Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project
Joseph Creates a Long-term Agricultural Policy and Infrastructure (Genesis 41:46-57)
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Joseph immediately went about the work to which Pharaoh had appointed him. His primary interest was in getting the job done for others, rather than taking personal advantage of his new position at the head of the royal court. He maintained his faith in God, giving his children names that credited God with healing his emotional pain and making him fruitful (Gen. 41:51-52). He recognized that his wisdom and discernment were gifts from God, but nevertheless that he still had much to learn about the land of Egypt, its agricultural industry in particular. As the senior administrator, Joseph’s work touched on nearly every practical area of the nation’s life. His office would have required that he learn much about legislation, communication, negotiation, transportation, safe and efficient methods of food storage, building, economic strategizing and forecasting, record-keeping, payroll, the handling of transactions both by means of currency and through bartering, human resources, and the acquisition of real estate. His extraordinary abilities with respect to God and people did not operate in separate domains. The genius of Joseph’s success lay in the effective integration of his divine gifts and acquired competencies. For Joseph, all of this was godly work.
Pharaoh had already characterized Joseph as “discerning and wise” (Gen. 41:39), and these characteristics enabled Joseph to do the work of strategic planning and administration. The Hebrew words for wise and wisdom (hakham and hokhmah) denote a high level of mental perceptivity, but also are used of a wide range of practical skills including craftsmanship of wood, precious stones, and metal (Exod. 31:3-5; 35:31-33), tailoring (Exod. 28:3; 35:26, 35), as well as administration (Deut. 34:9; 2 Chr. 1:10) and legal justice (1 Kgs. 3:28). These skills are found among unbelievers as well, but the wise in the Bible enjoy the special blessing of God who intends Israel to display God’s ways to the nations (Deut. 4:6).
As his first act, “Joseph...went through all the land of Egypt” (Gen. 41:46) on an inspection tour. He would have to become familiar with the people who managed agriculture, the locations and conditions of the fields, the crops, the roads, and means of transportation. It is inconceivable that Joseph could have accomplished all of this on a personal level. He would have had to establish and oversee the training of what amounted to a Department of Agriculture and Revenue. During the seven years of abundant harvest, Joseph had the grain stored in cities (Gen. 41:48-49). During the seven lean years that followed, Joseph dispensed grain to the Egyptians and other people who were affected by the widespread famine. To create and administer all this, while surviving the political intrigue of an absolute monarchy, required exceptional talent.
Joseph Relieves the Poverty of Egypt’s People (Genesis 47:13-26)
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After the people ran out of money, Joseph allowed them to barter their livestock for food. This plan lasted for one year during which Joseph collected horses, sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys (Gen. 47:15-17). He would have had to determine the value of these animals and establish an equitable system for exchange. When food is scarce, people are especially concerned for the survival of themselves and their loved ones. Providing access to points of food distribution and treating people even-handedly become acutely important administrative matters.
When all of the livestock had been traded, people willingly sold themselves into slavery to Pharaoh and sold him the ownership of their lands as well (Gen. 47:18-21). From the perspective of leadership, this must have been awful to witness. Joseph, however, allowed the people to sell their land and to enter into servitude, but he did not take advantage of them in their powerlessness. Joseph would have had to see that these properties were valued correctly in exchange for seed for planting (Gen. 47:23). He enacted an enduring law that people return 20 percent of the harvest to Pharaoh. This entailed creating a system to monitor and enforce the people’s compliance with the law and establishing a department dedicated to managing the revenue. In all of this, Joseph exempted the priestly families from selling their land because Pharaoh supplied them with a fixed allotment of food to meet their needs adequately (Gen. 47:22, 26). Handling this special population would have entailed having a smaller, distinct system of distribution that was tailored for them.
