An Audience with Jacob
“Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from the presence of Pharaoh” (Gen. 47:10).
It is now time for Jacob to see the pharaoh (Gen. 47:7). Jacob’s advanced age is apparent, and he is asked the number of “the days of the years” of his life (v. 8). But he does not just answer with a number, he also defines his years as “few and evil” (v. 9).
Jacob’s use of “few and evil” is certainly appropriate. Here is a man who suffered his brother’s wrath (27:41) and the loss of his mother after deceiving his own father (vv. 42–45). Indentured servitude to a greedy uncle, marriage to jealous sisters, a daughter who suffered rape, and sons disposed to murder, disrespect, and slave-trading all followed suit (chap. 28–37). This trouble largely resulted from his own actions, to be sure; nevertheless, Jacob’s life, he understands, has not been easygoing. His 130 years are not many compared to the 180 years of his father Isaac (35:28) and the 175 years of his grandfather, Abraham (25:7).
However, Jacob has more to say about his life than to call his days “few and evil.” As bad as his life has been, it represents only a “sojourning” (47:9) — a temporary residence in exile from his heavenly home, according to Hebrews 11:13–16. Life in this present age, while by no means insignificant, will pale in comparison to our final home where we will dwell with the Lord on a renewed earth (Rev. 21:1–8). Jacob believed this truth, though he grasped it only in shadows. Under the new covenant, we long for this day with fuller clarity. John Chrysostom said believers in all ages “have the same attitude to this life as if living in a foreign land” (Homilies on Genesis, 65.10).
Those versed in diplomacy might think Jacob has been graciously given an audience with the pharaoh. Yet it is the pharaoh who is the lesser party and privileged to be granted a meeting with the patriarch just before his death. Now respected as an elder and, paradoxically, as a wise man through brokenness (1 Cor. 1:26–31), Jacob blesses the mighty king of Egypt (Gen. 47:7, 10). Having been chastened for his sin in his many years and made strong in his weakness, Jacob can now fulfill God’s pledge to bless the earth through his family (12:1–3), and he speaks living words to a starving land.
Jacob’s age and the presence of God with him both count for the reasons why Pharaoh shows deference to him in today’s passage. Scripture exhorts us to hear older people because their many years of walking with the Lord enable them to speak with unique wisdom, power, and authority. The church needs such elders to be involved in its life and ministry. Older Christians must actively seek to mentor and pray for younger Christians.
Passages for Further Study
- Lev. 19:32
- Prov. 16:31
- John 12:20–26
- Phil. 4:11–13
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