Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Genesis Post 66 - Taxation, Stewardship, and Jacob's Last Request (Chapter 47)

Chapter 47 opens with Joseph speaking to Pharaoh, telling him that his family members are here now and are hanging out down in Goshen.

Joseph then chooses five of his brothers go go up to Pharaoh.  Why five?  And which five?  I wish I could tell you!  It is interesting to note that in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16, the rich man mentions his five brothers.  I wonder if there is a connection somehow.

Just like Joseph had reckoned, Pharaoh's first question to these five guys is, what is your occupation?  In verse 4, the brothers answer Pharaoh just as Joseph had coached them:

And they said to Pharaoh, “We have come to dwell in the land, because your servants have no pasture for their flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now therefore, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.”

The Hebrews were shepherds by trade

What does Pharaoh do?  Check it out:
Then Pharaoh spoke to Joseph, saying, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you. Have your father and brothers dwell in the best of the land; let them dwell in the land of Goshen. And if you know any competent men among them, then make them chief herdsmen over my livestock.”

Pharaoh didn't just give the best land to the Israelites, he also made them into rulers, putting them in charge of his own royal livestock.

Now Jacob gets to go before Pharaoh, and what does he do?  He blesses Pharaoh!  (It is good and biblical to bless our leaders!) 

Jacob blesses Pharaoh

Pharaoh then asks a politically incorrect question:  how old are you?  What? Good thing Jacob isn't a woman!

Here is Jacob's response to Pharaoh:
And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” 

Interesting:  Jacob sees his life as a pilgrimage.  Just passing through.  We would do well to grasp this.  Our testing ground here on earth is brief before we stand before our creator and give an account of our lives.  Whether we are given 10 years or 90 years, our lives are a breath in the scope of eternity.

To the Egyptians, the ideal age to attain in life was 110 years.  Perhaps Jacob knows this and is giving a subtle jibe to Pharaoh - the leader of a people who are obsessed with gods, death, and the pagan afterworld - when he gives his age as a brief 130 years; not nearly the ages allotted to his father and grandfather (who served the LORD of life, not death).

As the chapter continues, the Israelites settle down in the land they had been given, Goshen, and Joseph provides all of their daily bread.

Beginning in verse 13 however, Joseph deals very differently with the Egyptians.  While the Israelites are given land and bread for sustenance, the Egyptians purchase grain from their government until their money runs out.  Once the money runs out, Joseph allows them to exchange their livestock for grain.  And when the livestock is depleted, Joseph then allows the Egyptians to exchange their land for grain, except for the priests who get to keep their land and are still given bread.

Joseph makes Pharaoh the owner of literally everything... except for the land of the priests. We have sort of a reverse separation of church and state here - the clergy is taken care of in Egypt.  Perhaps Reformation Europe got its ideas of state-supported religion here.  Today, the countries of Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria and Iceland still collect taxes and pay state-recognized churches.

Joseph then demonstrates his shrewd business acumen and sets up a system of taxation for the people starting in verse 23:

Then Joseph said to the people, “Indeed I have bought you and your land this day for Pharaoh. Look, here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land.  And it shall come to pass in the harvest that you shall give one-fifth to Pharaoh. Four-fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and for your food, for those of your households and as food for your little ones.”
So they said, “You have saved our lives; let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants.”

Notice, Joseph first gives grain to the Egyptians.  Then he asks for twenty percent of it back, which is actually a pretty modest rate of taxation.  The Egyptians become stewards of Pharaoh's property, and they are grateful that Pharaoh has saved their lives.  Because of this, they commit their lives to him as servants.

The regular people of Egypt go from equity owners to tenant farmers under Joseph.  Is this a picture of our God who owns everything, but allows us to work for Him as stewards?   Of dedicating our lives to the God who rescues and saves us?

Chapter 47 ends with this:
So Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions there and grew and multiplied exceedingly.   
(See how they thrived?)
And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. So the length of Jacob’s life was one hundred and forty-seven years. When the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “Now if I have found favor in your sight, please put your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me. Please do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers; you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.”

Jacob's final request is that he not be buried in Egypt.  Why?

Jacob places his hope on the covenant promise of God, which includes the promise of the land.  His desire to be buried with his ancestors demonstrates Jacob's belief in a future resurrection.

The oath that Jacob requests from his son is sealed with Joseph's hand under his thigh, which really means the loins, or the seat of procreative power - the proximity in which that covenant sign of circumcision takes place. 

After Joseph confirms this oath to his father, Jacob prepares to die.

No comments:

Post a Comment