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[189] However, the famine increased among the Egyptians, and this heavy judgment grew more oppressive to them, because neither did the river overflow the ground, for it did not rise to its former height, nor did God send rain upon it; 1 nor did they indeed make the least provision for themselves, so ignorant were they what was to be done; but Joseph sold them corn for their money. But when their money failed them, they bought corn with their cattle and their slaves; and if any of them had a small piece of land, they gave up that to purchase them food, by which means the king became the owner of all their substance; and they were removed, some to one place, and some to another, that so the possession of their country might be firmly assured to the king, excepting the lands of the priests, for their country continued still in their own possession. And indeed this sore famine made their minds, as well as their bodies, slaves; and at length compelled them to procure a sufficiency of food by such dishonorable means. But when this misery ceased, and the river overflowed the ground, and the ground brought forth its fruits plentifully, Joseph came to every city, and gathered the people thereto belonging together, and gave them back entirely the land which, by their own consent, the king might have possessed alone, and alone enjoyed the fruits of it. He also exhorted them to look on it as every one's own possession, and to fall to their husbandry with cheerfulness, and to pay as a tribute to the king, the fifth part 2 of the fruits for the land which the king, when it was his own, restored to them. These men rejoiced upon their becoming unexpectedly owners of their lands, and diligently observed what was enjoined them; and by this means Joseph procured to himself a greater authority among the Egyptians, and greater love to the king from them. Now this law, that they should pay the fifth part of their fruits as tribute, continued until their later kings.


1 Reland here puts the question, how Josephus could complain of its not raining in Egypt during this famine, while the ancients affirm that it never does naturally rain there. His answer is, that when the ancients deny that it rains in Egypt, they only mean the Upper Egypt above the Delta, which is called Egypt in the strictest sense; but that in the Delta [and by consequence in the Lower Egypt adjoining to it] it did of old, and still does, rain sometimes. See the note on Antiq. B. III. ch. 1. sect. 6.

2 Josephus supposes that Joseph now restored the Egyptians their lands again. upon the payment of a fifth part as tribute. It seems to me rather that the land was now considered as Pharaoh's land, and this fifth part as its rent, to be paid to him, as he was their landlord, and they his tenants; and that the lands were not properly restored, and this fifth part reserved as tribute only, till the days of Sesostris. See Essay on the Old Testament, Append. 148, 149.


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