Skip to main content

Famine in Egypt

I'm listening through the Bible again this year.  I'm following the ESV Chronological plan.  (Here's the link to Justin Taylor's blog with the links to all the podcasts and instructions.)  Something struck me as I was listening to it. 

I've often wondered how in the world the people of Egypt were able to store up enough food in the good 7 years to last the bad 7.  I realized as I listened, they didn't.  Take a look:

19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.”

Genesis 47:19 (ESV)

and this:

24 And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.”

Genesis 47:24 (ESV)

It wasn't that the famine eliminated all of the food, but rather that the famine reduced the agricultural production of Egypt (Canaan too).  The reduction was such that there was enough to eat for a time, but there wasn't enough to replant for the next year.  The land still provided, but the people had to consume all of it to survive.  It was from the stockpile that Joseph had made that the seed for the next year had to come.

What did this create? It allowed Pharaoh to take ownership of the private lands of Egypt.  Many people gave themselves to slavery to the King of the land.  It's likely that this was lived out not in a bitter slavery, but rather in an exchange of labor for the sake of the Pharaoh's projects.  It's more of a forced/mandatory labor, especially during the non-agricultural times.  Also established was a long-lasting taxation system.  It was a flat tax: 20% of the harvest. 

What is the warning here? First of all, there's a warning to prepare for disaster.  It is, however, sometimes impossible to be totally prepared.  You might try, but there are some things you can't be ready for.  Second, be cautious in how you accept help.  Do you wonder if any Egyptian farmer wondered, 20 years after the famine is over, whether or not he could have found a better way to handle the situation?  When he had to leave his family for a few months to handle his forced labor, when he was separating the produce of the land he worked 1 for Pharaoh, 4 for my family (and realize, out of the 4 had to come the seed to plant next year)? 

There's also a warning about how we help people.  Pharaoh, in truth, wanted his people kept alive, but he wasn't really interested in them.  He needed labor, food for his people, and an army.  Whether it came from sharecroppers or landowners didn't matter much to him.  In fact, the light of history shows that landowners tend to fight a little harder against government control they don't like, so Pharaoh's better off with the sharecroppers on land he owns.  When we help people, we need to consider their own best interests as well as our own.  It's ok to encourage people to either repay the help or to ask them to "pay it forward" to someone else in need, but don't get carried away.  The Egyptians would have more than paid back Pharaoh after 20% during the famine and another 20% for about 5 years afterward.  Don't help people just to strengthen your own power.

A thought when looking at this: why did the people have to go Pharaoh? Because he was the only centralized figure to go to.  Do you think that if small bands of farmers had gotten together and worked with just each other they might have saved their freedom? Saved their land and their lives?  I think so.  I think we see here why we need to be in relationships with each other that extend beyond our daily "hi, how are you?" "fine" normality.  We need to work on relying on each other.  And being reliable to each other.  If not, we'll someday face the same crisis the Egyptians faced.  And we'll lose the same things they did: freedom, future, and financial independence.

 

Doug

 

Note: this also one of the oldest known examples of "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."  It was scary then, too.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: The Heart Mender by @andyandrews (Andy Andrews)

The Heart Mender: A Story of Second ChancesEver read a book that you just kind of wish is true?  That's my take on The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews.  It's a charming story of love and forgiveness, and it's woven into the historical setting of World War II America.  For the narrative alone, the book is worth the read, but the message it contains is well worth absorbing as well.However, let's drop back a minute.  This book was originally published under the title Island of Saints.  I read Island of Saints and enjoyed it greatly.  Now, Andrews has released it under a new title, with a few minor changes.  All of this is explained in the Author's Note at the beginning, but should be noted for purchaser's sake.  If you read Island of Saints, you're rereading when you read The Heart Mender.  Now, go ahead and reread it.  It will not hurt you one bit.Overall, the story is well-paced.  There are points where I'd like more detail, both in the history and the geog…

Curiosity and the Faithlife Study Bible

Good morning! Today I want to take a look at the NIV Faithlife Study Bible. Rather than spend the whole post on this particular Study Bible, I’m going to hit a couple of highlights and then draw you through a few questions that I think this format helps with.



First, the basics of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible (NIVFSB, please): the translation is the 2011 New International Version from Biblica. I’m not the biggest fan of that translation, but that’s for another day. It is a translation rather than a paraphrase, which is important for studying the Bible. Next, the NIVFSB is printed in color. Why does that matter? This version developed with Logos Bible Software’s technology and much of the “study” matter is transitioning from screen to typeface. The graphics, maps, timelines, and more work best with color. Finally, you’ve got the typical “below-the-line” running notes on the text. Most of these are explanations of context or highlights of parallels, drawing out the facts that we miss by …

Foolishness: 1 Corinthians 1

In Summary: 1 Corinthians opens with the standard greeting of a letter from the Apostle Paul. He tells who he is with (Sosthenes) and who he is writing to. In this case, that is the “church of God that is in Corinth.” He further specifies that this church is made up of those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be saints. 
He then expresses the blessing/greeting of “grace and peace” from God. From there, Paul reflects on his initial involvement with the Corinthian people and the beginning of the church. After that, though, there are problems to deal with and Paul is not hesitant to address them. He begins by addressing the division within the church. Apparently, the church had split into factions, some of which were drawn to various personalities who had led the church in times past. There is no firm evidence, or even a suggestion, that Paul, Cephas, Apollos, or anyone else had asked for a faction in their name. Further, the “I follow Christ” faction may not have been any le…