And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands…
And the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. The time of harvest is, of all periods of the year, the most important. It is the point to which all previous operations of the cultivator have tended. He knows how much depends on the weather and God's mercy. Having done all he can, he has to wait, and the harvest-time determines results. Those who are not engaged in agriculture are concerned in a harvest. Suppose there were none; non-producers must starve, Dwelling in great towns and cities, many who are engaged in traffic or manufacture may easily overlook harvest-time, and forget their dependence on God for daily bread. They see not the sown fields, they watch not the springing blade, they seize not the sharp sickle, they join not in piling up the pointed stacks, and are therefore likely to forget dependence on God. It is well that God forgets us not. He has ever kept his promise - "So long as the earth remaineth," &c. No year has passed without harvest-time being stinted in some land. Think over the contrast given in the text.
I. GENERAL DISTRESS. "The dearth was in all lands," i.e. all the lands then known to be peopled by the descendants of Noah. Their harvests had failed. Rain excessive, or drought prolonged, had ruined their crops. For several years there seems to have been disappointment. Not only did the husbandmen suffer, but those who could not toil. Dearth engenders disease, despair, death. See 2 Kings 6:24-40, to what straits famine will reduce people. Even mothers consent together to eat their own offspring. In the lamentations of Jeremiah there is a description of the fearful consequences of famine, leading men to say, "Then was our skin black like an ov
II. EXCEPTIONAL ABUNDANCE. But for this plentifulness in Egypt the whole race might have perished. There were several reasons for the abundance in Egypt.
1. God arranged it by that wondrous overflowing of the Nile. A difference in the rising a few feet makes all the difference as to the crops. Even at this date, so do the crops of Egypt affect the markets of the world, that the rising of the Nile is watched, and the height attained telegraphed to all parts. God, at the period referred to, had given seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of dearth; but such had been the previous abundance, owing to the overflow of the river, that in the terrible time of dearth there was abundance of bread in Egypt.
2. The foresight and energy of one man had led to the husbanding of resources and storing of excessive crops.
3. Divine revelation caused Joseph to act. He could not have known of the impending danger unless it had been revealed. He had faith in God when in prison, and main-rained it when he became the governor of Egypt. Indeed that faith shone as brightly when he was the approved of Pharaoh as when he was the slave of Potiphar and the object of passion's hate. His faith was rewarded when he was able to save multitudes from starving. What a contrast is presented in the text! Dearth of many lands, abundance in one. Such contrasts are often seen. On one side of the ocean there may have been an abundant harvest, on the other side but scanty crops. The world is full of contrasts. Here is a wedding; there is a funeral. In one family is love, thoughtfulness, harmony, and in that - perhaps separated only by the thin partition of hasty builders - bickering, jealousy, and hastiness of temper. Here sobriety, providence, and religion reign; there nothing but indigence, drunkenness, and utter neglect of the claims of God. In one country is peace, activity in all its branches of industry, commercial confidence, progress-in education and art, thoughtfulness for the untaught and criminal classes, and higher appreciation of the sacredness of life; in another depression, mistrust, plotting of adventurers, rule of the conscienceless, national faithlessness, and the spreading pall of desolation. Forceful is the contrast presented by nations under the influence of a simple Christianity and those enslaved by superstition, as Spain or Austria; or paralyzed by fatalism, as Turkey and Asia Minor; or darkened by idolatry, as India, China, Africa, and some of the islands of the seas. And such contrasts are seen in individuals. There walks one whose soul has no light, no hope, no peace; here one who knows he is pardoned, and is sure of acceptance by Christ. At death what a contrast! See one dying shrinking, doubting, fearing, grasping at any straw of comfort; another rejoicing that he is soon to enter and tread the streets of the New Jerusalem. Let all be prepared for such a change. Seek Christ, who is the "Bread of life," the Savior of our souls. Lack of appetite and numbness may come from excessive exhaustion. Hunger and thirst after righteousness, and be not like a lady who once said, "Sir, I have been so long without religion that I have, I fear, now no desire for it." If we come to Christ he will receive us readily. Joseph was glad to receive and help his brethren. So will Christ supply all our need out of the treasures of his rich grace. Remember, that if the need of other nations tested the charity of Egypt, so the need of souls is to test our earnestness. If we have found the riches in Christ, we are to seek to bless others. If little time remains to some of us in which to do much for Christ, let us act as those who, having much to write and little space, crowd the letters and words the closer. Let us be earnest as the husbandman, who, seeing winter coming apace, hastens in the few fine days remaining to garner his crops. Alas, many of our doings will have to stand useless, like earless, rotten sheaves, blackening dreary fields. - H.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.