God gives great honour to Joseph
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Genesis chapters 37-50
Marie Wetherill and Keith Simons
This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
We do not know who wrote the Book of Genesis. And we do not know when that person wrote the book. There is an ancient tradition that Moses was the author. Modern Bible students have many other ideas. But we can see that Genesis is a very old book. Even the oldest books in the Bible refer to it (for example, Exodus 3:15; Job 28:25-29).
The author was not merely collecting ancient stories. And he was not merely recording ancient history. In fact, Genesis is a very careful account, which teaches the main principles in the Bible. The author describes the nature of God. The author explains God’s plan for a perfect world. The author describes *sin and *sacrifice. He speaks about God’s promise to forgive. And, he speaks about God’s promise to send Jesus. The Bible teaches that the author was not merely setting out his own ideas. Instead, the author wrote by the Holy Spirit of God.
The account of Joseph’s life begins in this chapter.
Reuben was Jacob’s oldest son. So, Reuben had the *birthright. But Reuben had carried out a wicked deed against Jacob (Genesis 35:22). So, Jacob decided that Reuben should not receive the *birthright. Simeon and Levi were the oldest sons after Reuben. But they too had upset Jacob (chapter 34). So, Jacob chose Joseph to receive the *birthright. Jacob’s other sons were angry. Except for Benjamin, who was still very young, they were all older than Joseph.
Jacob made a special coat for Joseph. This probably showed that Joseph had the *birthright. And Joseph had special dreams. These dreams were *prophecies. They showed that Joseph would become the leader of the family. But Joseph’s brothers hated the dreams. In fact, they hated Joseph.
Joseph’s brothers were working away from home. They were looking after Jacob’s animals. Jacob sent Joseph to them. Jacob wanted to know what was happening. This was an opportunity for the brothers to attack Joseph. Their first plan was to kill Joseph. But Reuben had a secret plan to save Joseph. Perhaps Reuben wanted to please Jacob. Then perhaps Jacob might change his mind about Reuben’s *birthright. But when Reuben was away, Judah made another plan. Judah and the other brothers sold Joseph as a slave. Then they pretended to Jacob that Joseph was dead.
Jacob was very sad. Nobody could comfort him. He felt as if his only *righteous son was dead. But Joseph was not dead. In fact, Joseph became a slave in Egypt. God allowed these things to happen because God had a plan to save the lives of many people (Genesis 45:5).
Verse 1 Jacob made his home in the country where his father Isaac had wandered about.
Verse 2 Joseph was a helper for his brothers. (Actually, they had the same father, but they had different mothers. So they were only ‘half-brothers’.) But Joseph was more important in the family than they were. Joseph was the first son of Jacob’s favourite wife. But these brothers were just the sons of *concubines. When Joseph returned to Jacob, Joseph told a bad report to his father. People usually think that the brothers were not looking after the animals well. But the Bible does not say what the bad report was about.
Verses 3-4 Israel (Jacob) upset his family. He gave more to Joseph than he (Israel) gave to Joseph’s brothers. The coat was very special. It was not a coat that Joseph would work in. It made his brothers angry just to see Joseph wear it. They had to work hard, while Joseph wore a special coat. And he did not seem to work like them. Joseph was special. He was Rachel’s first son. And Rachel was the wife whom Jacob really loved. So, Joseph became Jacob’s favourite son.
Verses 5-8 Jacob had decided that the *birthright belonged to Joseph. Joseph’s first dream seemed to show that this decision was right. In the past, God had spoken to Jacob too by means of dreams. But Joseph’s brothers were unhappy about the dream. Perhaps they did not realise that the dream was from God. So, they hated Joseph even more because of his dream.
Verses 9-11 Joseph’s second dream was about the sun, the moon and 11 stars. It seemed as if Joseph’s family really would *bow down to him. Rachel, his mother, was probably already dead. Leah may have looked after him as his ‘mother’. The two dreams were rather similar to each other. So Joseph could expect that they would probably become true. The writer does not tell us whether God showed their meaning. Joseph’s family might think that Joseph did not really have such dreams. But Jacob continued to think about the dreams. Previously, Jacob had dreams that came from God. So, Jacob was not surprised if Joseph had such dreams.
Verses 12-13 Shechem was a long way from home. It was also the same place where the brothers had killed many people. It might have been dangerous for Joseph to go out alone. Jacob did not think that. However, Jacob was anxious about his other sons. And he trusted Joseph. Joseph would tell Jacob the truth about what was happening. Joseph was a loyal son who always obeyed his father. So Joseph went.
Verse 14-17 In fact, the brothers were not still at Shechem. Probably there was not enough grass there for all their animals. So, they had to move to another place.
Verse 18 Even before Joseph arrived, his brothers were plotting to kill him.
Verse 19 The brothers were angry with Joseph because of the dreams. If Joseph’s dreams had no meaning, there would be no reason for the brothers to be angry. So probably, the brothers were thinking that the dreams might be right. And they were jealous of God’s plan for Joseph. So, they tried to stop God’s plan. If that was their intention, they were very foolish. God is much more powerful than this. Nobody can successfully oppose God’s plans.
Verses 20-21 The brothers intended to leave Joseph without food or water. Then, he would soon die.
Verse 22 Reuben was the oldest brother. So he probably considered that Joseph was in his care. If Reuben saved Joseph, perhaps Jacob would respect Reuben again.
Verses 23-24 The brothers took away Joseph’s coat. Jacob wanted to show that he (Joseph) had the *birthright. That is probably why he had given the coat to Joseph. So, the brothers were trying to take the *birthright from Joseph.
Verses 25-27 It was better for the brothers to sell Joseph. Then they would not murder their brother and so they would not be guilty of that. Also, they would get some money. Joseph would become a slave.
Verse 28 The traders included both *Midianites and *Ishmaelites. They were travelling together. The *Midianites were friends of the *Ishmaelites, who were a larger group.
Verses 29-30 Reuben was elsewhere when the brothers sold Joseph. So, Reuben did not know that his plan to save Joseph had failed. Perhaps Reuben only realised this when he returned to rescue Joseph. Reuben tore his clothes. This action showed that he was very sad. People usually tore their clothes when a relative died.
Verses 31-32 The brothers made a plan in order to pretend that Joseph was dead. They put blood from a goat on Joseph’s special coat. They handed the coat back to Jacob. None of the brothers felt able to take the precious coat for himself. They knew that they did not deserve the *birthright.
Verse 33-34 Jacob seemed even more sad about Joseph than he (Jacob) was about Rachel’s death (Genesis 35:16-20).
Verse 35 The only daughter of Jacob that the writer has told us about is Dinah. But people did not speak much about their daughters.
Verse 36 In *Hebrew, ‘captain of the guard’ means this. It means the ‘chief man among the killers’. So it might mean the chief man among those who provided meat for *Pharaoh’s *household. It might mean the leader of the army. Or it might mean the chief man among those that killed murderers as a punishment.
*Pharaoh ruled over Egypt. All the kings of Egypt were called *Pharaoh.
Reuben, Simeon and Levi had all upset Jacob. They were his three oldest sons. Jacob did not want them to have the *birthright. So, Jacob decided that Joseph would receive the *birthright. But now, Jacob thought that Joseph was dead. So, Judah became Jacob’s most important son. Judah was Jacob’s 4th son, after Reuben, Simeon and Levi. But much of Judah’s life would also disappoint Jacob.
Judah had three sons. The first son, called Er, married Tamar. But Er was so evil that God killed him.
The people then had a custom that they considered important. If a widow did not yet have a child, the unmarried brother of the dead husband would marry the widow. Then, they would have children together. So, Er’s brother, called Onan, married Tamar. But he too was evil, and God killed him.
Judah promised that Tamar could marry Judah’s last son, called Shelah. But when Shelah became old enough to marry, Judah did not arrange the marriage.
So, Tamar made a plan. She covered her face so that nobody would recognise her. She pretended to be a *prostitute. And she tempted Judah.
Afterwards, Judah discovered that Tamar was expecting a baby. He was very angry that she had acted as a *prostitute. He wanted to kill her. But she was able to show that Judah himself was responsible for her situation.
Judah felt very guilty. He confessed that he had been unfair to her. And he allowed her to live. In fact, she had *twins (two babies born together). The oldest, called Perez, received the *birthright among Judah’s *descendants.
Judah’s character and attitudes changed after this event. Before it, he was responsible for the sale of Joseph as a slave (Genesis 37:26-27). Afterwards, Judah himself offered to become a slave in order to save Benjamin (Genesis 44:16-34).
Among Jacob’s sons, Judah was the oldest son who received Jacob’s *blessing (Genesis 49:8-12). And that *blessing was very special. Jacob said that Judah’s *descendants would include the kings of the *Israelites. And the special *descendant of Eve (Genesis 3:15) and of Abraham (Galatians 3:16) would be a *descendant of Judah too. This special *descendant means Jesus (Hebrews 7:14). God sent Jesus to free people from their *sins.
Verses 1-5 The writer never tells us the name of Judah’s wife. Jacob’s sons did not marry into their own *tribe as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had done.
Verse 6 Tamar was probably a *Canaanite.
Verse 7 The writer does not tell us what Er’s *sin was. This was the first time that God killed one particular person only. (Or anyway, Er is the first one that we can read about.) In the great flood, God had killed nearly everyone. And in Sodom and Gomorrah, he had killed all the inhabitants except for Lot’s family.
Verses 8-10 Tamar had no children and Onan was unmarried. There was an ancient custom for people in this situation. The family expected a dead man’s brother to have sex with the dead man’s widow. If a child was then born, people accepted it as the dead man’s child. It meant that the child would *inherit instead of the brother. However, the brother was the child’s actual father. It is not clear whether people expected the brother to marry the widow. Perhaps they expected him just to have sex with her. But, among the *Israelites, the brother had to marry her. Sex between people who were not married was always wrong. Onan was evil because he was doing a wrong thing to Tamar. A wife or widow was ashamed if she had no children. Onan was not obeying God. God had told Onan’s relatives to have large families. Also, Onan was not obeying his father.
Verse 11 This promise meant that Tamar and Shelah were engaged.
Verse 12 Instead of ‘his friend Hirah’, some translations say ‘his *shepherd Hirah’. Hirah may have been a *shepherd. But here he was Judah’s friend. The time when people cut the wool off sheep was a very important occasion. There were *feasts for the men that cut off the wool. And there was much wine at the *feasts.
Verses 13-14 We do not know whether *prostitutes usually wore *veils. Tamar wore one so that Judah would not know her. Maybe other *prostitutes wore *veils so that people did not know them. Tamar covered her face because she did not want people to know her.
We read here, ‘Then she sat at a cross-roads.’ But some translations say, ‘Then she sat at the side of the road. That place was on the way into Enaim.’ The original *Hebrew text has this. ‘Then she sat at the opening of the eyes.’ Some writers a long time ago thought that it meant this. ‘She sat where two roads came together.’ That seems to be a likely place for a *prostitute to meet people. There, people were going from one place to another.
Verses 16-17 Sex between very close relatives in a family was very evil. But Judah did not recognise her. He agreed a price for sex.
Verse 18 A ‘*pledge’ was a thing that a person gave as a promise. It was a promise that the person would pay a certain price. The person had agreed about the price. When the person had paid the price, then he or she received the *pledge back again. Tamar asked for some things that belonged to Judah. The *seal was a small tube that someone had made out of metal or stone. It had special marks. Those marks showed that the *seal belonged to Judah. The owner kept the *seal on a string. The stick probably had special marks on it too. So those things could only belong to Judah. They could not belong to anyone else.
