Day 17 (Jan. 17): Jacob’s good news, Jacob’s family moves to Egypt, Jacob and Joseph reunite, Jacob blesses Pharaoh, famine is devastating

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1. I have heard from a blogger that he would like an introduction to each book before diving into it.  So we’ll be setting the scene before each new book and look for one coming up soon for Genesis.  It will be a little late, but still useful.  We are reading the Bible in a year chronologically.  So, the next book is Job, then back to Exodus.  Enjoy!

Genesis 45:16-47:27

Questions & Observations

Q. (46:1): Why does Jacob say “the God of my father Isaac.”  Why doesn’t he just say “my God.”  Likewise, God identifies himself as God of Jacob’s father.”

A. Good question.  Perhaps in referring to God as the God of his father, he is showing reverence for both God and his father.  In this section of the Bible, we see very little usage of the phrase “my God”; God is almost always referred to as the God of those who have come before (usually Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but sometimes just Abraham).  Again, this might be a reverence thing, a way of saying “you are too big to be ‘my’ God” but I am honestly not certain.

Q. (46:34): Why do Egyptians despise shepherds?  In an earlier reading, we also learned that Egyptians despised Hebrews.  Why?

A. The story doesn’t tell us, but the theories I read about said that it is because sheep are destructive (and messy) and that shepherds were unclean and uncivilized.  They also may have had a religious objection.  There’s also a theory that nomadic shepherds had invaded them in the past, but there’s not much evidence for that.  Regarding why they hate the Hebrews specifically, since the Hebrews don’t have any kingdom to make them a “rival”, I suspect it is the same reason: the Hebrews kept flocks, and that made them despised.

Q. (47:6-7): We know that Egyptians don’t like Hebrews, so is Pharaoh being kind to Joseph and his family just because of his respect for Joseph?  Why does Jacob bless Pharaoh?

A. I think Pharaoh’s gratitude to Joseph for saving his kingdom during the famine is what carries over to Joseph’s family.  I believe that Jacob blessed Pharaoh to show gratitude for keeping his son alive and giving him so much wealth.

Q. (47:13): Here it says that all the food was gone, but the following verses tell how the people still managed to obtain food from Pharaoh’s storehouses.  Are Joseph and Pharaoh being completely honest with controlling the food?  The Bible says that Joseph collected grain during the bumper crop years, but it doesn’t say Pharaoh paid them for it.

A. I wouldn’t assume there was any funny business here.  Perhaps what the story means is that the individuals ran out of their own supplies and had to turn to Pharaoh’s storehouse, exactly as Joseph predicted they would need to.  It appears that the Egyptians were willing to give up the rights to their livestock and property in exchange for their survival.  The story never told us that Pharaoh (or Joseph) would be fair in the distribution.  The major thing that the story wants us to know is that Joseph’s family became extremely wealthy and prospered, which is what God told Jacob would happen in Egypt.

Q. (47:22) The priests did not have to pay for the food.  Is this fair?  Did Pharaoh have that much respect for God’s leaders?  Pharaoh seemed to notice how God blessed His followers, yet we do not know if he believed in God?

A. The story is not talking about Israelite priests, it means the priests of the cult worship in Egypt.  There were no priests in Israel yet: they are not introduced until Exodus.

Regarding Pharaoh’s benefit from God without belief in Him, that might be a byproduct of the polytheistic world he lived in.  One of the principles of polytheism is that there might be more gods out there, and (more importantly) that each of these gods had a “territory” with the nation or kingdom or people who worshipped them.  So Pharaoh was probably perfectly willing to accept the Hebrew God as part of the pantheon of gods he knew about, and was willing to benefit from Him.

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