Poverty and its consequences are economic realities. Our first duty is to help eliminate them, but we cannot expect complete success until God’s kingdom is fulfilled. Believers may not have the power to eliminate the circumstances that require people to make hard choices, but we can find ways to support people as they—or perhaps we ourselves—cope. Choosing the lesser of two evils may be necessary work and can be emotionally devastating. In our work, we may experience tension arising from feeling empathy for the needy, yet bearing responsibility to do what is good for the people and organizations we work for. Joseph experienced God’s guidance in these difficult tasks, and we also have received God’s promise that “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
Happily, by applying his God-given skill and wisdom, Joseph successfully brought Egypt through the agricultural catastrophe. When the seven years of good harvests came, Joseph developed a stockpiling system to store the grain for use during the coming drought. When the seven years of drought arrived, “Joseph opened the storehouses” and provided enough food to bring the nation through the famine. His wise strategy and effective implementation of the plan even allowed Egypt to supply grain to the rest of the world during the famine (Gen. 41:57). In this case, God’s fulfillment of his promise that Abraham’s descendants would be a blessing to the world occurred not only for the benefit of foreign nations, but even through the industry of a foreign nation, Egypt.
In fact, God’s blessing for the people of Israel came only after and through his blessing of foreigners. God did not raise up an Israelite in the land of Israel to provide for Israel’s relief during the famine. Instead God enabled Joseph, working in and through the Egyptian government, to provide for the needs of the people of Israel (Gen. 47:11-12). Nonetheless, we shouldn’t idealize Joseph. As an official in a sometimes repressive society, he became part of its power structure, and he personally imposed slavery on uncounted numbers of people (Gen. 47:21).
Applications from Joseph’s Management Experience (Genesis 41:46-57; 47:13-26)
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Genesis’s interest in Joseph’s management of the food crisis lies more in its effect on the family of Israel than in developing principles for effective management. Nonetheless, to the degree that Joseph’s extraordinary leadership can serve as an example for leaders today, we can derive some practical applications from his work:
1. Become as familiar as possible with the state of affairs as they exist at the beginning of your service.
2. Pray for discernment regarding the future so that you can make wise plans.
3. Commit yourself to God first and then expect him to direct and establish your plans.
4. Gratefully and appropriately acknowledge the gifts God has given you.
5. Even though others recognize God’s presence in your life and the special talents you have, do not broadcast these in a self-serving effort to gain respect.
6. Educate yourself about how to do your job and carry it out with excellence.
7. Seek the practical good for others, knowing that God has placed you where you are to be a blessing.
8. Be fair in all of your dealings, especially when the circumstances are grim and deeply problematic.
9. Although your exemplary service may propel you to prominence, remember your founding mission as God’s servant. Your life does not consist in what you gain for yourself.
10. Value the godliness of the myriad types of honorable work that society needs.
11. Generously extend the fruit of your labor as widely as possible to those who truly need it, regardless of what you think of them as individuals.
12. Accept the fact that God may bring you into a particular field of work under extremely challenging conditions. This does not mean that something has gone terribly wrong or that you are out of God’s will.
13. Have courage that God will fit you for the task.
14. Accept the fact that sometimes people must choose what they regard as the better of two very unpleasant yet unavoidable situations.
15. Believe that what you do will not only benefit those whom you see and meet, but also that your work has the potential to touch lives for many generations to come. God is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20).
