Genesis 47 by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:55 mins 46 secs

Forgiveness; Wisdom; Discipline on a Nation


There are three Hebrew words for forgiveness. The first is nasa and it basically has the idea of lift up or carry. Its usages all relate to that basic core range. That is its literal sense. Then it comes to being used in various metaphorical senses of lifting up the head or the eyes as it represents a certain attitude. The second sense of meaning that this word has it the idea of literally carrying something, and that is transferred to the idea of bearing guilt or punishment. So it is also a word used to teach and to talk about substitutionary atonement—how the Messiah was to carry our sins or to bear our sins. That leads to the third category, which is the idea of taking something away. It was used literally in the sense of taking a wife in Ruth 1:4, but it also has the idea of taking away in the sense of forgiveness in Genesis 50:17. Everything we are studying leads up to that event when Joseph's brothers ask him to forgive them and Joseph says, 'You meant it for evil, God meant it for good.' We see elements of that forgiveness all the way through this section. But the main idea is to lift something, to carry something away, to remove it. And that is what forgiveness is, that we are going to let something go.


The next Hebrew word that is used for forgiveness is the word kaphar. This is the word that is typically used to relate to atonement. The verb is the root for the term day of atonement, yom kippur. Kaphar means to make atonement. Atonement is a word not found in the New Testament. One of the ways it is frequently translated in the LXX is with the Greek word KATHARIZO [kaqarizw] which means to cleanse or purify. That is the word we find in 1 John 1:9. This is really the main idea that is found in the whole function of confession of sins—purification and cleansing from sins. It used to be translated "cover," but there has been a lot of study on this and it seems like the idea really isn't to cover sin, especially as the rabbis understood it when they were translating the Old Testament into Greek, it really has to do with cleansing. This really opens up our understanding of a lot of the sacrifices in the Old Testament. They were related to dealing with post-salvation sins, to make a atonement or cleansing. It would be comparable to why we confess our sins after we are saved.


The third word that is used in the Hebrew for forgive is the word sallach which has the idea of forgiving, pardoning, and it is used a number of times in the Old Testament to relate to God's pardoning or releasing someone. It is used almost exclusively with God as the subject—God's work of forgiving or releasing somebody from debt. That is another element that is in the idea of forgiveness; APHIEMI [a)fihmi] as we get into the New Testament word is releasing somebody from a debt, once again that idea of letting something go.


Conclusion: It means that when we are the object of any kind of offence we need to learn to step around it, to let it go. That is easy in some cases; it is much more difficult in other cases. We have to remember that only God can forgive sin. Sin by definition is a violation of God's character and God's law, therefore the only person that we can ever sin against is God because it is His law, His standards, His character that we violate whenever we sin. When we commit sin in fractions of God's standards that always has collateral damage in the human realm, with people we know, people we associate with, and therefore it is necessary to go to them and also to seek forgiveness in those areas where we have offended and hurt them. The Scriptures emphasize that there is never a time when you don't forgive somebody. This is emphasized in a couple of different passages in the New Testament—Matthew 18:27, 32, 35. There are examples in the Scriptures to teach us about forgiveness. The first example we have is Joseph. He was maltreated by his brothers. They hated him, conspired against him, sought to kill him, and sold him into slavery. Joseph went through a lot of personal suffering and indignities as a result of that, but as he works through it applying doctrine and understanding grace he gets to that point where he can let it go. He achieved a divine viewpoint framework that even though people may have wrong motives, that they may hate us and despise us, God is still in control. Romans 8:28.


