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Joseph settled his father and brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses. During this time, Egypt and Canaan wasted away because of a famine that struck the region. Joseph however, prepared for the food shortage. He collected money for payment of grain that he stored for the catastrophic event. Soon the people ran out of money and went to Joseph saying, “Give us food. Why should we die? Our money is gone.”

imageJoseph responded, “Bring me your livestock and I will trade your horses, sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys for food.” But soon the people ran out of livestock too. They went to Joseph and said, “Since our money is gone and our livestock belongs to you, there is nothing left to give except our bodies and land. Our land is no good if we die. Purchase us and our land in exchange for food.”

So, Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. All the Egyptians sold their fields because the famine was so severe. The land became Pharaoh’s and the people became servants. However, Joseph did not buy the land of the priests because they had enough food from the allotment Pharaoh gave them.

Joseph told the people, “Now that I have bought you and your land, here is seed for you so you can plant the ground. 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, your households, and your children.”

The people rejoiced. “You have saved our lives. May we find favor in the eyes of our lord. We will be Pharaoh’s slaves.”

So, Joseph established as a law concerning land in Egypt – a law that is still in force today – that a fifth of the produce belongs to Pharaoh.

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The Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there. They were fruitful and grew greatly in number.

What the story means to us today

Joseph’s family prospers while Egyptians are subjected to servitude

It is ironic that Joseph’s story began when he was sold into slavery and is concluding with Joseph selling all of Egypt into slavery. Joseph earlier told his brothers that God sent him to Egypt to “save lives”. Although Joseph’s decision to require the people sell their livestock and land to buy food seems harsh, ultimately the people are grateful for Joseph’s reforms. They are so desperate to survive, they are willing to accept slavery in exchange for life.

The thought of bondage is unbearable in modern day but it is possible that the idea of slavery was not as unattractive to ancient Egyptians as it is to us today. After all, in exchange for servitude, the Pharaoh becomes responsible for their wellbeing.

Meanwhile, God’s plan for the Israelites continues to progress. Even though all citizens were sold into slavery, Joseph’s family prospers from their time in Egypt.

Additional thoughts and considerations

imageThe sequence of Joseph’s actions

Thus far, Joseph has smartly collected grain to sustain the people during the period of famine. He first sells the people the grain for money, then for livestock and land. Ultimately, he obtains the people’s servitude in exchange for food. At no time does he offer people food for free. Joseph’s task is to serve Pharaoh, not the people.

The prosperity of the Israelites

The Israelites settled in Egypt and possessed land there. They were fruitful and grew rapidly in number. This sets the stage for the events in Exodus where we see Egyptian rulers viewing the Israelites as a threat to their country’s stability.

Bible Text

NIV

13 There was no food, however, in the whole region because the famine was severe; both Egypt and Canaan wasted away because of the famine. 14 Joseph collected all the money that was to be found in Egypt and Canaan in payment for the grain they were buying, and he brought it to Pharaoh’s palace. 15 When the money of the people of Egypt and Canaan was gone, all Egypt came to Joseph and said, “Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? Our money is all gone.”

16 “Then bring your livestock,” said Joseph. “I will sell you food in exchange for your livestock, since your money is gone.” 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and he gave them food in exchange for their horses, their sheep and goats, their cattle and donkeys. And he brought them through that year with food in exchange for all their livestock.

18 When that year was over, they came to him the following year and said, “We cannot hide from our lord the fact that since our money is gone and our livestock belongs to you, there is nothing left for our lord except our bodies and our land. 19 Why should we perish before your eyes—we and our land as well? Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in bondage to Pharaoh. Give us seed so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate.”

20 So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. The Egyptians, one and all, sold their fields, because the famine was too severe for them. The land became Pharaoh’s, 21 and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to the other. 22 However, he did not buy the land of the priests, because they received a regular allotment from Pharaoh and had food enough from the allotment Pharaoh gave them. That is why they did not sell their land.

23 Joseph said to the people, “Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh, here is seed for you so you can plant the ground. 24 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.”

25 “You have saved our lives,” they said. “May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.”

26 So Joseph established it as a law concerning land in Egypt—still in force today—that a fifth of the produce belongs to Pharaoh. It was only the land of the priests that did not become Pharaoh’s.

27 Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number.

The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.

The NET Bible

47:13 But there was no food in all the land because the famine was very severe; the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan wasted away because of the famine. 47:14 Joseph collected all the money that could be found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan as payment for the grain they were buying. Then Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s palace. 47:15 When the money from the lands of Egypt and Canaan was used up, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us food! Why should we die before your very eyes because our money has run out?”

47:16 Then Joseph said, “If your money is gone, bring your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock.” 47:17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for their horses, the livestock of their flocks and herds, and their donkeys. He got them through that year by giving them food in exchange for livestock.

47:18 When that year was over, they came to him the next year and said to him, “We cannot hide from our lord that the money is used up and the livestock and the animals belong to our lord. Nothing remains before our lord except our bodies and our land. 47:19 Why should we die before your very eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we, with our land, will become Pharaoh’s slaves. Give us seed that we may live and not die. Then the land will not become desolate.”

47:20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh. Each of the Egyptians sold his field, for the famine was severe. So the land became Pharaoh’s. 47:21 Joseph made all the people slaves from one end of Egypt’s border to the other end of it. 47:22 But he did not purchase the land of the priests because the priests had an allotment from Pharaoh and they ate from their allotment that Pharaoh gave them. That is why they did not sell their land.

