Amid Famine and Death: Life and Blessing
Amid Famine, Life (47:12–28)
Amid Death: Blessing (47:29-Chap. 48)
The scene's two panels are like two storms, both of which have been gathering for a long time—the famine, and the dying of Jacob. Famine and Jacob's death have their roots as far back as chapter 37, in the grain-related dream of Joseph (37:5–8) and in Jacob's mournful talk about going down to Sheol (37:34–35). The same two themes returned in chapters 41–42, beginning with the grainrelated dreams of Pharaoh (41:1–7) and with Jacob's further talk of going down to Sheol (42:38).
However, though the actual famine began in chapter 41 (41:53–57), only now do its ravages emerge fully. It is so bad that, in a startling development, Joseph takes over Egypt; the people give him everything—money, livestock, lifeless bodies, and ground—and they become servants of Pharaoh (47:12–28). Likewise, only now does Jacob's death-knell strike fully: “Israel's days to die drew near …” (47:29). The whole second panel (47:29—chap. 48) takes place around his death-bed.
In one sense, therefore, the two-panel scene is profoundly death-like. The collapse of the earth (ere ) is followed by the collapse of Jacob.
Yet the overall impact of the scene is not negative. Joseph's takeover of the famine-struck land, however harsh at first sight, becomes a basis for a form of renewal (47:23–25), and this renewal is set within the framework of Joseph providing for the life of his family, including a fresh lease on life for Jacob (47: 12–13, 27–28; Jacob reaches 147 years). Furthermore, the scene at Jacob's death-bed is dominated not so much by death but by blessing. In the two-part scene as a whole therefore the pervading mood is not of doom, but of renewed life and blessing.
The primary literary category for the account of acquiring the land (47:12–28) is the same as for the account of acquiring the field (chap. 23)—a contract dialogue. Most of the text (esp. 47:15–25) is a dialogue between Joseph and the people.