The Evangelical Universalist Forum

How Pharaoh bought all of Egypt

Hi folks,
This is my first post, good to be here. I can’t quite believe I’ve only just found this forum (and this book, which I’ve ordered) having been struggling to find credible/non-crazy sources for discussion and information on universal reconciliation on the 'net, ideally UK based. I listen to quite a lot of Stephen E. Jones (more impressed by his OT stuff than his current day epoch-changing stuff…), a bit of L Ray Smith and some of Gary Amirault’s resources too.

Anyway, I’ve done a search and this typology doesn’t seem to be mentioned on this site (apologies if that’s incorrect). I hope this is useful to someone; it’s essentially a distillation of something I learned through listening to Stephen Jones that I created for my blog.

Hi Farlsborough, welcome to the forum. I’ve read your post. You’ve presented some good food for thought. Yet looking at this story from a different point of view, it may also reveal another truth. Had Joseph’s brothers been busy with the Lord’s work instead of being filled with jealousy and greed, they could have been preparing themselves for the famine that eventually came upon the land. But instead, they were caught unprepared and thus turned to man to solve their problems. In this they were deceived. They ended up giving away all that they had, their lands and livestock, selling themselves and their children into slavery for only temporary sustenance. This was a big price to pay for what they got in return. It’s how one is no longer the head, but becomes the tail instead. And so it was that the Lord had to save them in the Exodus. As you mention, the same theme is repeated throughout the bible, for example in the story of Jacob and Esau as well.

From the L. Ray Smith material with which I’ve interacted so far I really appreciate what he has to say, but dude! the text format on his website makes it sooo difficult to get thru it. I’m slogging thru the 1st of his articles on the Book of Revelation and it’s taken me months to finish just a few paragraphs!

Your breakdown’s real nice. Especially the parallels you’ve drawn between death and the pit into which Yoseph [Joseph] was cast; resurrection and his removal from the pit; skyward ascension and our hero’s rise through the ranks!

For some reason that’s not obviously evident to me the Orthodox Jewish Bible translation correlates Messiah’s “One Body” in Ephesians 4 with Yoseph’s buying (“redeeming”) Mizraîm [Egypt] and all of her people, “bodies and land,” for Paroh [Pharaoh] in Genesis 47. So it recently got me thinking about Paroh as God here, but you’ve put it so succinctly well (and as you can probably tell by the length of this post, succinctness is not my strong suit). It reminds also of how, a couple of books later, in Leviticus 25, as Yisra’el [Israel] is receiving directions regarding his new habitat, God emphasises to the people that He is the Landlord and they are merely His tenant workers. This concept is closely akin to the view of most of the inhabitants of, e.g., precolonial Africa (where Egypt was, and out of which God is said to have called His Son [the divine son in this case being both Israel & Jesus {see Exodus 4:22-23, Hosea 11:1 & Matthew 2:14-15}]) and North America: i.e. that the land didn’t belong to them, rather they belonged to the land. In parts of East Africa (where, incidentally, some of the largest populations of modern African Jews have lived) it goes sharply against the grain of custom to sell one’s ancestral land because, in traditional thought, one cannot “own” it like other pieces of property which are freely bought and sold. Technically it is the community (generally composed of extended family with strong blood-ties from village to village) which owns such land, and individuals and families hold it in trust in order to hand it down to succeeding generations. This is virtually the same situation prescribed in the Torah for the Promised Land.

This also foreshadows the cycles of seven years which Yisra’el is required to observe once he returns to Qena’an [Canaan], of which the 7-day week is a microcosm. Just as he shall work in six days and rest on the seventh one, so also in six years shall he work but both he and the land shall rest in the seventh year, which is special/holy/set-apart. During the time when no human or animal in the land is working, it is God Who tills the earth (though without injuring its surface with hardware) and causes it to be especially abundant in order to feed man (especially the poor and other needy members of the Family) and beast. Consequences come later after Yisra’el has failed to give the land (especially the poor and needy) the due R&R and is displaced into other territories to compensate the worn-out and corrupted earth for a total of seventy instances of missed Sabbath-Years.

In short, the sequence is repeated: a build-up to abundance which is then followed by dearth.

