Not Quite Cricket

Having settled his entire extended family *in Goshen*, Joseph turned his attention back to the huge problem that beset all of Egypt, which was the terrible famine.

Joseph, as Prime Minister, had set up the plan whereby Egyptian food-growers had to give, as taxes to the state, one fifth of the food *they produced*. This was during the years of plenty, when it still rained. Now, however, the rains had stopped, seemingly never to return, so food was no longer growing.

Where, then, could Egyptians now get their food, but from the granaries in which Joseph had stored the food he’d collected as tax. Although Egyptians could lawfully now get from Joseph this food, they still had to pay money for it. This does seem, today, from four thousand years on, a little unfair, for it constituted in effect double taxation. That, though, was how it was.

However, the longer the drought continued, the more the money-savings of Egyptians ran out. Soon their money was gone. A large crowd came to Joseph. Its spokesman said to him, “My Lord, give us food, or we shall die before your eyes. Unfortunately we can’t pay for it because we’ve no money left.”

“Mmmm” said Joseph, “you do have a problem. Tell you what, I’ll give you food for your cattle and sheep, that I’ll accept in lieu of money. How about it?”

“I suppose we don’t have much choice, do we” said the spokesman.


Egyptians, after going home and returning with all their cattle and sheep, received from Joseph’s granaries enough food for a year. When the year was finished and it still hadn’t rained, the crowd again sought out Joseph.

“My Lord” said the spokesman, “give us more food, or we shall die before your eyes. Unfortunately we can’t pay for it because we’ve no cattle and sheep left.”

“You can’t keep doing this, you know,” said Joseph, “I expect you think I’ll now give you food for nothing. This would be most unEgyptian.”

“I agree, my Lord” said the spokesman. “So we’ve come up with a plan that I beg you’ll at least consider.”

“Tell me about it.”

“My Lord, seeing as we’ve nothing left but our bodies and our lands, we propose that the Egyptian state, in the person of His Majesty the Pharaoh, becomes the owner of us and our lands, in exchange for the food we need.”

“I like what you say. It’s well thought-out. Logical. I myself couldn’t have come up with anything better. In the name of His Majesty the Pharaoh, I agree to this plan.”

Hence Egyptians became slaves, accepting it better to be a slave but alive, than to be free but dead.


All the foregoing applied, though, only to the average Egyptian, but not to priests, of which there were many. Priests, as priests, weren’t deemed average, and so had exalted status. Again, from four thousand years on, this seems a little unfair. Not quite cricket. But that’s how it was.

Source: Genesis 47, 13-26

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6 Responses to Not Quite Cricket

  1. Charles says:

    How do you see the future of Test Cricket?

    • Christopher says:

      It depends where it’s played. Test cricket played in England, Australia and India, still attracts large crowds. Unlike how it is in the other Test-playing nations, where the matches are played on grounds only one-quarter-full if they’re lucky.

      As for four-day domestic First Class matches, they’re all played on grounds ranging from almost empty to one quarter-full, regardless of country.

      Unless changes are made, this state of affairs seems likely to get worse, since there are no signs it’s getting better.

      • Charles says:

        “……Unless changes are made…….”

        What should these changes be?

        • Christopher says:

          1. Have test matches played mostly in the evening. Play on each day would begin at 3.00 pm and end at 11 pm.

          This would make it more comfortable for spectators, who would watch in the cool of the evening rather than under the scorching sun of daytime.

          This would make it also more convenient for spectators, who would watch in the evenings after work rather than not watching at all in the daytime because they have to work.

          2. Make pitches in countries outside the Indian sub-continent more spin-friendly. Whenever the spinners are on, there’s always more action because spinners get through their overs quicker (sic) than fast-bowlers; and it’s more exciting and dramatic because wickets are always falling when the spinners are on. .

          The recent tests series in spin-friendly India between India and England, and India and Australia, showed this.

          3. Eliminate the coin-toss, and replace it with giving the visiting team the choice on whether to bowl first or bat first. This would help visiting teams and thus reduce the numbers of mismatches.

          Test series would be the more exciting for this, and more people would therefore come to watch, and the current slow death of Test and First Class cricket would consequently reverse.

  2. Mathilda says:

    I noted this, “…….My Lord……….we propose that the Egyptian state……..becomes the owner of us and our lands, in exchange for the food we need……”

    This implies that most people, or at least most ordinary farmers, in Egypt owned their own land, If true, this was extraordinary, because in olden times anywhere, only the nobles owned land, and the nobles were a tiny percentage of the populations.

    Therefore I’m dubious as to the veracity of the Bible’s implication that most Egyptians owned their own land.

    • Christopher says:

      Context is all, here. Remember, this was four thousand years ago, when there weren’t yet many people around, when nearly everyone was illiterate, when families settling on land to farm it and live on it, may automatically have regarded it as their own.

      Whatever was the case, farmers still had to give one fifth of what they grew to the government. One could construe this as tax or as rent.

      So I have no trouble with the notion that Egyptians owned land at the time of Joseph. As to whether a great many, or just a few, Egyptians owned land, is anyone’s guess.

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