A Daily Genesis

Genesis 47:21-26

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[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 47:21-22 . . 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.[/B]

That regular State allotment must have made religion seem like an attractive career path. Their constituents may have been suffering, but the priests were doing just fine and coasting right through all the hard times.

I think it's notable that God wouldn't permit Judaism's priests to own land; nor permit them to feed at the Federal trough either, thus making them fully dependent upon the prosperity of ordinary pew warmers. Thus the Aaronic priests were highly motivated to keep the people in a good standing with God in order to keep themselves fed because lack of good standing could easily result in a poor economy in Israel. (cf. Deut 28:1-68)

When Saul was king, there was a time in Israel when the priests didn't even have enough food of their own on hand to supply David's escape (1Sam 21:1-6). That was a pretty good indication that Saul's kingdom had fallen into spiritual decline during his administration; and definitely time for a change in leadership.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 47:23-24 . . 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. 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.[/B]

Four-fifths is equal to 80% which is a pretty good percentage for share-croppers. In addition, there's no mention of either rents or leases. In other words, the Egyptians lived on Pharaoh's land essentially for free. The only rent they paid, if you could call it that, was the one-fifth of the land's produce.

That was a very good deal for the Egyptians because it was flexible. In other words; no matter how well or how poorly the land produced in any given year, whether little or much, the percentage never changed. Thus they were always able to satisfy their obligation to Pharaoh even in years when disease and/or insects decimated their crops. It was virtually impossible to ever fall behind in payments.

Since Pharaoh owned all the land, and exacted neither rent nor lease from share-croppers; it became possible for Egypt's poor to apply for a piece of acreage. While the drought was a curse for some people; it was a blessing for others.
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[COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 47:25 . .You have saved our lives; they said. May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.[/B]

The word "bondage" is from [I]'ebed[/I] (eh'-bed) which includes all kinds of servitude; including outright slavery. Another word for "servant" is sakiyr (saw-keer') which is a person who works for wages; viz: an employee.

It's reasonable to assume that not everyone in Egypt took up farming as there would still be the need for goods and services like metal smiths, butchers, seamstresses, barbers, shipwrights, wagon and chariot builders, longshoremen, pottery, merchant marine, general mercantile, weavers, shoemakers, freight haulers, and building contractors; et al: every sort of trade and commercial enterprise imaginable.

Pharaoh had all the money. So then, the barter system probably thrived in Egypt-- the farmers trading out of their 80% and the merchants and tradesmen paying Pharaoh his one-fifth out of what trickled down from the farmers. In other words: in that economy, food was gold.

Apparently few, if any, complained. One thing you could say about the Egyptians; they didn't look a gift horse in the mouth. If not for Joseph's providence, they would have all surely died, and lost everything, and they knew it too. Thanks to him, instead of dying, they all enjoyed a pretty good standard of living. There were some sacrifices to be made, yes, but all in all, they fared pretty well under Joseph's administration.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 47:26 . . 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.[/B]

The "today" in that passage of course refers of the author's own day.

The 20% flat tax was fair across the board for everybody; rich, poor, and middle class alike-- no deductions and no exemptions.

Thank God Joseph was a man of integrity because the kind of power he wielded has a way of tempting men to do some very greedy things; for example: enforcement of the so-called law of supply and demand. Of one thing we can be pretty sure: Pharaoh's approval rating no doubt broke all the records thanks to his selection of Joseph to manage Egypt's affairs during a very serious national crisis.

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