We leave Joseph’s family for a bit to watch him as an overseer. He is wise beyond his years! His business acumen fills Pharaoh’s coffers to overflowing.
When Pharaoh first had his dream and Joseph interpreted it, things changed in the land of Egypt. Plans went from day to day or year to year into long range plans for the next 14 years. Storehouses were built and filled during the first seven of those years. The people were required to give 1/5th of everything they harvested to Pharaoh for safe keeping. Then when the seven years of famine set in, things got complicated.
We know that Joseph’s family came to Egypt two years into the famine. Apparently they were able to live on what they had personally stored until that point. It was before this point though that Joseph opened the storehouses of Egypt to the people. It amazes me that Egypt didn’t take on the “my 4 and no more” attitude with their stores. Instead, Joseph sold to people coming from other nations. I would expect them to pay a higher price than the Egyptians did; after all, the Egyptians had contributed to the stores held within. But people from all over were coming to Egypt for food before Joseph’s family came calling. Joseph’s store was the only one in ‘town’ and he could ask any price he wanted, and GET IT!
Today we read about things moving from bad to worse to desperate. There is still an abundance in the storehouse but now the people can’t access it. Why? Because they have run out of money. Joseph wasn’t giving this stuff away for free to everyone. He was being a shrewd businessman. No money, no ‘honey’.
Joseph had to be careful with what he had. His stores had to last the full seven years of famine plus time for the eighth year’s harvest. I’m wondering if he cut other nations off after a while to ensure he had enough for Egypt.
Two groups were exempt from this ‘No money, no honey’ principal. They were Joseph’s family and the priest of Egypt. The first group was cared for by Joseph’s direction while the second received their “allotment” from Pharaoh. Neither group was hit by the desperation that struck the rest of Egypt.
We aren’t told exactly when the money ran out but we can make an educated guess by what happened in our reading. The first year after every last penny had been spent acquiring food, the famine was still ravaging the land. When the people came to Joseph for food he took their livestock in trade.
This resulted in a couple of things. First, the people now had less ‘mouths’ to feed. With their livestock gone they didn’t have to buy food for them too so their stores went further. It appears that Joseph didn’t charge them again and again for more food. They were given an allotment for the year and they had to make it stretch. I don’t know if all the allotments were given out in lump sums or in monthly increments but their exchange lasted for one year.
The second thing this livestock exchange did was to build the flocks of Pharaoh. Of course you say. But with it came more responsibility for Pharaoh. Now their ‘feed bill’ was on his tab. There was no less food needed, just a shifting of who was to provide it.
The final thing this livestock exchange did was provide more jobs for Jacob’s family. When they went before Pharaoh in the beginning, Pharaoh had asked if they had anyone who could tend his flocks. I fully believe that Jacob’s family was more than willing to take on this task. Now there would be an even greater demand for their talents. And with that demand would come compensation. Jacob’s family got rich off of meeting Pharaoh’s needs. I wonder if Joseph had this in the back of his mind when acquiring the people’s livestock.
The next year the livestock had already been ‘fully depreciated’ in value. In other words, Joseph had stamped ‘paid in full’ on the purchase agreement for the livestock. Now what do the people do to pay for food? They have nothing left; except for their lives and their land. “Sold!” proclaims Joseph. So for another year Joseph doles out food in payment for what the people offered. Now Pharaoh owns the land and the people.
Our two groups mentioned earlier were neither one affected by this deal. Their benefactors saw to that. There are now two tracts of land Pharaoh doesn’t own; the priest’s lands and those Joseph gave to his family in the land of Goshen. Kind of reminds me of a Monopoly board. I’m thinking this would have Pharaoh holding everything except Boardwalk and Park Place; after all Goshen was the ‘fat of the land’ of Egypt. And those holding those two ‘properties’ had plenty of everything else they needed so ‘landing on Pharaoh’s properties’ didn’t hurt them at all.
Joseph knew the length of the famine. Even if this was common knowledge, the people had made it to a desperate state near the end. Even if they wanted to hang on, they couldn’t. It was either starve to death or pay Joseph’s prices. And Joseph could only demand those prices during this crisis. Shrewd business sense!
When the end of that year rolled around, there was nothing left for the people to sell. But that wasn’t going to be a problem because the famine was ending. It was time to plant again. Joseph KNEW that this year would bring a harvest. Now he had a workforce under contract to work Pharaoh’s newly acquired lands.
These people were not put out of their homes by a heartless, money grubbing, opportunistic scoundrel. They were saved from certain destruction, for a price. Now they would serve Pharaoh for that salvation, doing the same things they had done previously with one distinction. That distinction was that they would be forever paying Pharaoh back for his service. One fifth of all they harvested, earned, or made somehow would belong to Pharaoh.
