Chapter 47 of Genesis contains a great lesson regarding self-sufficiency and preparing for the future. And it’s one that isn’t discussed too often.
Usually when people talk about Joseph’s time in Egypt, the focus is on how he helped the entire country survive the great famine in the land. The Lord definitely used Joseph for a great purpose. Not only did Joseph’s labors make it possible for his family to make it through the scarcity; all of Egypt and the surrounding peoples lived thanks to the grain storage system.
However, the part that’s often overlooked is when Joseph’s program basically results in the enslavement of all Egypt. That’s right. Prior to the famine, Pharaoh was obviously the man in charge, but Egypt was mostly comprised of freemen. After the famine, all the people are in bondage to Pharaoh, who is now a dictator of sorts.
In Joseph’s defense, it’s not really his fault that this happened. The Lord needed Joseph to do what he did. In no moment does He call Joseph out for what befalls the people of Egypt. If it hadn’t been for Joseph, the people would have simply died.
The Egyptian people’s enslavement was the result of circumstance–and their own personal failings. To understand the matter, here’s how it all went down:
13 And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine.
14 And 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.
15 And when money failed in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? for the money faileth.
16 And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail.
17 And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year.
18 When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him, We will not hide it from my lord, how that our money is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle; there is not ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands:
19 Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate.
20 And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh’s.
21 And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof.
22 Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands.
23 Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land.
24 And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.
25 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.
26 And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s.
Thus, the people gradually ran out of ways to pay for the grain they needed. Eventually, the only recourse they had was to sell their land–and themselves–to get bread and seeds for the earth.
It’s astonishing, really. Pharaoh managed to enslave the entire nation without having to lift a single sword. On the contrary, the people willingly did it–it was their idea!
Why the Egyptians Fell into Servitude
It’s very clear why the Egyptian people were put in that situation–they didn’t store away goods for the hard times. If they had had grains saved up to survive on during the famine, they would have had no need to spend all their money and sell themselves into slavery to pay off their debt to Pharaoh.
Now, Pharaoh had an advantage. He knew the famine was coming after the seven years of abundance. Joseph had interpreted the dreams telling him so. We don’t know whether that information was ever made public.
But even if it was a well-kept secret, prudence and common sense has told man since the beginning of time that the possibility of tough times is always looming. The Egyptian people should have been storing food whether or not they knew of the impending famine.
How We Can Avoid the Fate of the Egyptians
Unfortunately, most of us live just like the Egyptians did. The comforts of modern life lull us into a state of false security. We forget that hardship, economic difficulties, natural disasters, and wars have always been around and always will be until the Lord returns.
How do we prepare against the crises ahead? We just need to look at the factors that led the Egyptians into slavery.
Bread. If the Egyptians had just had grain of their own, they wouldn’t have become dependent upon Pharaoh’s bread. If we want to avoid their mistake, we need to be sure we’re storing food away that we can survive off of when the supermarkets are empty.
(For some of the best food storage guides on the web, check out this collection on the site of the Survival Mom, Lisa Bedford).
However, it isn’t just about storing food. Putting away enough for seven years can be challenging for the average household to achieve. Notice that after the Egyptians had become Pharaoh’s servants, Joseph gave them seeds with which to grow sustenance. We also need to acquire the means for creating our own sustenance, such as buying land for agriculture or raising livestock.
Money. The people of Egypt found themselves in big trouble after their money ran out. That’s why we need to save. But having a big savings account isn’t enough. Remember that the money of the Egyptians failed.
Likewise, our monetary system can fail. Especially when it’s constantly depreciating and we have a national debt in the trillions.
That’s why it’s important to make investments in gold, silver, and commodities. These are things that will retain their value even when the money fails.
Cattle. Perhaps the biggest mistake the people made (after not having enough food stored in the first place) was selling all their cattle.
Livestock was their source of income. Once the cattle was gone, the Egyptians no longer had any way of providing for themselves. They no longer had a way of making more money. That’s when their dependence on Pharaoh was complete. It was after that they decided to sell themselves into slavery.
For us, keeping our cattle means making sure we have income-producing assets. Investments like businesses, royalty-paying intellectual property, and dividend-paying stocks. Things that don’t require you to sell them to make money, but that earn you money through your ownership.
Land. Property ownership is imperative for personal freedom. The Egyptians become serfs the moment they sold their land and their labor. By owning the things we possess, particularly our homes, we avoid being subject to the whims of others.
Debt. The Egyptians sold themselves into bondage as a way of paying off the massive debt they incurred eating the Pharaoh’s bread for several years. Thereafter, they had to pay 20 percent of all they cultivated to the King of Egypt.
Accruing debt is probably the biggest step on the road to serfdom. And avoiding debt is incredibly simple (though difficult when worldly pressures act upon you): if you don’t have the money for something, don’t buy it.
People tend to mock Doomsday Preppers. It just goes to show how mixed up the world’s values are. When famine of Biblical levels can strike us at any time, any sane person would be working hard to make sure he’s prepared.
If we follow the Lord’s counsel and use the information and tools available to prepare our families against looming disasters, we’ll enjoy the true freedom God desires for His people.
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