Pharaoh's Question to the Brethren of Joseph
Genesis 47:3
And Pharaoh said to his brothers, What is your occupation? And they said to Pharaoh, Your servants are shepherds, both we…

I. Evidently implying THAT EACH OF US HAS, OR IS INTENDED TO HAVE, AN "OCCUPATION." Now the word "occupation," in its primary meaning, signifies "employment" or "business"; and the text leads us to infer that each individual amongst us has some such employment or business, for the due discharge of which we are accountable to Him whose Providence has imposed it upon us. Had man been sent into the world with no other object than merely to spend a few days or years in this fleeting scene, and then to pass off the stage of life and cease for ever to exist, the question as to any occupation he might have need never be raised. The more easily and pleasantly such a life could be got over, the better. With regard to the things of the present life, hear what the Scriptures declare: "Seest thou a man," says Solomon, "diligent in his business, he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men" (Proverbs 22:29). The Apostle Paul, while urging the Romans to "fervency of spirit in the service of God," enforces the important admonition to be "not slothful in business" (Romans 12:11). If from precepts we pass on to examples, we find the duty of " diligence in business" strikingly set before us in the conduct of the holy men of old, the saints and servants of the Lord. And surely, brethren, with regard to things of infinitely higher moment, it must be needless to remind professing Christians that they have a word entrusted to them, an "occupation" which demands unwearied attention, incessant watchfulness, and fervent prayer. Throughout, by precept as well as by example, we are urged to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).

II. To inquire into THE NATURE OF THIS OCCUPATION WITH RESPECT TO DIFFERENT CLASSES OF INDIVIDUALS. Altogether unoccupied we cannot be: if the service of God does not engage our attention, the service of Satan will. But when the question is proposed — "What is your occupation?" from how few, comparatively, have we the comfort of receiving the reply — "I am occupied about my Father's business!" Now, let us take a brief review of some of the various occupations in which different individuals are engaged.

1. Look at the man whose whole time is taken up in the accumulation of earthly riches and possessions, and ask him what is his occupation? He will tell you of the labour and fatigue which he has undergone, in search of his much-loved idols, and what reward can such a man expect, in return for all his worldly and selfish schemes? Truly, except he repent, he will find that he has been only "treasuring up unto himself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God."

2. Look, again, at the man whose thoughts and time are engrossed with the pursuit of worldly ambition and consequence; and ask him what is his occupation? He will answer that his great object is to get himself a name upon earth. Truly may they be said to grasp at a shadow, and soon lose the reality. "Them that honour Me," says God, "I will honour; and they that despise Me" — however high they may stand with the world — "shall be lightly esteemed" (1 Samuel 2:30).

3. Look, once again, at the man whose whole time is devoted to earthly pleasures and sinful enjoyments, and ask him "what is his occupation." His course of life answers for itself. You see him busied in the frivolous and unprofitable amusements of the world, and eagerly pursuing its vanities and follies. "What fruit have ye in those things whereof ye have cause to be ashamed? for the end of those things is death" (Romans 6:21). But now, go and ask the Christian "what is his occupation." "This," he will say, "this is my occupation, and these are the happy fruits of it; I have tried God, and I have not found Him a hard master: I have put His promises to the proof, and not one of them has failed; I now know that He 'is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that I could ask or think.' In His blessed service, therefore, through Divine grace, will I be occupied henceforth and for ever." Let this occupation be yours.

(S. Coates, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers.

WEB: Pharaoh said to his brothers, "What is your occupation?" They said to Pharaoh, "Your servants are shepherds, both we, and our fathers."

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