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and he then brought the people, who were scattered throughout the open country, into the adjacent cities, wherein the corn was stored, for the greater ease of distribution, from the one end of the borders of Egypt even unto the other. The lands thus voluntarily sold, he farmed to the occupiers again at the moderate and fixed rent of a fifth part of the produce, by which wise regulation the people had four-fifths of the produce of their lands for their own use, and were exempted from any further taxes, the king being bound to support his civil and military establishment out of the crown rents. At the same time Joseph respected the primitive usage, and bought not “the lands of the priests,” but during the continuance of the famine he fed them at the king's expense.
Thus was this consummate statesman, so truly “wise and discreet” because he was directed by the Spirit of God, a “father to Pharaoh” and his people. Nor to them alone. The famine was felt severely in the land of Canaan, and his brethren who sold him into Egypt sought relief at his hands. He gave it freely; and, at the command of the grateful Pharaoh, he sent for his aged father, who had long mourned for him as one that he should see no more on this side of the grave, and he nourished him, with his numerous descendants, with “ the good of all the land of Egypt.
How beautifully does the superintending care of Divine Providence shine forth in this narrative; and that in a twofold light! We see in it that the Almighty not only extends his fatherly protection to nations, but to individuals. While Egypt and the adjacent regions were saved by his mercy from the ruin which hung over them, Joseph was delivered by the same mercy from his galling fetters. What encouragement is there, therefore, for men to cast all their cares upon him! Doubtless, Joseph acted thus, and it was not in vain.
And yet, with such examples as these set before them, mankind are so blind as to forget God. He is not in all their thoughts. In prosperity and in adversity the many look not beyond themselves; deeming the one the fruits of their own worthiness or exertions, and the other the effects of their “ill stars.” Even those who believe in a Divine Providence too frequently distrust it. They know there is a God presiding over all his works, and yet fear that they are overlooked. But the tender mercies of God are over all his works, Psa. cxlv. 9.
* See the account of “ Jacob and his family journeying to Egypt."