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Friday Bible Blogging - Genesis 41 to Genesis 50

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleChapters 41 to 50 are the final ten chapters of Genesis - my first book down. They bring to a close the stories of Jacob and Joseph.

Genesis, Chapter 41

Pharaoh had a couple related dreams, one where seven "ugly and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows," and another where seven "thin ears [of corn] swallowed up the seven plump and full ears." His magicians and wise men couldn't interpret the dreams for him, but the cup bearer finally remembered Joseph, so he was brought out of prison. Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dreams - there would be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of drought and famine. Because he had two related dreams, it "means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about."

Pharaoh raised Joseph up to the highest position in Egypt next to Pharaoh himself, and put him in charge of collecting grain to prepare for the famine. Joseph got married and had children. And after seven years, the famine hit.

Genesis, Chapter 42

Jacob was feeling the effects of the famine back in Canaan, and so sent all of his remaining sons except the youngest, Benjamin (from the same mother as Joseph), to Egypt to ask for grain. They still didn't know that Joseph had survived, nor that he had such power. In Egypt, they didn't recognize Joseph when they saw him, but he certainly recognized them, and gave them 'special' treatment. First, he jailed all of them for a few days. Then, he agreed to let all of them return except Simeon. If they returned with the youngest brother, Benjamin, then Joseph would let Simeon go free. He loaded them up with grain for their return, but also with their money so that they would think God was cursing them (i.e. that they would think their money never went to Joseph and that he would be angry with them). Once back in Canaan, the brothers told Jacob what had happened, but he refused to let Benjamin leave, lest he die like he thought Joseph had, "If harm should come to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to Sheol."

Genesis, Chapter 43

The famine continued, and Jacob had to send his sons to Egypt once again to ask for food, this time with Benjamin. Joseph released Simeon as he'd promised, and again gave them special treatment without revealing his identity. He brought them to his house to eat with them, and amazed them by having them seated according to their ages. Joseph had to leave for a bit when he first saw Benjamin as he was overcome with emotion.

Genesis, Chapter 44

Joseph again gave his brothers grain, and this time planted a silver cup in Benjamin's sack. He had his steward stop them and 'find' the cup, upon which it was said that Benjamin would be taken as a slave. The brothers were distraught, and Judah even pleaded to take him as a slave instead, so that Benjamin could go free to keep Jacob from being heartbroken. Apparently, this was a test to see if they would betray Benjamin like they had betrayed him, and they passed.

Genesis, Chapter 45

Once Judah offered himself in Benjamin's place, Joseph could no longer hold back. He finally revealed his true identity to his brothers. They were understandably worried about how he would treat them given what they had done to him, but he told them, "God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God." He loaded them down with gifts to take back to Canaan, with instructions to get their families and Jacob and bring them back to Egypt so that they could settle in Goshen. Jacob was stunned when he heard the news, "Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him before I die."

Genesis, Chapter 46

Jacob/Israel and his sons left for Goshen, with Jacob having a vision from God on the way. There was a long paragraph on genealogy, and then everybody arrived in Goshen, though they didn't get a chance to settle there, just yet.

Genesis, Chapter 47

After telling Pharaoh that they were shepherds, Pharaoh gave Jacob and his sons permission to settle in Goshen. Then came a scene that seemed a bit odd. Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Egyptian Pharaohs were supposed to be living gods on Earth. It seems a bit presumptuous to try to bless a god.

After that, Genesis began to focus on the famine and its effect on the Egyptians and Canaanites. First, "Joseph collected all the money to be found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, in exchange for the grain that they bought." Once they were out of money, they traded their livestock to Joseph in exchange for grain. The following year, when they had nothing else left to trade for grain, they gave Joseph and thus Pharaoh all of their lands and gave themselves over to be slaves. Only the priests were spared this fate. Following that, Joseph gave the Egyptians seeds to sow, but from then on, they would be obligated to give Pharaoh one fifth of their harvests.

In the final few verses, Jacob made Joseph promise that when he (Jacob) died, that Joseph would have him buried with his ancestors, not in Egypt.

Genesis, Chapter 48

Joseph took his sons to meet their grandfather. In preparation for a blessing, Joseph put the older son on Jacob's right side, and the younger on his left. When Jacob went to bless them, he crossed his hands. When Joseph pointed out that he was switching up the older/younger sons, Jacob replied, "I know, my son, I know; he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations." This was another of the things that seemed odd from a modern perspective. It's just so much magic - that the hand you use to bless somebody can make a difference. And there was also the patriarchy mindset - that the order you're born in should have some influence on your standing in society.

Genesis, Chapter 49

Knowing that his time was short, Jacob called together his sons to give them some parting words. He predicted their futures, calling out those sons that had done wrong (including Simeon and Levi who started the violence against the Hivites in Chapter 34), and praising those that had acted righteously. "All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, blessing each one of them with a suitable blessing. " After that, he made the request to all of them that he be buried back in the field that Abraham had bought. And after that, "When Jacob ended his charge to his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people. "

Genesis, Chapter 50

Joseph and his brothers took their father's body back to Canaan like he had requested, then returned to Egypt. Joseph had to once again reassure his brothers that he carried no grudge against them. The chapter and the book closed with the children of Jacob, i.e. the twelve tribes of Israel, living in Egypt, seemingly setting the scene for what's to follow in the book of Exodus. The final three verses read, "Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am about to die; but God will surely come to you, and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.' 25 So Joseph made the Israelites swear, saying, 'When God comes to you, you shall carry up my bones from here.' 26 And Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt."


The Book of Genesis seemed to go through a transition. It began, not exactly with the most grandiose of prose, but with a very grand scale - the entire universe and everything in it. In the early chapters, it's topics remained large, like the Tower of Babel. Even when it was discussing a single family like with Noah, it was in regards to an event that wiped out every other living thing from the Earth. But then it transitioned to being much more narrowly focused on a single family at a time when there were entire nations. God underwent a similar transition. In the earlier chapters, God was very human-like, actually walking amongst people and talking to them directly. There was even a story with God eating. But by the end of the book, God was revealing himself in dreams. His most explicit revelation in those later chapters was as a talking burning bush.

The feel of the book transitioned in parallel with those two points discussed above. The first few chapters of Genesis are very, very obviously not literally true. Aside from their conflict with our modern day understanding of the universe, they just feel mythical. But the later chapters feel a bit more believable. There's still magic and superheroes, but the basics of the story feel like they could have been based on actual events (unfortunately, there's still no evidence for those stories, so there's no way of knowing just how much truth there is to them).

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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