Genesis 47:3
"What is your occupation?" Pharaoh asked Joseph's brothers. "Your servants are shepherds," they replied, "both we and our fathers."
OccupationJ. Edgar Henry, M. A.Genesis 47:3
On OccupationT. Gisborne, M. A.Genesis 47:3
Pharaoh's Question to the Brethren of JosephS. Coates, M. A.Genesis 47:3
The Presentation to PharaohR.A. Redford Genesis 47:1-10

I. TESTIMONY TO POWER OF CHARACTER. Joseph's influence. The five brethren selected perhaps with a view to their appearance, and in the number five, which was regarded as a significant number among the Egyptians. The monarch's reception of the strangers due to Joseph's influence. Generally diffused. There is much graciousness in the heathen monarch, although partly to be ascribed to national characteristics, for the Egyptians were a very different race from the Canaanites; still we may believe that the conduct of Pharaoh was mostly due to the effect of Joseph's ministry and personal exemplification of the religious life. One true man is a great power in a country.

II. A conspicuous EXAMPLE of Divine grace. The old patriarch is presented. He plainly impressed the monarch as extremely aged, perhaps indicating that the centenarian was a great rarity then among heathen nations. His long life was a long course of gracious dealings. The effect of a religious life in prolonging the years is exemplified. It is said that since Christianity obtained its legitimate, or more of its legitimate influence in Europe, the average length of human life has been doubled. Yet, as Jacob confesses, he is not as old as his fathers. His life had been a pilgrimage in a wilderness. His days few and evil, compared with what they might have been. Seventeen years longer they were lengthened out - a testimony to the effect of peace and prosperity in preserving life when it is under the blessing of God. Jacob blessed Pharaoh. The less is blessed of the greater. The two princes stood face to face - the prince of God - the prince of Egypt.

III. A PROPHETIC PACT: the world shall be blessed through the heirs of the Divine promise. Jacob had much to be thankful for; and although he thanked God first, he teaches us by his example not to forget the claims of fellow-creatures in our gratitude, even though they be separated from us in faith and religion. - R.

What is your occupation?
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.)

Activity is the life of nature. The planets rolling in their orbits, the earth revolving on her axis; the atmosphere purified by winds, the ocean by tides; the vapours rising from the ground and returning in freshening flowers, exhaled from the sea, and poured again by rivers into its bosom, proclaim the universal law. Turn to animated existence. See the air, the land, and the waters in commotion with countless tribes eagerly engaged in attack, in defence, in the construction of habitations, in the chase of prey, in employment suited to their sphere and conducive to their happiness. Is man born an exception to the general rule? Man is born to labour. For labour, man while yet innocent was formed (Genesis 2:15). To that exertion which was ordained to be a source of unmitigated delight, painful contention and overwhelming fatigue, when man apostatised from his God, were superadded (Genesis 3:17, 18). In the early years of the world employments now confined to the lowest classes were deemed not unbecoming persons of the most elevated rank. From every individual in his dominions, and from each according to his vocation, Pharaoh looked for diligent exertion. From every, individual among us, as throughout His boundless empire, the supreme Lord of all demands habitual labour in the daily employment of the talents entrusted to our management. Let us then, in the first place, contemplate the motives under the guidance of which we are, each of us, to labour: secondly, some of the general lines of human labour as connected with their attendant temptations; and thirdly, the principal benefits immediately resulting from occupation.

I. WHATSOEVER YE DO, DO ALL TO THE GLORY OF GOD. Behold the universal motive of a Christian! Through the exuberance of the free bounty of God. To whom ought the gift to be consecrated? To Him who bestowed it. For whose glory ought it to be employed? For the glory of the Giver. To live unto Christ is to glorify God. To glorify God through Christ with your body and your spirit, which are His, is the appointed method of attaining the salvation which Christ has purchased.


III. Consider briefly SOME OF THE BENEFITS RESULTING TO THE INDIVIDUAL FROM OCCUPATION; and you will confess that, if God enjoined labour as a judgment, he enjoined it also in mercy.

1. Labour, in the first place, not only is the medium of acquisition; but naturally tends to improvement. Whether the body is to be strengthened or the mind to be cultivated; by the labour of to-day are augmented the faculties of attaining similar objects to-morrow.

2. Labour is, in the next place, a powerful preservative from sin. The unoccupied hand is a ready instrument of mischief.

3. Occupation, originating in Christian principles and directed to Christian purposes, is essential, not only to the refreshing enjoyment of leisure (for the rest that refreshes is rest after toil); but to the acquisition of genuine composure, of serenity of conscience, of that peace of God which passeth all understanding.


1. Consider with attention proportioned to the importance of the subject the universal obligation to labour. If you wish to withdraw your shoulder from the burden; suspect the soundness of your Christian profession. For those whom you love, even at the desire of those whom you love, you delight to labour. Do you love God, and loiter when He commands you to work for Him?

2. Be frequent in proposing to yourself the inquiry, "What is my occupation?" Satisfy yourself, not merely that you are occupied in employments acceptable to God. To labour in trifles is not Christian occupation. To labour in sin is to labour for the devil.

(T. Gisborne, M. A.)

I. OUR NEED OF AN OCCUPATION. Divine provision implies human need. It also measures and meets it.

1. Economically. Work is to the race an absolute condition of existence. Since the fall the ground yields a full fruit only to labour (Genesis 3:17, 19). Only on condition that he works can man be fed (Proverbs 6:6, 10). Idleness is an anomaly, a blunder, and a sin.

