13 ¶ And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine. 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, he 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. 26 And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s.
Egypt and Canaan were both severely stricken by this famine. The people of Egypt, and foreigners we have seen, put a lot of money in the government of Egypt’s coffers to buy the grain they needed so badly to survive. Finally, the money ran out so Joseph took property in the form of cattle and horses and asses for a year after that. Then, when the government owned the livestock he took the land removed the former residents to cities around Egypt. Only the powerful priests were exempt from this acquisition. The people still farmed the land and Joseph gave them seed to plant but it belonged to the government now. As tenants they had to pay 20% of their crop output as a tax to the Egyptian government. The people were happy with this for they and their families could survive even though this goes beyond the famine they are enduring now and carries with it great consequences for their future.
The issue of government and government’s place in the scheme of things comes into play here. We are forced to consider it. This passage states a rather negative truth about taxation. The ability to demand a portion of the people’s living is like ownership. Taxation can be considered in one respect a type of slavery. You are forced to spend part of your working life working for the government. Joseph says in verse 23 that he has bought them for Pharaoh.
Under the New Testament after Christ’s resurrection the Christian is told to yield to the heathen governments of the time, none of them based on any Christian principle, in their function of punishing evil and protecting the innocent.
Romans 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
Jesus Himself said we are to pay taxes to keep from offering offense and performed it supernaturally.
Matthew 17:27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
Once a people starts using government issued currency rather than, as in much of the Old Testament, simply a valuable metal by weight as a medium of exchange, you become ensnared in the scheme of government to own its population and control its economic activity.
Matthew 22:15 ¶ Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. 16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. 17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. 22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
It is a truth that humans will generally prefer security to liberty, however. The Hebrews will eventually want a king and, therefore, a government like the heathen around them. God will tell Samuel, who objects to their cry;
1Samuel 8:4 ¶ Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, 5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. 6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. 7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
Then, gave them this prophetic warning of the evils and expectations of human government.
8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. 9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. 10 And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king. 11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. 13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. 14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. 15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. 16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. 18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day. 19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; 20 That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. 21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD. 22 And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.
The Bible gives us a detailed treatise on human government if we regard the entire book and not just Romans 13 as an excuse for tyranny. Pray for your leaders. They are typically not good men. There is a famous quote in recent history that pertains to the men who have led people in government and war by the Englishman John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, known as Lord Acton.
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”
The Holy Spirit reports through the Bible writers that God has placed over humans as rulers the worst sort of men…
Daniel 4:17 This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.
…and the governments of the world are under Satan’s authority.
Luke 4:5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.
The lacking of men to rule generally in the right way is based on one major lacking even if they call themselves Christians.
2Samuel 23:3 The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
Now, it must be said that even though a chief executive other than God Himself was not His direct will for Israel it fell under His permissive will, His permission, and He did bless kings and Israel when they were obedient or repentant, seeking forgiveness, for their lack of obedience. Do not make the mistake, though, that brought Western Civilization to World War One where most of the warring countries thought they were God’s chosen people and God’s chosen government each fighting evil personified in their opponents. Do not make the mistake of believing that what God allows mankind to do is what His good, and acceptable, and perfect will is rather than the lusts of our own hearts. In the end all the machinations of mankind cannot thwart God’s eventual plan for humanity nor do they help mankind escape the judgment that is being brought down.
Your government, whether it be the United States, China, Russia, England, or even Namibia, is the enemy of your liberty in the Lord because you have rejected His leadership. This fact is part of His judgment.