Verse 20 Judah sent the *kid so that he would receive his *pledge back.
Verse 21 Hirah asked for a ‘*prostitute that meets people in the *temple’. Before, in verse 15, the writer used the word for an ordinary *prostitute. A *prostitute from the *temple was more important than an ordinary *prostitute. It was more polite to ask for a ‘*prostitute from the *temple’. But only people who served *idols would use a *prostitute from the *temple. So, perhaps Judah served *idols at this time.
Verse 23 Judah was a rich man. He was afraid that his friends would laugh at him. They might laugh because a *prostitute had kept his *seal and stick. Actually, she had stolen them. Judah had tried to pay the *prostitute with the *kid. And Judah emphasised here that Hirah certainly knew it.
Verse 24 Tamar was engaged to Shelah. Her father had promised to give her to Shelah as a wife. So, when Tamar had sex with someone else, that was *adultery. *Israelites used to punish people that had done *adultery. Later, the *Israelites threw stones at such people until those people were dead, as a punishment. But Tamar was also guilty because she had become a *prostitute. Judah felt great shame that a member of his family had become a *prostitute.
Verse 25 Tamar was able to prove that she had had sex with Judah. She still had his *pledge. The *seal and stick had special marks. They could only belong to Judah.
Verse 26 Judah knew that he had done something wrong. He had been unfair to her. He had not done the things that he promised to do. He had not followed the custom to help her to have a baby. So, he confessed that he was wrong. Afterwards, he acted in the right manner. He never had sex with Tamar again.
Verses 27-30 Tamar had *twins. It was important for the family to know who was born first. That son would have the *birthright, and he would become the leader of Judah’s family.
Joseph was just a slave when he arrived in Egypt. But soon, he began to have a successful career. Joseph worked for an important man called Potiphar. Soon, Potiphar realised that Joseph had many skills. Joseph was responsible and capable. Everything that Joseph did was successful. So, Potiphar gave Joseph authority over everything in his (Potiphar’s) *household.
The promise that God gave to Abraham (Genesis 12:3) was starting to happen. God was *blessing Potiphar because of Joseph.
Joseph even impressed Potiphar’s wife. She wanted to have sex with Joseph, who was an attractive young man. But Joseph knew that God does not permit such behaviour. So, Joseph refused. Potiphar’s wife was angry with Joseph. She lied that he tried to *rape her. So, Joseph became a prisoner.
Even in prison, Joseph impressed people. The guard realised that Joseph was responsible and capable. So, the guard gave Joseph authority over the other prisoners. Soon, Joseph was managing the prison. Joseph was still a prisoner. But even in the prison, God made Joseph successful.
Verse 1 The writer now goes back to the story about Joseph. This verse reminds us about Genesis 37:36. The writer tells us that Joseph went ‘down’ to Egypt. He probably means that a lot of the land in Egypt is lower than the mountains in Canaan. But Joseph had gone ‘down’ in another way. He also went ‘down’ in his social importance. He became a slave. He was not still a favourite son in a rich family.
Verses 2-3 In this chapter, the writer often tells us that the *Lord was with Joseph. Joseph suffered. But the *Lord was still taking care of him. And the *Lord made Joseph successful. So, Potiphar appointed him to do more important tasks.
Verse 4 Joseph soon became more important. He was a useful person and people trusted him. At home with his brothers, his own family did not respect him. But here in Egypt, his master respected him. That is clear. Soon, Joseph had authority over everything. But he worked well. He did not cheat his master.
Verse 5 God was *blessing Potiphar because of Joseph. In other words, Potiphar became more successful because Joseph was working for him.
Verse 6 Potiphar did not worry about his *household. That shows how much Potiphar trusted Joseph.
Verse 7 Joseph would not do wrong things. The situation was very difficult for him. His master’s wife had a lot of power.
Verses 8-9 Joseph was responsible to his master. But Joseph also knew that he was responsible to God. We can see that Joseph was a *righteous man. He did not care about his own pleasure. Instead, Joseph thought about what God wanted him to do.
Verse 10 This did not just happen once. The master’s wife tried to tempt Joseph every day.
Verse 11 The master’s wife had probably sent the other servants out.
Verses 12-13 On this day, the master’s wife held Joseph’s clothing firmly. So, Joseph could not just walk away, as he had done on other days. But Joseph refused to do what she wanted. He ran out of the house. She was still holding his clothing. He had done the right thing. But the master’s wife now had evidence that seemed to prove her lie.
Verse 14 The master’s wife pretended that Joseph tried to *rape her. When the wife talked to the servants, she even blamed her husband. She said that he had brought a foreign slave into the house.
Verses 16-18 The master’s wife repeated her lies to her husband. She wanted him to punish Joseph. She was very angry with Joseph. Perhaps she felt ashamed that she tried to tempt Joseph. But she was not sorry. Like Joseph’s own brothers, she hated the fact that Joseph was *righteous.
Verses 19-20 The master’s wife had said that Joseph had tried to *rape her. The usual punishment for that was death. Potiphar put Joseph into prison. It was a special prison. If a servant of the king had to go to prison, the king’s officers kept him there.
We do not know why Potiphar did not kill Joseph. But Potiphar was the captain of the guards (Genesis 38:36). So, perhaps Potiphar was responsible for the prison too. Potiphar knew that Joseph was capable. Perhaps Potiphar thought that Joseph would be very useful in the prison.
The writer does not use people’s names very much in this story. He talks a lot about ‘he’, ‘she’, the ‘master’ and the ‘master’s wife’. Perhaps it showed that the people in the story belonged to different social classes. Joseph was a slave. Potiphar and his wife were the master and the master’s wife. They even had the legal right to kill their slaves.
Verse 21 God caused the keeper (guard) of the prison to like Joseph. But the guard did not prove that Joseph was not guilty. He did not take Joseph out of prison.
Verse 22 Soon, Joseph became very important in the prison. He had authority over all the other prisoners. Even in prison, God made Joseph successful.
Verse 23 Again the writer tells how people trusted Joseph. And the writer reminds us why Joseph was successful. Joseph was successful because God *blessed him.
Joseph was responsible for all the prisoners. So, Joseph was a skilled manager. But Joseph was also a holy man. And he knew that his relationship with God was very important. Even in prison, Joseph was still a *righteous man.
Two prisoners had strange dreams on the same night. They thought that their dreams had an important meaning. But they did not know the meaning. So, they were worried about the dreams.
Joseph told the prisoners that God knew the meaning of their dreams. Then God showed Joseph the meaning:
· The *butler’s dream meant that *Pharaoh would free the *butler. And *Pharaoh would reappoint the *butler to his old job. Joseph asked the *butler to tell *Pharaoh about his (Joseph’s) situation.
· The baker’s dream meant that the baker would soon die.
Three days later, these things happened as Joseph had said. But the *butler did not tell *Pharaoh about Joseph. It was not yet the right time for *Pharaoh to free Joseph. God had a plan for Joseph. But Joseph did not yet know about this plan.
Verse 1 *Pharaoh was the special name that all the kings of Egypt had.
Verses 2-4 These men worked for the king. So, they went to the special prison for the king’s prisoners. Joseph was responsible for the prisoners in that prison.
Verse 5 The *Egyptians believed that the gods sent dreams. They had many ‘wise men’. Those ‘wise men’ said what dreams meant. The two prisoners were unhappy. Each one believed that the gods had sent a message to him. They could not discover what the dreams meant.
Verses 6-7 Joseph really cared about the prisoners that he looked after. He even noticed that the men were anxious. He encouraged them to tell him why they were worried.
Verse 8 Joseph did not believe in their false gods. But he knew that the real God knows the solution to every problem.
Of course, most dreams have no special meaning. But sometimes God uses dreams to speak to people. Joseph had such dreams in the past (Genesis 37:5-9). And he could remember these dreams (Genesis 42:9). Perhaps he was hopeful about the future because of these dreams.
Verse 9-11 The chief *butler’s dream described the work that he used to do. He would make drinks for *Pharaoh. And then the *butler would give the drinks to *Pharaoh.
Verse 13 ‘Lift up your head’ means more than one thing. It can mean that the person does well. His head will not be down in shame any longer. He will show his face. He will not be sad. That was how the chief *butler would be.
Verses 14-15 Joseph asked the *butler to tell *Pharaoh about Joseph’s situation in prison. Joseph did not deserve to be in prison. Soon, the *butler would be free. And the *butler would be important again. So, the *butler would have the opportunity to speak to *Pharaoh about Joseph.
Verses 16-17 The baker’s dream also seemed to describe his work. But something was wrong. The birds were taking the bread that belonged to *Pharaoh.
Verse 18 Joseph was honest. He told the meaning of the dream, although the meaning was bad news. He did not pretend that the dream had a good meaning. He did not say that in order to please the baker.
Verse 19 ‘Lift up your head’ could also have another meaning. It could mean that someone would put very strong thick string round a person’s neck. Then someone would hang the person. That was what happened to the chief baker.
Verses 20-22 *Pharaoh was the king of Egypt. Kings often did special things to prisoners on the king’s birthday. It was a way for the king to show how important he was. *Pharaoh had the power of life and death over his people. He could order someone’s death. Or, he could make someone important.
*Pharaoh did whatever he wanted. But God knew what would happen.
Verse 23 Joseph remained in the prison. It was not yet God’s time for Joseph to be free.
Joseph was still a prisoner when *Pharaoh had two strange dreams. In the first dream, 7 thin cows ate 7 fat cows. In the second dream, 7 weak stems of grain ate 7 good ones. *Pharaoh tried to use magic to understand the dreams. But the magic failed.
In chapter 40, God had shown Joseph the meaning of the *butler’s dream. As Joseph had said, the *butler was now working for *Pharaoh again. So, the *butler suggested that *Pharaoh should speak to Joseph. The officials took Joseph from the prison into *Pharaoh’s palace.
Of course, Joseph himself did not know the meaning of *Pharaoh’s dreams. But Joseph was confident that God knew the answer. God showed Joseph that both dreams had the same meaning. For 7 years, the harvests in Egypt would be good. But afterwards, for another period of 7 years, there would not be enough food. So, Joseph advised *Pharaoh to store food from the good harvests. Then, this food would be available for the next 7 years.
Joseph’s wisdom impressed *Pharaoh. *Pharaoh was confident that Joseph’s advice came from God. So, *Pharaoh appointed Joseph to be a ruler of Egypt. Only *Pharaoh himself was more important than Joseph was.
Verses 1-7 The two years were after *Pharaoh had freed the *butler from prison. Joseph was still in prison for all this time. But he did not waste his time. He continued to look after the other prisoners in a responsible manner.
The Nile River was very important for Egypt. It often flooded the land round it and that made the soil rich. Cows were very important for *Egyptians. The *Egyptians thought that cows were *holy and special. The *Egyptians thought that their *Pharaoh was a ‘god’. They also thought that dreams were messages from the gods. So when *Pharaoh dreamed, it was very important.
Verse 8 Very many wise men in Egypt studied dreams. And they used magic to find out what dreams meant. But their magic failed. They could not tell *Pharaoh the meaning of these dreams.
