The Land of Goshen
If you have your Bibles, I would ask you to turn to Genesis 47, as we continue to work through this glorious book of Moses. We are really coming to a section which is the beginning of the end. The last couple of weeks, we have exalted in this providential reunion engineered by God, in this family which had been fractured by distrust and mutual loathing. A family which had been plagued by favoritism on the part of Jacob toward some of his sons and over against other of his sons. A family which had been separated for many years and we gloried in the way that God's providence worked to bring them back together. But we saw that as a part of greater purpose of God. God was preparing to create a nation out of this family. However great a family it was, it wasn't a nation. And God was preparing to make a nation out of the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was preparing to place them in a situation where they would be isolated enough that they could remain religiously pure. And yet, in which they would also experience the discipline of oppression and they would learn the glory of being able to freely serve the God of their fathers, and they would learn the glory of the freedom of the Lord's day as they are brought out of oppression in the land of Egypt. And so he had so many providential lessons to teach this particular family. In fact, we said as much as Joseph is the main human protagonist in this story, much more than Joseph, God Himself, in His providence, is the main character throughout the whole story of Joseph. And tonight we come to a passage in which the family of Jacob settles in the land of Goshen. And we sense the beginning of the end of this part of the history of Israel, as we come to Genesis 47. So let's hear God's holy Word.
Our Lord and our God, we bow before Your word, and Your sovereignty and we ask that You would teach us lessons of providence and faith even as we consider this Your word. Open our eyes that we might behold wonderful truth from Your word, This we ask, in Jesus' name. Amen.
I want to direct your attention to five scenes in this chapter. Moses, over and over, presses two themes throughout each of these scenes in the chapter. The first theme is the kindness of God's providence. Three times in this chapter, Moses through what he describes emphasizes the wisdom, the goodness of the purposes of God towards the family of Jacob, whether from Pharaoh, or from Joseph, or seem to be directly from God. God's providence is operating for the good of His people and it is emphasized over and over in this passage. As the theme of providence is a general theme emphasized throughout this story of Joseph, so it is specifically emphasized once again here in Genesis. And we pause to ask, how can anyone possibly begin to read the Bible in the book of Genesis and deny the truth of God's providence. It is not implicit, but explicit. And it is not merely explicit, but it is overwhelmingly repeatedly emphasized as part of the truth of God's dealing with His people. But that is only one part of the theme emphasized in this passage.
The other theme which is emphasized is the faith of Jacob. Jacob, in many ways is coming here to the pinnacle of his career. In terms of earthly attainments, Jacob could have well been satisfied with the temporal blessings of the land of Egypt and with the favor of the Pharaoh. But we see, in both of his statements in this passage, the divine discontentment of faith. He is not satisfied with the things of this world, and will only be satisfied when the promises of God are brought to bear upon his descendants in accordance with the word of God to Abraham. And he is going to remind Joseph, of that word which God gave to Abraham. Not only in Genesis 12, but especially in Genesis 15 and 17. And so the ease of Egypt does not loosen Jacob's grasp upon the promises of God.
I. The kindness of Providence in the acceptance of Pharaoh.
So let's look at these five scenes that Moses reveals to us in the passage. First, in verses 1-6, in verses 1-6, we see this interview between the sons of Jacob and the Pharaoh of Egypt and we are struck again by the kindness of Pharaoh. This is not how you would have written propaganda against your enemy. This is another testimony to the truth and of the inerrancy of God's holy Word. Here we are told again of the kindness Pharaoh. If we were writing propaganda in a time of oppression, we would have written all the history of Egypt as adversarial against our people. But Moses pauses here to remind us of the kindness of Pharaoh. But really behind that kindness which is recorded here in verses 1-6, is something more significant. It is the kindness of God's providence in the acceptance of Pharaoh, of Jacob's family.
