The Famine in Egypt

Genesis 41:46-47:12

Highlights from this Passage

  • Joseph has two sons: Manasseh and Ephraim.
  • Joseph’s brothers come into Egypt to buy corn. He knows them and tries them. Simeon is put in prison. The others go to get Benjamin.
  • Jacob allows Benjamin to depart with his children. Simeon is delivered out of prison. Joseph goes aside and weeps.
  • Joseph accuses his brother of theft. Judah offeres himself to be Benjamin’s servant.
  • Joseph makes himself known to his brothers. He shows that all was done by God’s providence. Pharaoh commands him to send for his father.
  • God assures Jacob of his journey into Egypt. Joseph meets his father. He teachs his brothers what to answer to Pharaoh.
  • Jacob comes before Pharaoh. The land of Goshen is given to him. 

†††††††

Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt. In the seven plenteous years the earth produced abundantly. He gathered up all the food of the seven years which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities. He stored food in each city from the fields around that city. Joseph laid up grain as the sand of the sea, very much, until he stopped counting, for it was without number. To Joseph were born two sons before the year of famine came, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore to him. Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh, “For”, he said, “God has made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house.” The name of the second, he called Ephraim: “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

The seven years of plenty, that were in the land of Egypt, came to an end. The seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread, and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.” The famine was over all the surface of the earth. Joseph opened all the store houses, and sold to the Egyptians. The famine was severe in the land of Egypt. All countries came into Egypt, to Joseph, to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all the earth.

Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” He said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there, and buy for us from there, so that we may live, and not die.” Joseph’s ten brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob didn’t send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers; for he said, “Lest perhaps harm happen to him.” The sons of Israel came to buy among those who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan. Joseph was the governor over the land. It was he who sold to all the people of the land. Joseph’s brothers came, and bowed themselves down to him with their faces to the earth. Joseph saw his brothers, and he recognized them, but acted like a stranger to them, and spoke roughly with them. He said to them, “Where did you come from?”

They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.”

Joseph recognized his brothers, but they didn’t recognize him. Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed about them, and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see the nakedness of the land.”

They said to him, “No, my lord, but your servants have come to buy food. We are all one man’s sons; we are honest men. Your servants are not spies.”

He said to them, “No, but you have come to see the nakedness of the land!”

They said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is today with our father, and one is no more.”

Joseph said to them, “It is like I told you, saying, ‘You are spies!’ By this you shall be tested. By the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go out from here, unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of you, and let him get your brother, and you shall be bound, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you, or else by the life of Pharaoh surely you are spies.” He put them all together into custody for three days.

Joseph said to them the third day, “Do this, and live, for I fear God. If you are honest men, then let one of your brothers be bound in your prison; but you go, carry grain for the famine of your houses. Bring your youngest brother to me; so will your words be verified, and you won’t die.”

They did so. They said to one another, “We are certainly guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us, and we wouldn’t listen. Therefore this distress has come upon us.” Reuben answered them, saying, “Didn’t I tell you, saying, ‘Don’t sin against the child,’ and you wouldn’t listen? Therefore also, behold, his blood is required.” They didn’t know that Joseph understood them; for there was an interpreter between them. He turned himself away from them, and wept. Then he returned to them, and spoke to them, and took Simeon from among them, and bound him before their eyes. Then Joseph gave a command to fill their bags with grain, and to restore each man’s money into his sack, and to give them food for the way. So it was done to them.

They loaded their donkeys with their grain, and departed from there. As one of them opened his sack to give his donkey food in the lodging place, he saw his money. Behold, it was in the mouth of his sack. He said to his brothers, “My money is restored! Behold, it is in my sack!” Their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?” They came to Jacob their father, to the land of Canaan, and told him all that had happened to them, saying, “The man, the lord of the land, spoke roughly with us, and took us for spies of the country. We said to him, ‘We are honest men. We are no spies. We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no more, and the youngest is today with our father in the land of Canaan.’ The man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I will know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, and take grain for the famine of your houses, and go your way. Bring your youngest brother to me. Then I will know that you are not spies, but that you are honest men. So I will deliver your brother to you, and you shall trade in the land.’”

As they emptied their sacks, behold, each man’s bundle of money was in his sack. When they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were afraid. Jacob, their father, said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children! Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin away. All these things are against me.”

Reuben spoke to his father, saying, “Kill my two sons, if I don’t bring him to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him to you again.”

He said, “My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he only is left. If harm happens to him along the way in which you go, then you will bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”

The famine was severe in the land. When they had eaten up the grain which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little more food.”

Judah spoke to him, saying, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’ If you’ll send our brother with us, we’ll go down and buy you food; but if you don’t send him, we won’t go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’”

Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly, telling the man that you had another brother?”

