Genesis 47



1 And Joseph came and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brothers, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, have come out·​·of the land of Canaan; and behold they are in the land of Goshen.

2 And from a part* of his brothers he took five men, and placed them before Pharaoh.

3 And Pharaoh said to his brothers, What are your deeds? And they said to Pharaoh, Thy servants are a shepherd of the flock, both we and our fathers.

4 And they said to Pharaoh, To sojourn in the land have we come; for there is no pasture for the flock which belongs to thy servants; for the famine is heavy in the land of Canaan; and now, we pray, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen.

5 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brothers have come to thee;

6 the land of Egypt, it is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and thy brothers dwell; let them dwell in the land of Goshen; and if thou knowest, and there·​·be among them, men of force, then set them as princes over the livestock that belong to me.

7 And Joseph brought Jacob his father, and stood him before Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.

8 And Pharaoh said to Jacob, How·​·many are the days of the years of thy life?

9 And Jacob said to Pharaoh, The days of the years of my sojournings are thirty and a hundred 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 sojournings.

10 And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went·​·out from before Pharaoh.

11 And Joseph had his father and his brothers dwell, 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.

12 And Joseph sustained his father, and his brothers, and all the house of his father, with bread, according·​·to the mouth of the infant.

13 And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very heavy, and the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan labored in the faces of the famine.

14 And Joseph collected all the silver that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the purchase which they purchased; and Joseph brought the silver to the house of Pharaoh.

15 And the silver was finished from the land of Egypt, and from the land of Canaan, and all Egypt came to Joseph, saying, Give us bread, for why should we die in·​·front·​·of thee for the silver is·​·gone?

16 And Joseph said, Give your livestock; and I will Give you for your livestock, if silver be·​·gone.

17 And they brought their livestock to Joseph; and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for the horses, and for the livestock of the flock, and for the livestock of the herd, and for the donkeys; and he provided* them with bread in exchange for all their livestock in this year.

18 And when this year finished, they came to him in the second year, and said to him, We will not conceal from my lord that the silver is finished; and the livestock of the beast is to my lord; nothing is·​·left before my lord except our body and our ground.

19 Why should· we ·die before thine eyes, both we and our ground? buy us and our ground with bread, and we shall be, and our ground, servants to Pharaoh; and give seed, that we may live, and not die, and the ground be· not ·desolate.

20 And Joseph bought all the ground of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine was strengthened upon them; and the land was Pharaoh’s.

21 And the people, he had them cross to the cities, from the edge of the border of Egypt even·​·to its other edge.

22 Only the ground of the priests bought he not; for a stated portion was for the priests from Pharaoh, and they ate their stated portion which Pharaoh had given to them; Therefore they sold not their ground.

23 And Joseph said to the people, Behold I have bought you this day and your ground for Pharaoh; behold here is seed for you, and you shall sow the ground.

24 And it shall be in the increase and you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four parts* shall be for you, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for those in your houses, and for food for your infants.

25 And they said, Thou hast made us live; let us find grace in the eyes of my lord, and we will be servants of Pharaoh.

26 And Joseph set it for a statute even·​·to this day, concerning the ground of Egypt, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; only the ground of the priests, theirs alone was not for Pharaoh.

27 And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen; and they had· a ·possession in it, and were·​·fruitful, and multiplied exceedingly.

28 And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; and it was that the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were seven years and forty and a hundred years.

29 And the days of Israel came·​·near to die; and he called his son Joseph, and said to him, If, I pray, I have found grace in thine eyes, set, I pray, thy hand under my thigh, and do mercy and truth with·​·me; bury me not, I pray, in Egypt.

30 And I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out·​·of Egypt, and bury me in their burying-place. And he said, I will do according·​·to thy word.

31 And he said, Promise to me; and he promised to him. Israel bowed· himself ·down on the head of the bed.


Exploring the Meaning of Genesis 47      

Napsal(a) Helen Kennedy

This chapter continues the "Joseph story." Joseph’s family has come to Egypt to escape the famine in Canaan. Joseph is thrilled to have them with him, especially his father, Jacob, and he gives them land in Goshen, the best part of Egypt. Pharaoh welcomes them, too, asking Joseph’s brothers about their work, and talking with Jacob, too.

