Summary: Jacob had relocated to Egypt thanks to all Joseph had done. While there Jacob realized he was approaching the finish line for his earthly journey. He also did something very special for two of his grandsons.
Introduction: At this stage of his life, Jacob was 130 years of age, and had relocated to Egypt thanks to his son Joseph. What Jacob may have thought of this, that his son was the second most powerful man in Egypt and maybe one of the most influential in that part of the world, is never known. But we do know Jacob had several things to say, and some blessings to give to a few people. He was, we might say, approaching the finish line even though he had not yet finished his race.
1 An encounter with Pharaoh
Text, Genesis 47:7-10, KJV: 7 And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. 8 And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou? 9 And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage. 10 And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.
This event happened after Jacob and Joseph’s brothers had arrived in Egypt. Joseph had taken five of his brothers to meet Pharaoh and they had received a warm welcome (47:1-6).
Now Joseph took his father to meet Pharaoh. We’re not told anything about what Jacob might have been thinking or feeling at this time, but he could have felt gratitude, for one thing, by making he and his sons feel welcomed in Egypt. He could have been awed by standing before one of the most powerful men in the world—and Jacob had little except his family and what he brought with him.
Even so, Moses records that Jacob blessed Pharaoh! Compare this blessing he gave, to a total stranger, to the blessing he stole from Esau many years before. It could be that Jacob didn’t know what was going to happen, and we might be forgiven for wondering what he could have been thinking. Seldom did anyone see a ruler in those days unless there was a good reason.
Then Pharaoh asked Jacob a question that may seem rude to us, and to be honest, I don’t know of any other time in Scripture where anyone was asked his or her age. Pharaoh asked Joseph, “How old are you?” To be fair, Jacob was old when Joseph was born and Pharaoh seemed to be aware of this age difference. Further, Joseph was most likely dressed in Egyptian clothing and he probably looked like an Egyptian by this time. We’ll likely never know the true reason but we can still appreciate Pharaoh showing kindness to Joseph’s father. After all, Pharaoh was the ruler and he was under no special obligations to anybody.
Jacob’s reply to Pharaoh’s question is at once touching and troubling. He first called his life “the days of the years of my pilgrimage” which at least tells me he knew he wasn’t going to live forever on earth in those days. He had seen or at least experienced the loss of several loved one: Abraham, his grandfather, when he and Esau were 15; Rachel, his favorite wife, as they were heading back to Hebron and Isaac; then Isaac, his father, who died some years after Jacob and the others arrived. He also missed the death of his mother, Rebekah, and if Leah, his other wife, wasn’t dead by now she would be in the next few years. Thus, he knew life was really a pilgrimage, from one’s birth to the end of his days.
He added that his “pilgrimage (were) an hundred and thirty years” in duration. That tells me he had done some reflecting: nearly half of his life had spent in obscurity, living in Isaac and Rebekah’s household, then the other half in various journeys, winding up in a land where he had never been before.
And he concluded by saying the days of his “pilgrimage (were) few and evil”. He might have thought this because Abraham had lived to 175 years of age (Gen. 25:7) and Isaac, 180 (Gen. 35:28). He might have well been aware of his physical conditions by now. Truly, some of his days were evil, mostly of his own doing such as his dealings with Esau; and sometimes evil came upon him by someone else, such as Laban’s dealings with him and what had happened at Shechem some years before. Jacob may have weighed all of this in the balance and decided what he had done just didn’t add up. That may have been a regret he carried for a long, long time.
Once he and Pharaoh had spoken (was there more, not recorded?), Jacob blessed Pharaoh the second time. Pharaoh’s reaction to either of these blessings is never recorded but I myself would like to think he appreciated this.