In verses 1 and 2, Joseph makes an introduction of five of his hand-picked brothers to the Pharaoh. Joseph has already prepared the way. He had not only told them in verses 31-34 of the previous chapter how they ought to approach Pharaoh, he told them in fact, exactly what Pharaoh was going to ask them. The first question, he said, that Pharaoh was going to ask was, what do you do, what are you people? What is your occupation? And he said, now let me tell you something, the Egyptians hate livestock holders. They can't stand shepherds. So here is what you need to do. First of all, I am going to tell him what you do, before you tell him what you do. I am going to smooth the way. And then you be strictly honest with him. You tell him exactly what you do, and you tell him exactly what you want. And then we will just leave ourselves in his hands for mercy. And so, Joseph knows his Pharaoh.
In verse 3, the very first question that Pharaoh asked is what is your occupation? And though these livestock keepers are despised in the sight of the Egyptians, Jacob's brothers’ truthfulness and straightforwardness is honored by Pharaoh.
And we see here, not only the wisdom of Joseph's council and Joseph's strategy, but we see here, the evidence of God's providential kindness to His people. Humanly speaking, we would not have expected a warm reception for Jacob's family. But humans aren't in control here. And Pharaoh considered a god by his own people, is not in control here. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is in control here. This is one of those beautiful incidents in which God rewards faith temporally. God doesn't always show us that our decisions have been the right decisions by rewarding us immediately providentially. Just because we do the right thing, doesn't mean that everything will immediately turn out right. There are many times in our lives, where in fact, doing the right thing, provokes the evil one, or provokes the world against us. But in God's goodness, in this passage, God rewards the faith of Jacob. Think of the tremendous thing that Jacob has done. He has uprooted himself from the land of promise. He has committed himself to dying in a strange land, a pagan land. He will never again see the land of his fathers with his own eyes. And God rewards the faith to obey in Jacob with kindness in His providence. He confirms that His hand is upon Jacob's family.
And we see here as well, my friends, a good model for Christians in their dealings with those who are in temporal positions of governmental power. In fact, when you look at Jacob's sons as they approach the Pharaoh, the leader of the government of Israel, you can't help but think of something that Peter would say. Many, many hundreds of years later in I Peter chapter 2, verses 11-17, he says there, “Beloved I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul, keep your behavior excellent against the Gentiles. So that in the thing in which they slander you as evil doers, they may because of your good deeds as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourself for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evil doers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God, that by doing right, you may silence the ignorance of human men. Act as free men and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” What a contrast, what a contrast in the truthful speech of Jacob's sons to the first visitation of Abraham to Egypt, in which he lied to Abimilech. God is honoring Himself in the truthfulness of His people. And setting the stage where His glory will be shown in Egypt. No the least of which will be through His people. God in Hi goodness allows His people to be a witness to Him here.
And then in verses 5 and 6, Pharaoh responds with blessing. He welcomes them, the tells them that the land is at their disposal. He settles them in the best of the land and he even says is there any one in your crowd who would like to be in charge of my livestock? Favor upon favor, heaped upon God's people. And God's good providence, He confirms Jacob's faith in giving him the immediate favor of the ruler of the land. God is good. And we see here the kindness and wisdom of God's providence. That is the first scene.
II. The faith of a pilgrim in the face of providential blessing.
And then in verses 7-10, we come to a second scene. Here, we see the interview between Jacob himself, and the Pharaoh of Egypt. We had seen five of his representatives, sons as they went in chosen by Joseph to speak with him. Now we see Pharaoh himself and we see something of the mind of this man who was a pilgrim in a strange land. And in the back drop of God's providence, we also see the faith of the pilgrim in the face of providential blessing.
This is a fascinating passage. In which we see not the corky behavior of an old man in his dotage, but the actions of the covenant head of the people of God. This old man makes his way into the presence of Pharaoh and he blesses Pharaoh. And Hebrews 11:7 says, without doubt the lesser is blest by the greater, speaking of Melchizadek's blessing of Abraham. But the same principle holds here. Pharaoh is the lesser. He is the ruler of the land. But in God's providence his hand is upon Jacob. This is not merely a nicety on Jacob's part. Jacob is not merely blessing favor in the sense of thanking him for his goodness, though he is certainly doing that. This is a picture of God's covenant head acting in fulfillment of Genesis chapter 12, verses 2 and 3. For when God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeas, he said, you will be a blessing to the nations. And you will bless them. And we see here, not only the superiority of Jacob, he may not be the greatest in the eyes of the world in the presence of Pharaoh. But in God's economy, he is the head, and we see here the fulfillment of God's word to Abraham. A partial fulfillment of that promise which He had given him all the way back in Genesis 12. Derek Kidner says this: As for Jacob, he is sovereign old age personified, unimpressed by rank, diffuse and deliberate, taking an independent view of events and making somber comparisons with the past. It is a masterly little portrait indeed it is.
