Monday, April 18, 2011

Genesis 47:18-26 Egyptians gratefully accept Joseph's plan

Joseph had already accepted livestock as payment for food when the Egyptians ran out of money.  Now they had nothing left to barter for food except the land itself and their own service:

"When that year was over, they came to him the following year and said, 'We cannot hide 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.  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.'

"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, and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to the other.  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."  (Genesis 47:18-22 NIV)

Now Joseph accepted land and labor as payment from the Egyptians.  Otherwise, the people would die and the land would revert to wilderness.  However, Joseph worked things out in such a way that the Egyptians sense of self-worth remained intact:

"Joseph said to the people, 'Now that I have bought you and your land for Pharaoh, 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 and your households and your children."  (Genesis 47:23-24 NIV)

Joseph's plan was ingenious.  Pharaoh owned the people and their land, but the people were free to use their own efforts to provide for themselves and their families.  Only one fifth of their crops were to be given to Pharaoh.  The rest was for food for themselves and provided the seed for future crops.  In this way, the people had some incentive to work hard and take good care of the land which had passed into Pharaoh's hands.  This plan gave them a sense of hope and also made them grateful to Joseph:

" 'You have saved our lives,' they said.  'May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.'  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 which did not become Pharaoh's."  (Genesis 47:25-26 NIV)

Only the priests were exempt from all these doings.  They received a regular allotment from Pharaoh in recognition of their priestly duties and office, so they did not have to sell themselves, their lands or animals for food.

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