Genesis 47:1–10

47 1 Joseph came and told Pharaoh, saying, “My father and brothers with their sheep, oxen, and all that is theirs have come from the land of Canaan and are here in the land of Goshen.” From his brothers, he selected five men and set them before Pharaoh.
     Pharaoh said to Joseph’s brothers, “What is it you do?”
     They said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, we and our fathers.” And they said to Pharaoh, “We have come to sojourn in the land because there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks because the famine is heavy in the land of Canaan. We ask you to let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.”
     Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Let them dwell in the land of Goshen. If you know capable men among them, make them chiefs of my livestock. 6 [Joseph’s father and brothers had come to him in Egypt, and Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, heard. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is open to you. In the best of the land, settle your father and brothers. Let them live in the land of Goshen.]
     Joseph brought Jacob, his father, and had him stand before Pharaoh. Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many are the days of your life?”
     Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my sojourn are thirty and a hundred years. I’ve been a traveler for 130 years. Few and trying have been the days of the years of my life. They have not achieved the years of my fathers in their days of sojourning.” 10 Jacob gave Pharaoh a farewell blessing and went out from Pharaoh’s presence.

Joseph comes to Pharaoh to complete the task of bringing his family to Egypt. He brings five brothers with him. Readers are not told which five he brings. The words in Hebrew are not direct but points toward these five as being representative of them (half the number who sold him into slavery—they are only half bad?) or as the pick or best of the brothers. Given the way Genesis plays with numbers, the five-times as much given to Benjamin might be weighted toward those who will present the best appearance.

Of course, even the best appearing shepherd is still a shepherd—not an endearing quality for Egyptians. Immigrants in today’s anti-immigrant America would be an apt similarity.

There is a tension between the Masoretic and Septuagint texts in verses 5 and 6. The text above follows the Septuagint, via Alter, to smooth the conversation. Other readers may have a different sensibility and record it otherwise.

The brothers successfully complete their role with Pharaoh and receive a blessing to reside in Goshen. As they depart, Jacob enters, and Pharaoh shifts his question from “What do you do?” to “How old are you?”

Jacob responds that he is 130. This is impressive to Pharaoh as the Egyptian ideal for a well-lived life is 110.

Jacob goes on to acknowledge his life, though he received all he wanted—the status of firstborn, beautiful Rachel, and wealth—he has been discontented (notably with the presentation of Joseph as dead and the risk of losing Benjamin). Not only does Jacob not have a satisfied mind, but he is also shorter-lived than his ancestors (Noah, Shem, Arpashad, Shela, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, Abram, and Isaac). [Note: This does accord with a direct-line movement toward the mandate following the Flood of an upper limit of 120 years.]

As the elder, Jacob blesses Pharaoh and, unbeknownst to anyone at this point of drawing his life to a close, lives another 17 years.

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