Verse 9 Joseph had asked the *butler to speak to *Pharaoh about Joseph’s situation (Genesis 40:14-15). But the *butler forgot (Genesis 40:23). However, the *butler remembered Joseph when *Pharaoh was worried about the dreams. We can see that God arranged the right time for Joseph to see *Pharaoh.
Verses 10-11 The chief *butler was very polite to his master, *Pharaoh. It was not polite to call the king ‘you’. So the *butler said, ‘When *Pharaoh was angry...’
The *butler described to *Pharaoh the events in chapter 40.
Verse 12 Joseph was still Potiphar’s slave and he was working for Potiphar. Potiphar was the official who looked after the prison.
Joseph would seem very unimportant to *Pharaoh. But *Pharaoh needed Joseph because God was with Joseph. God had told Joseph the meaning of these dreams.
Verse 14 *Hebrew men did not shave. They had beards. But *Egyptians did shave.
Joseph had been in prison. But now, he was preparing to meet *Pharaoh in the palace.
Verse 16 Joseph could only explain dreams because God told him the meaning. It was not because Joseph was clever. He told Pharaoh that clearly. God was doing as he had promised. And God was *blessing other nations by means of Abraham’s family.
Verses 17-21 *Pharaoh described the dreams. He added some words in his descriptions. These show that the dreams were clear in his mind.
Verse 23 The east wind was hot and dry. And so it made the grains start to become dry. They were losing their proper shape. They were not thick and smooth any longer.
Verse 24 The magic had failed. Perhaps *Pharaoh realised that he needed an answer from God.
Verse 25 *Pharaoh had dreamed two dreams, but they both meant the same thing. Most dreams just come from the imagination. But this time, *Pharaoh’s dreams came from God. God was using the dreams to warn *Pharaoh. And God placed Joseph in Egypt to help *Pharaoh in this particular situation.
Verses 26-27 Joseph showed *Pharaoh the meaning of the dreams.
Verses 28-32 Joseph gave a *prophecy about the future. He emphasised that this matter was God’s decision. *Pharaoh served false gods and he used magic. But *Pharaoh’s false gods could not save him now. And no magic could stop the troubles that would affect Egypt. *Pharaoh had received a message from the real God. So, *Pharaoh should do whatever God wanted.
Verses 33-34 In verse 33, Joseph asked *Pharaoh to appoint one *overseer. But then in verse 34, he asked *Pharaoh to appoint many other *overseers. One man alone would not be able to do the job. He would need other men to work under his authority. He could order them to do what they had to do.
Verses 35-36 God had warned *Pharaoh because God did not want the people to suffer. *Pharaoh could arrange to store food. Then, food would still be available when the harvests were poor.
Verse 38 *Pharaoh knew that Joseph had more than a man’s wisdom. God had given wisdom to Joseph. So, *Pharaoh wanted Joseph to be the *overseer.
Verses 39-41 Suddenly, Joseph became the most important man in Egypt, except for *Pharaoh. Everybody had to obey Joseph. But Joseph did not change his attitudes. He was responsible when he was in prison. And he would still be responsible as a ruler.
Verse 42 The ring was a special one. It had *Pharaoh’s *seal on it. *Pharaoh could press the *seal onto some wet *clay or *wax that was on a new law or command. That made a special mark on the *clay or *wax. The mark showed to everyone that *Pharaoh approved of that law or command.
Verse 43 *Pharaoh gave great honour to Joseph. But Joseph did not become proud.
Verse 44 Joseph was now responsible for everything that happened in Egypt. He had the right to give whatever commands he wanted.
Verse 45 Joseph had an *Egyptian wife, but that was in God’s plan. Joseph gave *Hebrew names to his sons.
Verses 46-49 There were good harvests for 7 years, as God had shown to Joseph. Joseph bought all the grain that people did not need. The grain was cheap during those years, because the people had plenty. Grain stores well in Egypt because the air is dry.
Verse 50-52 Many people forget about God when they are successful. But we can see that Joseph was still serving God. Joseph was thinking about God when he (Joseph) chose his sons’ names. Joseph knew that God had guided him.
Joseph’s troubles were in the past. Joseph had suffered greatly in Egypt. But now God had made him successful.
Verses 53-54 These things happened as Joseph had said. So, Joseph’s *prophecy was right. But God had arranged for Joseph to store the food that the people needed.
Verse 55 *Pharaoh trusted Joseph completely. Joseph would make the right decision about when to sell food.
Verses 56-57 When Joseph began to sell the grain, people from many countries travelled to Egypt to buy it. There was plenty of grain in Egypt because of Joseph’s work during the 7 good years.
Like everybody else, Joseph’s brothers had to go to Egypt to buy food. They did not know that Joseph was a ruler in Egypt. They had sold him as a slave. And now, they did not even know that Joseph was alive.
When Joseph saw his brothers, his emotions felt very strong. He loved his brothers. He did not want them to suffer while the harvests were poor. He wanted to share with them the good things that he had received in Egypt. But Joseph realised that this might not be a good idea.
Joseph knew that, in the past, his brothers’ behaviour had been terrible. They had been selfish. They had been cruel. They had killed other men because of their anger. In fact, Joseph’s brothers had even wanted to kill Joseph himself.
Joseph was a very responsible man. He would not allow his brothers to cause such trouble in Egypt. So, he made a plan that would test his brothers. He needed to be sure that their attitudes had now changed. If they were humble, he would forgive them. If they respected him, he would give them honour and wealth. But if their attitudes were still wrong, Joseph could not help them.
Verse 1 Joseph’s brothers had grown older and they were married. But Jacob was still the master. The brothers were unhappy. They had no crops to harvest. They probably did not trust each other. Maybe they thought about whether there might be secret stores of food. People behave like that when there is *famine.
Verse 2 In chapter 12, Abraham went to Egypt for food. He went there because of a bad *famine.
Verses 3-4 Jacob believed that Joseph was dead. So, perhaps Jacob thought that Benjamin should have the *birthright. Benjamin was in fact Jacob’s youngest son. But Jacob acted as if Benjamin was more important than his other sons.
Verse 5 *Famines happened sometimes in Egypt and Canaan. But they did not usually happen in both those countries at the same time.
Verse 6 This was like Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:7.
Verse 7 Joseph wanted to know whether his brothers still hated him. Or perhaps they were sorry about what they had done to him earlier. He did not want to punish them.
Verse 8 Joseph dressed as an *Egyptian (Genesis 41:42). He had shaved (Genesis 41:14). He spoke the *Egyptian language (Genesis 42:23). He even had an *Egyptian name (Genesis 41:45).
Verse 9 Joseph remembered his dreams in Genesis 37:7-9. So, Joseph knew that this event was God’s plan. And Joseph knew that God was guiding him.
Verses 10-12 There were many wars at this time. Rulers would send men in secret. Then, the men would return with information. Rulers would use this information when they made their plans to attack.
Joseph’s brothers had not really come to Egypt for this reason. In fact, Joseph was using this as an excuse, so that he could ask them questions. He wanted to test their attitudes.
Verse 13 The brothers clearly remembered what they had done to Joseph. Jacob probably talked about Joseph often. In *Hebrew, the brothers said that Joseph was ‘no more’. It might mean that he was dead. Or, that they did not know where he was.
Verse 15 Joseph made a serious statement. And he said that it was true ‘as certainly as *Pharaoh is alive’. So Joseph seemed very *Egyptian to his brothers.
Verses 16-17 Perhaps this was the same prison where Joseph himself had spent several years. Joseph was strict, but he was not cruel. He freed them after just three days.
Verses 19-20 Joseph wanted to send the grain to Canaan quickly. He did not want his brothers’ families to suffer. His brothers had not yet passed Joseph’s test. But Joseph knew that they would have to return. The harvests in Canaan would be poor for several more years.
Verse 21 Joseph’s brothers had put him into a pit (very big hole) and then they had sold him. Joseph had cried out to his brothers for help. The writer did not tell us about that earlier.
Verse 22 Until now, Joseph did not know that Reuben tried to save him. Now Reuben thought that God was punishing the brothers. But Joseph did not want to punish the brothers. Joseph wanted to forgive them. He felt sorry for them. He knew that they were feeling guilty. But he was not sure that their attitudes had really changed.
Verse 24 The writer does not say why Joseph chose Simeon. Joseph had just learned that Reuben, the oldest son, had tried to save Joseph (verses 22 and 23). So Joseph did not take Reuben. Simeon was the second son in order of age. Perhaps he was a leader. Simeon and Levi were very cruel when they attacked the men in Shechem (chapter 34). Simeon was Leah’s second son. Joseph kept Simeon there in Egypt. In that way, he made sure that Benjamin, Rachel’s second son, would come to Egypt.
Verse 25 The writer does not say why Joseph gave the money back. Possibly Joseph was testing the brothers. In that way, he would discover what they would do. They might keep the money. Or they might come back so that Joseph would free Simeon.
But perhaps Joseph was just being kind. He knew that the *famine would last for several more years. The brothers would need money in order to buy food. Joseph cared about his family.
Verses 27-28 The reaction of the brothers shows us that they were very worried. They did not think that God returned their money in order to show kindness. Instead, they felt even more guilty. They thought that God was punishing them. They were afraid that the *Egyptians would consider them thieves.
Verses 29-33 The brothers described the events in Egypt to Jacob, even before they opened their sacks. These events seemed terrible. Simeon was now a prisoner. The brothers never even imagined that the *Egyptian ruler might be Joseph.
Verse 34 ‘You can trade in this country.’ That means that they would be free. They could travel about in Egypt as free men.
Verse 35 The brothers probably opened only one sack on the way home (verse 28). They were afraid that it was a clever plan by Joseph. They thought that Joseph wanted an excuse. So then he could call them thieves because of the money.
Verse 36 The news really upset Jacob. Jacob probably spoke about Joseph first because Joseph had the *birthright. Then he spoke about Simeon. Jacob had not been pleased about Simeon’s cruelty. But Simeon was still Jacob’s son, so Jacob cared about him. Then Jacob spoke about Benjamin. Benjamin had become Jacob’s favourite son. Jacob had not allowed Benjamin to go to Egypt in order to protect him.
Verse 37 The brothers argued with Jacob. But Jacob certainly did not want to kill anyone, and Reuben knew this. However, Reuben still tried to argue with Jacob.
Verse 38 Jacob would not agree with his ten sons. He spoke about Joseph and Benjamin as if they were his only sons. Jacob believed that Joseph was dead. So, Jacob did not want to risk Benjamin’s life. If anything bad happened to Benjamin, Jacob would be sorry for the rest of his life.
As the *famine continued, Jacob’s family became desperate for food again. But Jacob still would not let Benjamin go to Egypt. And the other brothers did not dare to go to Egypt without Benjamin. The *Egyptian ruler had warned them not to enter Egypt without Benjamin. Of course, the brothers did not know that this ruler was really Joseph, their own brother.
In the end, Judah persuaded Jacob to let Benjamin go. Judah promised that he would protect Benjamin. And Judah would accept the blame if anything bad happened to Benjamin.
Jacob ordered the brothers to take a gift for the *Egyptian ruler. Then, Jacob *blessed them. And he prayed for them.
When the brothers arrived in Egypt, Joseph prepared a wonderful surprise for them. He wanted to show his kindness to them. And he wanted to show them how wealthy he was. So, he provided a great meal for them. Joseph showed special honour to Benjamin, who was Joseph’s closest brother.