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What was Joseph's successful management of the food crisis? ›
Joseph Relieves the Poverty of Egypt's People (Genesis 47:13-26) After the people ran out of money, Joseph allowed them to barter their livestock for food. This plan lasted for one year during which Joseph collected horses, sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys (Gen. 47:15-17).What are the 3 stages of Joseph's famine management? ›
This is the Joseph Strategy. A modern approach will have the three components, each with advantages and drawbacks. A judicious mix of all three — rationing, investment in technological change, and the voluntary reduction of consumption — will serve us best and do the least harm.How did Joseph manage Egypt's response to the famine? ›
Joseph used the reserve to feed the people during the seven years of famine. Unfortunately, at the end of the famine Joseph acquired the people and their land for Pharaoh so that the Egyptians became serfs to Pharaoh, who would continue to collect one-fifth of their produce from then on (47.20œ26).Why was Joseph successful in everything he did? ›
The LORD was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. Potiphar noticed this and realized that the LORD was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did.How did Joseph success? ›
Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph.What can we learn from Joseph and the famine? ›
Joseph's brothers needed grain for food, and Joseph showed mercy to them and gave them what they needed to survive. Like them we need Jesus to save us from our sins, and God shows us mercy by providing for our salvation by sending His only Son! This is a truth that we can thank God for today!How did Joseph treat his brother when he met them because of the famine? ›
So when Joseph's brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them.In what ways did Joseph show his leadership? ›
Joseph exemplified authentic leadership in practice and through years of life-changing hardship. Through his own values, self-control, compassion, and sense of purpose, he earned the trust of high officials, and even more importantly, he was found trustworthy by God, who was consistently blessed his leadership.What was Joseph's dream about famine? ›
So, Joseph was “brought from the dungeon” and shaved and changed his clothes. He then came before Pharaoh and told him that his dream meant there would be seven years of abundance in the land of Egypt followed by seven years of famine.What was Joseph's responsibility in Egypt? ›
He was taken to Egypt and eventually became steward to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials. Potiphar's wife tried unsuccessfully to seduce him and after false accusations were levelled at Joseph he was imprisoned. Due to his ability to interpret Pharaoh's dream he was made governor of Egypt.
What do we learn from Genesis 47? ›
The people are grateful to Joseph for saving their lives, even at the cost of their full freedom (Genesis 47:18–22). Unlike everyday Egyptians, Jacob's family continues to grow and prosper. Since they are provided with food from Joseph, they can hold on to their cash, livestock, and even the land they now own in Egypt.What struggles did Joseph have in the Bible? ›
Though eventually Joseph rose to power, wealth, and prominence, he experienced many dark days. His brothers hated him and sold him into slavery; he spent years in jail for choosing not to engage in sin, and he was forgotten by those he helped for quite some time. Despite all these trials, he kept his faith.What do we learn from the life of Joseph? ›
Joseph was lonely and missed his family, but he knew his God had not turned away from him but was there to encourage his heart. The Holy Spirit was also at work in his heart. God was working out a plan for His great nation.How was Joseph favored by God? ›
The brothers sold Joseph as a slave and he was taken to Egypt where he suffered greatly. But God loved Joseph and caused him to be promoted to the highest office in the land, giving him charge over the food supply for the whole nation.What is the story of Joseph storing food? ›
And Joseph went out from Pharaoh's presence and traveled throughout Egypt. During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it.How did Joseph preserve food for seven years? ›
Joseph organised the storage of all surplus grain during the seven years of good harvests. He asked that one fifth of each year's harvest should be required from farmers and stored on behalf of the government. The grain was stored in warehouses in nearby cities.What does the story of Joseph teach us about suffering? ›
The Joseph story becomes a really important part of the pattern of the suffering servant that God appoints to rule. But his rule involves him descending down into death on behalf of others so that through their suffering and death, they can be exalted and become a source of life to others.What lessons can we learn from the actions of St Joseph? ›
Saint Joseph was a worker. He was a simple craftsman who served his neighbors through his handiwork. He taught his foster son Jesus the value of hard work. It is likely that the humility Joseph exhibited in recorded Scripture spilled over into the simple approach he took to his work and providing for the Holy Family.What is the reason for famine in the Bible? ›
In the book of Samuel, we read that Israel endured a three-year famine in the time of David, considered Israel's greatest king. When David inquires as to the cause of the famine, he is told that it is due to the sins of his predecessor and mortal enemy, Saul.Why might it have been hard for Joseph to forgive his brothers? ›
It seems obvious that the brothers didn't believe that Joseph's previous forgiveness was sincere. They thought that Joseph's forgiveness was based on his love for his father and not a sincere love for them. When Joseph heard this message, he became very sad and wept.
