Will Work for Food


I once paid nine dollars for a hot dog. I forgot to eat prior to attending a professional football game, and I was starving. With limited options, I forked over the money. If you’re like me, you expect three meals a day—even if one of them is overpriced mystery meat! We often take basic provisions for granted. But that’s not the case for everyone in the world. And it hasn’t been the case throughout history, as devastating famines have ripped countries apart and forced people to sacrifice everything to survive.   

  • In times of desperation, do you trust God to provide?


13 Now there was no food in all the land, for the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished 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, in exchange for the grain that they bought. And Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. 15 And when the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone.” 16 And Joseph answered, “Give your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money is gone.” 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses, the flocks, the herds, and the donkeys. He supplied them with food in exchange for all their livestock that year. 18 And when that year was ended, they came to him the following year and said to him, “We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent. The herds of livestock are my lord’s. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land. 19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.”

20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh’s. 21 As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. 22 Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh and lived on the allowance that Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their land.

23 Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. 24 And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.” 25 And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.” 26 So Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt, and it stands to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; the land of the priests alone did not become Pharaoh’s.

27 Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. What did the Egyptians sacrifice in order to receive food (vss. 15-18)?
  2. How did the Egyptian people respond to Pharaoh’s agreement with them (vss. 23-25)?
  3. Was Joseph helping or preying on those who were in desperate need?
  4. What does this passage teach about the acquisition of wealth? The responsibility to the needy?
  5. What are some ways God has provided for you in times of desperation?


Despite the suffering of the Egyptians, this is a story of comfort. Without understanding, it’s possible to read this passage and see Joseph as Pharaoh’s henchman, taking advantage of the weak (vss. 15-18). But we need to keep a few things in mind. At the height of a devastating famine, God gave Joseph a way to provide for a nation that would have otherwise starved (vss. 19, 25). God gave the leadership of Egypt a plan and the means to sustain the people. And in the midst of hard times, the Israelites flourished (vs. 27). God made a way to keep and protect his people—the object of his blessing and the family through which God planned to bless the world, through Christ.

  • Take some time to thank God for all he has provided for you.
  • Pray for your leaders—that they will have wisdom to guide through difficult times.