As famine worsened in Egypt, people came to Joseph seeking food. The grain Joseph stored up for Pharaoh over seven years was the only food in the land. For awhile, people paid money for grain. “Joseph collected all the money to be found in the land of Egypt.” Eventually, people ran out of money (Gen. 47:14).
After their money was gone, the people exchanged livestock for grain (Gen. 47:17). Once the people were out of livestock, they had nothing left to trade but their land and themselves. Joseph acquired all the land in Egypt, and the people became Pharaoh’s slaves (Gen. 47:23).
By human standards, this is a negative story. The people are saved but they literally sell themselves into slavery as a result. It is an age old story: political powers exploit people when the world’s vagaries make them vulnerable.
But this story is analogous to spiritual realities that are infinitely more positive. Paul tells us that Jesus “died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15). Elsewhere he says, “You are not your own, for you were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Joseph’s position at Pharaoh’s right hand enabled him to amass stores of grain. Joseph came to his position through immense suffering, which we have seen foreshadows the cross of Christ. Like Jesus, Joseph was the one who “died” for all so that all could live. The result, though, was that the people did not live for themselves; they lived for Joseph as slaves of Egypt. Often, new testament writers referred to themselves as slaves of Jesus Christ. They understood their lives didn’t belong to them but to Jesus who suffered to save them.
All that said, slavery isn’t the whole picture of the Christian life. Just before He died, Jesus said this to our Father: “Everything I have is Yours, and everything You have is Mine” (John 17:10). Jesus and the Father belong to one another, body and soul, so to speak. The people of Egypt were slaves but were able to draw from the storehouses of Egypt. More than that, when they became slaves, Joseph said to them, “Understand today that I have acquired you and your land for Pharaoh. Here is seed for you. Sow it in the land” (Gen. 47:23). By giving the people seed, Joseph was giving them their own source of food and therefore life. Ironically, becoming slaves freed them from dependence on Pharaoh’s handouts.
Jesus said, “For just as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted to the Son to have life in Himself” (John 5:26). To receive Jesus, then, is to receive the source of life in ourselves. John tells us God’s seed is in us (1 John 3:9). God has given us the source of spiritual nourishment and life within.
Everything we have is His, even our very selves. But everything He has is ours, even His very self. Genesis 47 pictures this union between Christ and His people, a relationship of mutual, willing possession.