Stephen's Sermon Part1f of 7
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
11 Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.
Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt, and Canaan.
Famine should be used for dearth; Egypt for the land of Egypt, and Canaan for Chanaan. Jacob was living in Canaan at that time.
This dearth, or famine, was widespread (Genesis 41:5442) though only Egypt and Canaan are mentioned here—probably because we are concerned with the family line of Abraham and none other. The Jewish writers speak of three lands in particular, which were affected with famine—Phoenicia, Arabia, and Palestine—and this famine in the land of Israel, they say, which lasted seven years, was on account of the selling of Joseph into Egypt, as we observed before. The Heathen writers also make mention of this famine, particularly Justin, who speaking of Joseph says that he foresaw many years before the barrenness of the fields; and all Egypt would have perished with famine, had not the king, through his advice, ordered by an edict, that corn should be laid up for many years: this was the fifth of the ten famines, the Jews say have been, or shall be in the world.
The goodness of God can plainly be seen in the person of Joseph. The Lord seeing the famine approaching, sent Joseph to Egypt ahead of it to provide sustenance to feed the hungry; which Joseph himself acknowledges. He is appointed to nourish and feed his brethren, who had sold him, and thought he was dead. But Joseph put meat in the mouths of those who had thrown him into a pit.
Stephen used this narration to point out that the patriarchs were forced to leave the land which was given them for an inheritance, and that they died in another land. They were banished from the land they were promised, after never being any more than sojourners in it.
For the account of the famine and the visit to Egypt of the ten brethren, see Ge 42:1-43:34.
And great affliction.
“Affliction” refers to the famine, which was very severe, and lasted a long time, for seven years. Not eating is called "affliction", by the Jews, by which they mean fasting, which is a voluntary act of self-denial, and if that is an “affliction,” then how much worse is it to have nothing at all to eat, with no prospect of getting something in the future. That is the situation the brethren of Joseph faced.
And our fathers found not sustenance.
Jacob and his family could not get sufficient provision (no food, and no means of making a living) in the land of Canaan, where they were living at that time, therefore, they had to go to Egypt, where they heard that there was corn (stored up by the wisdom of his own son); and Jacob sent his sons there to fetch corn.
12 But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.
But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt.
The word "corn" is used here to denote "wheat." It does not mean that grain was growing, or being harvested in Egypt, or even that it was that year's produce; because the famine was also great in the land of Egypt, as well as in Canaan. But wheat had been stored in barns, and preserved during the seven years of plenty, by the order and supervision of Joseph; which in some way or another, Jacob had become aware of (Genesis 42:1-243). The Jews suggest that it was by divine revelation.
He sent out our fathers first.
“Our fathers” are his ten sons; all his sons except Joseph and Benjamin, because he kept Benjamin at home. Stephen does not give a great deal of detail on this part of Jewish history, since the men he addressed were well acquainted with the Scriptures.
Sent forth is better than “sent out.” Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy grain in order to save the family from starving, and they did as He commended—“Then ten of Joseph's brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt” (Genesis 42:3).
The word “first” as used here means the first time, or the first year of the famine.
13 And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.
And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren.
When Joseph’s brethren went to Egypt for the second time to buy wheat, Joseph made himself known to them. The Bible describes a very emotional scene: “Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, ‘Have everyone leave my presence!’ So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh's household heard about it. Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph! Is my father still living?’ But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come close to me.’ When they had done so, he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!’” (Genesis 45:1-4).
And Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.
The Egyptians were well aware that Joseph was a Hebrew (Genesis 39:1744; Genesis 41:1245); yet they did not know anything about his family, his father or his brethren. But now they at least knew his brethren: “When the news reached Pharaoh's palace that Joseph's brothers had come, Pharaoh and all his officials were pleased” (Genesis 45:16).
14 Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.
Then sent Joseph.
Joseph sent his brothers home with gifts, and with presents for their father, and with wagons to carry Jacob and his family back to Egypt: “So the sons of Israel did this. Joseph gave them carts, as Pharaoh had commanded, and he also gave them provisions for their journey. To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five sets of clothes. And this is what he sent to his father: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and other provisions for his journey” (Genesis 45:21-23). He gave them these instructions: “Now hurry back to my father and say to him, 'This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don't delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute” (Genesis 45:9-11). Joseph, rejected and given a death sentence by his brothers has become a prince and savior of all Israel.
And called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.
“All his kindred” means his father and family.
“Threescore and fifteen souls” is seventy-five people (one score being 20). This seems to disagree with the account given by Moses, who says that “the members of Jacob's family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all” (Genesis 46:2746). But there is no contradiction because Moses and Stephen are speaking of different things. Moses speaks of the seed of Jacob, which came out of his loins, and who went into Egypt with him, and so he excludes his sons' wives. On the other hand, Stephen speaks of Jacob and all his kindred, among whom his sons' wives must be counted, and whom Joseph summoned to him. According to Moses's account, the persons that came with Jacob into Egypt, who came out o to which if we add Jacob himself, and Joseph who was already in Egypt, and his two sons that were born there, the total number is threescore and ten (that is, seventy) (Genesis 46:2647). Now, if you take out of this number (70) the following six persons—Jacob, and Joseph and his two sons who were already in Egypt, who could not be said to be called by him, and Hezron and Hamul, the sons of Pharez who were not yet born—this will reduce Moses's number to sixty four; and if you add the eleven wives of Jacob's sons, who were certainly part of the kindred called and invited into Egypt (Genesis 45:1048) it will add up to threescore and fifteen persons (75). There is still another way to calculate the number of persons entering Egypt: his eleven brethren and sister Dinah, fifty two of his brother's children, and their eleven wives add up to threescore and fifteen (75).
The Septuagint Version, which was quoted consistently by Christ and the apostles, as well as by Stephen here, after giving the sixty-six, adds: “And the sons of Joseph born in Egypt were nine souls.” The nine, added to the sixty-six, make the seventy-five that Stephen gives. Why this clause was omitted from the Hebrew text, is unknown. Stephen simply follows the text received by Christ, the apostles, and the Jews in general. Any way you look at it, the accounts of Moses and Stephen can be reconciled; therefore, the Jews have no ground on which to charge Stephen with an error, as they do; nor was there any need to alter and corrupt the Septuagint version of Deuteronomy 10:2249 to make it agree with Stephen's account. The number in the Septuagint is not wrong, just arrived at in a different way, specifically adding five more sons (or grandsons) of Joseph born in Egypt.
End of Part 1