In verses 1-6, Pharaoh corresponds here to external, scientific knowledge, while Joseph includes also the inner enlightenment that flows from the deepest things (Secrets of Heaven 6062). Without this influx our natural level does not have any life, for it is totally devoid of life on its own. Life comes to us directly from the Lord, and this chapter gives a glimpse of how the Lord creates life in us (Secrets of Heaven 6063).

When Joseph brings five of his brothers to meet Pharaoh, this means that some truths, meant by “five,” flowing from heaven reached into the natural part of us where factual things (Pharaoh) reside.

Pharaoh asks about their occupation, and they tell him that they are shepherds, as were their fathers. Here the natural part of us becomes aware of new things flowing in from the spiritual depths. It wonders what good these new insights will lead to. Since shepherds tend sheep that are innocently led, it follows that Joseph’s brothers represent truths that lead to innocence. In all innocence there is good from the Lord.

Truth and knowledge sustain the human soul just as food does the body, but famine represents a severe lack of it. When we are regenerating or being made spiritual, we have a desire for knowledge and wisdom, and when we don’t find it, we are desolate, listless, and famished. Goshen is the best land in Egypt; living in it symbolizes that a person who is being regenerated has access to the types of natural knowledges that begin our heavenly instruction.

Pharaoh's generosity illustrates how the natural part of us starts perceiving some deeper things. Jacob’s father and brothers being permitted to dwell in “the best of the land” shows the delight that our external mind has in receiving insights from spiritual things. Any “competent men” or “energetic men” (the latter used in a different translation) signifies that the outermost part of us is perceiving the most powerful or important truths, letting them be first or foremost among known facts. An example could be the instruction in Deuteronomy 6:4 to “Love the Lord with all our heart, all our soul and all our strength.”

In verse 7, Joseph brings Jacob to meet Pharaoh, "and Jacob blessed Pharaoh." This shows the sequence in our spiritual growth: our inmost spirit (Joseph) flows into intermediate truths (Jacob) which become present in the outermost part of us (Pharaoh).

Pharaoh asks Jacob his age, which shows a continuing interest on the part of our outer selves to learn about spiritual things. (Secrets of Heaven 6093).

In Verse 9, we read this:

"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.”

A pilgrimage is a journey for a spiritual end. Jacob’s has been full of temptations, producing inner feelings of anxiety and distress, which is why Jacob says his days have been “few and evil.” The natural person is particularly subjected to temptations when it is starting to receive the things of spiritual life. Evils of life and falsities of doctrine reside only in the outer or external part of us (Secrets of Heaven 6097).

Jacob’s blessing of Pharaoh, in verse 10, shows a heartfelt desire on the part of spiritual things to join natural ones. This will result in fruitfulness of life if we actually live according to inner dictates. The actuality of it has yet to be effected; so far there has only been an introduction to it. That Jacob “went out from Pharaoh” shows there still is some separation.

The following verses 17-27 deal with the actual joining together of spiritual with natural things. Joseph settles his father and brothers in the best land—an image of all the good and true things we receive from the innermost or celestial (Joseph) as it flows into the natural part of us. Then a true “church” can exist, a “church” being the place inside us where the things of the Lord are known (Secrets of Heaven 10761). That the natural acquiesces to this conjunction is shown by Pharaoh having commanded for Joseph’s family to be settled in the best land.

Joseph's providing for his father and brothers again shows the flow of good from the inmost or deepest level into the middle or spiritual level, and then into the outermost or natural levels of a person.

“According to their families.” Families, especially children, signify innocence, or a willingness to be led—here to receive this spiritual influx.

“No bread in the land” symbolizes what happens to us when we don't receive this inflowing spiritual good from an inner connection with the Lord. Even knowledges of spiritual things (represented by “Egypt" and “Canaan”) get desperate.

