1-2Joseph took five of his brothers to the king and told him, “My father and my brothers have come from Canaan. They have brought their sheep, goats, cattle, and everything else they own to the region of Goshen.”
Then he introduced his brothers to the king, 3who asked them, “What do you do for a living?”
“Sir, we are shepherds,” was their answer. “Our families have always raised sheep. 4But in our country all the pastures are dried up, and our sheep have no grass to eat. So we, your servants, have come here. Please let us live in the region of Goshen.”
5The king said to Joseph, “It's good that your father and brothers have arrived. 6I will let them live anywhere they choose in the land of Egypt, but I suggest that they settle in Goshen, the best part of our land. I would also like for your finest shepherds to watch after my own sheep and goats.”
7Then Joseph brought his father Jacob and introduced him to the king. Jacob gave the king his blessing, 8and the king asked him, “How old are you?”
9Jacob answered, “I have lived only 130 years, and I have had to move from place to place. My parents and my grandparents also had to move from place to place. But they lived much longer, and their life was not as hard as mine.” 10Then Jacob gave the king his blessing once again and left. 11Joseph obeyed the king's orders and gave his father and brothers some of the best land in Egypt near the city of Rameses. 12Joseph also provided food for their families.
A Famine in Egypt
13The famine was bad everywhere in Egypt and Canaan, and the people were suffering terribly. 14So Joseph sold them the grain that had been stored up, and he put the money in the king's treasury. 15But when everyone had run out of money, the Egyptians came to Joseph and demanded, “Give us more grain! If you don't, we'll soon be dead, because our money's all gone.”
16“If you don't have any money,” Joseph answered, “give me your animals, and I'll let you have some grain.” 17From then on, they brought him their horses and donkeys and their sheep and goats in exchange for grain.
Within a year Joseph had collected every animal in Egypt. 18Then the people came to him and said:
Sir, there's no way we can hide the truth from you. We are broke, and we don't have any more animals. We have nothing left except ourselves and our land. 19Don't let us starve and our land be ruined. If you'll give us grain to eat and seed to plant, we'll sell ourselves and our land to the king. We'll become his slaves.
20The famine became so severe that Joseph finally bought every piece of land in Egypt for the king 21and made everyone the king's slaves, 22except the priests. The king gave the priests a regular food allowance, so they did not have to sell their land. 23Then Joseph said to the people, “You and your land now belong to the king. I'm giving you seed to plant, 24but one fifth of your crops must go to the king. You can keep the rest as seed or as food for your families.”
25“Sir, you have saved our lives!” they answered. “We are glad to be slaves of the king.” 26Then Joseph made a law that one fifth of the harvest would always belong to the king. Only the priests did not lose their land.
Jacob Becomes an Old Man
27The people of Israel made their home in the land of Goshen, where they became prosperous and had large families. 28Jacob himself lived there for 17 years, before dying at the age of 147. 29 When Jacob knew he did not have long to live, he called in Joseph and said, “If you really love me, you must make a solemn promise not to bury me in Egypt. 30Instead, bury me in the place where my ancestors are buried.”
“I will do what you have asked,” Joseph answered.
31“Will you give me your word?” Jacob asked.
“Yes, I will,” Joseph promised. After this, Jacob bowed down and prayed at the head of his bed.
In this part of the narrative, we see how God uses Joseph to save the lives not only of his family but of all of the people of Egypt. As a wise governor, he had stored up all the extra grain in the years of plenty, and now it was available to the people in the years of famine. God’s hand can still be seen as Joseph’s administration was, ironically, the salvation not only of the Egyptians but also of the people of Israel (Jacob), as they fled starvation in the promised land. In the story of God’s chosen people it seems so often that the promise made to Abraham will be broken, this time by starvation. Yet every time the promise that hung by a thread is kept and God’s people are rescued.
Joseph sets up a system of government taxation that will ensure prosperity for the country for the long term. And indeed, Egypt does prosper for many centuries after, even becoming a sanctuary for Jesus and his parents, Mary and Joseph as they flee from the wicked King Herod (who ordered that all babies under the age of two should be killed). “After the wise men had gone, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up! Hurry and take the child and his mother to Egypt! Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is looking for the child and wants to kill him’” (Matthew 2:13).
The Bible tells us that we should pray for those who are in our government: “Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honour God. This kind of prayer is good, and it pleases God our Saviour (1 Timothy 2:2-3).
God, our Saviour, we pray today for the leaders of our country that you would give them wisdom as they make decisions that will affect all of us. We also pray that you would give them good health and bless them in every way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.