Bible study 47 – Genesis 47

Joseph’s family settle down in Egypt, get to meet the Pharaoh, and receive a lot of the grain that was seized from Egyptian farmers many years earlier. The desperate Egyptian farmers, meanwhile, have spent all their cash in buying back their own grain, so Joseph allows them to trade in their livestock for grain instead. When they have no more cattle to sell, Joseph buys their land. When they have spent that as well, he gives them grain in exchange for them becoming slaves to the Egyptian state.

I really liked Joseph up until this point, and was ready to forgive him for playing that silly game with his brothers. But now it turns out that he’s actually a much bigger jerk than his father and forefathers. I would have a hard time coming up with a more horrifying tale of government corruption and immorality. Joseph consciously exploits secret knowledge of an impending natural disaster in order to enslave an entire country. The whole point of gathering the grain in the first place was to make sure there was no famine, so it obviously should have been redistributed for free (or in a manner that was beneficial to the peasants). This is literally his entire job. A liberalist might argue that he’s not doing any harm per se by selling the grain at a profit, and that if the peasants don’t have enough food that’s their own fault. But Joseph didn’t pay for the grain in the first place, he forcibly seized it for the government. And since everyone in the country is dying of hunger, it’s pretty clear that he didn’t make a big effort out of telling people about the coming disaster so they could prepare for it themselves.

Jacob’s life is nearing its end, and Joseph promises to bury his father in Hebron with his family.

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