But Joseph still did not tell his brothers who he really was. He wanted to test them first. In the past, they had been jealous, cruel and selfish. So now, Joseph needed to know whether their attitudes had changed.
Verse 2 It is not possible to say how long this would be after the first journey. But it was probably the next year (Genesis 45:6). There were many people to feed. Each of Jacob’s sons had a family (except Benjamin). And they also had servants and animals to feed. It would have been difficult for the brothers to take back large amounts of corn. They would have needed very many *donkeys. Jacob was trying to talk as if another journey to Egypt would be simple. Perhaps he was hoping that the brothers would go, without Benjamin. Maybe Jacob hoped that ‘the man’ in Egypt had forgotten them. Jacob did not seem worried about Simeon.
Verses 3-5 Judah explained that the brothers would not return without Benjamin. They were too afraid of ‘the man’ in Egypt. They thought that he would make them prisoners or slaves.
Verse 7 Joseph really asked these questions because he cared about his family. Of course he wanted to know whether his father was still alive. Of course he wanted to know about his younger brother.
Verse 8 Judah realised that the whole family would starve without food. So, he decided to accept personal responsibility for Benjamin. Judah was making a very serious promise to his father. Of course, anyone could speak such words. The real test for Judah would be his actions when Benjamin was in danger. (See Genesis 44:33.)
People could not always trust Judah in the past (chapter 38). But Jacob trusted Judah now. Perhaps Jacob realised that Judah’s attitudes had changed.
Verse 9 The *Hebrew text has ‘I will be a surety for him’. A ‘surety’ meant that the person was willing to pay for someone else’s debt. It was a promise that the person definitely had to carry out. If the brothers stayed at home, they would all die because of hunger. That would include Benjamin.
Verse 11 Jacob made the final decision. He was the head of the family. And he was also acting as their priest. He prayed for them.
There were still special foods in Canaan. The merchants were taking such things to Egypt when Joseph’s brothers sold him. Such foods were even more precious during a *famine.
Verse 12 Jacob advised his sons that they needed a humble attitude in this situation. Their lives were in danger. They could not succeed on this journey by any clever schemes. They had to pay their debts.
Verse 13 Jacob allowed Benjamin to go.
Verse 14 Jacob prayed for them and he *blessed them. He knew that there were great dangers during this journey.
Jacob’s final words might seem to show despair. He thought that he might lose Benjamin. Jacob really loved Benjamin (Genesis 44:30-31). And Jacob cared about all his sons, although they caused him many troubles. But perhaps Jacob’s words do not really show despair. Perhaps Jacob realised that he had to trust God completely. So, Jacob told his sons not to worry about him.
Verse 15 Here we see a list of what the brothers took to Egypt. The writer puts Benjamin last in that list. Jacob did not send Benjamin because he wanted to do it.
Verse 16 Joseph felt special love toward Benjamin. Benjamin was Joseph’s closest brother. They had the same mother, Rachel. And Rachel died at Benjamin’s birth. So, when Joseph saw Benjamin, Joseph wanted to show special kindness to him. At once, Joseph invited all his brothers to a special meal.
Verse 18 The brothers did not realise that Joseph was showing kindness to them. Instead, they were afraid. So, they remembered Jacob’s advice that they needed to have a humble attitude.
Verse 19 Here the brothers were humble. They were not only humble towards Joseph himself, but they were also humble towards his servant!
Verses 20-22 The brothers offered all their silver to Joseph’s servant. They wanted to pay for everything.
Verse 23 Joseph probably told the *steward what to say. God had been kind to them. So, they should not worry.
Then the *steward brought Simeon to them. The brothers would be very pleased to see Simeon again. And they were able to relax for their meal with Joseph.
Verse 24 These were the normal acts of kindness to show to travellers.
Verse 26 Again they *bowed down to Joseph! They would even call Jacob ‘Joseph’s servant’ (verse 28)!
Now the events of Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:7 really happened. Joseph’s 11 brothers all showed him honour.
Verses 27-28 Joseph’s first question was about his father. We can see that Joseph really cared about his father.
Verse 29 Joseph said to Benjamin, ‘Let God be *merciful to you, my son.’ Perhaps Joseph seemed older than he actually was. He was a very important person. So it was right for him to call Benjamin ‘my son’. That was a polite way for an older person to talk to a younger man.
Verse 30 Joseph’s emotions felt too strong for him to control. So, he cried. But he had to cry in private. He was not yet ready to tell his brothers who he really was.
Verse 32 Perhaps the *Egyptians had this attitude because Joseph’s brothers were *shepherds (Genesis 46:34). So, Joseph’s brothers did not sit with the *Egyptians.
Verse 33 Joseph arranged for his brothers to sit in the order of their ages. This was a custom that showed honour to the older brothers. But this astonished the brothers. They could not explain how the *Egyptians knew the correct order.
Verse 34 Joseph’s table would have the best food. The *steward passed this food to Joseph’s brothers. The *steward would serve the brothers in order. But there was too much food. So, Benjamin, the youngest brother, received much more food than anyone else. Joseph arranged this in order to show special kindness to Benjamin, whom Joseph loved.
Joseph’s plan to test his brothers was a simple plan. But it was also very clever.
In chapter 37, Jacob had given the *birthright to Joseph. Joseph’s brothers were jealous and they hated him. So, they sold him to be a slave when they had the opportunity.
Now, Joseph would give his brothers the opportunity to make Benjamin a slave. Benjamin had become Jacob’s favourite son. So, perhaps they were now jealous of Benjamin. Perhaps they wanted Benjamin to lose the *birthright too.
Joseph arranged the test well. The brothers really believed that the *Egyptians wanted to take Benjamin as a slave. And perhaps the brothers even thought that Benjamin deserved this, as a punishment.
In Genesis 43:9, Judah accepted responsibility for Benjamin’s safety. Judah was the brother who actually sold Joseph as a slave. But now, Judah’s attitudes had changed. Judah wanted to become a slave himself, so that Benjamin could be free. So now, Judah was both noble and humble. He offered to lose everything in order to rescue his brother.
Verses 1-4 Joseph wanted to pretend that Benjamin was a thief. Then, Joseph could see the reaction of the other brothers.
Verse 5 *Egyptians used to look into cups that they had just drunk from. They looked at the bottom of the cups. The wine would leave a pattern in the bottom of the cups. And the *Egyptians studied such patterns as a type of magic. A cup that someone used for that purpose would be very special. It would be much more important than an ordinary cup that people drank from. We do not think that Joseph really used his cup in that special way. God has told us not to do such things. Joseph continued to be loyal to God (Genesis 45:5-8). Instead, we think that Joseph was pretending to use magic. His brothers used to serve *idols (Genesis 35:2). So, perhaps they would be afraid when Joseph spoke about magic.
Verses 7-8 The brothers were sure that they were innocent. They had even tried to return the silver that they found in their sacks after the first journey.
Verses 9-10 It was polite for the brothers to offer more than they needed to. And it was polite for the *steward to refuse their offer.
Verse 12 This happened in the order of their ages, as in Genesis 43:33. Of course, this meant that the *steward looked in Benjamin’s sack last.
Verse 13 Usually, when people tore their clothes, they were very sad and very anxious. In that way, they were showing how bad they felt. This was the custom when a relative died. So, the brothers were acting as if Benjamin would die.
Verse 14 Judah was the leader of the brothers at that time because of his promise (Genesis 43:9). Earlier they had *bowed, because they respected Joseph. This time, they threw themselves to the ground. They did that because they were afraid. And they wanted *mercy.
Verse 15 We do not think that Joseph really used magic. He was using these words because of the effect that they would have on his brothers.
Verse 16 We do not know what Judah thought. Possibly he might have thought that Benjamin had really stolen the cup. But maybe Judah meant something else. Perhaps God was punishing the brothers because they had done evil things in their lives. Or perhaps God was punishing them because of what they had done to Joseph. Judah did not know that the whole situation was part of God’s plan.
Judah was very humble. He did not try to argue with Joseph. And Judah was polite. He again offered that all the brothers would suffer the punishment together. But, unlike in verse 9, he did not offer that Benjamin might die. Judah had promised to look after Benjamin.
Judah did not agree that the magic had proved Benjamin to be guilty. Instead, Judah said that God knew the truth. We do not know whether Judah really understood this.
Verse 17 Joseph was testing the brothers. He wanted to discover what they would do. Possibly the other brothers might leave Benjamin, so that they could save themselves. Joseph would discover whether they would do that. Or perhaps they would risk their own lives in order to save Benjamin.
Verse 18 Judah might have said nothing. Then, he and his brothers would be free. Only Benjamin would remain in Egypt, as a slave. In the past, Judah would have done that. But now his attitudes had changed.
Verses 19-26 Judah explained the events in chapters 42 and 43.
Verse 27 Judah was speaking as if Jacob had only one wife, Rachel. That would mean that Judah’s own mother (Leah) was a *concubine. And it would mean that Joseph always deserved the *birthright. If Joseph were dead, Benjamin would have the *birthright.
Verse 28 Judah thought that Joseph was dead (verse 20). But it seems that Jacob still had hope. However, he did not deny the evidence that the brothers had produced.
Verse 29-31 Joseph often asked the brothers about their father. And it seems that the *Egyptians respected old people (Genesis 47:8-9). So, Judah asked Joseph to save Benjamin because otherwise Jacob would suffer.
Verse 32 Judah told Joseph about Judah’s promise in Genesis 43:9. Now, Judah would do what he had promised to do. And Judah would do it, although it would ruin his own life.
Verses 33-34 Judah asked to become Joseph’s slave so that Benjamin could go free. Judah thought that he himself would never be a free man again. He showed great courage.
When Joseph heard this, he could not control his emotions. At last, the time had come for Joseph to tell his brothers who he really was.
Joseph had to pretend that he was someone else. He did that in order to test his brothers. But now, Judah had shown that their attitudes had changed. In the end, Joseph could not control his emotions. He had to cry. And he wanted to hug his brothers. So, he quickly ordered his servants to leave the room.
Even when Joseph spoke to his brothers in their own language, they could not immediately recognise him. And they were afraid of him. But Joseph’s words helped them to feel more confident. Joseph was not angry with his brothers. He forgave them. He believed that, in fact, God sent him (Joseph) to Egypt. God sent Joseph there to save lives. And now, Joseph was able to save his own family from the terrible *famine.
*Pharaoh was pleased to hear that Joseph’s brothers had come from Canaan. *Pharaoh wanted the whole family to live in Egypt. *Pharaoh even sent wagons so that the weaker members of the family could travel to Egypt more easily.
The news from Egypt astonished Jacob. But, when he saw the wagons, he believed. He knew that God had been kind to Joseph. And Jacob saw that the events in Joseph’s dreams (Genesis 37:7-9) really happened. Jacob could remember the promises that God gave about his family (Genesis 35:11-12). So, Jacob was confident that God would do these things too. These things would happen after Jacob’s death, but Jacob still believed (Hebrews 11:21; Hebrews 11:13). But now, Jacob would go to see Joseph again. And, during the journey, God would speak to Jacob again (Genesis 46:3-4).
Verse 1 Joseph wanted this to be a special time that he could spend with his family. He wanted to take away anything that was between his brothers and himself. For them, he was their *Hebrew brother. Although he was also an important *Egyptian ruler, he need to be with his own family now.