Joseph gathers up all the money found in Egypt and Canaan. This represents that all the factual knowledge of the Church that had truth in it, represented here by the money, was now being subordinated to the innermost or deepest part of ourselves, the part closest to Lord and His leading. It was no longer going to be spurious or falsified because of being subject to our own evil loves and self-serving "truths," or things in our outer self only.

When the money failed in the land, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us bread, for why should we die in your presence?” This happens when our life is so devastated that we no longer know anything, or have any truth, that leads to good. Even what we thought were our knowledges of truth and good have failed. This is because they came from ourselves and therefore were not life-giving. All of our being needs to turn toward the deepest of inner things, represented by Joseph.

In verse 16, Joseph says, “Give your livestock, and I will give you bread for your livestock, if the money is gone.” This sounds sort of harsh but, again, we need to look at the inner meaning. Giving livestock for bread shows that truths need to be filled in with good. In other words, it is no longer good enough to know truths for their own sake; they must serve good or have good within them. That can only be done by living according to them. We can't just know things. And we can’t do good from ourselves.

The Egyptians bring their livestock to Joseph and exchange them for bread. We bring the lesser things in our lives under the direction or control of our inmost spiritual selves. “Horses” represent things of our understanding; “flocks,” inner truths that contain good; “herds,” more external truths; and “donkeys,” things of our outermost self that serve inner things. Joseph's feeding them corresponds to how our outer self is sustained and given life by an inflow from inner things.

In verses 18 and 19, things are getting much more serious. “When that year ended” means that a new state is beginning and the previous one has ended. “We will not hide from my lord” shows that our outermost self is now fully aware that it can only be helped by an inflow from deepest or inmost things. Nothing being left “but our bodies and our lands” shows the utter desolation our outer self, completely lacking any knowledge of good, or the true things that lead to good. This desolation comes from trying to live in the outer or bodily self without any influx from the inner or spiritual parts of ourselves (Secrets of Heaven 6108).

“Why should we die” shows how our outer self gets more and more desperate. We realize that we can’t be helped by anything external. Our desperation drives us finally to submit to Joseph, to inward love and wisdom that the Lord is trying to send to us.

The people are asking for seed. This is a sign that there can now be an inflow of charitable good and truth, because our outer self has become humbled and is willing to give up thinking it does things entirely on its own. It stops blocking the Lord's influx, fighting it, or twisting it into falsities. With help from "Joseph", we no longer have to fear the damnation which was close at hand. “That the land may not be desolate” shows that now our minds can be cultivated with true things of the church, the “church” being the place inside a person where things from the Lord are known (Secrets of Heaven 10761).

In verse 20, “Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharoah” directly corresponds to the way that our inmost self, conjoined with the Lord, now governs the whole natural mind. We're no longer struggling on our own because of our self-centeredness. An example can be seen in a person who is destroying his or her life with an addiction, but who gets a realization of how bad things are, and slowly stops drinking drink or doing the drug, eventually getting away from it entirely, and becoming healed.

Joseph moves the people into the cities, throughout Egypt. Cities correspond to doctrines which are organized sets of truths. Moving people into cities corresponds to the way that our inmost mind is now directing our thoughts into areas where there are knowledges that hold truths within them.

Joseph doesn't buy the priests' land. Here Pharaoh’s priests represent the capacity to receive good that exists only from the inner levels flowing outward, not from anything that exists externally of itself (Secrets of Heaven 6148). “The priests having rations from Pharaoh all along” shows how important these capacities are. “Therefore they did not sell their lands” shows that those parts of us never did things on their own without inner guidance.

Joseph giving the people seed, in verse 23, describes the way that our inmost spiritual self is excited at being joined with natural things. It quickly distributes truths throughout it from which spiritual things can grow. The excitement here is parallel to the excitement Joseph felt when he first saw that his brothers came to Egypt to buy grain (Genesis 43).

In verse 24, there's an interesting division of the yield of the seed: “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.”

