Translation commentary on Genesis 47:15

When the money was all spent in … Canaan: was all spent may need to be expressed as an active construction; for example, “When the people of these countries had spent all their money buying grain….” In a number of languages the usual way of saying this is “The people of … finished their money.” This clause is the third time in three verses that Egypt and Canaan are mentioned. However, from this point on only Egypt is mentioned.

Food is literally “bread” as in verse 12 and in 41.55.

Why should we die before your eyes?: this is a rhetorical question—the people are complaining that their hunger is killing them and that Joseph is doing nothing to save them. This element of complaint is brought out in Good News Translation by the short sentence “Do something!” Some other translations say in a similar way “You must find the way for us [to stay alive]” or “You must help us!” Revised Standard Version has avoided a literal rendering of the Hebrew “in front of you” by saying before your eyes; the sense of before your eyes or “in front of you” is “while you just look at us without doing anything.” Revised English Bible says “ ‘Give us food,’ they said, ‘or we shall perish before your very eyes.’ ” As a complaint Biblia Dios Habla Hoy says “Give us something to eat! It is not right for you to let us die of hunger just because we no longer have any money.” Some others say “You must give … If you don’t, hunger will destroy us and we will fall down and die in your presence.” We may also translate the last part of the verse, for example, “We have spent all our money. Do you want us to die while you stand there looking at us? Give us something to eat!”

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, William D. and Fry, Euan McG. A Handbook on Genesis. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1997. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

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