the grain that they bought; and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. 

 15When the money from the land of Egypt and from the land of Canaan was spent, all the Egyptians came to Joseph, and said, ‘Give us food! Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone.’ 16And Joseph answered, ‘Give me your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money is gone.’ 17So they brought their livestock to Joseph; and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses, the flocks, the herds, and the donkeys. That year he supplied them with food in exchange for all their livestock. 

 18When that year was ended, they came to him the following year, and said to him, ‘We cannot hide from my lord that our money is all spent; and the herds of cattle are my lord’s. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our lands. 19Shall we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land in exchange for food. We with our land will become slaves to Pharaoh; just give us seed, so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate.’ 

20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh. All the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe upon them; and the land became Pharaoh’s. 21As for the people, he made slaves of them from one end of Egypt to the other. 22Only the land of the priests he did not buy; for the priests had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh, and lived on the allowance that Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their land. 

23Then Joseph said to the people, ‘Now that I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh, here is seed for you; sow the land. 24And at the harvests you shall give one-fifth to Pharaoh, and four-fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.’ 25They said, ‘You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be slaves to Pharaoh.’26So Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt, and it stands to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth. The land of the priests alone did not become Pharaoh’s. 

27 Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the region of Goshen; and they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied exceedingly. 28Jacob lived in the land of Egypt for seventeen years; so the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were one hundred and forty-seven years. 

29 When the time of Israel’s death drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, ‘If I have found favour with you, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal loyally and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt. 30When I lie down with my ancestors, carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.’ He answered, ‘I will do as you have said.’ 31And he said, ‘Swear to me’; and he swore to him. Then Israel bowed himself on the head of his bed.