Judah had shown that the brothers had changed. They were not willing to leave Benjamin in order to save themselves.
Verse 2 Joseph wept. We can imagine his feelings of delight and relief.
Joseph tried to make this meeting private. Perhaps he was unsure what the *Egyptians would think about his family. But in fact, everybody heard that Joseph’s family had arrived. Even *Pharaoh heard. And *Pharaoh was very pleased.
Verse 3 Joseph asked again about his father. That showed again his love for his father. Judah had made it clear that the father was very weak.
In some translations, the brothers were ‘dumbfounded’. It means that they could not speak. And they could not do anything. That was because they were so surprised, afraid and confused!
Verse 4 Joseph was a very great ruler. His visitors usually stood at a distance in order to give honour to him. But he wanted his brothers to come closer. They needed to recognise him. And he wanted to hug them.
Verses 5-8 Joseph knew that God had controlled his (Joseph’s) life. He mentions God many times in these verses.
In verse 8, a ‘father to *Pharaoh’ meant someone that advised *Pharaoh. It meant someone that helped *Pharaoh. It had no connection with age. And it had no connection with relatives in a family.
Verses 9-11 Joseph wanted his father and the whole family to come to Egypt. Then, Joseph could look after them during the *famine.
Verse 12 Here Joseph was speaking *Hebrew to his brothers. He was not speaking in the *Egyptian language.
Verse 13 Joseph wanted his father to hear how much God had *blessed Joseph.
Verses 14-15 This was a very happy meeting. It was the custom for relatives to hug and to kiss. These actions showed that Joseph loved his brothers. The brothers had not met Joseph for nearly 20 years, until they saw him in Egypt.
Verse 16 People in Egypt liked Joseph very much. Everyone was pleased about his family.
Verses 17-20 *Pharaoh was very generous. He did everything possible to bring the whole family to Egypt. He did not even want them to bring their possessions from Canaan. *Pharaoh could provide much better things for them in Egypt.
Verse 21 Joseph sent his brothers back to Canaan. He told them to bring the entire family back to Egypt.
Verse 22 Joseph gave new clothes to his brothers. They had torn their clothes when Joseph’s *steward arrested Benjamin (Genesis 44:13).
Verse 24 In the *Hebrew text, Joseph told his brothers not to ‘tremble’. In other words, they should keep their emotions calm. It may mean that they should not be afraid or anxious. And they should not accuse each other. They should be friendly to each other.
Verses 25-26 At first, Jacob did not believe the news. The brothers had to show him the wagons that *Pharaoh sent.
Verse 27 Jacob had been sad about Joseph since the events in Genesis 37:34-35. And Jacob thought that those terrible feelings would never leave him. Only Benjamin was able to comfort Jacob (Genesis 44:30-31). But the wonderful news about Joseph changed everything for Jacob. At last, Jacob’s spirit felt strong again. Jacob was excited. He wanted to go to see Joseph at once.
Verse 28 The writer suddenly calls Jacob by his other name, ‘Israel’. This was the special name that God gave to Jacob (Genesis 32:28). The writer uses this name to emphasise Jacob’s relationship (friendship) with God. Jacob’s (Israel’s) family was starting to grow into the nation called Israel. And the families that belonged to that nation would live in Egypt for over 400 years.
Jacob said that he would see Joseph before his (Jacob’s) death. These might seem like sad words, but they are not. Jacob meant that his life’s work was complete. God had done everything that Jacob hoped. God had even returned Joseph, who seemed dead, to Jacob. So, Jacob was not worried about the future. Jacob needed nothing else to make him content. And he would be content for the rest of his life.
On the way to Egypt, Jacob stopped at Beersheba. Beersheba was a special place for Jacob. There, God had spoken to his father, Isaac (Genesis 26:24). Isaac had gone to Beersheba because God told him not to go to Egypt (Genesis 26:2). But God’s message to Jacob was different.
In a dream, God spoke to Jacob. God told Jacob not to be afraid to go into Egypt. God had a plan for Jacob’s family in Egypt.
The chapter then contains a list of Jacob’s sons and grandsons. The numbers are difficult to calculate. But the final figure is 70 people. This was a very large family. In time, the family would become a great nation. God had promised Abraham that he (Abraham) would have very many *descendants (Genesis 15:5). God made this promise before Abraham had his son. And Jacob was Abraham’s grandson.
Jacob and Joseph were very happy to see each other again. Joseph knew that Jacob would encourage him. Joseph still had his important work to do for *Pharaoh. Until now, Joseph was probably the only person in Egypt who served the real God. The *Egyptians served *idols. But now Joseph had Jacob to support him.
Joseph arranged a place where his brothers could work. They would continue to be *shepherds. So, they would not become rulers. But Joseph continued his important work for *Pharaoh.
Verses 1-4 Jacob was planning to leave Canaan and he would go to Egypt. But Canaan was actually the country that God had promised to Jacob and his family. So Jacob needed to be sure that God wanted him to leave it. Jacob was probably very anxious. He very much wanted to see Joseph. But Jacob was old. And it was a long way to travel. However, the family might all starve if they did not go to Egypt. Jacob needed to know what God wanted.
So, Jacob stopped in order to pray at Beersheba. That night, God spoke again to Jacob. God promised to make Jacob’s family into a big nation in Egypt (verse 3). Here God was not talking about Canaan, the country that he had promised to them. In Egypt, the family would not only stay alive. It would also grow. But God did not want the family always to live in Egypt. Centuries later, God would arrange for their *descendants to return to Canaan.
Verses 5-7 Jacob’s family continued their journey. The weaker members of the family used the wagons that *Pharaoh sent. They took everything that they owned.
Verses 8-14 The writer gives a list of Leah’s family first. He gives a list of her sons and grandsons. Leah was Jacob’s first wife.
Verse 15 Leah’s ‘sons’ include also her grandsons. But the 33 people here probably do not include Er and Onan. Those two grandsons had died already in Canaan. They did not go to Egypt. But without Er and Onan, there are still only 32 *descendants. Those 32 include the daughter, called Dinah. So it is possible that the 33 people here include also Jacob, the father.
Verses 16-18 These are the sons and grandsons of Jacob and Zilpah. Zilpah was Leah’s maid. Zilpah became Jacob’s *concubine.
Verses 19-22 These are the sons and grandsons of Jacob and Rachel. Rachel was Jacob’s favourite wife.
The list in this chapter contains Jacob’s whole family. At that time Benjamin was probably too young to have 10 children. The writer mentions Benjamin’s family here to make the list complete.
Verses 22-25 These are the sons and grandsons of Jacob and Bilhah. Bilhah was Rachel’s maid. Bilhah became Jacob’s *concubine.
Verses 26-27 The 66 people in verse 26 were Jacob’s sons, grandsons and daughter. They went to Egypt with Jacob. Joseph and his two sons were already in Egypt. The 70 people in verse 27 include also them as well as Jacob himself. The number 70 in the Bible often has a special meaning. It means that something is complete.
Verse 28 Judah had been the leader of the brothers when they sold Joseph. Here, he was the leader when they brought Joseph and Jacob together again.
Verses 29-30 As soon as possible, Joseph went to see his father. They were very pleased to be together again. Jacob’s words in verse 30 meant that his life felt complete. He had done everything that he needed to do. But in fact, God had more work for Jacob. Jacob would *bless *Pharaoh (Genesis 47:7-10). And Jacob would *bless each of his sons by a special *prophecy (chapter 49).
Verses 31-32 God’s plan was that Jacob’s family should live together as a nation. The *Egyptians did not like *shepherds. So Jacob’s family did not live in different places among the *Egyptians. The family was able to live together in one place.
Verse 34 Egypt had a very strong culture and an ancient religion. So, the *Egyptians had strong opinions about other people. Perhaps the *Egyptians did not like *shepherds because they travelled from place to place.
Joseph was a ruler in Egypt. But he did not want his brothers to work in the government. Instead, he decided that they should continue to be *shepherds. Then, they could live in the region called Goshen. Goshen was near Egypt. But Joseph did not want them to live in the important cities in Egypt. He knew that their decisions had not always been sensible in the past. He was careful in case they made any more mistakes. Joseph was a very capable ruler.
The right time came for Joseph to introduce his family to *Pharaoh. Joseph chose 5 brothers (on behalf of the whole family) to meet *Pharaoh. Then, Joseph introduced his father, Jacob, to *Pharaoh.
*Pharaoh respected Jacob because Jacob was a very old man. And *Pharaoh also gave honour to Jacob because of Joseph’s importance. *Pharaoh realised that Jacob, like Joseph, was a holy man.
Jacob explained to *Pharaoh that he (Jacob) did not consider himself a great man. Jacob referred to the lives of Abraham and Isaac. Jacob believed that they were really great men. He said that life on earth was like a journey. Perhaps he was desiring his permanent home in heaven (Hebrews 11:16). Then, Jacob *blessed *Pharaoh.
Afterwards, *Pharaoh became much more important as a ruler. This happened because of Joseph’s great skill. He bought the land in Egypt for *Pharaoh. And Joseph also arranged regular taxes that made *Pharaoh much more wealthy.
At the end of the chapter, Jacob was very old. Soon, he would die. So, he called Joseph. Jacob asked Joseph to promise to bury him (Jacob) in Canaan. Jacob wanted his *descendants to realise that Egypt was not their permanent home. Instead, God had promised Canaan to them. Joseph made the promise. In fact, Joseph would ask his own *descendants to make a similar promise about his own body, too.
Verse 2 Joseph took only 5 brothers to *Pharaoh. Joseph did not take them all. We do not know how he chose those 5 brothers. In the *Hebrew text, Joseph chose them ‘from the edge’. It means that he chose from all the brothers. Perhaps he took the most impressive ones, so that *Pharaoh would want such people in Egypt. Or perhaps he took the weaker ones, so that *Pharaoh would not take them into the government. God has not told us the reason why Joseph chose those 5 brothers. So we do not need to know why.
Verse 3 The brothers answered as Joseph had told them in Genesis 46:33-34.
Verse 4 We do not know exactly where Goshen was. It was probably on the east side of the Nile.
Verse 6 *Pharaoh was very kind. He did not behave towards Jacob and his family as if they were strangers. *Pharaoh received them with pleasure. He had this attitude because of Joseph. Joseph had *blessed *Pharaoh. So, *Pharaoh wanted to *bless Joseph’s family.
Verse 7 Jacob *blessed *Pharaoh. God was doing as he had promised. He was *blessing other people by means of Jacob and his family. Usually, the more important person *blessed the less important one. However, Jacob was an old man and therefore he was important. The ‘*blessing’ may have been a greeting, ‘Let God be with you.’ Or ‘I hope that you will live for a long time.’ Jacob was grateful for *Pharaoh’s kindness.
Verse 8 In the *Hebrew Bible, *Pharaoh asks, ‘How many are the days of the years of your life?’ That makes Jacob seem very old.
Verses 9-10 Jacob said, ‘I have lived.’ For ‘lived’, he used a certain *Hebrew word that he often used. That word means ‘to live in a temporary home’, ‘to camp’ or ‘to travel’. It does not mean that he always lived in one place. It is the opposite of that.
Jacob said that the years in his life had been ‘few and evil’. He was not quite as old as Abraham or Isaac. But they, too, had many difficulties during their lives. Jacob was trying to emphasise that his life was not perfect. He had made many mistakes. But he was aware of God’s greatness. God lives always. And God never does anything wrong. So, Jacob *blessed *Pharaoh. In other words, Jacob prayed that God would be kind to *Pharaoh.