Then we come to specific teaching related to forgiveness in the New Testament. Matthew 6, the disciples' prayer: "…forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." It points out that the believer is not only to go to God for the forgiveness of sins, but just as we go to God for forgiveness we need to also forgive others. That is restated by our Lord when He said: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, and if you don't, He won't." What that is talking about is that if you continue to harbour grudges, hostility, anger, resentment against somebody, then when you confess sin if you are at the same time still involved in mental attitude sins you are not going to get back in fellowship. It takes time, as we have seen in the process that Joseph goes through. The Old Testament example is Joseph, the New Testament example is Christ on the cross. When Jesus Christ was on the cross and had been tortured by the Roman soldiers, beaten, whipped, and ridiculed, He was able to look at those men and pray, "Father forgive them because they don't know what they are doing." Those are the two core models in Scripture for what forgiveness is all about. When Jesus is on the cross he has made Himself vulnerable to the abuse of the Roman soldiers because he understands that God's plan and purpose for His life is of such a magnitude that He is to put Himself in that position and go to the cross and be abused. Think of the apostle Paul, as Paul is a missionary going to all of these various cities, and want happens? In 2 Corinthians chapter 12 he gives this grocery list of how many times he was beaten, how many times he was thrown in jail, how many times he was abused, how many times he was left for dead, etc. If we apply human viewpoint rationale, which is based on an understanding of our own self-importance, that we shouldn't be treated poorly and in an inappropriate manner, then we are going to last five seconds in terms of Christian ministry and in terms of Christian service. Because as soon as we go into any kind of mode where we are going to serve the Lord the whole cosmic system and the angelic conflict is just going to paint a target on our rear end and everything is going to come after us. So we say, 'I don't deserve this' and slip right over into arrogance. Paul never does that, he recognizes that as long as we are there to serve the Lord there is that higher goal, higher purpose that mitigates all other circumstances.


In another dimension, in another realm we go back to Joseph because Joseph's situation is what fits the framework of what many of us deal with when we have to face the fact that there are people we work with who stab us in the back, that there are people that are friends and family that do things that hurt us; everything from extreme cases of sexual and physical abuse to just treating us without respect, minimizing us, diminishing the contribution that we have, all these kinds of things. Then we have to analyse how far we are going to trust them. So we saw those two different aspects with Joseph. He had forgiven his brothers, he let it go, he wasn't holding it against them. He is not controlled by any mental attitude sin, its gone. But he knows who he is dealing with, so he has common sense and recognizes that he can't trust himself to untrustworthy people. Before he can reveal who he is to his own family he needs to find out if they have got past their resentment and their hostility, jealousy, small-mindedness and self-absorption. So he takes them through all these various steps and tests to see if they are worthy of trust. That is where we need to be. It is using wisdom in relationships. On the one hand you have forgiveness that says you are not going to let what that person did to you control my present mental attitude. Why should I let them get me out of fellowship? Why should I let them cause me to not apply doctrine and to mess up my whole life by matching sin with sin? So what we have to do is let it go. It is in the past, it doesn't matter what they have done. Leave it in the hands of the Supreme Court of heaven. God is not going to let us watch what He does, that is what the faith-rest drill is all about. We are going to trust God so that the reality of God's justice is more real to us than our lack of experience in witnessing it.


Forgiveness is related to grace orientation. Ephesians 4:32 is almost always translated this way: "Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ has forgave you" – except the word there translated "forgave" is not APHIEMI, it is the verb CHARIZOMAI [xarizomai] from the root CHARIS [xarij], the noun for grace. It emphasizes graciousness. This word is used a number of times in the New Testament and it is translated "forgiveness" because that is the sense. It is to deal with somebody on the basis of grace. Be kind to them. Do they deserve your kindness? No, but the more someone doesn't deserve our kindness the more we should be kind to them, the more that we should treat them in a manner where we are dealing with them in goodness, in gentleness, with mercy. Because the standard is to deal with them in grace just as God dealt with us in grace. He never dealt with us on the basis of what we deserved. God deals with on the basis of who He is and what Christ did no the cross. That is the model.


As we come to this section in chapter 47 the emphasis is on Joseph as a blessing to both his family, the descendants of Abraham, and to the Egyptians. We need to reinterpret Genesis correctly because there are some things in this chapter that make it look as if Joseph is cruel, or Joseph is making some decisions that are just kind of off-center in terms of what we might understand the role of government. But we will avoid all of that if we understand the principle that everything in the Bible after Genesis chapter 12, especially everything in Genesis after chapter 12, has to be interpreted within the framework of the Abrahamic covenant, that God promised land, seed and blessing for Israel. God said that Israel would be a blessing to all people and that God would bless everyone through Abraham. So what is going on here with Joseph must be understood in terms of blessing, but it has some interesting consequences. Often there is blessing but on the other side of the coin there is divine judgment, and that is happening here. Joseph is not only the source of blessing in providing for the Egyptians so they can survive this horrible famine, but at the same time that is providing a judgment on them for their idolatry, their paganism, and their rejection of God. That is the backdrop for understanding this passage.