As Farlsborough says: “this Pharaoh allowed the Israelites to multiply and prosper, having weathered the famine. It was a future king who did the enslaving and oppressing, and at that stage we have entered the book of Exodus and the types and shadows have changed.”

It appears to me, moreover, that Yisra’el is never enslaved in Genesis 47 at all. That verse (47:15) and the overall passage might seem to imply that the house of Yisra’el was included among the people speaking to Yoseph but it actually never explicitly states this, and in fact the chapter in its entirety seems to be making a distinction between the Yisra’eli and the locals, albeit a somewhat subtle one if you’re not looking at the larger spread of the narrative in one sweep.

First, both Mizraîm and Qena’an “fainted” because the hunger pressed its face hard against both territories (v. 13). Then the economy, apparently, of the entire region is the next thing to go faint because Yoseph has collected all the silver in both territories and brought it into the king’s house to pay for the foodstuff that’s being sold (v. 14). It is only then that “all Mizraîm” comes to Yoseph in beggary, admitting that they’re fresh out of silver. Yoseph then agrees to provide more food in exchange for the people’s livestock.

No direct interaction in this supply/demand exchange is ever alluded to having taken place between Yoseph and his relatives from Qena’an, nor between him and any other Qena’ani [Canaanites] for that matter. The passage simply says that he collected all the silver in Mizraîm and Qena’an before all Mizraîm came to beg him for bread. And then “they” (presumably still just “all Mizraîm”) willingly sold both themselves and their land to the king once they had no more livestock to trade, whereupon Yoseph relocated them into cities, presumably to work for their new landlord there in order to pay for their food (vv. 17-21), “from one end of the border of Mizraîm and until its far end.” This last statement from v. 21 is extremely ambiguous as to what one border-end of Egypt to the far-end could be referring to. It does not necessarily mean, like many English translations imply, every square inch of whatever territory lay within the borders of the kingdom at the time. It could alternatively be interpreted that Yoseph simply collected everyone, including those dwelling in remoter, less-populated regions of the realm (most of Egypt has actually been hot desert for thousands of years going back to the time in view here), and put them in royal cities in one region of the country, perhaps the Nile Delta, where there would be the biggest amounts of the country’s fresh-water supply, and which incidentally is actually the far [northern] end of Egypt (and also by the border of Africa and Asia).

When this story is read it most likely conjures up the image of a powerful centralised empire where the authority of the king and of his family was recognised absolutely throughout the land. For the period in question this is most likely not the case at all. Yoseph and his family ended up in Egypt possibly towards the beginning of an era of great economic and imperial decline in the country, so much so that Egyptologists have branded it an “Intermediate Period.” For about two hundred years, during the Pharaonic dynasties numbered 13 to 17, many different individuals were competing for control over territory, and few of their reigns lasted very long. Egypt was, broadly speaking, divided between north (where the Delta was/is) and south (towards what is now Sudan, the Nile getting thinner and thinner the further upstream * you go). The 13th & 14th dynasties belonged to the more indigenous Kememu who ruled in the south at the same time that the 15th & 16th dynasties, belonging to the more foreign Hekau-Khaseshet (“Strange-Land Rulers,” as the Kememu called them, and which in Greek became Hyksos), were ruling in the north.

The Kememu bitterly resented being ruled by foreign invaders—understandably so—and so when the Hekau-Khaseshet were violently driven out and the Two Lands (N & S Egypt) were reunified, the monarchs of the now-new 18th dynasty set about on a project of obliterating the memory of their foes and all vestiges of their control: standard operating procedure if you didn’t like your regnal predecessor(s). According to one school of thought, Yoseph was the prime minister to one or more of the Hekau-Khaseshet monarchs, who are thought to have been an agglomeration of Amurru [Amorites, who, according to Gen. 10:15-16, were Canaanites] and perhaps various Semite groups. Maybe some of the latter were even relatives of Yisra’el and Yoseph descended from Abraham. (Remember that Yoseph was first sold by his brothers to their own cousins who were Midianite-Medanite Ishmaelites who then sold him to Potiphar [Gen. 37:27-28, 36].) It’s also thought that the Hekau-Khaseshet would’ve been friendly to Yoseph and his family because they were all pretty much aliens in an alien land together, even though it was now aliens occupying the upper echelons of power in at least [the northern] half the country.

