Genesis 45-48: Joseph enslaves the Egyptians

Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers, and sobs loudly.  He forgives them completely.  Pharaoh tells Joseph to bring his entire family to Egypt, where they will receive the best land in the country.  His brothers return to Canaan, tell their father everything, and bring their entire family to Goshen, in Egypt.  Due to the severity of the famine, there is no bread in all the world.  The Egyptians beg Joseph for food, which he sells to them in exchange for their livestock.  The next year, the Egyptians still have no food, and are reduced to selling themselves.  Joseph enslaves them and removes the entire population, town by town, from their homes.  He gives them seed to sow the land, but force them to pay 1/5 of their produce to Pharaoh.

Some time later, Jacob becomes ill and Joseph visits him with his two sons: Manasseh (the irst-born) and Ephraim.  Jacob makes them his own sons, due to his sadness for Rachel’s death.  He then puts his right hand on Ephraim and his left hand on Manasseh, blessing both, but especially Ephraim.

Commentary:

  • Joseph, once the savior of Egypt, now enslaves the entire population.  There is no hint of disapproval–or approval–from either the narrator or God.  Some scholars think the rule of Joseph could be a memory of the Hyksos invasion, where an Asiatic group took over Egypt and ruled it for roughly 100 years.
  • Jacob’s putting his right hand on Ephraim, the younger son, signifies that he favors Ephraim.  This is consistent with the theme of Genesis–the youngest sons (Jacob, Joseph, Benjamin, Ephraim) are always favored, breaking with the traditional favoring of the first-born.
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