20 And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh’s.
21 And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof.
22 Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands.
23 Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land.
24 And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.
25 And they said, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants.
26 And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part, except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s.
K.J.V. Bible Text
As the famine progressed, Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. The people were forced to sell the land to pay for food from the storehouses to keep from starving during the famine. In the end, Joseph had reduced all the people to servitude. Only the priests who received an allotment of food from Pharaoh were able to keep their land.
The people were of course willing to sell their land in order to survive and seemed agreeable when Joseph established that in return for seed to continue to farm the land they no longer owned, they would be assessed one fifth of their crops for Pharaoh. Never-the-less, it is hard to believe that the Egyptians who had been landowners and free men were thrilled at becoming serfs to Pharaoh. Yet from the scripture, it seems that once established, this system of Pharaoh owning the land and receiving one fifth of all that was produced became a new mode of life for the Egyptians and continued for a long time to come.
I wonder if Joseph planted any seeds of resentment against the Israelites by this action. Surely by then, the people of Egypt knew that he was an Israelite with a father and eleven brothers living in Goshen.
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