Verse 11 The ‘region called Rameses’ may be a name that people gave later to the region called Goshen. Or it may have been another name for Goshen already. The name meant ‘Ra has created it’. (Ra was a god that the *Egyptians *worshipped.)
Verse 13 The *famine would continue for 5 more years (Genesis 45:6). This was a very long *famine. But Joseph had stored the excess food from the years before the *famine began.
Verses 14-15 Joseph was very honest. He was also a very good, careful official. At the start of the *famine, people used money to pay for their food. But the people ran out of money to buy food.
Verses 16-19 As the *famine continued, people had no money to pay for their food. But Joseph was very wise. He fed the people so that they did not die. They paid for the corn with their animals (verse 17). The people also paid with their land (verse 20). And they paid with themselves, as they became slaves (verse 21). They did it so that they did not owe anything to Joseph. Joseph also took good care of what belonged to *Pharaoh, his master.
Verses 20-24 After that, all the land belonged to *Pharaoh. So then it was easier to make sure that people used it well. Then, there would not be frequent *famines. It was not bad to be a slave. The master fed his slaves. Some slaves had important jobs. When Joseph was a slave, he had an important job with Potiphar. The people would have four fifths of future harvests. So really, the effect was that the people were paying taxes.
Verse 25 The people were not angry about Joseph’s taxes. They knew that he saved their lives by his careful plans. So, they were grateful to Joseph and to *Pharaoh. People respect governments that look after them carefully.
Verse 26 In the *Hebrew Bible, the writer says that Joseph’s law ‘remains at this day’. ‘This day’ means the day when the writer wrote the account.
Verse 27 God did as he had promised. Jacob’s family became rich and his sons had many children.
Verse 28 Joseph lived with Jacob for 17 years before the brothers sold Joseph. Here, Jacob lived near Joseph for another 17 years. That was the last part of Jacob’s life.
Verses 29-30 ‘Israel’ is Jacob’s name as the head of the family. The family would become a nation called ‘Israel’. Before Jacob’s request, he said, ‘Please be kind to me.’ The *Hebrew writer says, ‘If now you look at me with a kind attitude’. Jacob wanted people to take his body to Canaan when he died. That was the country that God had promised to him. So Jacob trusted that God would take the family back to Canaan. Jacob needed to remind his family that God would do that. Egypt was not their home.
Verse 31 Joseph had to do what Jacob wanted. So Joseph needed to make a very serious promise. Joseph needed to be very careful to do that. We do not know exactly what this verse means. Jacob may have *bowed because he was thanking God. Or he may have been very weak and tired. The *Hebrew text may mean that Jacob leaned on the head of his stick. It may not have been the head of the bed. We know that Jacob was a weak old man. He was grateful to God that he (Jacob) was content before his death.
The *blessings that Jacob gave to his family start in this chapter. These *blessings were not just Jacob’s own ideas about his sons and grandsons. In fact, the *blessings were *prophecies about the future. Jacob spoke these things by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
Many of Jacob’s *blessings are difficult for us to understand. Some phrases have several possible meanings. But we need to remember that the *descendants of Jacob’s 12 sons became the 12 *tribes of Israel. So, often the words in the *blessing describe the places where the *tribes would live in Canaan.
The *blessings were also a type of poetry. They use descriptions that may seem strange to us today. And they often repeat the same ideas in different words.
Jacob began with his *blessings for Joseph’s sons. Joseph received the *birthright because of Reuben’s *sin (1 Chronicles 5:1-2). So, Jacob gave a special *blessing to Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Jacob wanted people to include Ephraim and Manasseh when they made lists of his (Jacob’s) sons. So, the *descendants of Ephraim became another *tribe of Israel. So did the *descendants of Manasseh. And the *descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh would receive their own land in Canaan (Joshua chapters 16 and 17).
The writer often uses Jacob’s other name, Israel, in this chapter.
Verse 1 Isaac gave his final *blessing to his sons when he expected to die (Genesis 27:2). That *blessing was very important. It included *prophecies about the future.
So, when Jacob was old and ill, Joseph went to receive his father’s *blessing. There would be a special *blessing for Joseph because he had the *birthright (1 Chronicles 5:2). And Joseph probably hoped that God would give a *prophecy to Jacob.
It seems that Joseph also wanted his own sons to receive a *blessing. They had lived a very strange life. Their mother’s father was the priest of a false god (Genesis 41:45). They had always lived in Egypt. They spoke the *Egyptian language. They wore *Egyptian clothes. They probably felt like *Egyptians. So, it was probably a great surprise for them to discover their real family. But Joseph wanted his sons to receive the benefit of God’s promise too. So, Joseph brought them to Jacob.
Verse 3 Luz is another name for Bethel. Jacob was describing the event in Genesis 28:10-15.
Verse 4 God had chosen certain people to be his servants. God had promised many times that he would make those servants ‘be *fruitful’. And he would make them ‘grow in number’. They would have many *descendants. And their *descendants would become a great nation. This was God’s promise to Abraham and Isaac. God repeated this promise to Jacob at Bethel. And now Jacob’s *blessings would include *prophecies with a relationship to this promise. God also promised that Jacob’s *descendants would rule Canaan.
It was as if Jacob was passing out these promises to his sons. Jacob would soon die. But Jacob’s sons would receive the benefit of these promises.
Verse 5 Jacob chose a special way to show that Ephraim and Manasseh belonged to his family. Jacob adopted them. The *descendants of all Jacob’s sons became *tribes. For example, there were a *tribe of Reuben and a *tribe of Simeon. And there were also a *tribe of Ephraim and a *tribe of Manasseh. Everybody knew that they belonged with Jacob’s *descendants. This was because Jacob adopted Ephraim and Manasseh.
Although Manasseh was the oldest son, Jacob mentioned Ephraim first here. Again, God especially *blessed the younger son. God had *blessed Joseph similarly, although his brothers were older than him.
Verse 6 Any other sons of Joseph would be part of the *tribes called Ephraim and Manasseh. And they would share the land of those *tribes.
Verses 8-9 The words that Israel used here may have been special words. People often used such words when they adopted children. But perhaps Israel (Jacob) was making sure whom he would soon *bless. He probably remembered how he had made Isaac *bless him.
Verse 10 Some Bible students say that this was actually a ceremony. When people were adopting children, they kissed those children. And they hugged the children. It was part of that event. In any case, it was natural that a grandfather would do that. He was very eager to love Joseph’s sons.
Verse 11 Israel (Jacob) and Joseph both knew that God had *blessed them.
Verse 12 We are not sure exactly where the grandsons were. They would not have been on Israel’s knees. They were both over 17 years old. Maybe they went near Israel’s knees because he was taking them into his family. It may have been part of that event. Look at Genesis 30:3. There, Rachel offered her maid to Jacob. In the *Hebrew Bible, she did it so that ‘she can have babies upon my knees. And even I can have children by means of her.’ In Egypt, Joseph was a more important man than Israel (Jacob) was. Joseph *bowed low because Israel (Jacob) was old. And Israel (Jacob) was dying. And Israel (Jacob) was his father. Joseph showed honour to Israel (Jacob) for those reasons. And Joseph also showed Israel (Jacob) honour because Israel (Jacob) was a holy man. Soon, like a priest, Israel (Jacob) would *bless his family. And he would give a *prophecy from God.
Verses 13-14 Israel (Jacob) clearly knew which son was which. He did not make a mistake. As he gave his *blessing, he was trusting God to guide him (Hebrews 11:21).
Verses 15-16 When Israel (Jacob) had *blessed Joseph’s sons, he *blessed Joseph. Israel (Jacob) cared more about God’s honour than he cared about his family’s happiness. He emphasised that God was really giving the *blessing.
Verses 17-19 Joseph wanted Manasseh to receive a greater *blessing. So, Joseph thought that his father had made a mistake. But there was no mistake. Israel (Jacob) knew what God wanted him to do.
Verse 20 ‘Israel will use your names to *bless people.’ In this sentence, ‘Israel’ means ‘*Israelites’. But in other places here, it means Jacob.
Verse 21 Israel (Jacob) had not forgotten the country that God had promised to him. He had been away from it for 17 years. But he had not forgotten it. He wanted to remind his family that they should return there.
Verse 22 Joseph had the *birthright. Usually, the oldest son in the family received the *birthright. But Reuben lost this right because of his evil behaviour.
The son with the *birthright received a double share of his father’s possessions. Of course, Joseph was very wealthy. He needed nothing more from his father. So, his father gave him some land in Canaan. It seems that this is the land in Genesis 33:19-20. (See also John 4:5.) This was a special place where Jacob built an *altar. So, this gift would remind Joseph to pray. And it would also remind Joseph that, in the future, his *descendants would return to Canaan.
Chapter 33 says that Jacob bought this land. But this chapter says that he fought for it. We do not know when he fought such a battle. Maybe he had to fight in order to protect his family after his sons attacked Shechem.
After Jacob *blessed Joseph’s sons, Jacob *blessed his own sons.
In fact, Jacob did not give a *blessing to all 12 sons. Reuben, Simeon and Levi deserved no *blessing because of their evil deeds.
But God still gave Jacob a *prophecy about each son. All the sons belonged to Jacob’s family. And all the sons received the benefit of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God would make the *descendants of all the sons into a great nation. The *descendants of each son would become a *tribe in that nation. God would give them the country called Canaan.
And God would use them to *bless people from all the nations. Among them, Eve’s special *descendant (Genesis 3:15) would be born. That *descendant would free people from *sin and from the devil’s power. God’s promises to Abraham were also promises to that *descendant (Galatians 3:16). And that *descendant would be the real king of Israel (Genesis 49:10). The Bible tells us that these promises were about Jesus. He was that special *descendant.
This is a very difficult chapter to translate. Some phrases have many possible meanings. We have tried to explain the probable meaning. But different Bible students have other ideas about some verses.
Verses 1-2 This was a *prophecy about the future. Of course, Jacob could not speak about the future by his own knowledge. God showed him what to say. That is how he was able to speak such things.
Jacob often referred to past events as he spoke. But he was using these events as a way to explain what would happen in the future. He also used the names of some sons in a special way. The meanings of their names also helped to explain future events.
These *prophecies would not happen during the lives of Jacob’s sons. Instead, the *prophecies were about the *descendants of Jacob’s sons. These *descendants became the 12 *tribes of Israel. The *descendants of each son became a *tribe. The *prophecies were about the regions that each *tribe would receive in Canaan. And, they were about the work that each *tribe would do. And, sometimes, they were about that *tribe’s troubles.
Verses 3-4 People thought that the first son should become the head of the family after his father’s death. So, Jacob had great hopes for Reuben. But Reuben disappointed Jacob when Reuben had sex with Bilhah (Genesis 35:22). (Bilhah was Jacob’s *concubine.) So, Jacob decided to give the *birthright to Joseph instead of Reuben (1 Chronicles 5:1-2).
Reuben’s *descendants became the *tribe of Reuben. The *tribe of Reuben was never an important *tribe.
Verses 5-7 Jacob was referring to the events in chapter 34. Jacob thought that the behaviour of Simeon and Levi was terrible. Simeon and Levi did not respect God. They had been angry. So, they used the *covenant that the family had made with God. They used it in order to kill their enemies.