Chuck Colson, in the story of his conversion, talks about how cynically the staff of the White House would treat Christian leaders who were brought in to speak to President Nixon. They knew no matter how angry those Christian leaders were about certain policies of the government, that when they were brought into the presence of the President of the United States of America, in the symbolic room of power, the oval office, they would crumble before those symbols of power. Even if they were walking down the hall on the way to the oval office and saying, now when I see the president, I am going to tell him this, and I am going to tell him that, and I am going to set him straight, all they would have to do is be ushered into the door of the oval office and suddenly they would become as meek as lambs. Isn't it interesting how utterly unimpressed by rank Jacob is in the presence of Pharaoh, and even when Pharaoh says how old are you? Seemingly, genuinely interested, we don't get a sappy, syrupy merely polite answer. We get the answer of a pilgrim: My years have been few and hard in comparison with my fore fathers. Jacob is the head of the covenant. It is he who blesses Pharaoh. And we see again a glimpse of God's plan in bringing all the nations to the Messiah even in the actions of Jacob.
II. The kindness of Providence in the favors of Pharaoh and Joseph.
And then in the third scene in the passage, verses 11 and 12, we see Joseph's provision for his family in accordance with Pharaoh's gifts. And again, Moses highlights the kindness of God's providence, both in the favors of Pharaoh, and in the favors of Joseph. In accord with Pharaoh's order, Joseph settles his family in Egypt in the land of Goshen. And verse 12 shows us his continued kindness to them. We don't see any hint that Joseph's kindness towards his brothers is anything but genuine. It has been induced by a realization of the providence of God and it does not vary. And later, after his father has died and his brothers are still a little bit shaky about how he is going to treat them when their father is gone, his kindness continues, because he is able to be kind, he is able to magnanimous, because he has come to grips with the sovereignty and the purposes of God in His providence. And thus in this passage, while the rest of Egypt is subjugated to Pharaoh because of the famine, Jacob's family is able to grow and prosper. They are provided for by Joseph and his kindness. They are provided for by Pharaoh and the gift of the land. The name, by the way, Rameses, probably dates from a later time, and is inserted here to allow contemporary readers of Moses’ book to understand where exactly the locale of Goshen was. But in this passage, primarily, we see the kindness of God's providence, in the favor of Joseph and Pharaoh, towards the family of Jacob. Again, the theme of God's providence I emphasized.
III. The kindness of Providence in sparing Jacob's family in the great famine.
And then there is this long passage, in verses 13-26. The fourth section and scene of the passage in which Joseph's famine policy is set forth. We see something of Joseph's economic policy. How he expanded the power and the influence and the wealth and the rule of Pharaoh, through the way he managed the famine and the relief policy of the famine. And we also see the enhancement of Pharaoh's power through this particular policy.
But again, Moses’ main point for sharing this, is not only apparent when you contrast, verse 12 and verse 13, but it is apparent when you look at verse 20. Look at verse 12. Joseph provided his father, and brothers, and all his father's household with food. Look at verse 13. Now there was no food in all the land. Why is this long involved tale of Joseph's economic policy shared? First of all, to let you know just how severe the famine was. It lets you know just how great the danger was for the family of Jacob. It lets you know how severe the famine was even in the land of Egypt. So that you can appreciate just how gracious and necessary was God's providence in bringing the family of Jacob down into Egypt. But it also sets you up for a contrast. Even as all of Egypt is becoming enslaved, to Pharaoh, the family of Jacob is free through the provision of Pharaoh and the provision of Joseph in God's good providence.
