Genesis 47:13
Yet there was no food throughout that region, because the famine was so severe; the lands of Egypt and Canaan had been exhausted by the famine.
Sermons
Joseph's ConductA. Fuller.Genesis 47:13-26
Joseph's Policy VindicatedW. M. Taylor, D. D.Genesis 47:13-26
The Morality of Joseph's AdministrationA. M. Symington, D. D.Genesis 47:13-26
The Policy of JosephR.A. Redford Genesis 47:13-26


Genesis 47:13-26
Genesis 47:13-26. The policy of Joseph is faithfully employed for his monarch. The advantage taken of the people's necessities to increase the power of the throne is quite Eastern in its character - not commended to general imitation, but permitted to be carded out through Joseph, because it gave him greater hold upon the government, and perhaps wrought beneficially on the whole in that early period of civilization. The honor of the priesthood is a testimony to the sacredness which the Egyptians attached to religious persons and things. The earliest nations were the most religious, and there is no doubt that the universality of religion can be traced among the tribes of the earth. An atheistic nation never has existed, and never can exist, except as in France, at a revolutionary period, and for a short time. - R.







Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the Land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought: and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh's house.
The significance of the transaction is obvious; it brought men back to first principles; made them feel, in a very practical way, their absolute dependence on God, and on that one man through whom God was pleased to deal with them. But what are we to think about its morality? Was Joseph right in buying men? The following considerations, are, to my own mind, satisfactory.

1. Joseph was acting under Divine guidance in an extraordinary emergency. It was not his own wisdom that foresaw the plenty and the famine, and which devised the plan he was raised up to carry out. It was God who gave him the message to Pharaoh, and it was God more than Pharaoh who exalted him to absolute power.

2. It is unreasonable to impute mean motives or cruelty to a man whose character, before this time and after it, was so singularly noble and good.

3. The people themselves proposed this arrangement, and they accepted it with gratitude. "And they said, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's servants."

4. Left to themselves, where would they have been? Even supposing that every farmer from the cataracts to the seaboard had been as fully persuaded that famine was coming as men generally are that they must soon die, yet greed and the craving for present indulgence would have got the better of their prudence during the years of plenty; and long before the fourth year of continuous famine, Egypt would have become one grave. As it was, Joseph saved their lives, and saved them also from the utter moral ruin into which years of indolent pauperism would have sunk them. "As for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt, even to the other end." I understand this to mean, not that Joseph transported the population of the Delta to the vicinity of the Cataracts, and vice versa, but that he brought them in from the fields, where they could do nothing, and provided them some form of work in the towns. The fact is recorded to the honour of Joseph. When our own government has had to deal with famine, it has exhausted its ingenuity in making work for the relieved. "So far, then, is Joseph's plan of selling instead of giving the corn to the people, from being a matter of reprehension, that we ought to be astonished at a course of proceeding which anticipated the discoveries of the nineteenth century after Christ, and at the strength of mind which enabled the minister of the Egyptian crown to forego the vulgar popularity which profuse but unreasonable bounty can always secure."

5. The arrangement, as described by the sacred narrative, was a highly beneficent one. The record is very brief and subordinate, but its meaning becomes sufficiently clear on candid examination.

(A. M. Symington, D. D.)

1. The believer in the divine inspiration of the Scriptures is not bound to vindicate the policy of Joseph in every particular.

2. It would be manifestly unfair to judge Joseph's policy by the principles of modern political economy or by those of New Testament enforcement and obligation. We must put him in the environment of his age, and we have no right to expect from him conformity to a standard which was not at that time in existence.

3. The policy itself was approved by those who had the best means of judging of its character, and who, as being directly and immediately concerned, would have felt its hardships if there had been any in the case. But, so far from regarding him as an oppressor, the people hailed him as a benefactor.

4. It must not be forgotten that Egypt is an exceptional country, and that, from the constant dependence of the people on the irrigation of their fields, and the continual changes made in the surface of the country by the annual inundation of the river, in the way of obliterating landmarks, and removing part of the soil from the one side of the Nile to the other, the holding of all the lands by the crown would have special public advantages which could not well be either enjoyed or appreciated by the inhabitants of other territories. In conversation upon this subject the other day with the venerable author of "The Land and the Book," I discovered that he was inclined to find the explanation of Joseph's settlement with the people for their lands in the unusual character of the country itself; and from what he then said I gathered that he would fully agree with Bishop Browne, when, in the "Speaker's Commentary," he alleges, "The peculiar nature of the land, its dependence on the overflow of the Nile, and the unthrifty habits of the cultivators, made it desirable to establish a system of centralization, perhaps to introduce some general principle of irrigation, in modern phraseology, to promote the prosperity of the country by great government works, in preference to leaving all to the uncertainty of individual enterprise. If this were so, then the saying 'Thou hast saved our lives' was no language of Eastern adulation, but the verdict of a grateful people."

5. For the rest, this policy of Joseph's did not create a scarcity for the advantage either of himself or of the monarch, but it provided the means of meeting a scarcity; it did not withhold corn, and so earn the curse of the people, but it frankly brought it out as it was required, and sold it at a price that was mutually agreed upon; it did not insist on everything in the bond, no matter what hardship might be thereby occasioned, for, so far as appears, Joseph not only gave the people seed for their fields, but also gave them back their cattle, which he had meanwhile preserved to them; above all, it neither bought what was not in existence, nor sold what was not in actual possession, and so it had in it nothing which makes it in any respect a parallel case to those speculative combinations among ourselves with which some have sought to classify it. True, it left the government owners of the land, but, as we have seen, that was the most convenient settlement both for the carrying out of systematic works for the prevention of similar national calamities in the future, and for the stoppage of all litigation over matters of boundary; and one-fifth part of the produce, considering the fertility of the soil, was not an exorbitant rental, especially if it included all government imposts of every sort.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

This part of Joseph's conduct has been thought by some very exceptionable, as tending to reduce a nation to poverty and slavery. I am not sure that it was entirely right, though the parties concerned appear to have cast no reflection upon him. If it were not, it only proves that Joseph, though a good and great man, yet was not perfect. The following remarks, if they do not wholly exculpate him from blame, may at least serve greatly to extenuate the evil of his conduct:(1) He does not appear to have been employed by the country, but by the king only, and that for himself. He did not buy up corn during the plentiful years, at the public expense, but at that of the king, paying the people the full price for their commodities, and as it would seem out of the king's private purse.(2) In supplying their wants, it was absolutely necessary to distribute the provisions, not by gift, but by sale; and that, according to what we should call the market price; otherwise the whole would have been consumed in half(the time, and the country have perished.(3) The slavery to which they were reduced was merely that of being tenants to the king, and who accepted of one-fifth of the produce for his rent. Indeed it was scarcely possible for a whole nation to be greatly oppressed, without being driven to redress themselves; and, probably, what they paid in aftertimes as a rent, was much the same thing as we pay in taxes, enabling the king to maintain his state, and support his government, without any other burdens. There is no mention, I believe, in history of this event producing any ill effects upon the country. Finally: Whatever he did, it was not for himself, or his kindred, but for the king, by whom he was employed. The utmost therefore that can be made of it to his disadvantage, does not affect the disinterestedness of his character.

(A. Fuller.)

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