How did God help Joseph to face all the challenges he encountered? ›
God brought good out of all the trials that Joseph faced. He brought good out of the rejection and betrayal. He brought good out of Joseph's imprisonment when he was falsely accused by Potiphar's Wife…and He brought good out of the seven year famine.What is the conflict of the story of Joseph? ›
The conflict between Joseph and his brothers seems to follow a very definite script: Joseph's two dreams (Gen 37:5–10). They are always lying behind the narrative, even when some of their aspects are frustrated instead of fulfilled.What is the lesson from Joseph leadership? ›
Joseph resisted the temptation to succumb to her advances, both out of loyalty to his master and out of his moral convictions and devotion to God. Showing loyalty and taking a moral stance rarely go unrewarded. When Joseph's rebuffed his seducer's advances, she accused him of attacking her, and he was thrown in jail.What two qualities did Joseph demonstrate throughout his life? ›
Instead he forgave them, recognizing God's sovereignty. Joseph showed true compassion and true forgiveness. Take advantage of opportunities given us by God- Joseph had a prime opportunity when he met Pharaoh and he fulfilled what God wanted him to do with it.How did God prepare Joseph for leadership? ›
From a young age, Joseph believed God had destined him for greatness. In dreams, God assured Joseph that he would rise to a position of leadership over his parents and brothers (Gen. 37:5-11). From Joseph's point of view, these dreams were evidence of divine blessing, rather than his own ambition.What are the two programs to prevent famine? ›
Answers. 1 Agricultural facilities should be provided by the government. 2 Water should be always stored in famine prone area.How is man responsible for famine? ›
The most common human cause of famine is warfare. In addition to destroying crops and food supplies, warfare disrupts the distribution of food through the strategic use of siege and blockade tactics and through the incidental destruction of transportation routes and vehicles.What is the number one cause of famine? ›
Poverty. Poverty is the greatest cause of hunger around the world – in both higher-wealth and low- to middle-income countries. Most people who are hungry live in extreme poverty, defined as income of $2.15 per day or less.How long was the famine before Joseph reconciled with his family? ›
For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.How many years of famine did Joseph predict? ›
The Joseph Effect is a term derived from the Old Testament story about the Pharaoh's dream as recounted by Joseph, which led ancient Egyptians to expect a crop famine lasting seven years to follow seven years of bountiful harvest.
What does 7 fat cows 7 thin cows mean? ›
Joseph correctly predicts that this means, “Immediately ahead are seven years of great abundance in all the land of Egypt. After them will come seven years of famine and all the abundance in the land of Egypt will be forgotten.Why is the story of Joseph so important? ›
“The story of Joseph, the son of Jacob who was called Israel, is a vivid representation of the great truth that 'all things work together for good to [those] who loved God. ' (See Rom. 8:28.) Joseph always seemed to do the right thing; but still, more importantly, he did it for the right reason.Why did Joseph's brothers go to Egypt for food? ›
After the famine began, Joseph sold grain to the people of Egypt and other nations. Genesis 42:1–5 tells how Jacob sent all of his sons except Benjamin to Egypt to buy food so they could survive the famine.Who came to Egypt for Joseph for food? ›
Genesis 42:5 New Living Translation (NLT)
So Jacob's sons arrived in Egypt along with others to buy food, for the famine was in Canaan as well.
Genesis 47:1–12 describes how Joseph's family officially arrived as landowners in Egypt. They are given the fertile region of Goshen. At court, Joseph's brothers formally request permission to settle there, and Jacob blesses Pharaoh twice.Why did Joseph sell the grain? ›
As the famine worsens, Egypt's peasants return to Joseph to beg for help. So Joseph sells them more grain, collecting “all the money that was to be found in the land of Egypt … as payment for the rations.” The people were still hungry.How did Joseph overcome those obstacles? ›
Joseph Rejected Bitterness and Chose to Forgive
As Joseph responded to suffering with faith, meekness, and humility, God molded and shaped a leader. And that leader would not only end up saving his betrayers' lives, but he would fully forgive them and provide abundantly for their needs.
