In Genesis 47:2 (NASB)

And he took five men from among his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh.

Why would Joseph take five men?

  • We are not told
    – Dottard
    Jan 17, 2021 at 1:14
  • @Dottard got it... and there's nothing elsewhere following similar pattern OR that they were mostly shepherds OR that he was afraid the Pharaoh would want that many persons? Jan 17, 2021 at 8:48
  • 1
    There are several other number patters in the story of Joseph concerning the number 2 and the number seven but I try not to get excited about such things because of the risk of Cabalism.
    – Dottard
    Jan 17, 2021 at 20:34

1 Answer 1


For some inexplicable reason, the number "five" is a recurring theme in the story of Joseph. Here is a sample:

  • Gen 41:34 - Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance.
  • Gen 43:34 - When portions were served to them from Joseph's table, Benjamin's portion was five times as much as anyone else's. So they feasted and drank freely with him.
  • Gen 45:6 - For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping.
  • Gen 45:11 - 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.'
  • Gen 45:22 - To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five sets of clothes.
  • Gen 47:2 - He chose five of his brothers and presented them before Pharaoh.
  • Gen 47:34 - But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for yourselves and your households and your children."
  • Isa 19:18 - In that day five cities in Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD Almighty. One of them will be called the City of the Sun.

These instances of "five" also fall into a kind of Chiastic structure as listed above:

  • fifth (Gen 41:24)
  • . five times (Gen 43:34)
  • . . five years (Gen 45:6)
  • . . five years (Gen 45:11)
  • . five sets of cloths and five brothers (Gen 45:22, 47:2)
  • fifth of harvest (Gen 47:34)

Note that in Genesis, the number five appears seven times as listed above as well, corresponding to the number of years of famine. The Cambridge Commentary simply observes this fact and then suggests that it MIGHT be either connected to the five planets (ie, what we now call Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter & Saturn), OR, to the five fingers of the the human hand. However, no real explanation is available.

  • Thanks, @Dottard, that was illuminating. I never noticed the chiastic structure.
    – Robert
    Jan 20, 2021 at 21:53

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