Verse 20 seems to be the explanatory word of the passage. Look at that: So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for every Egyptian sold his field, because the famine was severe upon them. In contrast to that, Joseph's family, we are going to be told in the very next section was able to buy land, not to sell it, but to buy land and to plant and to live and to have food. This again, is a passage which stresses the kindness of God's providence in sparing Jacob's family in the great famine. Contrast God's dealing with the Egyptians and see his special providence towards his people. This will not be the last time in Israel's sojourn in Egypt where we see God deal one way with the Egyptians and another way with His people. God is kind, and good to all, it is true. And he was even kind to the Egyptians through Joseph. And they were thankful for it. Genuinely thankful for it. But his special providence is for his people. This is a living breathing historical illustration of Romans 8:28. God causes all things to work together for those who are called according to His purpose, those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
V. The faith of a pilgrim in the face of death in a strange land.
And then in the fifth section of the passage, we see this covenant between Jacob and his son, Joseph's covenant with his father, and we see Jacob's trust in the covenant promises to the very end. Having stressed God's kind providence three times in this passage. Now for the second time, as Jacob speaks, Moses will emphasize the faith of a pilgrim in the face of death. Even as Jacob had shown his faith in the promises of God, even in the presence of Pharaoh, even in the presence of great temporal blessings, now he shows his focus upon the promise of God in the hour of his death. For the second time in the book of Moses, this strange ceremony of placing the hand under the thigh is repeated. You remember the first time is Genesis 24:12. As Abraham sends out his servant to gain a wife for his son, it is a modest way of reminding one of the covenant of circumcision. Jacob is saying, Joseph, my son, do not forget what God has sealed to us, in the promise of the Covenant of Circumcision. He has promised us the land. He has promised the land descendants. He has promised to prosper us. He has promised to make us a great nation, and therefore, do not bury me here.
Now this is a beautiful passage for so many reasons. I want you to notice that Israel is not fearful that by being buried in Egypt, he will be separated from his eternal reward. This is not an act of superstition. In fact, look at verse 30, and see how he says it. When I lie down with my fathers, you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place. He doesn't think by being buried in Egypt he would be separated from his fathers. When he dies, his soul is going to be immediately with his fathers. But he wants the symbolism of his burial in the land of Canaan, in the land of his fathers, to stand as a testimony to his descendants that their hope is not in Egypt. Their hope is in the promise of God, and for them, that means the land of Canaan. One scholar has said that” this dying Israelite seems to be less concerned about the unknown world he is entering than about the future of God's people indeed.” His great concern is that Joseph and his descendants would be focused upon the promise of God given to his grandfather, Abraham, and that they would never ever forget it.
Our job, as pilgrims is to set our hope on that city which has foundations, not here, but on that city which has foundations and on the fulfillment of God's plan for all the saints. Is that the center of your discipleship? Is your hope there rather than here? Is your hope in the fulfillment of God's plan for all His people? Or are you wrapped up in smaller things? Jacob, here, sets an example for us. For those of us who are pilgrims, wondering in a strange land, our sight must be on the city with foundations, and our hope must be in the promise of God, and nothing else. And if our sights are off, and our hope is off, we are just not pilgrims, and we are just not disciples of the same God who is the God of Jacob. May God enable us to be pilgrims despite all the enticements of the world, set our hope on that place which is to come and to trust in His promises more than all the earthly blessings which we could possibly obtain. Let us pray.
Our heavenly Father, we thank You for the story of Your servant Jacob, in the presence of Pharaoh, and we thank You for his testimony in the face of death. And we thank you for the kindness of Your providence. And we pray that we would learn the lessons of Your providence. The lesson of trust in You. The lesson of confidence in the midst of oppression, and the lesson of hoping in You even in the presence of earthly and temporal blessing. Lest, our hope be removed from its proper place and we become satisfied with the things of this world. We ask, O God, that You would grant us the earthly divine dissatisfaction with all temporal things. That we might rejoice in things eternal, both now and forevermore. These things we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.