Joseph’s Great Land Heist
Genesis Chapter 47
After the unusual wholesomeness of the Joseph-in-Egypt story comes the darker underbelly of Joseph’s land strategy. But first, let’s recap. Joseph is sold into Egyptian slavery. He rapidly rises to command all of Egypt’s new food policy after deducing that two of the Pharaoh’s dreams mean that there are to be seven years of agricultural abundance followed by seven years of terrible famine. In the good years, Joseph stores Egyptian food in preparation for the famine ,and when it finally comes, Egypt is ready. This is all due to the will of Yahweh as Joseph claimed several times. God sent him the Egypt to blunt the force of the drought. See how nice God is? He sends a deplorable famine, but he also sends Joseph to save the people from starvation. Oh, hooray! Food will be given to the needy and the country will be saved. Justice will be done. Right? Right? Wrong!
He didn’t give anything away. In fact, he sold the poor farmers their own food until they were destitute. You see, the Egyptian people must have been taxed very heavily for enough food to last through seven years of drought, for how else would Joseph’s men get it? God did not just give them the food. It did not rain Mana. The grain came from the land and, therefore, the farmers, and seven years worth of food is a tremendous amount. Think about it. Can you imagine how heavy the taxes must have been? The Bible makes it clear that no food was harvested during the famine, so that means that close to twice the amount had to have been grown before it struck, half eaten within the year and the other to go to long-term storage. Since the Pharaoh even had enough to sell to the Canaanites, there is likely even more taken. Here is Genesis 42/46-49:
After Joseph left Pharaoh’s presence, he traveled throughout the land of Egypt. During the seven years of plenty, when the land produced abundant crops, he husbanded all the food of these years of plenty that the land of Egypt was enjoying and stored it in the towns, placing in each town the crops of the fields around it. Joseph garnered grain in quantities like the sands of the sea, so vast that at last he stopped measuring it, for it was beyond measure.
So once the Famine hits the food is then sold back to the peasants who raised the food to begin with. Let me restate this. The farmers give food to be stored against the famine and then they must pay to get it back out. Something seem a little wrong here? They pay extortionate prices. Prices steep enough to leave them, as a group, completely destitute. I know the following is a long quote but essential to understanding the unfairness of “God’s plan.” Every part of this reeks of divine injustice.
Since there was no food in any country because of the extreme severity of the famine, and the lands of Egypt and Canaan were languishing from hunger, Joseph gathered in, as payment for the rations that were being dispensed, all the money that was to be found in Egypt and Canaan, and he put it in Pharaoh’s palace. When all the money in Egypt and Canaan was spent, all the Egyptians came to Joseph, pleading, “Give us food or we shall perish under your eyes; for our money is gone.” “Since your money is gone,” replied Joseph, “give me your livestock, and I will sell you bread in return for your livestock.” So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and he sold them food in return for their horses, their flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, and their donkeys. Thus he got them through that year with bread in exchange for all their livestock. When that year ended, they came to him in the following one and said: “We cannot hide from my lord that, with our money spent and our livestock made over to my lord, there is nothing left to put at my lord’s disposal except our bodies and our farm land. Why should we and our land perish before your very eyes? Take us and our land in exchange for food, and we will become Pharaoh’s slaves and our land his property; only give us seed, that we may survive and not perish, and that our land may not turn into a waste.” Thus Joseph acquired all the farm land of Egypt for Pharaoh, since with the famine too much for them to bear, every Egyptian sold his field; so the land passed over to Pharaoh, and the people were reduced to slavery, from one end of Egypt’s territory to the other.
WTF? God sent both Joseph and the famine to Egypt to enslave the entire population and gobble up all their land. This was the Plan? To reduce a relatively free peasantry to abject servitude? I repeat, WTF? Who’s side is he on? Isn’t this just another extreme form of insider trading. Yahweh shatters the commodities market but gives his home boys, Joseph and the Pharaoh, a really hot tip, probably the hottest commodities/ real estate tip in history. And do these two ever use it to their advantage. They take food from the peasants, sell it back to them until they are bankrupt, then take them as slaves, and then top it off by pretending like they were doing the poor a favor. What a couple of jackasses!
And don’t you just love how the Bible makes it the poor folk’s idea to just hand their persons over as slaves to get a little food. As if all the people of Egypt actually came together and voted on this; that they really went en masse to an audience with Joseph and begged him to take them as slaves. Like this would ever happen! Assuming that they negotiated as a group do you really think they are going to offer slavery in the first round. This could only be the absolute last resort after their begging and pleading with Joseph for food had fallen on deaf ears. The Bible’s version is so obviously an after-the-fact addition to cover Joseph’s willingness to do whatever it takes to please the Pharaoh and stay high in his esteem. Joseph forced these people into slavery. There can be no other logical conclusion than to see this as anything less than an intentional and selfish manipulation of events. Joseph was the ultimate profiteer.
Oh, but there is more than just greed. Absurdity holds reign here as well. The Bible says that the only group of people who are not enslaved by this food policy is the Priestly class. Think about this. These were not priests to Yahweh. They were the Egyptian priests who served the Egyptian gods. What the hell was God thinking here? Why enslave everyone but the priests to another religion. Did they have a some sort of gentlegod’s agreement? I’m sure Ra, Horace and the rest of the Egyptian pantheon deeply appreciated Yahweh sparing their chief worshippers, but what did Yahweh get out of it? Oh yes, his little band of 66 men and Darwin knows how many women stayed wealthy, but at the cost of everyone else’s freedom. This can’t be a moral action. The Lord of genocide seems to have expanded his business into slave taking. Where will it stop.
What Joseph was was an opportunist. He may have loved his family and forgiven his brothers’ crimes, but down deep, he was out for power and wealth and managed to suck his way into these positions when he could and regardless of any obstacles in his way. The Bible tries to portray him as the ultimate nice guy, but neither in ancient Egypt nor modern America do the sweethearts rise to the top of the pack. One gets there by clawing and shoving his way to the top and destroying anyone in the way. The meek will inherit the Earth, my ass! Joseph merely fought his battles better that the others. He was ambitious and smart. The enslaving of the entire Egyptian population just goes to show how far he was willing to go to achieve his purely selfish aims, and that would be very far indeed!
So how do Christians continue to think of Yahweh as the God of perfect justice and perfect mercy. I wonder what dictionary they use because mine defines those to words far differently. Have they ever read this book? Are they blind to it’s implications. Or are they just waiting for their time in the sun, their hour on top? I want to say that after reading their printed moral guide, I understand human history a bit better now, and for the future this idea makes me very nervous, very nervous indeed!