Genesis 47 – Rags to Riches

While his family settled in their new homes, Joseph introduced five of his brothers with him to Pharaoh. They were questioned by Pharaoh with regards to their previous occupation and whether they possessed any special skills.

Since the brothers did not speak their language, Joseph spoke on their behalf introducing his brothers as shepherds and suggesting they stay in the green belt of Egypt, Goshen. Pharaoh agreed with Joseph and let them settle in Goshen and even allowed them to tend to his own livestock.

Finally, Joseph presented his father before Pharaoh. We see Jacob blessing Pharaoh and while most probably the word used here best describes a greeting, it is still odd to see Jacob bless Pharaoh or anyone else. As human beings, do we have the authority to bless other people?

Blessing is often misunderstood as a supernatural act by our elders or pastors through which we are able to fulfill our desires using their prayers. We have the authority to pray for one another and God is the one who fulfills those prayers. Therefore, if we bless someone, it should be followed by us praying to God about them. Otherwise, we should not follow this practice, as this implies either indirectly or directly that our blessing someone, has helped them achieve their desires and God is missing in that equation.

Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their children.

Genesis 47:12

So, Joseph settled his family in the best part of Egypt and also provided his father and brother’s household with all the food they needed.

The Severity of Famine

There was no food, however, in the whole region because the famine was severe; both Egypt and Canaan wasted away because of the famine

Genesis 47:13

The famine was so harsh that the people traded in their livestock, their lands and even themselves for seeds from the royal granaries. But Joseph’s family was well taken care of. Both his father’s family and his wife’s. Joseph provided his family with everything they needed to thrive in Egypt while Pharaoh was providing the priests of the land with regular allotments of food.

In every regime, be it aristocratic or democratic, the heads of the state have always seen religion as a way to calm the anxieties of their citizens, be it from wars, natural calamities or a severe famine. And pleasing the religious leader would help calm the people. Thus, there are always special tax exemptions given to the religious leaders.

We see the same pattern in the book of Ezra, where across regimes, special favours were curried to the priestly clan of Israel, who had been captured by the Persians. Even today different leaders have different ways to please their vote bank, the most common route being to pander to their gods.

So it is no surprise that ancient Egypt, which was years ahead in their advancements, still had a soft corner for their priests. For the common folks, there were no provisions provided and they had to barter everything they owned.

So, Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. The Egyptians, one and all, sold their fields, because the famine was too severe for them. The land became Pharaoh’s, and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to the other.

Genesis 47:20-21

In some ways this is similar to the Parable of the Shrewd manager that Jesus criticized in Luke 16. Without going into the morality of the decisions that Joseph had to make, we all can agree that he had some tough choices. I still feel that God had shown Joseph the plan to come out of the famine almost nine years ago, but Joseph was not confident in the famine ending anytime soon, so is extra cautious in his rationing.

And now that his large family is also in Egypt, he would ration the grains even more stringently. But in this process, he diversified his master’s portfolio and made Pharaoh the sole owner of the land in Egypt (apart from Jacob’s family of course). When we look at our lives and if are to ever be in that situation, will we be loyal to God or our superiors?

It’s hard to say without knowing the situation in Egypt, what Joseph could have done differently. But when we look at our lives, we all have someone of authority over us. In our zeal to impress our superiors, we sometimes go overboard and perhaps even do the opposite of what God would have wanted from us.

If you are finding it hard to find the balance between pleasing our superiors and not going against God’s will, come to God for the solution and He will help you come out of it. Giving a blanket response to someone who is facing this problem is of no use. Just like we discussed in Joseph’s situation, we don’t know what they are actually going through, so it’s better to redirect them to God.

While the Egyptians were selling off their lands to ward off starvation, Joseph’s family was making real estate investments in Egypt. A real ‘Rags to Riches’ story. For us it may be a flip of the page but for Jacob’s family it took many years for them to realise the dream that God had shown the patriarchs. Most of us give up on God when we are passing through our famines. We forget all his past blessings and promises for our future.

It’s not easy to hold on to our faith when time keeps moving forward and eventually fear starts to set in our hearts. And there are no quick-fire blessing verses that someone can forward us which will help us trust God more. It is only a constant connection with God that will help grow our faith. Students undergo practicals in a lab as a way to see the theories and formulas that have read in their book, being applied in real life. Similarly, our walks with God should be a way for us to apply His word in our own lives.


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