Jacob said that they should not live together. This was a *prophecy. Each *tribe of Israel received its own land in Canaan. But the *tribes of Simeon and Levi were different.
The *tribe of Simeon was small. So, it did not receive its own region in Canaan. Instead, the *tribe of Simeon received part of the land that belonged to the *tribe of Judah (Joshua 19:1-9).
The *tribe of Levi became very important. Moses belonged to this *tribe. And God appointed families from this *tribe to become the priests. Because they were priests, they were responsible for all the people in Israel. So, the *tribe of Levi could not receive its own region. Instead, the people from this *tribe received their own towns. These towns were in every region in Canaan (Joshua chapter 21). So, people from the *tribe of Levi were available to help people from all the *tribes to *worship God.
So, the things that Jacob said actually happened. They were *prophecies from God. But these things did not always happen in the way that people might expect.
Verses 8-9 The *tribe of Judah became a very large *tribe. And it became very important. Even before there were kings in Israel, men from the *tribe of Judah led Israel’s army into battle. (See Judges 20:18.)
Jacob said in his *prophecy that the *tribe of Judah would overcome its enemies. Lions are very strong animals. And the men from Judah’s *tribe would be strong in battle. Someone cannot put his hand on his enemy’s neck until that person has completely defeated his enemy.
Verse 10 Jacob was saying that the kings of Israel would come from Judah’s *descendants. David and Solomon came from the *tribe of Judah. They were the greatest kings of Israel. And their *descendants ruled as kings for many centuries. But the other *tribes did not remain loyal to David’s family.
In the end, God’s plan is that the ‘real owner’ will be king. This means Jesus, who is the king of kings (Revelation 19:16). As the real king of Israel, Jesus owns the objects that show royal authority. He is the king of Israel, but he is also the king of every nation.
Jesus deserves to rule the nations because he is God. With God the Father and the Holy Spirit, Jesus created everything that exists (John 1:1-3).
Jesus also deserves to rule because he is Eve’s special *descendant. God promised that Eve’s special *descendant would free people from the power of *sin and the devil (Genesis 3:15). Jesus achieved this by his death for us.
Jesus also deserves to rule because he is David’s *descendant. And Jesus belongs to the *tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5).
And, because Jesus will rule, God will *bless the people from all nations (Revelation 22:2-3). If we confess our *sins, God forgives us because of Jesus. And we shall rule with him, because we belong to his royal family (1 Peter 2:9). This is a wonderful promise to everyone who trusts Jesus. We do not deserve these things. And we cannot earn them by our own efforts. But God said that he would *bless people from every nation by means of Abraham’s special *descendant (Genesis 12:3). And that special *descendant is Jesus (Galatians 3:16).
Verses 11-12 These verses do not seem to describe Judah himself, who was a *shepherd. The verses probably describe the land in Canaan that the *tribe of Judah would receive. So, ‘he’ means someone from the *tribe of Judah.
Jacob described a place where the land was very good. People would plant fruit bushes. And the fruit harvest would be plentiful. A farmer would need a *donkey to carry the fruit from one bush. (See Numbers 13:23.) There would even be enough wine to wash clothes in it! People did not really wash clothes in wine. Usually, wine was much too precious to waste.
Verse 12 describes someone who is strong and healthy. That person is healthy because his food is good. His food is good because the land is good. So, the *tribe of Judah would receive good land.
Verse 13 Jacob was saying that trade would be important to the *tribe of Zebulun. This tribe’s land included part of the shore of the sea called Galilee. But the land did not include the city called Sidon. And it did not include the shore of the great sea, called the Mediterranean. But perhaps the men from this *tribe traded in these places also.
Verses 14-15 Men from the *tribe of Issachar would become farmers. Their land would be very good. And, like the *donkey, they would work very hard.
Verse 16 Dan’s name means “judgement”. These words are not a description of a modern judge, who merely makes decisions. Jacob was saying that God would use Dan (or the *tribe of Dan) to fight for his people. Samson did this, and he came from the *tribe of Dan (Judges 13:2).
Verses 17-18 A snake may be small. But it can fight a much larger animal. And the snake will win.
So, God would use the *tribe of Dan to defeat enemies that seemed very powerful. The *tribe of Dan would succeed because God was using it to save his people.
Verse 19 Jacob repeats the same letters often in his *prophecy about Gad. Our translation also does this (with the letters ‘g’ and 'd'). This is a style of poetry.
Many enemies attacked the *tribe of Gad. These enemies belonged to the nations called Ammon, Moab and Aram. The people from Gad fought them successfully.
Verse 20 The *tribe of Asher received good land. When Solomon became the King of Israel, the *tribe of Asher provided food for the palace. Each year, they provided the food that the palace used in one month. You can read a list of the food that the *tribe provided in 1 Kings 4:22-28.
Verse 21 This verse seems to refer to the battle that Barak fought. Barak came from the *tribe of Naphtali (Judges 4:6). And the beautiful words may refer to the poem in Judges chapter 5.
Verse 22 This verse is like Psalm 1:2-3. These are descriptions of a *righteous person. Such a person does whatever God wants that person to do. Other people might think that a *righteous person is foolish. But the Bible teaches that only *righteous people are really successful. And *righteous people are successful whether they are rich or poor. Joseph was a *righteous man. And so, Joseph’s life did not just benefit Joseph himself. In fact, God *blessed *Pharaoh because of Joseph. God saved the lives of the *Egyptians during the *famine because of Joseph. And God helped Joseph’s own family, because of Joseph.
Verses 23-24 Joseph had many troubles during his life. But God protected Joseph. And God made Joseph able to overcome his (Joseph’s) problems.
Jacob described Joseph’s problems as if Joseph was a soldier in a battle. Joseph was not actually a soldier. This is just a description.
Verses 25-26 Joseph received a special *blessing because he had the *birthright. Jacob said that God would give many good things to Joseph. God had been very kind to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But the good things that God would give his people had not ended. In fact, the opposite was true. God would do even greater things for Joseph’s *descendants.
The son who had the *birthright used to receive a double share of his father’s possessions. The *descendants of each son of Jacob became a *tribe. But Joseph’s *descendants became two *tribes: Ephraim and Manasseh. And they were both large *tribes.
Verse 27 People from the *tribe of Benjamin would have a tendency to fight. In Judges chapter 20, this attitude caused a terrible war between the *tribe of Benjamin and the other *tribes. The *tribe of Benjamin refused to hand over criminals for punishment. Instead, the *tribe of Benjamin decided to fight.
The men from the *tribe of Benjamin were brave soldiers. But they still lost the battle. Nearly everyone from the *tribe of Benjamin died. Only 600 men from the *tribe of Benjamin escaped.
Many years afterwards, the first king of Israel, called Saul, came from the *tribe of Benjamin. Saul became a cruel king.
Paul too belonged to the *tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5). Paul had this tendency too, but he used it in a good way. He was brave. And he was not afraid to suffer (2 Corinthians 11:23-29).
Verse 28 This is the first time in Genesis when the writer writes about ‘Israel’s 12 *tribes’.
Verse 29 Jacob told his sons that he was dying. He said, ‘God will soon gather me to my people.’ Maybe he used these words to show that there is life after death. We do not know whether he did. Jacob may have meant only that his body would be with his dead relatives (verses 30-32). Jacob insisted that his sons should bury him in Canaan. Canaan was the country that God had promised to them. The sons needed to remember that. Their *descendants would not always remain in Egypt.
Jacob had asked his sons to bury his body in Canaan. So, after Jacob’s death, Joseph arranged for the funeral to be in Canaan.
It was not just Jacob’s family who attended the funeral. Many *Egyptians came to the funeral too. This fact shows how many people respected Jacob. It took several days to travel from Egypt to Canaan. And it was a difficult journey.
After the funeral, Joseph’s brothers became afraid of him again. They thought that he might be angry with them. They thought that he might punish them.
Joseph wept when he heard about their fears. He never wanted to be cruel to his brothers. He had forgiven them. He was sad that they did not seem to realise this. So, he explained that God placed him in Egypt in order to do God’s work. Their actions had been evil. But they could not prevent God from doing something good.
Joseph was an old man when he died. Before he died, he gave an instruction to his family. He did not want them to bury his body in Egypt. Instead, he asked them to store his bones. At the right time, God would take their *descendants back to Canaan. (God promised this to Abraham in Genesis 15:13-16.) And Joseph wanted them to take his bones with them. Joseph showed by these instructions that he trusted God (Hebrews 11:22).
And the *descendants of Joseph’s family did what he wanted (Exodus 13:19; Joshua 24:32).
Verse 1 There was special love between Joseph and Jacob. There were several reasons why such love existed between them. Joseph was the son of Rachel, Jacob’s favourite wife. Jacob and Rachel had waited for many years before Joseph was born. Jacob and Joseph were away from each other for many years. They had not thought that they would meet each other again. But particularly, they felt this love because they both served God. So, they both had the same attitudes.
Joseph was a very important person in Egypt. So, when his father was dying, Joseph would be the chief person by his father’s bed. God had promised that Joseph would close Jacob’s eyes when Jacob died (Genesis 46:4).
Verse 2 *Egyptians used to *preserve dead bodies. This was a special ceremony in their religion. So, usually, their priests did this task. But Joseph and Jacob did not belong to the ancient *Egyptian religion. Instead, they served the real God. So, Joseph arranged for doctors (instead of priests) to *preserve Jacob’s body.
Verse 3 ‘40 days’ may mean ‘a long time’ in the *Old Testament. However, it may actually mean 40 days here, because the writer mentions other such times also. People were usually sad for dead kings for 72 days. Jacob’s family considered him very important. The *Egyptians, too, considered him important, because he was Joseph’s father.
Verse 4 Joseph did not go to *Pharaoh himself. Probably, people did not usually go to a king while they were sad. It was probably not right to do that. Jacob wanted his family to bury him in Canaan because of God’s promises. But Joseph did not mention that reason. Perhaps he thought that it might not be polite to the people in Egypt. Joseph talked about the matter gently. He also spoke about a grave that Jacob had made for himself. Joseph did not mention that the graves of Jacob’s relatives were in the same place. Some translations have ‘the grave that I cut (out of the rock)’.
Verse 5 Joseph promised to return to Egypt.
Verse 7 All *Pharaoh’s *Egyptian servants went with Joseph. In that way, they showed great honour towards Joseph and Jacob. Perhaps the *Egyptians also wanted to be sure that Joseph would come back to Egypt.
Jacob’s funeral was a very great occasion.
Verse 9 The *descendants of people that went to the funeral would follow the *Israelites later. They chased the *Israelites when the *Israelites left Egypt for Canaan. But then, at that later time, the *Egyptians and the *Israelites were enemies.
Verse 10 We are not sure where this place was. It was usual to cry and be sad for 7 days. To separate the grains from the corn, people beat the corn. Each farmer chose a special area with flat ground for this task.
Verse 11 People could see that Joseph’s group were very sad. And people could hear it. The group made a noise and they probably tore their clothes. Probably, they threw ashes over their bodies and they shaved their hair. And they cried loudly. The name Abel-Mizraim meant that the *Egyptians were very sad there.
Verse 13 It seems that only Jacob’s family went further to his burial. (A burial is when people bury a dead person in the ground.) The *Egyptians stayed at Abel-Mizraim. Families usually buried their dead relatives in private.
