Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
53 The seven years of plenty that occurred in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.”
56 So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.
We jump forward a little more than 7 years. The good times rolled right on by and then the bad times followed.
From The Pulpit Commentaries:
And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended. And the seven years of dearth began to come,—the most complete parallel to Joseph’s famine was that which occurred in A.D. 1064-1071, in the reign of Fatimee Khaleefeh, El-Mustansir-bilh, when the people ate corpses and animals that died of themselves; when a dog was sold for five, a cat for three, and a bushel of wheat for twenty, deenars (vide Smith’s ‘Bib. Dict.,’ art. Famine)—according as Joseph had said (thus confirming Joseph’s character as a prophet): and the dearth was in all lands;—i.e. in all the adjoining countries, and notably in Palestine (vide Genesis 42:1, Genesis 42:2)—but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.
^Famines are no joke.
Ellicott’s Bible Commentary adds a note for verse 54 regarding the word dearth:
(54) The dearth.—As the Nile at this early period was not assisted and regulated in its overflow by dams and canals, famines were much more common in Egypt than when subsequently the kings had done so much to provide against this danger. As, too, this dearth was “in all lands,” in Arabia, Palestine, Ethiopia, &c., there was evidently a long period of excessive drought. Still Egypt is always liable to famine, and Bar Hebræus (Chronicon, p. 260) gives terrible details of the sufferings of Egypt in the year of the Hej’ra 462, when so great was the loss of life, that whereas in the city of Tanis (Zoan) 300,000 men paid poll-tax in the previous year, there remained in it less than a hundred souls at the end of the dearth.
One argument adduced by Canon Cook, Excursus on the Bearings of Egyptian History on the Pentateuch, p. 451, for placing the descent of the Israelites into Egypt in the reign of Amenemha III., is that it was this monarch who “first established a complete system of dykes, canals, locks, and reservoirs, by which the inundations of the Nile were henceforth regulated.” The artificial lake of Moeris was also made by his orders, and other works of extraordinary vastness. Now not only would such works be suggested by a dearth of unusually long continuance, but the measures taken by Joseph during the seven years of famine would place the whole resources of the country at the Pharaoh’s disposal.
The note here argues for Joseph being in Egypt during the reign of Amenemha III. From Wiki:
Amenemhat III (Ancient Egyptian: Ỉmn-m-hꜣt meaning ‘Amun is at the forefront’), also known as Amenemhet III, was a pharaoh of ancient Egypt and the sixth king of the Twelfth Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom. He was elevated to throne as co-regent by his father Senusret III, with whom he shared the throne as the active king for twenty years. During his reign, Egypt attained its cultural and economic zenith of the Middle Kingdom.
The aggressive military and domestic policies of Senusret III, which re-subjugated Nubia and wrested power from the nomarchs, allowed Amenemhat III to inherit a stable and peaceful Egypt. He directed his efforts towards an extensive building program with particular focus on Faiyum. Here he dedicated a temple to Sobek, a chapel to Renenutet, erected two colossal statues of himself in Biahmu, and contributed to excavation of Lake Moeris. He built for himself two pyramids at Dahshur and Hawara, becoming the first pharaoh since Sneferu in the Fourth Dynasty to build more than one. Near to his Hawara pyramid is a pyramid for his daughter Neferuptah. To acquire resources for the building program, Amenemhat III exploited the quarries of Egypt and the Sinai for turquoise and copper. Other exploited sites includes the schist quarries at Wadi Hammamat, amethyst from Wadi el-Hudi, fine limestone from Tura, alabaster from Hatnub, red granite from Aswan, and diorite from Nubia. A large corpus of inscriptions attest to the activities at these sites, particularly at Serabit el-Khadim. There is scant evidence of military expeditions during his reign, though a small one is attested at Kumma in his ninth regnal year. He also sent a handful of expeditions to Punt.
In total, Amenemhat III reigned for at least 45 years, though a papyrus mentioning a 46th year likely belongs to his reign as well. Toward the end of his reign he instituted a co-regency with Amenemhat IV, as recorded in a rock inscription from Semna in Nubia, which equates regnal year 1 of Amenemhat IV to regnal year 44 or 46–48 of Amenemhat III. Sobekneferu later succeeded Amenemhat IV as the last ruler of the Twelfth Dynasty.
Returning to The Pulpit Commentaries for the conclusion of the chapter:
And when (literally, and) all the land of Egypt was famished (literally, and), the people cried to Pharaoh for bread:—cf. the famine in Samaria (2 Kings 6:26)—and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith So you, do.