Reviewing what has happened at the end of chapter 46: "When Pharaoh calls you and says, 'What is your occupation?' you shall say, 'Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,' that you may live in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians." Joseph comes to the brothers this is what we need to do. We are going to have an interview with Pharaoh but we need to position ourselves so that we are in an area of good real estate for us as shepherds, and the best real estate is up in the delta region of the Nile. Joseph wants to position them in the very best location and the best real estate for what they are going to. There is a lot of wisdom there. How are they going to approach the Pharaoh in such a way that he will give them this land? He is not being manipulative here, he is being wise.

In the first twelve verses of chapter 47 we see Joseph's wisdom in handling the situation with Pharaoh. Genesis 47:6 NASB "The land of Egypt is at your disposal; settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land, let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know any capable men among them, then put them in charge of my livestock." So Joseph has presented the circumstance in such a way that they are given the best land from Pharaoh. Pharaoh has made an assumption here that the other eleven brothers are just as wise as Joseph. Joseph uses that for their benefit—" and if you know any capable men among them, then put them in charge of my livestock." So Pharaoh opens the door for Joseph to elevate his brothers to key positions in the administration.

Genesis 47:10 NASB "And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from his presence." Jacob prayed to God a commendation to commend Pharaoh. He brings a spiritual emphasis to his meeting with Pharaoh, which indicates that Jacob assumes a leadership role in how the conversation is going. He takes the initiative to pray for the Pharaoh both as he comes in and as he leaves.

In vv. 11, 12 we see again the wisdom of Joseph as he gets the family situated in the area of Goshen. [11] "So Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered." What has happened here is that Joseph establishes the family and they possess land. They are land owners and are going to have wealth and accumulate wealth, because God is blessing them through Joseph's wise leadership. God is also blessing Egypt because of Joseph's wise leadership. At the very beginning Joseph was given the ability to interpret the two dreams by the Pharaoh, and he put together a wise plan in order to handle the future events. The principle there is that it is not only good but it is wise for believers to plan in terms of future necessities and future emergencies by laying aside money in savings accounts to prepare for the future, to prepare for times when we may be ill, for retirement. This is wisdom. Having the financial means at your disposal is a way of having a level of independence and autonomy. This is very important.

The Egyptians are going to lose everything, including their finances and their freedom because God is judging them because of their idolatry, because of their failure to follow the gospel as it was made available in the Old Testament, and because they are worshipping Pharaoh. God often in His discipline gives people more of what they think they want as a replacement to God. They have already deified the Pharaoh. So God just gives them more of that as their discipline and make Pharaoh even more powerful, and as part of the discipline on their nation they are going to come into complete servitude to Pharaoh, a servitude that is going to go on for hundreds of years because of their idolatry. Now Joseph isn't the one who is administering this from that vantage point. He is simply trying to keep them alive, but this is how God works through historical circumstances. In order to keep them alive they have to give up their freedom.

So they are coming to about the fifth year in that famine and the Egyptians come to Joseph because there is no bread in the land and Joseph has gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt. He is not going out and gathering up all the money, the point is that people are coming to the storehouse to buy grain all the money is coming into the treasury of the Pharaoh so that people are being left without any money. They have nothing left, they are completely impoverished. The purpose here is not to make Joseph wealthy. He recognizes the principle, going back to the first divine institution of human responsibility, that the individual has to be responsible for his own welfare. Joseph is not going to start giving them a free lunch. He recognizes the principles of human government, that the government is responsible to maintain a sound economy. Joseph is operating on sound economic principles. He is not putting the government in debt. The government has stored up resources for the future but the people have not saved, have not stored up savings for the future, so when the crisis comes the government is in a good position because of Joseph's wisdom but the people are in a position of weakness. Because they are operating on their arrogant near-sighted view of life when the crisis comes they end up losing their freedom and becoming enslaved to the government. [15] "When the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, 'Give us food, for why should we die in your presence? For {our} money is gone.'" 

