Feast or famine! The world experienced both surplus and scarcity during the time of Joseph’s rule in Egypt. Listen to this episode to see how God used a seven-year famine to accomplish His plan for the nation of Israel.
Listen to the audio:
Feast or Famine
In this episode:
Learn more about the merit of Egypt’s tax structure
Uncover God’s providence through feast or famine
Get answers to the following study questions:
- How did Egypt’s flat tax allow the government to function?
- What was Joseph’s role during the years of plenty?
- How do we see dreams fulfilled in this historical account?
- What was God’s purpose during this season of Joseph’s life?
- What application can we glean from Joseph’s example of handling feast or famine?
The population during the time of famine was able to get by on much less.
It’s interesting how human nature really—what is it, somebody says, “Once you’ve tasted a good glass of wine, milk tastes awful”? Well, the point is, once you get used to having good things it’s awful hard to go back to ordinary things.
But this twenty percent flat tax—no, I’m not advocating a flat tax; please don’t get that from me. But I’m just telling you this is the model that God endorses through the life of Joseph and it was sufficient to deal with the greatest nation in history at that time.
Sufficient to feed the nation, to supply—well, if you know the story, the famine was not just centered in Egypt; it was all over what we would think of as the Near East of that day.
What wound up happening is that the wealth of nations (plural) began to be bought and purchased by the nation of Egypt.
The words of Scripture are never incidental.
The Bible says, “Every word of God is pure. Do not add to it or take away from it. They’re like gold tried in the furnace seven times.”
Every word is precisely what the Holy Spirit wanted there in that context. And in this history of Joseph there’s tremendous insight.
This was one of the worst depressions in world history.
When you go back and look back at secular records from those days and get the insight even from those braggadocios Pharaohs that followed, the horrible depression of our 1920s and 30s was a cakewalk compared to what they were going through during that period of time. Most of us are moaning and groaning about what happened to our 401ks in 2008.
I’ve got news for you: That was nothing compared to the fact that nothing grew, nothing worked. The entire economy was shut down for seven years!
Think about that for a moment.
The sale of goods was a model of how this is supposed to work. It transferred the wealth of many nations to Egypt.
Here’s how God seems to instruct Joseph.
Bread—that was the normal, what we would think of as the consumables of the day—was not given away; it was sold by the government to the people who wanted it.
Instead of going down to Kroger or just to Walmart, there was a government store and you went to the government store and bought your bread or your peas or your chicken in a pot.
You bought that from the government because that time there was nothing functioning. All of it was stored in the granaries and in the cattle that the government owned by purchase rights.
When the money ran out, the cattle that they owned were traded for necessities. When the cattle were gone, the land was sold.
Now, remember the buyer is the government; the seller is the people. There’s no welfare; nothing like that going on. Yes, there were people that needed help and yes, they were undergirded by the government of the day.
If you read the secular accounts from that period of time, they were not heartless, but it was not a giveaway program.
When the land was gone, guess what? The government made jobs for them, but notice that was the last thing that was done.
The summary verse is in the last chapter of the book of Genesis. Everything was preserved by God for the nation of Israel. It was in God’s long plan here.
He had already told Abraham two generations prior to this that His people would be captive in the land of Egypt for four hundred years. Joseph knew that and Joseph was responding in response to the vision that God had provided through prophecy.
Today we have that prophecy recorded in Scripture and we can look to the operational manual, if you will. It’s recorded for us and we know the end game as well as the short game.
Joseph said, “Do not be afraid for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant it evil against me, but God meant it for good. In order to bring it about as it is this day to save many people alive.”
Another little note: The number of people that came from Canaan into Egypt, counting Joseph and his family, were seventy people. Four hundred years later there were millions that left in the Exodus!
After the governmental years are over and the famine begins, apparently within the first few months of this famine, Jacob essentially says, “Well, we’ve got to go down to Egypt because that’s where food is.”
Do you remember the first dream that Joseph had?
The first dream was that all eleven of his brothers would bow down before him and here it is coming to fruition some twenty years after God had given him the vision. Don’t miss that.
Sometimes God’s insight comes long before the event happens.
Here Joseph, now fully acclimated as an Egyptian, as an Egyptian ruler, now sitting in charge of all of the nation, now sees his eleven brothers bowing down on their faces before him.
Sometimes God seems like He’s holding back.
“The Lord is slow to anger and great in power but will not at all acquit the wicked.”