And the famine was over all the face of the earth (vide supra, Genesis 41:54): And Joseph opened all the storehouses,—literally, all wherein was, i.e. all the magazines that had grain in them. The granaries of Egypt are represented on the monuments. “In the tomb of Amenemha at Beni-hassan there is the painting of a great storehouse, before whose door lies a great heap of grain already winnowed. Near by stands the bushel with which it is measured, and the registrar who takes the account”—and sold unto the Egyptians (cf. Proverbs 2:1-26);—and the famine waxed sore (literally, became strong) in the land of Egypt. A remarkable inscription from the tomb at Eileythia of Barn, which Brugsch assigns to the latter part of the seventeenth dynasty, mentions a dearth of several years in Egypt (“A famine having broken out during many years, I gave corn to the town during each famine”), which that distinguished Egyptologer identifies with the famine of Joseph under Apophis, the shepherd king (vide ‘ Encyclopedia Britannica,’ ninth edition, art. Egypt); but, this, according to Bunsen (‘Egypt’s Place, 3:334), is rather to be detected in a dearth of several years which occurred in the time of Osirtasen I; and which is mentioned in an inscription at Beni-hassan, recording the fact that during its prevalence food was supplied by Amenee, the governor of a district of Upper Egypt (Smith’s’ Dict.,’ art. Joseph). The character of Chnumhotep (a near relative and favorite of Osirtasen I; and his immediate successor), and the recorded events of his government, as described in the Beni-hassan monuments, also remind one of Joseph:—”he (i.e. Chnumhotep) injured no little child; he oppressed no widow; he detained for his own purpose no fisherman; took from his work no shepherd; no overseer’s men were taken. There was no beggar in his days; no one starved in his time. When years of famine occurred he ploughed all the lands of the district, producing abundant food; no one starved in it; he treated the widow as a woman with a husband to protect her”. And all countries (i.e. people from all the adjoining lands) came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because the famine was so sore in all lands.
all = כֹּל kôl, kole; or (Jeremiah 33:8) כּוֹל kôwl; from H3634; properly, the whole; hence, all, any or every (in the singular only, but often in a plural sense):—(in) all (manner, (ye)), altogether, any (manner), enough, every (one, place, thing), howsoever, as many as, (no-) thing, ought, whatsoever, (the) whole, whoso(-ever).
the face = פָּנִים pânîym, paw-neem’; plural (but always as singular) of an unused noun פָּנֶה pâneh; from H6437); the face (as the part that turns); used in a great variety of applications (literally and figuratively); also (with prepositional prefix) as a preposition (before, etc.):— accept, a-(be-) fore(-time), against, anger, × as (long as), at, battle, because (of), beseech, countenance, edge, employ, endure, enquire, face, favour, fear of, for, forefront(-part), form(-er time, -ward), from, front, heaviness, × him(-self), honourable, impudent, in, it, look(-eth) (-s), × me, meet, × more than, mouth, of, off, (of) old (time), × on, open, out of, over against, the partial, person, please, presence, prospect, was purposed, by reason of, regard, right forth, serve, × shewbread, sight, state, straight, street, × thee, × them(-selves), through ( -out), till, time(-s) past, (un-) to(-ward), upon, upside ( down), with(-in, -stand), × ye, × you.
of the earth = אֶרֶץ ʼerets, eh’-rets; from an unused root probably meaning to be firm; the earth (at large, or partitively a land):—× common, country, earth, field, ground, land, × natins, way, + wilderness, world.
Note: Hebrew word for the earth, used here is the same as the term used to describe the lands covered by The Great Flood.
I’ll include an excerpt below from an article comparing and contrasting the Flood and Joseph’s famine. From AnswersinGenesis.org:
Many Christians have heard arguments that the Flood account describes a regional or local event. In some cases, the Bible refers to “all” but the context indicates a narrower meaning. For instance, speaking of the famine in Joseph’s day, Genesis 41:54 states that “the famine was in all lands” (emphasis added), but we should not necessarily assume this famine covered the entire globe. The lands referred to here are all those nations that “came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain” (Genesis 41:57 (NKJV)).
Yes, context does matter, and it often makes very clear what the Bible means. Genesis 6–9 describes a world-destroying global catastrophe, and not a regional flood.
- God said He would destroy “all flesh in which is the breath of life” and that “everything that is on the earth shall die” (Genesis 6:17; see Genesis 6:12, 7:21–23).
- The massive size of the Ark is much too large for carrying only regional flora and fauna.
- The Flood waters covered “all the high hills under the whole heaven” and covered the mountains to a minimum depth of fifteen cubits (Genesis 7:19–20).
- Why would God tell Noah to build an Ark when it would have been much easier to move out of the region?
- Why were flying creatures required to be on the Ark when they could easily fly somewhere else? The same is true for most land animals.
- The length of the Flood was much longer than any regional flood has ever been.
- The Bible unambiguously states that only eight people survived the Flood (Genesis 6:18, 7:23; 1 Peter 3:20), yet a regional flood would not necessarily have killed every other person on Earth.
- God explicitly stated that “the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh,” and He gave the rainbow as a reminder of that promise (Genesis 9:15–16). If the Flood were a local event, then God breaks His promise every time there is a major local flood.
What do we think? Is the article’s argument compelling? I think you could make a case for everything written therein, largely holding up, if the “regional” flood were sufficiently massive. However, a piece of the argument missing here, which is also quite compelling, is the existence of very similar Flood mythology around the world – including in pre-Columbian America.