Genesis 41:53–42:4

41  53 There came an end to the seven years of abundance in the land of Egypt. 54 The seven years of famine started to come, as Joseph had said. The famine was in every land, but in the land of Egypt, there was bread. 55 When the land of Egypt felt the famine, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all Egyptians, “Go to Joseph. Whatever he says, do!” 56 The famine was in all the land. Joseph opened all of the stores of grain and sold grain to the Egyptians. The famine grew stronger in the land of Egypt. 57 All lands came to Egypt, to Joseph, because the famine grew stronger everywhere.
     42 When Jacob saw there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why are you fearful? He said, “I have heard there is grain in Egypt. Go down there, and buy some for us so that we may live and not die.” So Joseph’s ten brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. But Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, Jacob did not send with his brothers because he thought, “Lest harm comes to him.”

Just like that, more than seven years of prosperity based on bountiful harvests, come to an end. Without the warning of dreams or a Farmer’s Almanac, the collapse would have been sudden and catastrophic.

The famine in all the lands was overwhelming. Only Egypt had bread because of the stored grain. It was as if a Noahic flood did not come again as fire, but famine. The one working a plan to save a people is Joseph. Admittedly it is first a saving of himself and the Egyptians. While we don’t hear about the storehouses being a vehicle to save animals, two-by-two, we learn that it is Egypt, as a whole, which corresponds to the ark.

Like Noah feeding the animals, Joseph controls the distribution of grain to those who come from anywhere and everywhere for sustenance. It would, indeed, be an uncountable amount of grain that was stored over seven years now being rationed out.

Back in Canaan, Jacob, like the rest of the world, recognized the unproductive land around him and paid attention to news that Egypt had grain to sell.

Practical Jacob quickly sends ten of his remaining sons to Egypt to bring back provisions for the family and flocks. Readers, though, do not hear about the slaughter of the flocks as there was nothing to feed them (imagine the logistics of transporting grain for a prosperous herdsman such as Jacob). The more quickly they act, the less expensive the grain will be—remember the rules of supply and demand.

In sending his sons, Jacob recognizes there is danger in doing so. Readers find this out as Jacob’s thoughts are recorded as his keeping Benjamin back lest harm befalls him.

Joseph’s story, seemingly about benefiting Pharaoh (and, of course, himself) begins to be turned into a story about Jacob/Israel and his descendants. The ark was a place of darkness for the year it rode the waters. That was child’s play in contrast to the unknown hundreds of years the Israelites spent in Egypt—first as Egypt’s savior and then as Egypt’s slaves.

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