They came for the food and spent the next 400 years as slaves.
I’ve been trying to read through the bible in a year for many years. The first time I got through some of Genesis in an intensive study. Then I got all the way to 1 Chronicles in a “not-so-intensive” study. That was a few months of reading. This third (or is it my fourth) time I had a, “hit me in the head with a brick” moment… I saw as clear as day how the Israelites ended up as slaves to Pharaoh!
I thought everyone but me must know. I spoke with one of the leaders of my study group, telling her that I had one of those aHA moments, and shared what I learned. She said that she knew the story of the Israelites being slaves in Egypt, but never put two and two together of how they got there in the first place. It was then that I decided to share my, aha moment.
But my first writing of this article WAS WRONG! We hear stories. We repeat stories. But not all of us study for ourselves. Or if we do study, it’s not as in depth as it needs to be to catch or learn all that’s in the Word of God. And honestly, I now, more clearly, understand why it takes centuries to learn and understand the Word – the Holy Bible. I spent months consumed by the story of the Exodus and the slavery of the Hebrews. And even after months of study I missed key elements. Therefore, I’ve updated this post. So if you read this post when it was first published, you’ll need to read it again. If you haven’t read it yet, get a warm cup o something and join me…
The Jews were not the only people enslaved.
We’ve all heard the story of Pharaoh enslaving and brutalizing the Israelites. But during my reading of Genesis 47, I learned, it was not only the Israelites who were enslaved.
First, we must see the covenant God made with Abram in Genesis 15:13-21:
13 He said to Abram, “Know for sure that your offspring will live as foreigners in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them. They will afflict them four hundred years. 14 I will also judge that nation, whom they will serve. Afterward they will come out with great wealth, 15 but you will go to your fathers in peace. You will be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation they will come here again, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full.”
17 It came to pass that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold, a smoking furnace, and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 In that day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying, “I have given this land to your offspring, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates: 19 the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (WEB)
(To read where the land is located, in verses 18-20, you should read Numbers 34:1-12. You’ll probably also have to look up the current day names for the locations.)
While Abram knew what was to be, he didn’t know when.
God directs our steps as evidenced by Joseph’s journey. He spent time as a slave, prisoner, and servant when he didn’t deserve anything that happened to him. But it wasn’t a matter of deserving or not deserving to suffer or go through all that he experienced. It was obvious “after the fact,” that it was God’s plan. For God’s promises to be fulfilled, things had to happen in order.
We now pick up where Joseph was second in command to Pharaoh because he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream:
Genesis 41:47-49 47 During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. 48 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. 49 Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure. (NIV)
Genesis 41:54-55 Then the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had predicted. The famine also struck all the surrounding countries, but throughout Egypt there was plenty of food. 55 Eventually, however, the famine spread throughout the land of Egypt as well. And when the people cried out to Pharaoh for food, he told them, “Go to Joseph, and do whatever he tells you.” (NLT)
This is the time when everyone in the region was going to Joseph for food. This is why Joseph’s family ends up going to Egypt… to purchase grain. Of course, they ended up in front of Joseph and eventually moved to Egypt. Now remember, Joseph’s family was “Israel.” The twelve tribes came from Jacob/Israel, Joseph’s father.
Genesis 47:11 11 And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses (Goshen), as Pharaoh had commanded. (ASV)
Because there was no food in the entire region, the people purchased food (grain) the first year (with money), then traded their livestock for grain in the second year.
But I have to wonder, why didn’t they save up their own grain. They had to have known that Joseph was saving grain, because he built great buildings to house the grain, in each city. Didn’t anyone think to do the same? Maybe they did save grain, but not enough to last for seven years?
Genesis 47:13-17 explains that there was no bread in all the land. Egypt and Canaan had dwindled. The people spent all of their money on grain. When that was gone, the people asked for bread. Joseph had them exchange their livestock for bread. These people were the Egyptians and Canaanites.
We pick up in Genesis 47:18-19 where the Egyptians and Canaanites come to Joseph for food:
18 When that year was over, they came to him the following year and said, “We cannot hide from our lord the fact that since our money is gone and our livestock belongs to you, there is nothing left for our lord except our bodies and our land. 19 Why should we perish before your eyes—we and our land as well? Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in bondage to Pharaoh. Give us seed so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate.” (NIV)
Joseph bought up all of the Egyptians land as stated in Genesis 47:20-24. He could have let them all die and then take their land, but he didn’t. He allowed them to live in their homes, use the land to till the soil, and keep all except one-fifth of the grain. Also, if you notice the wording in Genesis 47:11, you will see that Joseph did not keep any of this land for himself or give extra to his family. He did what Pharaoh told him to do.
