Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Some thoughts on Joseph of Egypt...

Freshly off of my return from missionary service a decade or so ago...my sweet Utah sister took me to see "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" starring Donny Osmond. The show is a comedic musical rendition of the Biblical account of Joseph of Egypt. It was a really fun and enjoyable show...Donny did great...and we had a wonderful time.

This story of Joseph of Egypt has been done and redone many times over the years. Every time I see one of these portrayals of Joseph of Egypt...I take note of a part that is to be found in the Biblical account...but generally it is just brushed over, perhaps overlooked, or changed when the story is retold. It is the part where after Joseph has done as the Lord has commanded...to store food...the days of scarcity come...and then the hungry people come to Joseph for help. At this point we generally see Joseph at a table giving out portions of food to the hungry people. Joseph is hailed as the great deliverer!! As he was. The part that is generally not emphasized is this...he did not give out the food for free!!!

Here is the biblical account found in Genesis 47...

"14 And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought: and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house.

15 And when money failed in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? for the money faileth.

16 And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail.

17 And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year.

18 When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him, We will not hide it from my lord, how that our money is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle; there is not ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands:

19 Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate.

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, ahe 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."

Perhaps Hollywood fails to put any emphasis on Joseph's "buying" the people and their possessions for Pharoah...because it may make Joseph seem less of a heroic figure?! Perhaps it doesn't seem like a major plot point to be covered?. Perhaps in our "Something for nothing" welfare state system...requiring a people to pay for what they get is just too cold a thing to require!!!??

While I will not attempt to cover it all here...many...many of the prophets of our dispensation have spoken of the experience of Joseph of Egypt and applied it to our day! One of the most sobering studies you could do would be to go back and read all of the General Conference talks by Gordon B. Hinckley where he spoke of Joseph of Egypt! There are at least 3 I can think of.

George A. Smith spoke plainly of a comparison between Joseph and the President of the Church in this account in October of 1867...

"A good many of us claim our descent from Joseph who was sold into Egypt. He was the instrument of the Almighty in saving the Egyptians, through the interpretation of the King's dream of the seven fat and seven lean kine, and the seven full and seven blighted ears of corn. He prescribed the means by which the storehouses of Egypt were filled with corn, and when the seven years of famine came the people were actually saved from death through the wisdom of Joseph laying up bread.

We all exercise faith that God may give to our President wisdom and understanding to foresee the evils with which we may be threatened, and to take measures to avert them. Suppose that he comes forward and tells us how to prepare, and we neglect his counsel, then the watchman is clear, and we are liable to the dangers and difficulties resulting from disobedience.

....those who did not obey Joseph's counsel were under the necessity of selling all their property, and ultimately themselves, for slaves to the king, in order to obtain that bread which they could have laid up during the seven years of plenty." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 12, pp. 141,142).

Let's lay up in store so that we don't become "liable to the dangers and difficulties resulting from disobedience"...and so we don't head down the highly probable road of having to sell our "property, and ultimately" ourselves "for slaves to the king" in order to have some bread.


  1. Great post! Very inspiring... it's interesting to hear that he didn't just give it all away. I had forgotten that.

  2. Steve, what time does the May 9th event start and exactly where is the Citrus Heights stake building? Thank you!

    pam emick

  3. Hey Pam! The event on May 9th is from 10-2! I am still waiting to find out if we are going to be able to get the Oak Avenue building...hopefully I'll know tomorrow. I will post something on the event here when I know more. I hope you can come!

  4. WOW Stephen that was forever ago when we went to see that play! We really can learn a lot from Joseph's story and hopefully apply it to our modern day life!:)

  5. There is a Point I would like to make and that is were Joseph a dishonest man or not a prophet, the people would have died. But they were spared; Egyptian and Jew alike, for his brothers also came to buy grain. Not only that, in returning the grain to the people to sow and to reap, they also built the storehouse back up again.

    Many socialists would point to this as a perfect reason why government should take over, but the crucial difference is the Lord's plan and way versus man's.