47:23 Joseph said to the people, “Since I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh, here is seed for you. Cultivate the land. 47:24 When you gather in the crop, give one-fifth of it to Pharaoh, and the rest will be yours for seed for the fields and for you to eat, including those in your households and your little children.” 47:25 They replied, “You have saved our lives! You are showing us favor, and we will be Pharaoh’s slaves.”

47:26 So Joseph made it a statute, which is in effect to this day throughout the land of Egypt: One-fifth belongs to Pharaoh. Only the land of the priests did not become Pharaoh’s.

47:27 Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen, and they owned land there. They were fruitful and increased rapidly in number.

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.

imageNew King James Version

13 Now there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine. 14 And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, for the grain which they bought; and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house.

15 So when the money failed in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us bread, for why should we die in your presence? For the money has failed.”

16 Then Joseph said, “Give your livestock, and I will give you bread for your livestock, if the money is gone.” 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for the horses, the flocks, the cattle of the herds, and for the donkeys. Thus he fed them with bread in exchange for all their livestock that year.

18 When that year had ended, they came to him the next year and said to him, “We will not hide from my lord that our money is gone; my lord also has our herds of livestock. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our lands. 19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants of Pharaoh; give us seed, that we may live and not die, that the land may not be desolate.”

20 Then Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for every man of the Egyptians sold his field, because the famine was severe upon them. So the land became Pharaoh’s. 21 And as for the people, he moved them into the cities, from one end of the borders of Egypt to the other end. 22 Only the land of the priests he did not buy; for the priests had rations allotted to them by Pharaoh, and they ate their rations which Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their lands.

23 Then Joseph said to the people, “Indeed I have bought you and your land this day for Pharaoh. Look, here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. 24 And it shall come to pass in the harvest that you shall give one-fifth to Pharaoh. Four-fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and for your food, for those of your households and as food for your little ones.”

25 So they said, “You have saved our lives; let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants.” 26 And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt to this day, that Pharaoh should have one-fifth, except for the land of the priests only, which did not become Pharaoh’s.

27 So Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions there and grew and multiplied exceedingly.

The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.

The Message

The time eventually came when there was no food anywhere. The famine was very bad. Egypt and Canaan alike were devastated by the famine. Joseph collected all the money that was to be found in Egypt and Canaan to pay for the distribution of food. He banked the money in Pharaoh’s palace. When the money from Egypt and Canaan had run out, the Egyptians came to Joseph. “Food! Give us food! Are you going to watch us die right in front of you? The money is all gone.”

16–17 Joseph said, “Bring your livestock. I’ll trade you food for livestock since your money’s run out.” So they brought Joseph their livestock. He traded them food for their horses, sheep, cattle, and donkeys. He got them through that year in exchange for all their livestock.

18–19 When that year was over, the next year rolled around and they were back, saying, “Master, it’s no secret to you that we’re broke: our money’s gone and we’ve traded you all our livestock. We’ve nothing left to barter with but our bodies and our farms. What use are our bodies and our land if we stand here and starve to death right in front of you? Trade us food for our bodies and our land. We’ll be slaves to Pharaoh and give up our land—all we ask is seed for survival, just enough to live on and keep the farms alive.”

20–21 So Joseph bought up all the farms in Egypt for Pharaoh. Every Egyptian sold his land—the famine was that bad. That’s how Pharaoh ended up owning all the land and the people ended up slaves; Joseph reduced the people to slavery from one end of Egypt to the other.

22 Joseph made an exception for the priests. He didn’t buy their land because they received a fixed salary from Pharaoh and were able to live off of that salary. So they didn’t need to sell their land.

23–24 Joseph then announced to the people: “Here’s how things stand: I’ve bought you and your land for Pharaoh. In exchange I’m giving you seed so you can plant the ground. When the crops are harvested, you must give a fifth to Pharaoh and keep four-fifths for yourselves, for seed for yourselves and your families—you’re going to be able to feed your children!”

25 They said, “You’ve saved our lives! Master, we’re grateful and glad to be slaves to Pharaoh.”

26 Joseph decreed a land law in Egypt that is still in effect, A Fifth Goes to Pharaoh. Only the priests’ lands were not owned by Pharaoh.

27–28 And so Israel settled down in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property and flourished. They became a large company of people.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.

King James Version

13 And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine. 14 And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought: and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. 15 And when money failed in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? for the money faileth. 16 And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail. 17 And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year. 18 When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him, We will not hide it from my lord, how that our money is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle; there is not ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands: 19 Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate. 20 And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh’s. 21 And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof. 22 Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands. 23 Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land. 24 And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones. 25 And they said, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants. 26 And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s.

27 And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.

Sources: NIV, The Message, The NET Bible, King James Version, NET Bible Notes, Faithlife Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, The Bible Reader’s Companion, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Holman Concise Bible Commentary, The Bible Exposition Commentary, The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, The Teacher’s Commentary, The Bible Guide, Word Studies in the New Testament, Holman Bible Handbook, Calvin Commentaries, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines, The New Manner and Customs of the Bible, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, The Archaeological Encyclopedia, Biblical Archeology Review, The New Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Analytical Lexicon, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database
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