That you shall say, Your servants' trade has been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that you may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians.
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Ephrem The Syrian
Joseph went out to meet his father with chariots and with many people. [Joseph] got down [from his horse] and bowed down to his father, and they wept on each other’s neck. Then Joseph commanded his brothers to say to Pharaoh, “We and our fathers are keepers of cattle,” so that they might dwell in Goshen and thus keep their distance from those who worship sheep and bulls.
Abomination. See chap. xliii. 32. The source of this hatred against foreign shepherds, was probably because, about 100 years before Abraham, the shepherd-kings, Hycussos, had got possession of a great part of Egypt, and were at last expelled by the kings of Thebais. See Manetho ap. Eusebius, Præp. x. 13. Another reason why they hated foreigners was, because they slew and eat sheep, which they themselves adored. The Egyptians kept sheep for this purpose, and for the benefits to be derived from their wool, chap. xlvii. 17. (Calmet)
Joseph took advantage of this disposition of the inhabitants, to keep his brethren at a distance from them, that they might not be perverted. He does not introduce them at court, that no jealousy might be excited. He shows that he is not ashamed of his extraction. (Menochius)
Note the shrewdness with which Joseph advises them, not idly or to no purpose making these suggestions but anxious to put them in a more secure position and at the same time to ensure their assimilation among the Egyptians. You see, since they loathed and despised those who tended flocks for having no time for Egyptian wisdom, consequently he counsels them to make a pretense of their occupation so that he may plausibly apportion them the most attractive land and cause them to live in considerable prosperity.