Genesis 47:22
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.
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(22) The priests had a portion assigned to them of Pharaoh.—Herodotus (ii. 37) mentions that it was still the custom in Egypt for the priests to have a daily allowance of’ cooked food. Very probably this usage began in Joseph’s time; but it is not here ascribed to him, but to the king himself. Being thus supplied with food, they did not sell their lands; and with this, again, the Greek accounts tally, as they represent the king, the priests, and the warriors as the only landholders in Egypt. The last class, however, held their land from the king.

47:13-26 Care being taken of Jacob and his family, which mercy was especially designed by Providence in Joseph's advancement, an account is given of the saving the kingdom of Egypt from ruin. There was no bread, and the people were ready to die. See how we depend upon God's providence. All our wealth would not keep us from starving, if rain were withheld for two or three years. See how much we are at God's mercy, and let us keep ourselves always in his love. Also see how much we smart by our own want of care. If all the Egyptians had laid up corn for themselves in the seven years of plenty, they had not been in these straits; but they regarded not the warning. Silver and gold would not feed them: they must have corn. All that a man hath will he give for his life. We cannot judge this matter by modern rules. It is plain that the Egyptians regarded Joseph as a public benefactor. The whole is consistent with Joseph's character, acting between Pharaoh and his subjects, in the fear of God. The Egyptians confessed concerning Joseph, Thou hast saved our lives. What multitudes will gratefully say to Jesus, at the last day, Thou hast saved our souls from the most tremendous destruction, and in the season of uttermost distress! The Egyptians parted with all their property, and even their liberty, for the saving of their lives: can it then be too much for us to count all but loss, and part with all, at His command, and for His sake, who will both save our souls, and give us an hundredfold, even here, in this present world? Surely if saved by Christ, we shall be willing to become his servants.The seventh year is now come. The silver and cattle are now gone. Nothing remains but their lands, and with these themselves as the serfs of the soil. Accordingly they make this offer to Joseph, which he cannot refuse. Hence, it is evident that Pharaoh had as yet no legal claim to the soil. In primeval times the first entrants into an unoccupied country became, by a natural custom, the owners of the grounds they held and cultivated. The mere nomad, who roamed over a wide range of country, where his flocks merely cropped the spontaneous herbage, did not soon arrive at the notion of private property in land. But the husbandman, who settled on a promising spot, broke up the soil, and sowed the seed, felt he had acquired by his labor a title to the acres he had cultivated and permanently occupied, and this right was instinctively acknowledged by others. Hence, each cultivator grew into the absolute owner of his own farm. Hence, the lands of Egypt belonged to the peasantry of the country, and were at their disposal. These lands had now become valueless to those who had neither provisions for themselves nor seed for their ground. They willingly part with them, therefore, for a year's provision and a supply of seed. In this way the lands of Egypt fell into the hands of the crown by a free purchase. "And the people he removed into the cities." This is not an act of arbitrary caprice, but a wise and kind measure for the more convenient nourishment of the people until the new arrangements for the cultivation of the soil should be completed. The priestly class were sustained by a state allowance, and therefore, were not obliged to alienate their lands. Hence, they became by this social revolution a privileged order. The military class were also exempted most probably from the surrender of their patrimonial rights, as they were maintained on the crown lands.22. Only the land of the priests bought he not—These lands were inalienable, being endowments by which the temples were supported. The priests for themselves received an annual allowance of provision from the state, and it would evidently have been the height of cruelty to withhold that allowance when their lands were incapable of being tilled. The priests: under this name he understands chiefly those who administered the worship of the gods or idols of Egypt, and withal those who applied themselves to the study of the arts and virtues, called their wise men and magicians; though some understand it of the princes (as that word sometimes signifies) or officers of Pharaoh, who were nourished out of the king’s treasures. And possibly the same Hebrew word may here comprehend both, viz. the ministers of the king, and of their idols too, for both enjoyed the same privileges, as Diodorus Siculus relates. And that the priests are included, if not mainly intended here, will be evident enough to any one that considers the state of Egypt, how mad that people universally were upon their idols, how numerous their priests were, and in how great honour and veneration both with prince and people: besides, reason of state obliged Pharaoh to engage and secure to himself that sort of men, which bore so great sway with the old inhabitants of their several places, and were likely to have the same authority with the new inhabitants, to quiet and satisfy them at their first change, which must needs be very ungrateful to them.