2. Physiologically. The health and growth of our powers depend on it. The body was not made to be still. It requires motion, and craves for it. A mind inert becomes enfeebled, whereas intellectual activity tends to intellectual strength. So also in the spiritual ,department: the spiritual nature grows by exercise, and languishes in inactivity. Opportunities of loving increase the capacity to love.

3. Morally: Idleness is the natural ally of immorality. The laziest lives are notoriously the most vicious. Good, honest work has a double action. It keeps down appetite and it keeps out of temptation's way.

II. THE OCCUPATION WE NEED. Occupation, like other good things, may be abused, and so become the occasion of evil. This happens —

1. When our occupation is followed to the point of drudgery. Distinguish work from toil. The one strengthens our powers, the other wastes them.

2. When our occupation is one-sided. A tree that makes much wood makes little fruit. A man who over-works his body neglects his mind. A man absorbed in secular matters neglects and will soon bring atrophy to his moral nature. Activity in one direction cannot be exaggerated but at the expense of neglect in another. We can do only one thing well at a time. The Christian who thrives finds time somehow for spiritual exercises, and the exclusive consideration of spiritual things.

III. THE PROPER END OF ALL OCCUPATION. There must be not only work and lawful work, but the doing of this with lofty purpose. The true work is work done as service to God — "as to the Lord and not to men." Application:

1. Recognize the universal obligation to work.

2. Try to find your enjoyment in your work.

3. Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth unto eternal life.

(J. Edgar Henry, M. A.)

Egyptians, Jacob, Joseph, Pharaoh
Canaan, Egypt, Goshen, Rameses
Brethren, Brothers, Business, Fathers, Feeders, Flock, Keepers, Occupation, Pharaoh, Replied, Servants, Sheep, Shepherds, Works
1. Joseph presents his father, and five of his brothers before Pharaoh.
11. He gives them habitation and maintenance.
13. He gets the Egyptian's money;
16. their cattle;
18. and their lands, except the priests', to Pharaoh.
23. He restores the land for a fifth.
28. Jacob's age.
29. He swears Joseph to bury him with his fathers.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Genesis 47:3

     5433   occupations

Two Retrospects of one Life
'And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been.'--GENESIS xlvii. 9. 'The God which fed me all my life long unto this day; the Angel which redeemed me from all evil.' --GENESIS xlviii. 15,16. These are two strangely different estimates of the same life to be taken by the same man. In the latter Jacob categorically contradicts everything that he had said in the former. 'Few and evil,' he said before Pharaoh. 'All my life long,' 'the Angel which redeemed me from
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Growth by Transplanting
'Then Joseph came and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen. And he took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh. 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. They said moreover unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Seven Sanctified Thoughts and Mournful Sighs of a Sick Man Ready to Die.
Now, forasmuch as God of his infinite mercy doth so temper our pain and sickness, that we are not always oppressed with extremity, but gives us in the midst of our extremities some respite, to ease and refresh ourselves, thou must have an especial care, considering how short a time thou hast either for ever to lose or to obtain heaven, to make use of every breathing time which God affords thee; and during that little time of ease to gather strength against the fits of greater anguish. Therefore,
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

The Shortness and Misery of Life.
1 Our days, alas! our mortal days Are short and wretched too; "Evil and few," the patriarch says, [1] And well the patriarch knew. 2 'Tis but at best a narrow bound That heaven allows to men, And pains and sins run thro' the round Of threescore years and ten. 3 Well, if ye must be sad and few, Run on, my days, in haste; Moments of sin, and months of woe, Ye cannot fly too fast. 4 Let heavenly love prepare my soul, And call her to the skies, Where years of long salvation roll, And glory never dies.
Isaac Watts—Hymns and Spiritual Songs

A Cloud of Witnesses.
"By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was a-dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when his end was nigh, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.... By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been compassed about for seven days. By faith Rahab the harlot perished not with them that were disobedient,
Thomas Charles Edwards—The Expositor's Bible: The Epistle to the Hebrews

I. (Deadly Sins, cap. ix., p. 356.) To maintain a modern and wholly uncatholic system of Penitence, the schoolmen invented a technical scheme of sins mortal and sins venial, which must not be read into the Fathers, who had no such technicalities in mind. By "deadly sins" they meant all such as St. John recognizes (1 John v. 16-17) and none other; that is to say sins of surprise and infirmity, sins having in them no malice or wilful disobedience, such as an impatient word, or a momentary neglect of
Tertullian—The Five Books Against Marcion

A Believer's Privilege at Death
'For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.' Phil 1:1I. Hope is a Christian's anchor, which he casts within the veil. Rejoicing in hope.' Rom 12:12. A Christian's hope is not in this life, but he hash hope in his death.' Prov 14:42. The best of a saint's comfort begins when his life ends; but the wicked have all their heaven here. Woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.' Luke 6:64. You may make your acquittance, and write Received in full payment.' Son, remember that
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

The Old Testament opens very impressively. In measured and dignified language it introduces the story of Israel's origin and settlement upon the land of Canaan (Gen.--Josh.) by the story of creation, i.-ii. 4a, and thus suggests, at the very beginning, the far-reaching purpose and the world-wide significance of the people and religion of Israel. The narrative has not travelled far till it becomes apparent that its dominant interests are to be religious and moral; for, after a pictorial sketch of
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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