They came to Joseph, so Joseph says, Okay we are going to go to the barter system. [16] "Then Joseph said, "Give up your livestock, and I will give you {food} for your livestock, since {your} money is gone." So now the biggest animal husbander in Egypt is the Pharaoh. He owns all the cattle, all the sheep, all the goats. The people don't own anything anymore but they have bread and they survive for another year. They survive because of Joseph's wisdom. They lose everything because of their foolishness and their failure to save. [18] "When that year was ended, they came to him the next year and said to him, 'We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent, and the cattle are my lord's. There is nothing left for my lord except our bodies and our lands.'" In other words, all that is left is the human capital and the land. So Joseph says he will buy all their land. [20] "So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for every Egyptian sold his field, because the famine was severe upon them. Thus the land became Pharaoh's." So now the state owns all of the land. The people don't own anything so they have gone into a willing servitude, a debt servitude. They have done that willingly and they have given up their freedom because God in discipline brought this famine on Egypt and the result is that it will, enslave an entire nation under a religious tyranny and a political tyranny. That is the result of their negative volition.

There is another shift that takes place. It is just like whenever there are major crises in finances there are numerous other changes that take place in society. [21] "As for the people, he removed them to the cities from one end of Egypt's border to the other." So there is a massive migration from the farms to the cities. The only exception was the priests related to the false religion of the Egyptians, because they were already taken care of through a separate deal with Pharaoh who provided their rations.

Genesis 47:23 NASB "Then Joseph said to the people, "Behold, I have today bought you and your land for Pharaoh; now, {here} is seed for you, and you may sow the land." He is going to lease the land back to them under a tenant farmer system. But he is very gracious in the way he does it. He does this is a manner designed to help them in order to enable them to survive. The language used throughout this section emphasizes Joseph's care and concern for the people. [24] "At the harvest you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four-fifths shall be your own for seed of the field and for your food and for those of your households and as food for your little ones." The standard procedure for tenant farming in the ancient world was 30-50 per cent. In some cases as much as eighty per cent went to the government and the tenant farmer only kept 20 per cent. So in this particular case Joseph is being extremely gracious to the people. So we see his wisdom. He is far-sighted, he plans for the future, he plans for contingencies, and he plans for worst case scenarios. One of the most important principles of leadership as the head of the home, as the head of working in a company, as leaders in a church, is that people think in terms of worst case scenarios. Worst case scenarios. A good and wise leader prpar5es for the future, he plans for worst case scenarios.

The last section is verses 27-31 which is where Israel makes Joseph swear to return his body to the land of his fathers. This is where the writer begins to use foreshadowing in order to prepare us for what will happen eventually when we get into events in the book of Exodus.

Genesis 47:27 NASB "Now Israel lived in the land of Egypt, in Goshen, and they acquired property in it and were fruitful and became very numerous." So in contrast to the short-sighted Egyptians who had to sell all their property to the government the Jews have been given all this land up in Goshen and they use their position to acquire more property. So they position themselves into a position of wealth. That will come back to haunt them because when there is an administration change and a new Pharaoh comes a couple of hundred years later who doesn't know Joseph, there is jealousy and as a result the Jews are all enslaved. But the point here is that the Jews are blessed by God. They acquire property in the midst of the crisis, where as in contrast the Egyptians have to sell all their property and they enslave themselves to the Pharaoh. [28] "Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the length of Jacob's life was one hundred and forty-seven years. [29] When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, 'Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt…" He is future oriented. He understands that God is going to take them back to the promised land and his bones will not stay in Egypt forever. [30] "He said, 'Swear to me.' So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed {in worship} at the head of the bed."

Before he dies Jacob is going to bless the sons and he is going to give them a prophecy.