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Weekly devotion – Genesis 47:20-22

By Mike Caton

Genesis 47:20-22: 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. 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.

This sounds extremely harsh! But it was the people’s idea to sell themselves and their land to Pharaoh. But really, what other choice did they have? The famine was so severe, there was really nothing left for them to do. It was a matter of become Pharaoh’s servants or die.

We probably have a very negative image of what happened here. Joseph has reduced the people to servitude, slavery! But remember, this was the people’s idea, they suggested this to Joseph. We would do well to remember that most of the people in ancient times were slaves or servants of one sort or another. But that does not mean they were mistreated, indeed these servants were often highly skilled at what they did. And as a result, their master would want to take the very best care of them. For the Egyptians, their lives probably didn’t change very much, they continued to work the land, as they had always done. They continued to do their best to eke a living out, but in this case, Pharaoh was to make sure they were taken care of. But let’s be honest, no one wants to be a servant, a slave. We want to be free men.

We might say these folks were enslaved by their appetites, the desire, the need of their physical bodies drove them to sell themselves to someone else. It is clearly implied in the preceding verses, that the people see Joseph as a benevolent leader. They throw themselves on his mercy, they seek his care and there seems to be the expectation that Joseph will care for them. But we need to be careful whom we allow to have control of our lives, we need to be careful whom we submit to. Not every master is as kind and loving as Joseph. And there are people who foolishly submit themselves to some wicked and hard masters.

Father, thank you for being a loving master. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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