Verses 1–12

Here is, I. The respect which Joseph, as a subject, showed to his prince. Though he was his favourite, and prime-minister of state, and had had particular orders from him to send for his father down to Egypt, yet he would not suffer him to settle till he had given notice of it to Pharaoh, Gen. 47:1. Christ, our Joseph, disposes of his followers in his kingdom as it is prepared of his Father, saying, It is not mine to give, Matt. 20:23.

II. The respect which Joseph, as a brother, showed to his brethren, notwithstanding all the unkindness he had formerly received from them.

1. Though he was a great man, and they were comparatively mean and despicable, especially in Egypt, yet he owned them. Let those that are rich and great in the world learn hence not to overlook nor despise their poor relations. Every branch of the tree is not a top branch; but, because it is a lower branch, is it therefore not of the tree? Our Lord Jesus, like Joseph here, is not ashamed to call us brethren.

2. They being strangers and no courtiers, he introduced some of them to Pharaoh, to kiss his hand, as we say, intending thereby to put an honour upon them among the Egyptians. Thus Christ presents his brethren in the court of heaven, and improves his interest for them, though in themselves unworthy and an abomination to the Egyptians. Being presented to Pharaoh, according to the instructions which Joseph had given them, they tell him, (1.) What was their business—that they were shepherds, Gen. 47:3. Pharaoh asked them (and Joseph knew it would be one of his first questions, Gen. 46:33), What is your occupation? He takes it for granted they had something to do, else Egypt should be no place for them, no harbour for idle vagrants. If they would not work, they should not eat of his bread in this time of scarcity. Note, All that have a place in the world should have an employment in it according to their capacity, some occupation or other, mental or manual. Those that need not work for their bread must yet have something to do, to keep them from idleness. Again, Magistrates should enquire into the occupation of their subjects, as those that have the care of the public welfare; for idle people are as drones in the hive, unprofitable burdens of the commonwealth. (2.) What was their business in Egypt—to sojourn in the land (Gen. 47:4), not to settle there for ever, only to sojourn there for a time, while the famine so prevailed in Canaan, which lay high, that it was not habitable for shepherds, the grass being burnt up much more than in Egypt, which lay low, and where the corn chiefly failed, while there was tolerably good pasture.

3. He obtained for them a grant of a settlement in the land of Goshen, Gen. 47:5, 6. This was an instance of Pharaoh’s gratitude to Joseph; because he had been such a blessing to him and his kingdom, he would be kind to his relations, purely for his sake. He offered them preferment as shepherds over his cattle, provided they were men of activity; for it is the man who is diligent in his business that shall stand before kings. And, whatever our profession or employment is, we should aim to be excellent in it, and to prove ourselves ingenious and industrious.

III. The respect Joseph, as a son, showed to his father.

1. He presented him to Pharaoh, Gen. 47:7. And here,

(1.) Pharaoh asks Jacob a common question: How old art thou? Gen. 47:8. A question usually put to old men, for it is natural to us to admire old age and to reverence it (Lev. 19:32), as it is very unnatural and unbecoming to despise it, Isa. 3:5. Jacob’s countenance, no doubt, showed him to be very old, for he had been a man of labour and sorrow; in Egypt people were not so long-lived as in Canaan, and therefore Pharaoh looks upon Jacob with wonder; he was as a show in his court. When we are reflecting upon ourselves, this should come into the account, “How old are we?”

(2.) Jacob gives Pharaoh an uncommon answer, Gen. 47:9. He speaks as becomes a patriarch, with an air of seriousness, for the instruction of Pharaoh. Though our speech be not always of grace, yet it must thus be always with grace. Observe here, [1.] He calls his life a pilgrimage, looking upon himself as a stranger in this world, and a traveller towards another world: this earth his inn, not his home. To this the apostle refers (Heb. 11:13), They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims. He not only reckoned himself a pilgrim now that he was in Egypt, a strange country in which he never was before; but his life, even in the land of his nativity, was a pilgrimage, and those who so reckon it can the better bear the inconvenience of banishment from their native soil; they are but pilgrims still, and so they were always. [2.] He reckons his life by days; for, even so, it is soon reckoned, and we are not sure of the continuance of it for a day to an end, but may be turned out of this tabernacle at less than an hour’s warning. Let us therefore number our days (Ps. 90:12), and measure them, Ps. 39:4. [3.] The character he gives of them is, First, That they were few. Though he had now lived 130 years, they seemed to him but a few days, in comparison with the days of eternity, the eternal God, and the eternal state, in which a thousand years (longer than ever any man lived) are but as one day. Secondly, That they were evil. This is true concerning man in general, he is of few days, and full of trouble (Job 14:1); and, since his days are evil, it is well they are few. Jacob’s life, particularly, had been made up of evil days; and the pleasantest days of his life were yet before him. Thirdly, That they were short of the days of his fathers, not so many, not so pleasant, as their days. Old age came sooner upon him than it had done upon some of his ancestors. As the young man should not be proud of his strength or beauty, so the old man should not be proud of his age, and the crown of his hoary hairs, though others justly reverence it; for those who are accounted very old attain not to the years of the patriarchs. The hoary head is a crown of glory only when it is found in the way of righteousness.

(3.) Jacob both addresses himself to Pharaoh and takes leave of him with a blessing (Gen. 47:7): Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and again, Gen. 47:10; which was not only an act of civility (he paid him respect and returned him thanks for his kindness), but an act of piety—he prayed for him, as one having the authority of a prophet and a patriarch. Though in worldly wealth Pharaoh was the greater, yet, in interest with God, Jacob was the greater; he was God’s anointed, Ps. 105:15. And a patriarch’s blessing was not a thing to be despised, no, not by a potent prince. Darius valued the prayers of the church for himself and for his sons, Ezra 6:10. Pharaoh kindly received Jacob, and, whether in the name of a prophet or no, thus he had a prophet’s reward, which sufficiently recompensed him, not only for his courteous converse with him, but for all the other kindnesses he showed to him and his.

2. He provided well for him and his, placed him in Goshen (Gen. 47:11), nourished him and all his with food convenient for them, Gen. 47:12. This bespeaks, not only Joseph a good man, who took this tender care of his poor relations, but God a good God, who raised him up for this purpose, and put him into a capacity of doing it, as Esther came to the kingdom for such a time as this. What God here did for Jacob he has, in effect, promised to do for all his, that serve him and trust in him. Ps. 37:19; In the days of famine they shall be satisfied.