Joseph suffered the hatred of his own family, the church of his day; Christ also suffered the hatred of his fellow Nazarenes, the church of his day. Joseph suffered ultimate and decisive rejection when sold into slavery; Christ suffered that same kind of rejection when he was crucified at Calvary.What were the three stages of Joseph's famine management? ›
This is the Joseph Strategy. A modern approach will have the three components, each with advantages and drawbacks. A judicious mix of all three — rationing, investment in technological change, and the voluntary reduction of consumption — will serve us best and do the least harm.What are the values of Joseph? ›
At Mass on St Joseph's day Father Bell said that St Joseph is our role model, we should try to be like him by showing the values of Compassion, Care, Thoughtfulness and Kindness. In a reading from the Bible, Max in p5 read about St Joseph showing the values of Courage and Faith.
What are the skills of Joseph? ›
Joseph's Real Skill
The real skill was in interpreting those dreams, and that was Joseph's skill. Joseph was not special because he was prophetic but because he knew how to interpret the dreams. In ancient Egypt, the priests were the interpreters of the dreams.
Joseph was first and foremost just unto God, rendering to Him what was His due. Since all things are due to God, Joseph was perfectly religious in prayer, in labor, and in love giving to God, even as an infant, the energy of his whole life.How was Joseph rewarded for obeying God? ›
Pharaoh gave Joseph the job of gathering all the food. Joseph was given a royal ring and fine clothes to wear. God rewarded Joseph for his obedience and faithfulness. God will take care of us and bless us when we obey and follow Him.What made Joseph a successful leader? ›
Joseph exemplified authentic leadership in practice and through years of life-changing hardship. Through his own values, self-control, compassion, and sense of purpose, he earned the trust of high officials, and even more importantly, he was found trustworthy by God, who was consistently blessed his leadership.What did Joseph accomplish in the Bible? ›
Due to his ability to interpret Pharaoh's dream he was made governor of Egypt. He wisely rationed the country's produce in preparation for a time of famine. Joseph is often seen as an Old Testament equivalent, or prefiguration, of Christ.What happened when Joseph's brothers came to Egypt for food? ›
Then ten of Joseph's brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph's brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. So Israel's sons were among those who went to buy grain, for the famine was in the land of Canaan also.What do we learn from the story of Joseph? ›
Joseph's dreams first get him into trouble, but his ability to understand them leads him to be chosen by the Pharaoh and to save the world. We could learn a lesson about the mysteries of how the world works. Believers and non-believers can see it as an illustration of the need to keep trying and persevere.What do you learn from Joseph leadership? ›
Joseph did what was right. He was an honorable, godly man. Careful about what he ate, who he hung out with, and how he spent the Sabbath, Joseph kept his distance from anything that would derail him spiritually. The foundation that roots all great leaders is conviction, doing what is right instead of what is easy.What are the good qualities of Joseph in the Bible? ›
He didn't hold a grudge against his brothers. Instead he forgave them, recognizing God's sovereignty. Joseph showed true compassion and true forgiveness. Take advantage of opportunities given us by God- Joseph had a prime opportunity when he met Pharaoh and he fulfilled what God wanted him to do with it.What does the story of Joseph teach us about forgiveness? ›
Forgiveness enabled Joseph not to seek revenge or become bitter and angry (Genesis 50:19-21). Forgiveness caused Joseph to become a loving and caring person. This was a special blessing from God. Loving forgiveness will prevent a person from seeking revenge that will hurt people.
How long was the famine before Joseph reconcile with his brothers? ›
For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.What happened to Joseph's family in the time of famine? ›
In the second year of famine, Joseph's half brothers were sent to Egypt to buy goods. When they came to Egypt, they stood before the Vizier but did not recognize him as their brother Joseph, who was now in his late 30s; but Joseph did recognize them and did not speak at all to them in his native tongue of Hebrew.What are some challenges that Joseph went through? ›
Joseph made three critical errors in judgment: He was indiscriminate—he didn't recognize the troubled situation in his family. He was insensitive—he didn't consider the impact of his actions on family members. He was immature—he didn't stop to think of the hurt that his actions could cause.What are some challenges that Joseph faced? ›
Though eventually Joseph rose to power, wealth, and prominence, he experienced many dark days. His brothers hated him and sold him into slavery; he spent years in jail for choosing not to engage in sin, and he was forgotten by those he helped for quite some time. Despite all these trials, he kept his faith.