They said, “The man asked directly concerning ourselves, and concerning our relatives, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?’ We just answered his questions. Is there any way we could know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down?’”

Judah said to Israel, his father, “Send the boy with me, and we’ll get up and go, so that we may live, and not die, both we, and you, and also our little ones. I’ll be collateral for him. From my hand will you require him. If I don’t bring him to you, and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever; for if we hadn’t delayed, surely we would have returned a second time by now.”

Their father, Israel, said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: Take from the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry down a present for the man, a little balm, a little honey, spices and myrrh, nuts, and almonds; and take double money in your hand, and take back the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks. Perhaps it was an oversight. Take your brother also, get up, and return to the man. May God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release to you your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”

The men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and got up, went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph. When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and butcher an animal, and prepare; for the men will dine with me at noon.”

The man did as Joseph commanded, and the man brought the men to Joseph’s house. The men were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph’s house; and they said, “Because of the money that was returned in our sacks the first time, we’re brought in; that he may seek occasion against us, attack us, and seize us as slaves, along with our donkeys.” They came near to the steward of Joseph’s house, and they spoke to him at the door of the house, and said, “Oh, my lord, we indeed came down the first time to buy food. When we came to the lodging place, we opened our sacks, and behold, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. We have brought it back in our hand. We have brought down other money in our hand to buy food. We don’t know who put our money in our sacks.”

He said, “Peace be to you. Don’t be afraid. Your God, and the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks. I received your money.” He brought Simeon out to them. The man brought the men into Joseph’s house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet. He gave their donkeys fodder. They prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they should eat bread there.

When Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves down to the earth before him. He asked them of their welfare, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he yet alive?”

They said, “Your servant, our father, is well. He is still alive.” They bowed down humbly. He lifted up his eyes, and saw Benjamin, his brother, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me?” He said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” Joseph hurried, for his heart yearned over his brother; and he sought a place to weep. He entered into his room, and wept there. He washed his face, and came out. He controlled himself, and said, “Serve the meal.”

They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians don’t eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. They sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth, and the men marveled with one another. He sent portions to them from before him, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. They drank, and were merry with him.

He commanded the steward of his house, saying, “Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in his sack’s mouth. Put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack’s mouth of the youngest, with his grain money.” He did according to the word that Joseph had spoken. As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and their donkeys. When they had gone out of the city, and were not yet far off, Joseph said to his steward, “Up, follow after the men. When you overtake them, ask them, ‘Why have you rewarded evil for good? Isn’t this that from which my lord drinks, and by which he indeed divines? You have done evil in so doing.’” He overtook them, and he spoke these words to them.

They said to him, “Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants that they should do such a thing! Behold, the money, which we found in our sacks’ mouths, we brought again to you out of the land of Canaan. How then should we steal silver or gold out of your lord’s house? With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s slaves.”

He said, “Now also let it be according to your words. He with whom it is found will be my slave; and you will be blameless.”

Then they hurried, and each man took his sack down to the ground, and each man opened his sack. He searched, beginning with the oldest, and ending at the youngest. The cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. Then they tore their clothes, and each man loaded his donkey, and returned to the city.

Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, and he was still there. They fell on the ground before him. Joseph said to them, “What deed is this that you have done? Don’t you know that such a man as I can indeed do divination?”

Judah said, “What will we tell my lord? What will we speak? How will we clear ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants. Behold, we are my lord’s slaves, both we and he also in whose hand the cup is found.”

He said, “Far be it from me that I should do so. The man in whose hand the cup is found, he will be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father.”

Then Judah came near to him, and said, “Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears, and don’t let your anger burn against your servant; for you are even as Pharaoh. My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father, or a brother?’ We said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother; and his father loves him.’ You said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’ We said to my lord, ‘The boy can’t leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ You said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will see my face no more.’ When we came up to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. Our father said, ‘Go again and buy us a little food.’ We said, ‘We can’t go down. If our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down: for we may not see the man’s face, unless our youngest brother is with us.’ Your servant, my father, said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. One went out from me, and I said, “Surely he is torn in pieces;” and I haven’t seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm happens to him, you will bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.’Now therefore when I come to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us; since his life is bound up in the boy’s life; it will happen, when he sees that the boy is no more, that he will die. Your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant, our father, with sorrow to Sheol. For your servant became collateral for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I don’t bring him to you, then I will bear the blame to my father forever.’ Now therefore, please let your servant stay instead of the boy, my lord’s slave; and let the boy go up with his brothers. For how will I go up to my father, if the boy isn’t with me?—lest I see the evil that will come on my father.”

