In reading through various verses regarding settling Jacob's family in Goshen, it is unclear if Joseph had the authority to do this on his own or assumed that Pharoah would be fine with it.

Breishit 45:10 - "You shall dwell in the land of Goshen..." - this seems to be a proposal, or perhaps a promise that Joseph tells his brothers to convey to his father.

Breishit 45:18 - Pharaoh says to bring the family to Egypt, and "I will give you the best of Egypt". Goshen, specifically, is not mentioned, here. Is it implied by saying "The best of Egypt?

Breishit 46:34 - Joseph instructs his family what to say to Pharoah. They should tell him that they are shepherds, so that they will be able to live in Goshen. This seems to imply that Joseph needed Pharaoh's approval.

Breishit 47:1 - Joseph comes to Pharaoh and says, "My father and brothers came here from Cana'an ... and they are (already) in the land of Goshen." It seems that he settled them, there prior to getting Pharaoh's approval.

Breishit 47:4 Joseph's brothers request that they dwell in Goshen. They are already there, because Joseph had settled them, there. It seems like they are asking permission after the fact. Besides, shouldn't Joseph have asked Pharaoh if it was OK, rather than having his brothers make the request? Doesn't he have far more influence than his brothers? When Joseph speaks to Pharaoh, he doesn't ask. He just tells him, they are already there.

Breishit 47:7 Pharaoh says (confirms) that the family should dwell in Goshen.

1 Answer 1


Miketz 41:40 shows that Yoseph had authority over everything except Par'o himself.

You shall be [appointed] over my household, and through your command all my people shall be nourished; only [with] the throne will I be greater than you."

Similarly, we see that he had the power to resettle the Egyptians as part of his taking over the land for Par'o

Vayigash 47:21

And he transferred the populace to the cities, from [one] end of the boundary of Egypt to its [other] end.

On the other hand, we also see from the other pesukim that you quote that he was careful to confirm things with Par'o and to not overstep his authority. Similarly, we see that he was careful to ask Par'o for permission to take his father's body to be buried in Chevron.

It appears that the five brothers who he had sent to Par'o became nervous and could not restrain themselves from asking.

As Rashi says

And from among his brothers: From the most inferior of them in regards to physical strength, [i.e., those] who did not appear strong

Since they were so nervous and because they could not believe that their little brother had such complete authority, they piped up and asked themselves. Similarly, Rav Hirsch points out that Yosef told them to say

'Your servants have been owners of livestock from our youth until now, both we and our ancestors,'

but they actually said

"Your servants are shepherds, both we and our forefathers."

Rav Hirsch and others point out that Yosef knew that the land of Goshen was the most appropriate location for his family and he settled them there as part of his dealings. Par'o confirmed his actions just as he confirmed all the rest of what Yosef was doing.

  • 1
    +1 for supporting verses to answering the main part of my question. One area that seems disturbing are the 3rd and 4th verses. If he had the authority, then why send his brothers to Pharaoh to ask about it? and, it seems that he also told Pharaoh, essentially, "I settled them, there already". If Pharaoh didn't approve, was Joseph planning to move them after the fact?
    – DanF
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 19:52

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