Genesis 41:56
And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.
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41:46-57 In the names of his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, Joseph owned the Divine providence. 1. He was made to forget his misery. 2. He was made fruitful in the land of his affliction. The seven plenteous years came, and were ended. We ought to look forward to the end of the days, both of our prosperity and of our opportunity. We must not be secure in prosperity, nor slothful in making good use of opportunity. Years of plenty will end; what thy hand finds to do, do it; and gather in gathering time. The dearth came, and the famine was not only in Egypt, but in other lands. Joseph was diligent in laying up, while the plenty lasted. He was prudent and careful in giving out, when the famine came. Joseph was engaged in useful and important labours. Yet it was in the midst of this his activity that his father Jacob said, Joseph is not! What a large portion of our troubles would be done away if we knew the whole truth! Let these events lead us to Jesus. There is a famine of the bread of life throughout the whole earth. Go to Jesus, and what he bids you, do. Attend to His voice, apply to him; he will open his treasures, and satisfy with goodness the hungry soul of every age and nation, without money and without price. But those who slight this provision must starve, and his enemies will be destroyed.The commencement and the extent of the famine are now noted. "As Joseph had said." The fulfillment is as perfect in the one part as in the other. "In all the lands" - all the lands adjacent to Egypt; such as Arabia and Palestine. The word all in popular discourse is taken in a relative sense, to be ascertained by the context. We are not aware that this famine was felt beyond the distance of Hebron. "Go unto Joseph" Pharaoh has had reason to trust Joseph more and more, and now he adheres to his purpose of sending his people to him. "All the face of the land of Egypt." "And Joseph opened all places in which there was food" - all the stores in every city. "And sold unto Mizaim." The stores under Pharaoh's hand were public property, obtained either by lawful taxation or by purchase. It was a great public benefit to sell this grain, that had been providently kept in store, at a moderate price, and thus preserve the lives of a nation during a seven years' famine. "All the land." This is to be understood of the countries in the neighborhood of Egypt. Famines in these countries were not unusual. We have read already of two famines in Palestine that did not extend to Egypt Genesis 12:10; Genesis 26:1.

The fertility of Egypt depends on the rise of the waters of the Nile to a certain point, at which they will reach all the country. If it fall short of that point, there will be a deficiency in the crops proportioned to the deficiency in the rise. The rise of the Nile depends on the tropical rains by which the lake is supplied from which it flows. These rains depend on the clouds wafted by the winds from the basin of the Mediterranean Sea. The amount of these piles of vapor will depend on the access and strength of the solar heat producing evaporation from the surface of that inland sea. The same cause, therefore, may withhold rain from central Africa, and from all the lands that are watered from the Mediterranean. The duration of the extraordinary plenty was indeed wonderful. But such periods of excess are generally followed by corresponding periods of deficiency over the same area. This prepares the way for the arrival of Joseph's kindred in Egypt.

- Joseph and Ten of His Brethren

1. שׁבר sheber, "fragment, crumb, hence, grain." בר bar "pure," "winnowed," hence, "corn" (grain).

6. שׁליט shallı̂yṭ, "ruler, governor, hence," Sultan. Not elsewhere found in the Pentateuch.

25. כלי kelı̂y, "vessel," here any portable article in which grain may be conveyed. שׂק śaq, "sack," the very word which remains in our language to this day. אמתחת 'amtachath "bag."

Twenty years, the period of Joseph's long and anxious waiting, have come to an end. The dreams of his boyhood are now at length to be fulfilled. The famine has reached the chosen family, and they look at one another perplexed and irresolute, not knowing what to do.

53-56. The seven years of plenteousness … ended—Over and above the proportion purchased for the government during the years of plenty, the people could still have husbanded much for future use. But improvident as men commonly are in the time of prosperity, they found themselves in want, and would have starved by thousands had not Joseph anticipated and provided for the protracted calamity. No text from Poole on this verse.

