The Temptations Of Empire
Lord my God, I praise You and adore You. As I open my heart to You, do Your saving and healing work in me, and through me.
Read GENESIS 47:13–31
13 There was no food, however, in the whole region because the famine was severe; both Egypt and Canaan wasted away because of the famine. 14 Joseph collected all the money that was to be found in Egypt and Canaan in payment for the grain they were buying, and he brought it to Pharaoh’s palace. 15 When the money of the people of Egypt and Canaan was gone, all Egypt came to Joseph and said, “Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? Our money is all gone.”
16 “Then bring your livestock,” said Joseph. “I will sell you food in exchange for your livestock, since your money is gone.” 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and he gave them food in exchange for their horses, their sheep and goats, their cattle and donkeys. And he brought them through that year with food in exchange for all their livestock.
18 When that year was over, they came to him the following year and said, “We cannot hide from our lord the fact that since our money is gone and our livestock belongs to you, there is nothing left for our lord except our bodies and our land. 19 Why should we perish before your eyes—we and our land as well? Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in bondage to Pharaoh. Give us seed so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate.”
20 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, 21 and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to the other. 22 However, he did not buy the land of the priests, because they received a regular allotment from Pharaoh and had food enough from the allotment Pharaoh gave them. That is why they did not sell their land.
23 Joseph said to the people, “Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh, here is seed for you so you can plant the ground. 24 But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for yourselves and your households and your children.”
25 “You have saved our lives,” they said. “May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.”
26 So Joseph established it as a law concerning land in Egypt—still in force today—that a fifth of the produce belongs to Pharaoh. It was only the land of the priests that did not become Pharaoh’s.
27 Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number.
28 Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty-seven. 29 When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, 30 but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.”
“I will do as you say,” he said.
31 “Swear to me,” he said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
We cannot know who we are until we know whose we are. We need to find our identity in Christ and the promise of the coming kingdom.
As the famine continues and extends its reach across “the whole region” (13), Joseph achieves the pinnacle of his power in Egypt. He devised a system which kept mass starvation at bay, and the writer records that “he brought them through that year with food” (17). However, this success came at the price of the liberty of the people who were “reduced… to servitude” (21–23). The devising of an economic system which kept the population alive was a great achievement, but it
resulted in a dangerous centralizing of power which, as the story of Exodus will reveal, led to oppression and slavery (Exod. 1:6–14).
Once again, the aged Jacob reminds his sons of their true calling and the object of their faith and hope. Having lived for seventeen years in Egypt and with death approaching, the old man secures a solemn promise that his bones will not rest in this strange land but will be buried in Canaan where he will sleep with his fathers (29–31). It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that while Joseph had become assimilated to Egyptian culture, his father remained a sojourner in a strange land. Jacob is a contrast to his sons and his actions are a warning to the younger generation against “the attraction of Egypt” (Walter Brueggemann).
Like Joseph, many of us struggle with the tensions of living and working in “Egypt.” We cannot avoid this situation, but we need reminders of where our hope lies if we are to resist being sucked into the way of the world.
Read Romans 12:1 and 2 slowly and prayerfully and let God speak to you through it.
Loving Father, I think of what the Egyptians had to surrender to Pharaoh to survive: money, property, freedom. I struggle as I know my need to surrender these things to You, my Savior and Lord. I need Your help.