As things of good and truth start to grow, the natural or outer part of us needs to constantly acknowledge that its good comes from somewhere other than itself. Giving one-fifth to Pharoah accomplishes that. Tithing, or giving a percentage of one’s salary to the church, is reminiscent of this. The people were able to keep four-fifths of the produce as their own, showing that there will still be lots of things we think and feel where it seems like they originate from ourselves. In the reality of spiritual life, though, they actually are coming from the Lord. The difference is that we do them “as of ourself” or “as if” they originate from us. “Your little ones” shows that when it is done this way, the person will be innocent or without fault.

In verse 25, the people are grateful. “You have saved our lives; let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants.” Our outer self starts with pride, self-centeredness, and some delusions that lead to a disconnectedness from the Lord's love and wisdom. But now, after hardship, temptation, and spiritual famine, we've made the decision to allow the Lord to flow into our minds, and to be governed by real love and wisdom. And now, finally, our outer self is grateful. To “find favor in the sight of my lord” shows a willingness to be led in this way.

We need to give consent in order for spiritual things to flow in; they will not be forced on us. When we give consent, we're on the road to having our whole life be nourished. The parallel to Joseph’s law is that we need to always respond to the prompting of inner leading. “To this day” means forever. “That Pharaoh should have one-fifth” shows that the Lord just wants us to acknowledge Him. He still wants us to have freedom, and the feeling that we do things on our own, signified by the four-fifths the people keep. And at the same time, for the sake of our spiritual life we need to remember the Lord and recognize that our life comes from Him.

The Children of Israel thrive in Goshen. Spiritual good is present with the person now. “Israel” means spiritual good, different now from “Jacob,” which means natural truth. “In the country of Goshen”—the spiritual good is in the middle or best part of the natural. That Joseph’s family “grew and multiplied exceedingly” shows that goods and truths were being formed and shared with the natural, and the outermost part of us is responding to them (Secrets of Heaven 6172).

In the last few verses, the focus is on Jacob, and his impending death. Swedenborg says that Jacob living one hundred and forty-seven years is not easy to explain. The “numbers contain the entire state of reality represented by ‘Jacob’ and its essential nature” (Secrets of Heaven 6175). As for one hundred and forty-seven, it probably has something to do with “forty” meaning “temptations” (as seen in the story of Noah), and “seven” meaning “completeness."

Israel calls Joseph to his side. As Israel dies, deeper things are present, because ‘Joseph’ represents inmost things. “Now if I have found favor in your sight” shows the desire on the part of our outer self for inner things to predominate. “Please put your hand under my thigh.” This was a way of expressing a sacred bond, the “hand” having to do with power in outer things and the “thigh” with things of heavenly married love. (Think of the sacred bond which is made at weddings.) That we are reaching a state of humility is shown in Israel’s request for Joseph to “deal kindly and truly with me.” Not wanting to be buried in Egypt indicates the desire to dwell in things of the spirit, i.e., heaven, and not be left only in knowledges of them, which are in our outermost self (Secrets of Heaven 6181).

30. “’But let me lie with my fathers. You shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.’ And Joseph said, ‘I will do as you have said.’ Then Jacob said, ‘Swear to me.’ And Joseph swore to him. So Israel bowed himself on the head of the bed.”

Jacob's lying with his fathers represents our desire, when opening to inner things, to live the type of spiritual life that the earliest people on earth had. They lived in spiritual innocence. Carrying Jacob “out of Egypt” corresponds to being carried out of knowledges only. (See Secrets of Heaven 6183).

Swearing a vow is a sacred thing, an unchangeable agreement to do something. The “head of the bed” is the part that is higher up when compared to the rest of the bed and “bowing oneself” indicates humility. This shows that natural truth meant by “Jacob” was raised to “spiritual good” meant by “Israel” (Secrets of Heaven 6188). The intention of the Lord in all this has been to join with us by flowing in and giving us the capacities to live according to heavenly truths. Knowledge is not enough; understanding is not enough; only living according to spiritual things will do.

Thanks to the Kempton Project for the permission to use this New Church translation of the Word.