Monday, February 7, 2011

Genesis 47 - Family and Famine

LINK: Genesis 47


BACKGROUND

In this chapter, Jacob's family arrived and the brothers met Pharaoh and introduced themselves as shepherds at which time Pharaoh gave them the good land of Goshen (see yesterday's description of this area) and even commissioned some to oversee his own livestock!

It is interesting to note that Jacob blessed at the beginning of his meeting with the Pharaoh and at the end (47:7, 10). To bless someone is "to endue with power for success, prosperity, fecundity, longevity, etc." (John N. Oswalt, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, p. 132). What is so unusual about this is that it is usually the blessing of a king to a subject, but in this case, it is the other way around; from a foreign visitor to a ruling king! Yet, Jacob was simply fulfilling what God had promised to Abraham in Genesis 12 and 28 that "through Abraham (and his seed) all the nations of the earth would be blessed." And Pharaoh was blessed because, as the famine continued to ravage the land, he prospered and the people were saved from starvation. This Pharaoh is believed to be Sesostris III (1878-1843 B.C.).

In this story, Joseph continued to rule as a wise administrator of the grain that had been stored. Joseph was in the center of God's will, and he was reunited with his family. He must have been a fulfilled man.

Jacob lived in Egypt for seventeen years and did not return to Canaan when the famine ended. We do not know why. At the end of his life, he had Joseph put his hand under his thigh and promise to bring him back to the Promised Land for his burial at the cave of Machpelah that we learned Abraham had purchased from Ephron the Hittite back in Genesis 23:17-20.

We have discussed the significance of putting the hand under the thigh when making an oath back in Genesis 24. In this ancient world of the patriarchs, the placing of the hand under the thigh close to the circumcised male sex organ was connected with the covenant with Abraham in which circumcision was the sign. It also was connected with the continuation of Abraham's line through Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants.

REFLECTION

Jacob was a worshipper of the one, true God. Pharaoh was a worshiper of many gods, and in later generations, this particular Pharaoh was even worshiped as a god! Jacob and Pharaoh obviously did not see eye-to-eye with one another on their core beliefs. Still, Jacob blessed, and Pharaoh prospered.

This got me to thinking about certain elected officials we have had. There are many who do not share my values and core beliefs, but I need to bless them even if I did not vote for them. This is in keeping with the admonition to pray for "kings and all who are in authority" in 1 Timothy 2:2. Did you know that when Paul wrote those words to Timothy he was asking him to pray for the notoriously evil Roman emperor, Nero, who even executed his own mother and persecuted Christians? 

APPLICATION

Spend some time "blessing" the people that "rule" over you in your local, state, and national positions today.

PRAYER

We want to bless YOU Lord and worship You as the King of our lives and hearts. Lord, we pray for a blessing upon our president today. Guide him in making good and wise choices as he leads our nation. Help us to bless and not curse or malign as Your word admonishes us to malign no one (Titus 3:2). We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.
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