Then Joseph couldn’t control himself before all those who stood before him, and he called out, “Cause everyone to go out from me!” No one else stood with him, while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He wept aloud. The Egyptians heard, and the house of Pharaoh heard. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Does my father still live?”

His brothers couldn’t answer him; for they were terrified at his presence. Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.”

They came near. He said, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. Now don’t be grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are yet five years, in which there will be no plowing and no harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to save you alive by a great deliverance. So now it wasn’t you who sent me here, but God, and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of all his house, and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry, and go up to my father, and tell him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says, “God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me. Don’t wait. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you will be near to me, you, your children, your children’s children, your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. There I will provide for you; for there are yet five years of famine; lest you come to poverty, you, and your household, and all that you have.”’ Behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. You shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. You shall hurry and bring my father down here.” He fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. He kissed all his brothers, and wept on them. After that his brothers talked with him.

The report of it was heard in Pharaoh’s house, saying, “Joseph’s brothers have come.” It pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Tell your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals, and go, travel to the land of Canaan. Take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and you will eat the fat of the land.’ Now you are commanded to do this: Take wagons out of the land of Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Also, don’t concern yourselves about your belongings, for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours.”

The sons of Israel did so. Joseph gave them wagons, according to the commandment of Pharaoh, and gave them provision for the way. He gave each one of them changes of clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of clothing. He sent the following to his father: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and provision for his father by the way. So he sent his brothers away, and they departed. He said to them, “See that you don’t quarrel on the way.”

They went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan, to Jacob their father. They told him, saying, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” His heart fainted, for he didn’t believe them. They told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them. When he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob, their father, revived. Israel said, “It is enough. Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”

Israel traveled with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father, Isaac. God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, “Jacob, Jacob!”

He said, “Here I am.”

He said, “I am God, the God of your father. Don’t be afraid to go down into Egypt, for there I will make of you a great nation. I will go down with you into Egypt. I will also surely bring you up again. Joseph’s hand will close your eyes.”

Jacob rose up from Beersheba, and the sons of Israel carried Jacob, their father, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. They took their livestock, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt—Jacob, and all his offspring with him, his sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters, and he brought all his offspring with him into Egypt.

These are the names of the children of Israel, who came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn. The sons of Reuben: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman. The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The sons of Judah: Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez, and Zerah; but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan. The sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul. The sons of Issachar: Tola, Puvah, Iob, and Shimron. The sons of Zebulun: Sered, Elon, and Jahleel. These are the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Paddan Aram, with his daughter Dinah. All the souls of his sons and his daughters were thirty-three. The sons of Gad: Ziphion, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi, and Areli. The sons of Asher: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi, Beriah, and Serah their sister. The sons of Beriah: Heber and Malchiel. These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to Leah, his daughter, and these she bore to Jacob, even sixteen souls. The sons of Rachel, Jacob’s wife: Joseph and Benjamin. To Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him. The sons of Benjamin: Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim, and Ard. These are the sons of Rachel, who were born to Jacob: all the souls were fourteen. The son of Dan: Hushim. The sons of Naphtali: Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer, and Shillem. These are the sons of Bilhah, whom Laban gave to Rachel, his daughter, and these she bore to Jacob: all the souls were seven. All the souls who came with Jacob into Egypt, who were his direct offspring, in addition to Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were sixty-six. The sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two souls. All the souls of the house of Jacob, who came into Egypt, were seventy.

Jacob sent Judah before him to Joseph, to show the way before him to Goshen, and they came into the land of Goshen. Joseph prepared his chariot, and went up to meet Israel, his father, in Goshen. He presented himself to him, and fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive.”

Joseph said to his brothers, and to his father’s house, “I will go up, and speak with Pharaoh, and will tell him, ‘My brothers, and my father’s house, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. These men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock, and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have.’ It will happen, when Pharaoh summons you, and will say, ‘What is your occupation?’ that you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we, and our fathers:’ that you may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.”

Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, and said, “My father and my brothers, with their flocks, their herds, and all that they own, have come out of the land of Canaan; and behold, they are in the land of Goshen.” From among his brothers he took five men, and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?”

They said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, both we, and our fathers.” They also said to Pharaoh, “We have come to live as foreigners in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks. For the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now therefore, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.”

Pharaoh spoke to Joseph, saying, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you. Make your father and your brothers dwell in the best of the land. Let them dwell in the land of Goshen. If you know any able men among them, then put them in charge of my livestock.”

Joseph brought in Jacob, his father, and set him before Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How old are you?”

Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my pilgrimage are one hundred thirty years. The days of the years of my life have been few and evil. They have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from the presence of Pharaoh.

Joseph placed 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 commanded. Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all of his father’s household with bread, according to the sizes of their families.

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