I have several questions here that plague me. The first set deals with the storing up years. When Pharaoh was receiving the 1/5th during the abundant years, were the people receiving compensation for it? Was the plenty so plentiful that they didn’t even notice the missing portion? Did they know going into this that they would be paying to get back what they put in? Was that written somewhere in the ‘fine print’ of their contract? Or did they do this as an appeasement offering to their god, Pharaoh?
The second set of questions sprung up from this first set while in process. Did the people try and end the famine by offering sacrifices to their gods? Were the priests busy during these years trying to change God’s mind? If they did offer sacrifices, what were they? Or maybe I should say who were they? Did Pharaoh engage in this with his people or did he resign himself to the full seven years predicted by his dreams? When he told the people to talk to Joseph about their hunger, had he already tried to end the famine for them with his ‘powers as a god’?
My final set of questions deals with the aftermath of the people’s desperation. I’m curious if they would ever be able to work, or buy, themselves out of slavery. They were allowed to keep 4/5th of all they gained. Could they ever make enough to buy back their lives and their property from Pharaoh? Or were they to forever be servants to him and ‘share croppers’ for his property? I have a feeling that Joseph returned the livestock needed for planting and harvesting to the people for USE for a price. Maybe they used some of their ‘take home pay’ to buy back their animals after a while.
This WHOLE deal reminds me of Satan. Not that Joseph was being evil when he worked for Pharaoh. But I’m reminded of how Satan promises to anyone who buys into his hype ‘the world’, yet there is ALWAYS a catch. Satan gives you nothing for free. He holds out an idea or ideal that we buy into a little at a time. He doesn’t tempt us with murder as his first appeal. He goes for the little things. “A little lie won’t hurt anyone.” “He deserves a little kick in the butt.” “Go ahead and take it. They will never miss it.”
Before you know it you are giving into more than his 1/5th and he is storing up your ‘yes’s’ for later. Finally comes a point where you want something back for all your trouble. Guess what; it’s going to cost you even more. It will cost you your life. In case you didn’t notice, it already did. There is no getting back what you gave to him. And he WON’T cut you a deal or give you a break because he likes you. He owns you lock, stock, and barrel.
But all is not lost. Because there is a ‘price tag’ in view, you are purchasable. And Someone thinks you are worthy of paying that price. Jesus bought your freedom for a price. That price was a life, or more appropriately, His life. He bought my freedom AND yours! He bought our lives!!!
I don’t know about you but I don’t want to ‘buy it back’ from Him. I’ll stay right where I am, thank you very much. But he does ask for something in return. He asks that we give him our life. He wants the heart of that life. That is His 1/5th, and with it He can make AMAZING things happen with the remainder.
Hear me when I say this. He wants your WHOLE heart. Not just 1/5th of it. Without ALL of it, He can’t affect the changes you so desperately want and need. He is willing to work in ‘installments’ though and doesn’t demand complete surrender on day one. What He does require though is making some kind of progress towards the final goal. I honestly don’t believe anyone, Billy Graham included, gets to that 100% 100% of the time until they meet Him face to face. But He wants us to shoot for that goal anyway and then He can work with whatever we give Him along the way, BECAUSE we let Him.
That’s what surrendering to Him means. Letting Him work with what we give Him to bring us to the next place where we can give Him even more. It AMAZES me that He was willing to buy my freedom for a price WITHOUT a guarantee that I would agree to a return on His investment. He demonstrated ‘blind faith’ in me! Faith in Him is SO much easier because I have all the evidence around me while He had no evidence to lay His hands on besides His own hope for me. WOW!!!
Lord Jesus, THANK YOU for taking a ‘leap of faith’ in me. You had NO guarantees when You went to the cross that anyone would truly follow You. Yes, You are omniscient but You still had to simply trust I would choose You at some point in my life. I think back to my childhood and wonder at all the times I said I was Yours. You certainly DIDN’T have ALL of my heart. You have more today than then, but even now You have less than You should. Was this wasted time with You? Do You ever wish You had that time back? Or did/do You enjoy each step of the journey You are leading me on?
I have learned so much more about you and grown in relationship with You over my life. I KNOW I have a LONG way to go still. But I’m thankful for the fact that this is a journey. A journey I’m on with You. You didn’t demand perfection in the beginning. I would have been counted out right away!
But Your price wasn’t paid in ‘installments’. You marked ‘paid in full’ from the beginning. That way Satan couldn’t EVER try and ‘repossess’ what he owned. That’s the thing about installments. Ownership doesn’t change hands until the last payment is received. You left NO ROOM for doubt that I was now and forever more would be YOURS. I’m not ‘under new management’ but SOLD lock, stock, and barrel! Rip my tag off! I’m YOURS for life!!!