Food for Thought: Pharaoh, Shepherds, Famine
Joseph arranges a meeting of five of his brothers and Pharaoh. Remember he had given them specific instructions about their big meeting. If the Egyptians detested shepherds, then I am wondering if Joseph is worried how this meeting of his brothers and his boss will turn out. Thankfully major catastrophe is averted, and Pharaoh extends the hand of blessing to Joseph’s brothers. Notice how Pharaoh replies in 47:-5-6, “You father and your brothers have come to you, and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. And if you know of any among them with special ability, put them in charge of my own livestock.” Pharaoh gives the best part of the land to Jacob and his sons. Goshen if you remember in the book of Exodus was protected by God from the plagues that He sent upon Egypt. We know the end of the story, Joseph and his family have the promise that God is doing to do what He promised. How cool is it though 400 plus years before the Exodus to see the hand of God working to provide a special place for his people!
Joseph also arranges a meeting between his father and Pharaoh. Did you notice Jacob blesses Pharaoh. This would be another way of saying that Jacob offers health, wholeness, and prosperity upon Pharaoh! Jacob at this stage in his life is 130 years old. He, himself is a blessed man and recognizes this in his own life. He is gracious at what God has done, and how God has opened up this opportunity to continue to carry out his intentions through his people in a strange land. Keep in mind that part of the reason why Israel goes to Egypt is due to the famine (47:13). God provides for all of Israel’s needs. No one would be hungry (47:12). But for the rest of the land and its residents, those living in Canaan and Egypt times were tough. As a matter of fact, the severity of the crisis affects other areas of life too. Because of the severity of the famine, Joseph winds up collecting all the money in Egypt and Canaan. Because the people living in these lands have no money, and are hungry they are eventually forced to sell their livestock, and then eventually once their animals are gone the people offer themselves and their land in perpetual servitude to Pharaoh. Desperate times call for desperate measures. And from a twenty-first century perspective, we read this story and are aghast at the extremes taken here. But, in order to survive, the people do what they have to do. Joseph doesn’t leave the people hanging, he provides them seed to use to plant and to use for food, as long as 1/5 of their crop is given to Pharaoh. The chapter closes with the remark that Jacob lived 17 years in Egypt and he and Joseph have a heart to heart. I like this. The author lets us know that Jacob and Joseph are able to regain some of their lost time. Jacob’s request that at his burial his bones not be left in Egypt hint at the Exodus out of Egypt!
We know a thing or two about economic difficulties don’t we? People in our country all over the nation, and some even in our own congregation lost jobs. Gasoline and food prices went up. Some people lost their homes. In Joseph’s day, the people became slaves to Pharaoh out of necessity, we live in a culture where many are enslaved to materialism by choice. We have to continually ask ourselves, who or what does our allegiance belong too? Do we trust in the God that we claim to believe in or do we trust in the money that reads, “in God we trust?”
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?