Jacob meets Pharaoh
Tells him “My years have been few”
“My life has been hard”
Pharaoh asked Jacob, “How many are the years of your life?” And Jacob answered Pharaoh, “The years of my sojourn [on earth] are one hundred and thirty. Few and hard have been the years of my life, nor do they come up to the life spans of my fathers during their sojourns.”
Jacob is 130 years old when he meets Pharaoh, and he will live another 17 years in Egypt. He seems upset that his grandfather Abraham (175 years) and father Isaac (180 years) both had longer lives. But Jacob’s life is similar in length to his grandmother Sarah (127 years) and mother Rebecca (120 or 134 years).
Like his ancestors, Jacob has a covenant with God. He is Israel. He is the father of 13 children and has many grandchildren. Although he believed for decades that his favorite son was dead, he is now reunited with Joseph. His family recently wanted for food in Canaan but are being given the choicest land in Egypt.
Still, the first thing Jacob does after meeting his son’s boss, the most powerful man in Egypt, is not to remember the blessings of his life but to dwell on the difficulties.
These two verses are often lost amid the other stories in this week’s portion. Judah’s plea, the brothers reunion, and Jacob’s family settling in Goshen. But perhaps there’s an important lesson in this short record of Jacob and Pharaoh’s first meeting. Like much of what we read about our ancestors in Genesis, this may be an example of behavior we should avoid.
During this season of thanksgiving, celebration and new (secular) beginnings, let’s remember to count our blessings more often than we bemoan what we lack.
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