Joseph’s Leadership In The Famine!
Now we are told that the famine was continuing, even more severe than before, and the Egyptian people, along with foreigners, more and more came to depend on the grain stockpiled by Joseph because the yield of the land became less and less.
And, we also see how it came to be that Pharaoh not only gained ownership of all the land of Egypt, but also extended Egypt’s influence into Canaan and the Middle East. For as the people’s food ran out, then their money was exhausted, then their livestock was sold, they next traded their land for food, and eventually sold themselves into the service of the Pharaoh.
But, it is key to notice that to the folks giving up their money, land, and liberty, it was JOSEPH the Hebrew they were dealing with.
Meanwhile, the famine became so severe that all the food was used up, and people were starving throughout the lands of Egypt and Canaan. By selling grain to the people, Joseph eventually collected all the money in Egypt and Canaan, and he put the money in Pharaoh’s treasury. When the people of Egypt and Canaan ran out of money, all the Egyptians came to Joseph. “Our money is gone!” they cried. “But please give us food, or we will die before your very eyes!”
Joseph replied, “Since your money is gone, bring me your livestock. I will give you food in exchange for your livestock.” So they brought their livestock to Joseph in exchange for food. In exchange for their horses, flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and donkeys, Joseph provided them with food for another year.
But that year ended, and the next year they came again and said, “We cannot hide the truth from you, my lord. Our money is gone, and all our livestock and cattle are yours. We have nothing left to give but our bodies and our land. Why should we die before your very eyes? Buy us and our land in exchange for food; we offer our land and ourselves as slaves for Pharaoh. Just give us grain so we may live and not die, and so the land does not become empty and desolate.”
Genesis 47:13-19 (NLT)
Of course, the land was rather useless to Pharaoh without somebody to tend the flocks and herds he now owned, and to till the soil. So, Joseph entered the now dispossessed Egyptian people into a tenant/landlord relationship with Pharaoh, as regards the land.
That is, the people were allowed to remain on the land they had given up to Joseph and live there, but they had to give a substantial portion of its increase to Pharaoh as rent. This arrangement, which is commonly called serfdom, was closer to enslavement than a business deal. The people had become Pharaoh’s slaves, and the land was not their own anymore. They farmed it for Pharaoh. This amounted to an across-the-board 20 percent tax.
Only the priests of Egypt were exempted from this arrangement, as they were really wards of the state anyway, and it was Egypt’s obligation to care for them.
So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh. All the Egyptians sold him their fields because the famine was so severe, and soon all the land belonged to Pharaoh. As for the people, he made them all slaves, from one end of Egypt to the other. The only land he did not buy was the land belonging to the priests. They received an allotment of food directly from Pharaoh, so they didn’t need to sell their land.
Then Joseph said to the people, “Look, today I have bought you and your land for Pharaoh. I will provide you with seed so you can plant the fields. Then when you harvest it, one-fifth of your crop will belong to Pharaoh. You may keep the remaining four-fifths as seed for your fields and as food for you, your households, and your little ones.”
“You have saved our lives!” they exclaimed. “May it please you, my lord, to let us be Pharaoh’s servants.” Joseph then issued a decree still in effect in the land of Egypt, that Pharaoh should receive one-fifth of all the crops grown on his land. Only the land belonging to the priests was not given to Pharaoh.
Genesis 47:20-27 (NLT)
Now, although I mentioned it last week, let’s estimate for a moment what Joseph must have been in the eyes of the people of Egypt, and even into parts of Canaan. For, it was Joseph’s plan, Joseph’s decrees, Joseph’s implementations of his own plan that caused the people to become paupers and serfs. It was Joseph’s face the people saw confiscating land and livestock. Joseph, while certainly saving their lives during that period of famine, was now their owner: he, as Pharaoh’s representative, owned their lands, AND he owned them.
If we want to see the beginning of the hatred of the Egyptians towards the Israelites, and the seminal moment that was the beginning of the steady path towards fulfillment of the prophecy to Abraham of his descendant’s enslavement, this must be it. The current Semite Pharaoh, of course, could have cared less what the Egyptian people wanted.
But, years later, when the Egyptian people overthrew the hated foreigners, the Hyksos rulers of Egypt, and installed an Egyptian Pharaoh, they were now free to exact retribution for a 100 years of built-up anger and envy towards these Hebrews, led by Joseph who had taken their land and their freedom.
Meanwhile, the people of Israel settled in the region of Goshen in Egypt. There they acquired property, and they were fruitful, and their population grew rapidly. Jacob lived for seventeen years after his arrival in Egypt, so he lived 147 years in all.
Genesis 47:27-28 (NLT)
To make matters worse, we see in V27 is that at the same time the Egyptian people were being forced to give up their land in exchange for food to survive, the Israelites were ACQUIRING land in Goshen. And, in that land that they, unlike the Egyptian population, now owned, they prospered and grew dramatically in number.
By the time Moses led the nation out of Egypt, the Jews numbered at least 2 million people. God had promised that He would make them a great nation, and He kept His promise.
Pharaoh was a pagan ruler who worshiped a multitude of false gods, and yet the Lord worked in his heart and used him to care for Jacob and his family (Prov. 21:1).
The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord;
he guides it wherever he pleases.
Proverbs 21:1 (NLT)
Too many Christian believers today think that God can use only His own people in places of authority, but He can work His will even through unbelieving leaders like Pharaoh, Cyrus (Ezra 1:1; Isa. 44:28), Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 25:9; 27:6), and Augustus Caesar (Luke 2:1).