So for one thing the definition “borders of Egypt” in that era would’ve been a rather fluid term, or at best, it would not necessarily include every aspect described by the term “Egypt” in the times when the empire’s muscles were flexed to 110% volume. This was actually a very low point in the empire’s overall history. But at the end of this low point, as is said in this same thought-school, some generations after the seven lean years were over, it would fit to say that “Now a new king arose in Mizraîm who did not know Yoseph” (Exodus 1:8), one of the Tuthmosides, who then enslaved the house of Yisra’el. If the Kememu lumped the Yisra’eli together with the Hekau-Khaseshet, especially if Yisra’el was closely associated with the expelled monarchy, the indigenous population’s animosity towards them could be framed even more solidly within the period’s context.

Towards the beginning of Genesis 47, when Yoseph announces to the Paroh that his family has arrived in Mizraîm, the Paroh is quick to offer them any part of the country they want to settle in, and suggests Goshen, “the best of the land… And if you know that there are mighty men among them, designate them as rulers over my own livestock.” (v. 6) Now it never comes up again whether or not Yoseph followed up on the king’s job offer to his family, but the terminology used here is one of much more than merely them having some additional animal-keeping responsibilities. He is granting them a brand of aristocracy. Once they are settled, they receive food rations for every single mouth in every single family unit, down to the little babies, apparently for free (vv. 11-12).

Yoseph’s rotten brothers basically get paid with goodness in return for their previous evil. The Paroh says to Yoseph: “If you know that any of your brothers are capable fellers then I’ve got this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them in the livestock biz.” This is quite outrageous considering that the last time (unless I’ve missed something) Yoseph interacted with these dudes in connection with livestock he had only “a bad report of them [to give] to his father” when he was 17 (Gen. 37:2). Yoseph goes from being the tattle-tale kid bringing up charges against his brothers to being their royal deliverer and protector.

Vv. 13-26 is the account of how the king came to own all of the ground in the kingdom but then after that we jump back to [the seemingly separate land of] Goshen in v. 27 where Yisra’el doesn’t seem to be doing badly at all, no sir-ee. “So Yisra’el was settled in the land of Mizraîm, upon the earth of Goshen, and there they had properties *, and were fruitful and multiplied exceedingly.” Note that this immediately follows the verse noting the properties owned by the king and the priests.

Fast-forward to Ch. 50 almost twenty years later: The death of 147-year-old Yisra’el. Yoseph ensures that his father is treated to a full-on embalming and mummification in the style of the Kememu, complete with forty days of prep followed by Mizraîm weeping for him for seventy days. After this, with the king’s permission, Yoseph and the entire house of Yisra’el actually leave and go into the Promised Land, leaving only their children, flocks and herds behind, crossing the Yarden [Jordan] River and arriving at the family tomb in Makhpelah Field with a huge retinue including all the elders of Egypt and a virtual army of chariots and horsemen. And there they entomb Yisra’el’s sarcophagus, mourning for him an additional seven days so dramatically that the Qena’ani of the area even name the place “The Egyptians’ Weeping.”

Presumably once back in Mizraîm, Yoseph reassures his brothers that he has no lurid revenge plans against them and will maintain not only them but also their children (v. 21), which makes me think of Jesus’ prayer to His Father to forgive us since we don’t/didn’t know what we are/were doing, and which request I perceive as having been granted by His allowing Messiah to persevere through His ordeal into and then back from the foreign land (Death) in order to bring “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10).

In the next chapter (i.e. Exodus 1), just before “a new king rose up on Mizraîm”, there’s an even more forceful report of the Yisra’eli being blessed where they are: “And Yoseph died, all his brothers, and all that generation. But the children of Yisra’el were:

  • fruitful and
  • increased abundantly,
  • multiplied and
  • grew exceedingly mighty; and
  • the land was filled with them”
    (vv. 6-7).