There’s another little verse my father used to quote to me when I was a snotty teenager. It’s in Numbers.
“Be sure your sins will find you out.”
Oh boy, I hated that verse. Yeah, God knows; He sure does.
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Did you miss Part 1? Listen here.
Learn more about God’s providence through feast or famine in The Book of Beginnings, Volume Three.
Listen to previous episodes of the Heroes and Villains of the Bible podcast by clicking on the links below:
- Adam and Eve
- Episode 1: A Very Good Relationship Gone Bad – First Couple, First Heroes and Villains
- Episode 2: Pulling Back the Curtain on the Ultimate Villain – How the Spiritual Realm Impacts Humanity
- Episode 3: Satan’s Triple Threat Strategy – This Strategy Is Still Used Today
- Episode 4: The Pivot Point in Scripture – Consequences for Rebellion and Hope for Redemption
- Cain and Abel
- Episode 5: A Very Different Earth – Explore the Pre-Flood World of Cain and Abel
- Episode 6: Centuries, Cain, and Corruption – Sin’s Effects and Eve’s Hope
- Episode 7: Marriage, Family, and Sacrifice – Formation of the First Family and their Offering to God
- Episode 8: Brother’s Keeper – Arrogant Cain Murders Righteous Abel
- Lamech and Enoch
- Episode 9: How Evil Infiltrated Society – The Flagrant Rebellion of Lamech
- Episode 10: Ancient Civilization Rivals Modern – Population Growth, Family Reunions, and Sociological Impact
- Episode 11: The Conqueror vs. The Preacher of Righteousness – A Contrasting Character Study of Lamech and Enoch
- Episode 12: Evolution Paints the Wrong Picture – Discover the Truth about Ancient Humans—Hint: They Weren’t Grunting Cavemen!
- Noah and the Nephilim
- The Sons of Noah
- Episode 16: What Happened After the Sons of Noah Left the Ark? – The Second Age: From Worldwide Destruction to Preservation and Repopulation
- Episode 17: There’s No Such Thing as Race – What You Need to Know About Race, Rainbows, and Retribution
- Episode 18: How Did the Sons of Noah Transform Civilization? – Explore the Development of Major Nations of the World
- Abraham and Lot
- Episode 19: Who Was Abraham? Trace the Physical and Spiritual Journey of the Father of Many Nations
- Episode 20: How Abram Interacted with VIPs of the Ancient World – Meet the Pharaoh of Egypt, the King over Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Mysterious King of Salem
- Episode 21: God Always Keeps His Promises – How Abraham Received His New Name, Sarah Conceived the Promised Heir, and Lot Escaped a Fiery Judgment
- Sarah and Hagar
- Episode 22: What’s the Deal with Sarah and Hagar? See What Happens When Men and Women Deviate from God’s Plan
- Episode 23: Will We See Hagar and Ishmael in Heaven? Trace the History of Hagar’s Banishment, Ishmael’s Descendants, and Abraham’s Name Change
- Episode 24: Who Will Become the Friends of God? An Eternal Principle Revealed through the Bondwoman and Free Woman
- Isaac and Ishmael
- Episode 25: Modern Middle East Conflict Caused by Isaac and Ishmael – Discover the Origin of the 4,500 Year Struggle in the Arab World and Why it Persists Today
- Episode 26: Redemption Revealed through the Sacrifice of Isaac – The Sacrifice of an Innocent Son by a Loving Father
- Episode 27: Isaac and Jesus Christ – Willing Heart, Obedient Submission, Selfless Sacrifice
- Eliezer and Rebekah
- Jacob and Esau
- Birthright and Blessing
- Jacob and the Four Wives
- Jacob and Laban
- Jacob’s Family in Canaan
- Episode 43: Jacob Wrestles with God – Follow Jacob’s Journey from Laban to Esau—See His Encounter with the Preincarnate Christ
- Episode 44: The Tragedy of Dinah – Jacob’s Name Change, the Encounter with Esau, and the Defilement of Dinah
- Episode 45: Messianic Line – Trace the Line of the Messiah through the Life of Judah
- Joseph the Slave
- Episode 46: Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors – Unveil the Purpose of the Creator in a Flashy Poncho and Crazy Dreams
- Episode 47: Temptation and Unjust Punishment – Life Lesson: Sometimes Being Obedient Will Cost You
- Episode 48: Dream Interpretation – What Magicians, Soothsayers, and Wise Men Couldn’t Do
- Joseph the Governor