Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
- Jacob in Goshen
11. רעמסס ra‛mesês, Ra'meses "son of the sun."
31. מטה mı̂ṭṭāh, "bed." מטה maṭṭeh "staff."
Arrangements are now made for the settlement of Israel in Goshen. The administration of Joseph during the remaining years of the famine is then recorded. For the whole of this period his father and brothers are subject to him, as their political superior, according to the reading of his early dreams. We then approach to the death-bed of Jacob, and hear him binding Joseph by an oath to bury him in the grave of his fathers.
Joseph announces to Pharaoh the arrival of his kindred. "Of the whole of his brethren," more exactly from the end of his brethren. Five men, a favorite number in Egypt. Shepherds, owners and feeders of sheep and other cattle. "Pasture." Hence, it appears that the drought had made the grazing extremely scanty. Men of ability, competent to take the oversight of others. "Jacob his father," he presents before Pharaoh, after he has disposed of all business matters. "Jacob blessed Pharaoh." This is the patriarch's grateful return for Pharaoh's great kindness and generosity toward him and his house. He is conscious of even a higher dignity than that of Pharaoh, as he is a prince of God; and as such he bestows his precious benediction. Pharaoh was struck with his venerable appearance, and inquired what was his age. "Pilgrimage" - sojourning, wandering without any constant abode or fixed holding.
Such was the life of the patriarchs in the land of promise Heb 11:13. "Few and evil." Jacob's years at this time were far short of those of Abraham and Isaac, not to speak of more ancient men. Much bitterness also had been mingled in his cup from the time that he beguiled his brother of the birthright and the blessing, which would have come to him in a lawful way if he had only waited in patience. Obliged to flee for his life from his father's house, serving seven years for a beloved wife, and balked in his expected recompense by a deceitful father-in-law, serving seven long years more for the object of his affections, having his wages changed ten times during the six years of his further toil for a maintenance, afflicted by the dishonor of his only daughter, the reckless revenge taken by Simon and Levi, the death of his beloved wife in childbed, the disgraceful incest of Reuben, the loss of Joseph himself for twenty-two years, and the present famine with all its anxieties - Jacob, it must be confessed, has become acquainted with no small share of the ills of life. "Blessed Pharaoh." It is possible that this blessing is the same as that already mentioned, now reiterated in its proper place in the narrative. "According to the little ones." This means either in proportion to the number in each household, or with all the tenderness with which a parent provides for his infant offspring.
Joseph introduces remarkable changes into the relation of the sovereign and the people of Egypt. "There was no bread in all the land." The private stores of the wealthy were probably exhausted. "And Joseph gathered up all the silver." The old stores of grain and the money, which had flowed into the country during the years of plenty, seem to have lasted for five years. "And Joseph brought the silver into Pharaoh's house." He was merely the steward of Pharaoh in this matter, and made a full return of all the payments that came into his hands. "The silver was spent." The famishing people have no more money; but they must have bread. Joseph is fertile in expedients. He proposes to take their cattle. This was really a relief to the people, as they had no means of providing them with fodder. The value of commodities is wholly altered by a change of circumstances. Pearls will not purchase a cup of water in a vast and dreary wilderness. Cattle become worthless when food becomes scarce, and the means of procuring it are exhausted. For their cattle Joseph supplies them with food during the sixth year.
The seventh year is now come. The silver and cattle are now gone. Nothing remains but their lands, and with these themselves as the serfs of the soil. Accordingly they make this offer to Joseph, which he cannot refuse. Hence, it is evident that Pharaoh had as yet no legal claim to the soil. In primeval times the first entrants into an unoccupied country became, by a natural custom, the owners of the grounds they held and cultivated. The mere nomad, who roamed over a wide range of country, where his flocks merely cropped the spontaneous herbage, did not soon arrive at the notion of private property in land. But the husbandman, who settled on a promising spot, broke up the soil, and sowed the seed, felt he had acquired by his labor a title to the acres he had cultivated and permanently occupied, and this right was instinctively acknowledged by others. Hence, each cultivator grew into the absolute owner of his own farm. Hence, the lands of Egypt belonged to the peasantry of the country, and were at their disposal. These lands had now become valueless to those who had neither provisions for themselves nor seed for their ground. They willingly part with them, therefore, for a year's provision and a supply of seed. In this way the lands of Egypt fell into the hands of the crown by a free purchase. "And the people he removed into the cities." This is not an act of arbitrary caprice, but a wise and kind measure for the more convenient nourishment of the people until the new arrangements for the cultivation of the soil should be completed. The priestly class were sustained by a state allowance, and therefore, were not obliged to alienate their lands. Hence, they became by this social revolution a privileged order. The military class were also exempted most probably from the surrender of their patrimonial rights, as they were maintained on the crown lands.
I have bought you. - He had bought their lands, and so they might be regarded, in some sort, as the servants of Pharaoh, or the serfs of the soil. "In the increase ye shall give the fifth to Pharaoh." This explains at once the extent of their liability, and the security of their liberty and property. They do not become Pharaoh's bondmen. They own their land under him by a new tenure. They are no longer subject to arbitrary exactions. They have a stated annual rent, bearing a fixed ratio to the amount of their crop. This is an equitable adjustment of their dues, and places them under the protection of a statute law. The people are accordingly well pleased with the enactment of Joseph, which becomes henceforth the law of Egypt.
And they were possessed thereof. - They become owners or tenants of the soil in Goshen. The Israelites were recognized as subjects with the full rights of freemen. "They grew and multiplied exceedingly." They are now placed in a definite territory, where they are free from the contamination which arises from promiscuous intermarriage with an idolatrous race; and hence, the Lord bestows the blessing of fruitfulness and multiplication, so that in a generation or two more they can intermarry among themselves. It is a remarkable circumstance that until now we read of only two daughters in the family of Jacob. The brothers could not marry their sisters, and it was not desirable that the females should form affinity with the pagan, as they had in general to follow the faith of their husbands. Here the twelfth section of the Pentateuch terminates.
Jacob lives seventeen years in Egypt, and so survives the famine twelve years. "He called his son Joseph." Joseph retained his power and place near Pharaoh after the fourteen years of special service were completed; hence, Jacob looks to him for the accomplishment of his wishes concerning the place of his burial. "Put thy hand under my thigh" Gen 24:2. He binds Joseph by a solemn asseveration to carry his mortal remains to the land of promise. "And Israel bowed himself on the head of the bed." On receiving the solemn promise of Joseph, he turns toward the head of the bed, and assumes the posture of adoration, rendering, no doubt, thanks to God for all the mercies of his past life, and for this closing token of filial duty and affection. The Septuagint has the rendering: ἐπί τὸ ἄκρον τῆσῥάβδον αὐτοῦ epi to ākron akron tēs rabdou autou "on the top of his staff," which is given in the Epistle to the Hebrews Heb 11:21. This is obtained by a mere change in the vowel pointing of the last word.