And the famine was over all the face of the earth,.... Not over the whole world, but the land of Egypt; all the inhabitants of it were pinched with it, rich and poor; it reached all parts and all sorts of men:

and Joseph opened all the storehouses; in the several cities throughout the land where he had laid up corn:

and sold unto the Egyptians; for, as he had bought it with Pharaoh's money, it was no injustice to sell it; and as it could be sold at a moderate price, and yet Pharaoh get enough by it, being bought cheap in a time of plenty, no doubt but Joseph, who was a kind and benevolent man, sold it at such a price:

and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt; there being no overflow of the Nile year after year, and nothing left of the old stock but what was in the storehouses.

And the famine was over all the face of the earth: and Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.
56. all the storehouses] The Hebrew text is in error: lit. “all that was in them.” The versions have supplied the right meaning. LXX πάντας τοὺς σιτοβολῶνας, Lat. universa horrea, i.e. “all the granaries.”

Verses 56, 57. - And the famine was over all the face of the earth (vide supra, ver. 54): And Joseph opened all the storehouses, - literally, all wherein was, i.e. all the magazines that had grain in them. The granaries of Egypt are represented on the monuments. "In the tomb of Amenemha at Beni-hassan there is the painting of a great storehouse, before whose door lies a great heap of grain already winnowed. Near by stands the bushel with which it is measured, and the registrar who takes the account" (Hengstenberg's 'Egypt and the Books of Moses,' p. 36) - and sold unto the Egyptians (cf. Proverbs 2:26); - and the famine waxed sore (literally, became strong) in the land of Egypt. A remarkable inscription from the tomb at Eileythia of Barn, which Brugsch ('Histoire d'Egypte,' second ed., p. 174, seqq.) assigns to the latter part of the seventeenth dynasty, mentions a dearth of several years in Egypt ("A famine having broken out during many years, I gave corn to the town during each famine"), which that distinguished Egyptologer identifies with the famine of Joseph under Apophis, the shepherd king (vide ' Encyclopedia Britannica,' ninth edition, art. Egypt); but, this, according to Bunsen ('Egypt's Place, 3:334), is rather to be detected in a dearth of several years which occurred in the time of Osirtasen I., and which is mentioned in an inscription at Beni-hassan, recording the fact that during its prevalence food was supplied by Amenee, the governor of a district of Upper Egypt (Smith's' Dict.,' art. Joseph). The character of Chnumhotep (a near relative and favorite of Osirtasen I., and his immediate successor), and the recorded events of his government, as described in the Beni-hassan monuments, also remind one of Joseph: - "he (i.e. Chnumhotep) injured no little child; he oppressed no widow; he detained for his own purpose no fisherman; took from his work no shepherd; no overseer's men were taken. There was no beggar in his days; no one starved in his time. When years of famine occurred he ploughed all the lands of the district, producing abundant food; no one starved in it; he treated the widow as a woman with a husband to protect her" (vide 'Speaker's Commentary,' vol. 1. p. 450). And all countries (i.e. people from all the adjoining lands) came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because the famine was so sore in all lands.

Genesis 41:56When the years of scarcity commenced, at the close of the years of plenty, the famine spread over all (the neighbouring) lands; only in Egypt was there bread. As the famine increased in the land, and the people cried to Pharaoh for bread, he directed them to Joseph, who "opened all in which was" (bread), i.e., all the granaries, and sold corn (שׁבר, denom. from שׁבר, signifies to trade in corn, to buy and sell corn) to the Egyptians, and (as the writer adds, with a view to what follows) to all the world (כּל־הארץ, Genesis 41:57), that came thither to buy corn, because the famine was great on every hand. - Years of famine have frequently fallen, like this one, upon Egypt, and the neighbouring countries to the north. The cause of this is to be seen in the fact, that the overflowing of the Nile, to which Egypt is indebted for its fertility, is produced by torrents of rain falling in the alpine regions of Abyssinia, which proceed from clouds formed in the Mediterranean and carried thither by the wind; consequently it has a common origin with the rains of Palestine (see the proofs in Hengst. pp. 37ff.).
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