In verse 25, the Egyptians pledge their land to Pharaoh, and then give their lives too! Holy Moly!
Gen 47:25 They said, “You have saved our lives! Let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants.” (WEB)
The people had land, a roof over their head, and food in their belly. As far as I can tell were comfortable even though they were tilling the soil for Pharaoh. What more could they want?
Finally we get to the Israelites:
Gen 47:27 Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number. (NIV)
The Israelites were able to greatly increase in number because
Pharaoh gave them land and provided for them.
When Joseph took livestock as payment for grain, it gave his brothers more work, for there was a lot more livestock to maintain. I questioned if Joseph knew that by taking the livestock as trade, it would increase his family’s wealth. I’m sure he did, but then I realized that it didn’t matter, because the Word says:
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)
Jacob/Israel’s sons were paid for their work. They were making money, had food, livestock, land, and housing. Of course they were able to increase. Why would they want to or even think of moving?
From our vantage point, we might tend to wonder why the Israelites wouldn’t pick up and move after the new Pharaoh came into power or at the first hint that the new Pharaoh had issues with the Israelites. Maybe they didn’t know until it was too late. These are some of the things that clutter my brain, but they are not the point of this writing.
Exodus 1 is where the oppression begins because the “new Pharaoh” who’s name cannot be proven does not know Joseph, therefore he does not keep prior agreements made with Joseph. He is worried about the increase of Israelites.
Exodus 1:8-14 8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who didn’t know Joseph. 9 He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we. 10 Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and it happen that when any war breaks out, they also join themselves to our enemies, and fight against us, and escape out of the land.”
11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. They built storage cities for Pharaoh: Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out. They were grieved because of the children of Israel. 13 The Egyptians ruthlessly made the children of Israel serve, 14 and they made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and in brick, and in all kinds of service in the field, all their service, in which they ruthlessly made them serve. (WEB)
Verses 11-14 are what we remember about the story. But it is God who made this plan. He was and is in control. So now you can see how they came for the food and spent the next 400 years as slaves.
Pharaoh made it unbearable and wouldn’t release them from their servitude. Out of fear, he persecuted and abused them in hopes of keeping them down. We can see how that worked.
The Israelites could have moved before the new Pharaoh reigned. But they chose to stay. Why do “we” stay when we should go? People have a difficult time leaving what is familiar and/or comfortable, even if it’s pain.
God forgave their sins regardless of what they did to get into that position in the first place. Sometimes it’s not necessarily something we did. It’s what has to be, to get us where we are supposed to be. The Lord forgives our transgressions and His mercies are new each day.
Isaiah 43:25 25 “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake,
And I will not remember your sins.(NASB)
Lamentations 3:22-23 22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends![a]
His mercies never cease. 23 Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.(NLT)
However, we must remember this: God’s order is not our order. God’s timing is not our timing. That’s not to say we don’t sometimes feel imprisoned. And we certainly have times when we complain that life isn’t fair. But we should not be upset with God’s plan. Of course we are allowed to be upset with the circumstance. God understands. He really does. So WE have to understand that it could be 40 years before we see results or get an answer.
|My bible study leader prayed for 40 years before her brother finally came to know the Lord. Things may look grim, disappointing, or may even be down right horrible right now and for many years. Don’t lose faith. Don’t lose heart. Rejoice in what is to come. You will see God’s glory.Has there been a time in your life where you felt you were suffering, but in the end, it all worked out for good and you finally saw God’s plan? Please share in the comments and help someone else along their journey.©2014 Susie Glennan
All Rights Reserved.References:
WEB – World English Bible
ASV – American Standard Version
NIV – New International Version
NASB – New American Standard Bible
NLT – The New Living Translation
Answers In Genesis
47. A Proper Perspective of Poverty and Prosperity (Genesis 47:13-31)
 Hitchcocks Bible Names Directory on Biblegateway.com – Amorites
 Jewish Encyclopedia – Amorites
What is really mind blowing is I see this story played out in my own life. Too many areas where I’m the one who gave up control – and I paid. I think there’s a significance to “came for the food” and ending up slaves. I’ve been a slave to sugar and coffee and potatoes and .. the list goes on. For me it’s a little here and a little there – but no more. This year I close the door permanently to letting food keep me a slave – to letting anything but the grace of God have control in my life.
Susie Glennan says
AMEN! You and me both! Thanks for your insight!