Of this immunity of the priests, that ancient writer Diodorus Siculus makes mention. But this is not to be ascribed to Joseph’s will or choice; for he who abhorred their idolatry, could not have a kindness for, nor would have given encouragement to, the great upholders and promoters of it; but in this he was overruled either by Pharaoh’s express command, (it being not probable that so great an interest as that of the priests should not have friends at court, or that their friends should not plead for them, or that their pleas and desires should not be granted by an idolatrous king,) or by the laws of Egypt, or by their customs and usages in things of a like nature, which would have the force of a law among them.

Only the land of the priests bought he not,.... Not from any special affection for them, or any superstitious veneration of them, which can never be thought of so good a man, but for a reason following, which shows they had no need to sell them:

for the priests had a portion assigned them, by Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them; they had a certain allowance by the day of provision granted them, on which they lived; so Herodotus says (i) of the priests of Egypt, that they spend nothing of their own, but sacred food is provided for them, and great plenty of the flesh of geese and oxen is given daily to everyone of them. And this was a delicate affair, which Joseph could not intermeddle with, but in prudence must leave it as he found it, and do as had been used to be done; this depending on the will and pleasure of Pharaoh, if not upon the constitution of the land, as it seems to be from Diodorus Siculus (k), who divides Egypt into three parts; and the first part he assigns to the priests, who, according to him, were maintained out of their own revenues. Some understand this of "princes" (l), the word sometimes being used of them, and interpret it of the officers and courtiers of Pharaoh, his nobles, that dwelt in his palace, and had their portion of food from him; but the former sense seems best:

wherefore they sold not their lands; they were not obliged to it, having provision from the king's table, or by his appointment.

(i) Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 37. (k) Ut supra, (Bibliothec. l. 1.) p. 66. (l) "agros praesidum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

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.
22. Only the land of the priests] The priests of Egypt enjoyed special privileges. They were greatly enriched by the kings of the 18th Dynasty (b.c. 1587–1328). It is doubtful whether their position was so favourable under the Hyksos (see Appendix E). But they were not under the necessity of selling their land. Erman quotes an inscription from which it appears that 185,000 sacks of corn were given annually by Rameses III (b.c. 1202–1171) to the Egyptian temples (Life in Ancient Egypt, p. 129).

a portion] Cf. the use of this word in the sense of a fixed rate or “due,” Leviticus 10:13; Proverbs 30:8 (marg.).

Verse 22. - Only the land of the priests (so the LXX., Vulgate, and Chaldee render cohen, which, however, sometimes signifies a prince) bought he not; for the priests had a portion - not of land (Lange, Kalisch), but of food (Keil, Murphy) - assigned them of Pharaoh (not of Joseph, who must not, therefore, be charged with the sin of extending a State allowance to an idolatrous priesthood), and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands, - that is, in consequence of the State aliment which they enjoyed (during the period of the famine) they did not require to alienate their lands. Genesis 47:22The lands of the priests Joseph did not buy, "for the priests had an allowance from Pharaoh, and ate their allowance, which Pharaoh gave them; therefore they sold not their lands." חק a fixed allowance of food, as in Proverbs 30:8; Ezekiel 16:27. This allowance was granted by Pharaoh probably only during the years of famine; in any case it was an arrangement which ceased when the possessions of the priests sufficed for their need, since, according to Diod. Sic. i. 73, the priests provided the sacrifices and the support of both themselves and their servants from the revenue of their lands; and with this Herodotus also agrees (2, 37).
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