November 13, 2022
“Then Pharaoh asked his brothers, ‘What is your occupation?’ And they said to Pharaoh, ‘Your servants, both we and our fathers, are shepherds.’ Then they said to Pharaoh...”
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“Then Pharaoh asked his brothers, ‘What is your occupation?’ And they said to Pharaoh, ‘Your servants, both we and our fathers, are shepherds.’ Then they said to Pharaoh, ‘We have to live in the land for a while because there is no grazing land for your servants’ sheep, since the famine in the land of Canaan has been severe. So now, please let your servants settle in the land of Goshen.’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Now that your father and brothers have come to you, the land of Egypt is open before you; settle your father and brothers in the best part of the land. They can live in the land of Goshen. If you know of any capable men among them, put them in charge of my livestock.” Genesis 47:3-6
Today’s passage doesn’t seem to pack much of a punch. It’s more of a formal conversation between a few of Joseph’s brothers and Pharaoh. It’s like the “handshake” that concludes a business deal. There isn’t much drama here, but when placed with its preceding verses in chapter 46, the conversation takes on more of a clever sense:
“Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, ‘I will go up and inform Pharaoh, telling him: My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. The men are shepherds; indeed they raise livestock. They have brought their sheep and cattle and all that they have. When Pharaoh addresses you and asks, “What is your occupation?” you are to say, “Your servants, both we and our fathers, have raised livestock from our youth until now.” Then you will be allowed to settle in the land of Goshen since all shepherds are abhorrent to Egyptians.’” Genesis 46:31-34
Joseph knew his brothers. These were the men who beat him and sold him into slavery. He knew that for Israel to prosper long term, they needed to be separate from Egypt! That is a good lesson for us. Seriously, we all know how our proximity to the World negatively affects our spiritual walk. That is why we are commanded not to be “of” the World, even though we are in it. Not only did God lead Israel into Egypt, but He also led them to a place where they could be separate from the Egyptians!!
Joseph also knew the Egyptians. Funny, by this time, Joseph was literally “shepherding” Egypt. He was the most powerful man in Egypt. Pharaoh told him that, aside from the title “pharaoh,” Joseph was in charge of Egypt. Still, the Egyptians could not make the abstract connection between “sheepherder” and “shepherd/overseer.” They despised people who herded sheep, but they did not see themselves as “sheep.” Isn’t that interesting? Because God honors shepherds. David was a shepherd. Moses was shepherding when God called him. Shepherds were the first to worship Messiah. Jesus called Himself “the Good Shepherd.”
Bottom line: The Egyptians were more interested in image than goodness. They wanted to be considered “somebody” but didn’t care about anybody. No, Joseph didn’t want that attitude saturating the mindset of Israel. So, with one handshake, Joseph ensured Israel would be separate from Egypt, and Egypt would not want to be close to Israel. Have you determined to live your life “in but not of” the World?