Genesis 47:23
Then Joseph said to the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: see, here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land.
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(23) Lo, here is seed for you.—As Joseph would give them seed wherewith to sow their fields only when the famine was nearly over, these arrangements seem to have been completed shortly before the end of the seventh year; and then, with seed it would be necessary also to supply them with oxen to plough the soil, and swine wherewith to trample in the seed (Rawlinson, Egypt, i. 76). A fifth part of the produce would be a very moderate rent, especially as there were no rates or taxes to be paid. The whole expenses of the State had to be defrayed from this rent.

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.I have bought you. - He had bought their lands, and so they might be regarded, in some sort, as the servants of Pharaoh, or the serfs of the soil. "In the increase ye shall give the fifth to Pharaoh." This explains at once the extent of their liability, and the security of their liberty and property. They do not become Pharaoh's bondmen. They own their land under him by a new tenure. They are no longer subject to arbitrary exactions. They have a stated annual rent, bearing a fixed ratio to the amount of their crop. This is an equitable adjustment of their dues, and places them under the protection of a statute law. The people are accordingly well pleased with the enactment of Joseph, which becomes henceforth the law of Egypt.23-28. Joseph said, Behold, &c.—The lands being sold to the government (Ge 47:19, 20), seed would be distributed for the first crop after the famine; and the people would occupy them as tenants-at-will on the payment of a produce rent, almost the same rule as obtains in Egypt in the present day. For this was the last year of the famine, as was noted before. Then Joseph said unto the people,.... After he had bought their land, and before the removal of them to distant parts:

behold, I have bought you this day, and your land, for Pharaoh: which he observes to them, that they might take notice of it, and confirm it, or object if they had anything to say to the contrary:

lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land: by which it should seem that they were not removed from the spot where they lived, but retained their own land under Pharaoh, and had seed given them to sow it with, which may seem contrary to Genesis 47:21; wherefore that must be understood of a purpose and proposal to remove them, and not that it was actually done; or, as Musculus gives the sense, Joseph by a public edict called all the people from the extreme parts of Egypt to the cities nearest to them, and there proclaimed the subjection of them, and their lands to Pharaoh, but continued them to them as tenants of his; unless it should be said, that in those distant parts to which they were sent, land was put into their hands to till and manure for the king, and have seed given them to sow it with; but this seems to be said to them at the same time the bargain was made.

Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land.
Verses 23, 24. - Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land. This proves the time to have been the last year of the famine; and since the people obtained seed from the viceroy, it is reasonable to suppose that they would also have their cattle restored to them to enable them to till the ground. And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones. This verse is a sufficient refutation of the oft-preferred charge that Joseph had despoiled the Egyptians of their liberties, and converted a free people into a horde of abject slaves. Slave-owners are not usually content with a tax of only twenty percent on the gross revenues of their estates. Nor does it seem reasonable to allege that this was an exorbitant demand on the part either of Joseph or of Pharaoh. If in the seven years of plenty the people could afford to part with a fifth part of their produce, might not an improved system of agriculture enable them, under the new regulations, to pay as much as that in the shape of rent, and with quite as much ease? At all events the people themselves did not consider that they were being subjected to any harsh or unjust exaction. When the money was exhausted, the Egyptians all came to Joseph with the petition: "Give us bread, why should we die before thee" (i.e., so that thou shouldst see us die, when in reality thou canst support us)? Joseph then offered to accept their cattle in payment; and they brought him near their herds, in return for which he provided them that year with bread. נהל: Piel to lead, with the secondary meaning, to care for (Psalm 23:2; Isaiah 40:11, etc.); hence the signification here, "to maintain."
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