In verses 1-12, Pharaoh meets Joseph’s family. This is a way for Pharaoh to confirm all of the things he has heard about them. In these first twelve verses, the following things of significance happen:
- Pharaoh confirms with Joseph’s family that they are indeed shepherds
- Seeing their competence, Pharaoh makes them chief herdsmen of his livestock
- Pharaoh gives them the best part of the land for their livestock in Goshen
- Jacob (Israel) meets Pharaoh, seems to gain his respect, and blesses him
- Joseph provides them with enough food during this time of famine
In verses 13-31, Joseph sees through his obligation to take care of the people of Egypt as well as Pharaoh’s interests as the famine wears on. With two years of intense famine remaining, the people of Egypt are at a great disadvantage.
With the first year, the currency system of Egypt is no longer viable as their economy breaks down due to the famine. The money has no value and there is no food to purchase. The populace, knowledgeable of the food that Pharaoh has stored away, approaches Joseph. They offer him their livestock in return for food during the first year. They offer him their land in return for food in the second year.
Through Joseph’s prowess as an organizational leader, and, primarily, the blessings of God in the foreknowledge of the famine that helped Joseph to prepare Pharaoh for this advantage, Pharaoh is able to both provide for the Egyptians and profit from the famine. This is all part of the journey of God’s people. The Israelites, as they will come to be called, will be taken advantage of as slaves in the years to come, preparing them for an incomparable exodus.
This chapter, a resolution of sorts following the drama of the family’s being reunited, does have one moment in it that should be memorable. Israel asks Joseph to promise to bury him in the land from which he came, rather than in Egypt, so that he could rest for his fathers. Israel’s desire to be buried with his fathers is telling in that he (like most of us), wants his final resting place to be a familiar one. But is there another meaning here in that Israel knows that this foreign place will not also be the final resting place for his children and their children?
Being strangers in a strange land, they must have the sense that they are being taken care of by God through Joseph. But these Egyptians do not have their values and they have strange practices and different gods. God is taking care of the bloodline that will eventually bring Jesus into the world, but there is a very long way to go yet and there will be prices that will need to be paid by both the righteous and the wicked.