That’s why I don’t think any of the Yisra’eli were ever enslaved in Mizraîm before Exodus 1:8. The sole exception would be Yoseph, who foreshadows the enslavement of the entire family in that land generations after his own death. As for the locals who sold themselves to the king (or even if we do in fact include the Yisra’eli among them), my assumption is that once the dearth ended about four years after their sale (see Gen. 45:6 & 47:17-20), the land began to be fruitful again and everybody eventually got to go back home, even if “home” was now owned by the king. Even that state of affairs, I imagine, would naturally have changed when a new dynasty came into power (and one surely did eventually, even if it’s not necessarily in the timeframe that I’m proposing). This too would be a further foreshadowing of the cycles of Sabbath-Years in the Promised Land, where lands which had been sold off for debt-payments would be returned to their original owners so that the territory designated in the Torah for a particular tribe of Yisra’el would ultimately remain in that tribe’s possession. Moreover, indentured servants and slaves would be set free, and everyone in the land flowing with milk and honey would have a warm, safe place to lay his/her head, with a variety of free foodstuffs for an entire year. This is what Jesus is referring to, when quoting the prophet Yeshayah [Isaiah], as He proclaims His having been anointed in order to bring liberty to the captives, although in Messiah’s use it has an infinitely broader implication.

True, although in many feudal state conditions, especially in Ancient Egypt, when the king or the aristocracy was the landlord, and the means of paying one’s rent was to be worked to the bone in order to meet taxation quotas, there’ve been instances of peasant populations fleeing en masse into the deserts in order to avoid this lifestyle. During the first European colonisation of Egypt, i.e., when Macedonians and Romans occupied the Two Lands (more than a thousand years after Yoseph’s time and closer to Jesus’ birth), it became so bad that the Ptolemaioi [the Macedonian dynasty] coined a name for this phenomenon: anakhoresis, “withdrawal from the area,” and tried to ban it in the 150s BC. So it seems there’ve been some mini-exoduses out of urban Egypt both before and after Mosheh [Moses]. Incidentally the term anchorite, referring to a hermit, comes from the same Greek word describing this flight into the desert. It so happens that Anthony the Anchorite a.k.a. St Anthony the Great, who legend credits with being the pioneer of Christian monasticism, was an Ancient Egyptian. Also, it was apparently was not for especially different reasons that monasticism gained so much appeal in his lifetime (about 200 years after the Ptolemaioi).*

Another interesting type is that Pharaoh did not let the Israelites go until God ransomed them with the firstborn of Egypt. It was then that He freed them from slavery.

Fast forward to Christ’s time. He, as Firstborn of every creature, gave Himself a ransom for all, and this is why God will have all mankind to be saved (see 1 Timothy 2:4-6).

One who is ransomed must be freed.

A further point I find of interest is as follows:—- Joseph intentionally disguised himself from his brothers and spoke with them harshly, and they never recognised him Gen 42:7-8 = Christ speaking harshly with his generation of Jews, yet they were blinded as not to recognise him John 12:40. Joseph wasn’t going to reveal himself to his brothers until Benjamin was present, the youngest of that Generation from his fathers / Israel’s loins, also he was the only brother who wasn’t guilty of Joseph’s betrayal. Joseph said that his face wouldn’t be seen again, until the coming of Benjamin Gen 43:3 = The guiltless generation who produces fruit in accordance with Christ’s words/teachings Matt 24: 32-34, It is only to such a generation, that Christ will reveal himself to Gen 45: 1-3. It will be then that their eyes will see Gen 45:12, [ie] you won’t see me again until you say blessed is he that comes in the name of the lord Matt 23:39. Christ wont be revealed to Israel, until a guiltless Generation has been born and are ready to learn from their older Generations / brothers mistakes. Josephs waiting/looking for Benjamin’s coming Gen 43:16 is very reminiscent of the prodigal sons father who waited to see his son coming from afar off with a change of heart and attitude for whom the fattened calf was to be killed. In the prodigal son parable, was a lesson for the older brother not to be jealous when such an instance
occurs = Just like the prodigal sons
father, Christ waits for a generation of heart changed/repentant jews who will bend their knee, it will only be then that the fattened calf will be killed and the feast made ready, at which the the obedient/guiltless generation will receive preferential treatment, with out the past older brothers/ Generations jealousy being kindled. [ie] Benjamin receiving five times more than his brothers, with out them being stirred to jealousy. They all ate together and made merry Gen 44:34.