Daily Word

Massive famine | Genesis 41:53-57

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.

Genesis 41:53-57 (ESV)

End of plenty

As the Pharaoh’s dream predicted, the seven years of plenty came to an end. The seven years of famine began. The famine was so severe that no one remembered the years of plenty. The famine was not restricted to Egypt, it was experienced in “all lands”. The populated parts of the world at that time may have been the Middle East, NE Africa, maybe Asia and up to Europe. This famine was likely centered in Egypt and the middle east – since we’ll see tomorrow it affected Canaan, where Joseph’s family was. 

As an aside, it seems a bit unfair. The people were taxed during the time of abundance (1/5th to the government) to build up the grain storage. Now they need to pay to get grain! Most will frivolously spend abundance so this service of the government was essential to Egyptians survival.

Bread for the nations

But God had spared Egypt by warning them in advance and sending Joseph to communicate that message and manage the situation. By preparing well during the abundance and distributing well during the disaster, Joseph kept Egypt alive.

What we also notice is that Egypt kept the rest of the world alive. I love this, “but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.” Then we see that, “all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain”. This sets the stage for the rest of the account. “This chapter [and the next] teaches us that God controls the fortunes of nations to protect and provide for His covenant people.” (planobiblechapel.org)

Joseph’s influence

All of Egypt cried to Pharaoh for food and he sent them to Joseph. When other nations heard Egypt had food, they came to Joseph. Joseph had all the authority and power. Yet he did not become puffed up or take unnecessary advantage of it.


  • Has the Lord put you in a place or responsibility or power? Do you have influence on others? How are you handling the situation? Are you using it to bless others for God’s glory? Though the text does not give details of how Joseph interacted with people during this time, we know from his initial interaction with Pharaoh that Joseph unequivocally pointed people to the Lord.
  • We may think we’re just one person, we cannot make a difference. Of course, God had a specific plan for Joseph. He does for you and me also. Joseph faithfully served and trusted the Lord and God did the rest. Should we do any differently?
Famine. Drought. Dry ground. Image from Pxfuel.com

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