Verse 14 Joseph did as he had promised to *Pharaoh. He returned to Egypt. Actually, many people went back together to Egypt. But Joseph was the most important person.
Verse 15 ‘Saw’ here means knew. The brothers were afraid. They thought that maybe Joseph would not still be friendly to them. Perhaps he was kind in the past only because he loved his father. So, Joseph’s brothers were afraid that he might now punish them. He was very powerful.
Verses 16-17 The writer does not tell us whether Jacob really told the brothers to say those things. The brothers had done bad things to Joseph. But we do not know whether Jacob ever knew that. Jacob would have wanted the family to be friendly, because God had promised great things for their future.
Maybe the brothers had not asked Joseph to forgive them before. If they had, we do not know it. But now, they asked him clearly to forgive them. They even offered to become his slaves.
Their message upset Joseph. He had already forgiven them. But it seems that they still did not realise this fact.
Their attitude was like many people today. God wants to forgive us because he is kind. He sent Jesus to die for us. Because of Jesus, God will forgive us if we humbly confess our evil deeds to him. Then, if we invite God into our lives, we become friends of God. But many people think that they must earn this by their own efforts. They are wrong. God forgives us as a free gift. God makes us his friends because he loves us.
Verses 19-20 Although Joseph had a lot of wealth and power, he had not become proud and unkind. He knew that God is the judge over everyone. He knew that God is always good. And God is powerful. Our evil deeds cannot stop God’s plans to do good things. God had a plan to use Joseph. And God’s plan succeeded. He used Joseph to save people’s lives.
Verse 21 Joseph promised to provide for his brothers’ families. They would be safe then. And they would continue to be safe during his whole life.
Verse 22 Joseph lived until he was very old.
Verse 23 In the *Hebrew of this verse, it is not clear whether the children were Ephraim’s grandchildren or Joseph’s grandchildren. Joseph adopted Manasseh’s grandchildren.
Verse 24 Joseph believed God’s promise that God would give the country called Canaan to the *Israelites. It is unlikely that many of Joseph’s actual brothers were still alive. The verse probably means that he spoke these words to his brothers’ families.
Verse 25 ‘Israel’s sons’ probably means Jacob’s grandsons, grandsons’ sons, and other *descendants. All Joseph’s brothers were older than he was, except Benjamin. Joseph used this promise to remind his family that he trusted God. And Joseph wanted them to trust God too.
Verse 26 Usually, the *Israelites buried bodies soon after death. But Joseph wanted the *Israelites to remember God’s promises. So, he told them not to bury his body. Instead, he told them to put it in a coffin. (A coffin is a big box that someone has made out of wood. People place dead bodies in it.) Whenever the *Israelites saw that coffin, they remembered God’s promise to them. God had promised that they would live in Canaan. It took several centuries before their *descendants arrived in Canaan. But, in the end, God did for them what he had promised. And, at last, they buried Joseph’s bones in the country that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
adultery ~ when a married person has sex with someone that is not the person’s husband or wife.
almighty ~ when someone has enough power to defeat all his enemies; the Person who is better than everyone else; the *Lord over everything; the Person who has power over everything.
almond ~ a kind of tree with pink flowers; a nut that this tree produces.
altar ~ a table that people made out of stone or metal. People burned gifts to God (*sacrifices) on it.
Amorites ~ a group of people that lived in the country called Canaan.
ancestor ~ a relative that lived a long time ago. A person’s parents are *descendants of such a relative.
angels ~ God’s servants from *heaven, who sometimes bring God’s messages to people.
balm ~ an oily, sticky substance from a tree. It smells good. People used it to cure troubles in people’s skin. And they used it to make the skin feel comfortable.
birthright ~ the oldest son had the birthright in the *Old Testament. He would be the leader of his family when his father died. And he would get a double share of the things that had belonged to his father. Sometimes in the Book of Genesis, a younger son actually received the birthright. Each time, there were special reasons why the birthright did not belong to the oldest son.
bless ~ to give someone a *blessing; or to be kind to someone; or to do good things for someone; or to promise good things to someone.
blessing ~ a good thing that God does for us; or when we ask God to help a person; or when we ask God to do something good in that person. In the Book of Genesis, blessings were often a type of *prophecy.
bony ~ so thin that people can see where the bones are, under the skin.
bow ~ to bend one’s body over to respect someone else. To bow one’s head means to bend one’s head forward.
buds ~ they grow on a plant or tree. Then they open out and they become flowers (or leaves).
butler ~ a male servant that serves wine in a *household. And maybe he arranges the table and he does other such things there.
Canaanites ~ people that were living in Canaan, the country that God had promised to the *Israelites. The Canaanites were already living in that country before the *Israelites went there.
chariot ~ a kind of car that horses pulled. Soldiers could ride in it when they fought. Or important people could ride in it.
clay ~ a kind of earth. When it is dry, it is heavy and firm. When it is wet, it is stiff but also fairly soft.
concubine ~ a woman that lives with a man but she is not his wife; or people do not know her as his wife.
covenant ~ an agreement between two or more people, in which they all have responsibilities; such an agreement between God and a person (or people).
deer ~ a graceful animal that can run fast. A male deer has two hard bony things like branches that grow on top of its head.
descendant ~ a child, grandchild, and so on; a person in your family who lives after you are dead.
donkey ~ an animal like a small horse. It carries things or people.
ear (of corn) ~ in a corn plant, the part that contains the grains. It is at the top of the stem.
Egyptian ~ a person from the country called Egypt; when someone or something is from Egypt.
famine ~ a time when plants for food do not grow, so people cannot eat food from them.
feast ~ a very big, special meal; a special time when people eat a lot and they drink a lot. People usually have a feast for a certain special reason.
flesh ~ the soft material that covers a person’s bones.
flock ~ a large group of such animals as sheep.
fruitful ~ fruitful land produces a lot of good crops. When a thing is fruitful, it produces many good results. When people are fruitful, they have many children.
grape ~ a small, sweet fruit that people make a drink (*wine) from.
gum ~ a sticky substance from a kind of bush. When the substance comes out into the air, it becomes hard. From it, people used to make a powder that made things smell good.
heaven ~ the place that is God’s home.
Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke; someone from the nation that spoke the Hebrew language. The writer wrote Genesis in the Hebrew language.
herd ~ a large group of such animals as cows.
Hittite ~ someone from a group (*tribe) of people called the Hittites. They lived in the country called Canaan.
holy ~ what God is like; completely good, with nothing bad in it; separate from *sin; perfect and clean; when something belongs to God.
household ~ your household means everyone that lives with you. They do not have to be your family.
idol ~ a false god that people made out of wood or stone or metal.
inherit ~ to receive something from someone that has died. That thing is a gift. God too gives gifts to us, but he has not died!
Ishmaelite ~ a *descendant of Abraham’s son Ishmael. (Ishmael’s mother was the female servant Hagar.) Many Ishmaelites were traders.
Israelite ~ a person from the nation called Israel; a *descendant of Jacob, who was also called Israel.
Jew ~ a person that was born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children. People also use it to mean a person from the nation called Israel.
kid ~ a very young goat.
lord ~ a man that has complete authority over someone or something.
Lord ~ a special name for God. Sometimes it is the *Hebrew word YHWH. YHWH means that God is always God. Elsewhere, it is the *Hebrew word ADONAI, which means ‘my master’. People used these words to give honour to God.
merciful ~ when someone has *mercy or he or she shows *mercy.
mercy ~ help to those that have lack or difficulty; the love that God shows when he forgives people; God’s love and goodness; God’s pity towards all that he has made; when someone is kind to bad people.
Midianite ~ a *descendant of Abraham’s son Midian. (Midian’s mother was Keturah.)
myrrh ~ a sticky substance from a plant. People used it in order to make things smell good. Or they put it on dead bodies before they put them into a grave. Myrrh was one gift that the wise men gave to Jesus. They gave gifts to Jesus after he was born.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before Jesus came; the *holy things that the writers wrote before Christ’s birth.
overseer ~ an officer who tells people to do certain tasks. And he makes sure that they do those tasks.
Pharaoh ~ the king of Egypt.
pledge ~ a thing that a person gives to someone as a promise. It is a promise that the person will pay a certain price. When the person has paid the price, he or she can receive the thing (the pledge) back again.
praise ~ to say how great somebody is; words to express how great someone is.
pregnant ~ when a lady is expecting to have a baby.
preserve ~ to keep something in a good state, so that it does not go bad.
prophecy ~ messages that God wants to tell or teach to people, often about future events.
prostitute ~ a woman whom a man pays for sex.
rape ~ when a man forces a woman to have sex with him although she does not want to.
redeem ~ when someone pays the price to allow a person in prison to go free; to give money in order to receive something or someone back; to bring back from a dangerous place; to give help in order to get someone out of a problem.
righteous ~ very good (only God is really righteous). God says that the people that love him are righteous. And those people obey him. Such people do whatever God wants them to do.
sacrifice ~ when someone puts an animal on an *altar in order to offer the animal to God; to give something valuable for someone or for God; to die for someone or for God.
sceptre ~ a special stick that a king or queen holds. It shows that he or she has authority.
seal ~ a small hard object that has its owner’s particular design or text. Its owner presses it onto a thing in order to make a mark. The mark shows that the thing is genuine.
shekel ~ a way that people measured weight, equal to 0.4 ounces (11 grams). People also measured silver or gold in shekels for payment.
shepherd ~ a person that looks after sheep.
sin ~ to do bad things against God or other people; a bad thing that a person does against God or other people; when a person does a bad thing.
spies ~ people that one country’s government sends in order to discover secret information about another country.
steward ~ a person that looks after another person’s house or land.
temple ~ a building where people *worship God or a false god and they *praise him there.
thigh ~ the upper part of a leg.
thread ~ a long, thin piece of material like cotton or wool. People use it to make cloth. And they use it to sew with.
tribe ~ a family (and *descendants) from the same father; the whole family (and *descendants) from one of Jacob’s 12 sons.
twin ~ someone that was born about the same time as a brother or sister; twins are two children that were born together from the same mother.
veil ~ a piece of material that covers a woman’s face.
vine ~ a plant that climbs. Its fruits are called *grapes. People use them to make *wine.
vision ~ a dream; sometimes a dream that comes to a person that is awake.
wax ~ a white or nearly white substance that is not very hard. An insect called a ‘bee’ makes it. People can use it to fasten things. People also use it to make candles. They burn candles to give light.
wine ~ a drink that contains alcohol. People make it from small, sweet fruit called grapes. People can use it as medicine.
wolf ~ a wild animal like a large dog.
worship ~ to show very great honour to God; to show that we respect him very much; to *praise God and to serve him; to tell God that we love him very much.
John Calvin ~ Commentary on Genesis ~ Eerdmans
Rev. Stephen Dray ~ Genesis – Lecture notes (unpublished)
Victor P. Hamilton ~ The Book of Genesis (2 volumes) ~ New International Commentary on the Old Testament ~ Eerdmans
Matthew Henry ~ Commentary on the Whole Bible ~ Marshall Morgan and Scott
Rev. Derek Kidner ~ Genesis ~ Tyndale
C. H. Spurgeon ~ Treasury of the Old Testament ~ Marshall Morgan and Scott
Gordon J. Wenham ~ Genesis (2 volumes) ~ Word Biblical Commentary ~ Word
Bibles ~ RSV, NIV, International Children’s Bible, Bible for the Deaf
© 2006, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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