The year was 1700 B.C. Severe climate change had been engulfing the entire Earth for several years. People from every corner of the globe were traveling to Egypt to buy grain which Joseph has stored up as a result of a vision that God had given to Pharaoh nearly a decade before. During this time no field was plowed nor was any field harvested for the rain had been held back in order that Joseph—an archetype of Christ—might provide salvation to all the people of the Earth. In particular, Jacob—now called Israel—would find temporary refuge in Egypt through God’s provision of Jacob’s son Joseph.
Today, literal seven-day creation, the Garden of Eden and Noah’s Flood get all the attention when it comes to globally transformative events in the Earth’s history. Sadly, Joseph’s Global Famine, recorded for us in Genesis 41, has long been overlooked – or even dismissed – by many Biblical scholars and scientists. Yes, we all know the story about Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams but unlike Noah who saved the whole world from a flood, Joseph’s famine has been relegated to a local event. But surely, since every verse of the Bible is inerrant in every detail including all aspects related to biology, geology and weather forecasting, the account of Joseph’s saving the entire world from starvation needs to be told and vigorously defended. To deny this eyewitness testimony of a global catastrophe is tantamount to denying the reality of a global flood and will inextricably lead to the denial of the resurrection of Christ.
Joseph’s Global Famine: Biblical authority is at stake
The Bible is clear: a catastrophe of global proportions occurred around 3700 years ago. This global catastrophe recorded in Genesis 41 was neither by flood as in Noah’s day nor by fire which is reserved for the final destruction of the Earth (II Peter 3:10) but rather via the withholding of rain. That rain would normally have flooded the Nile, bringing life-sustaining nutrients. That rain would also normally water the fields in Canaan, the pastures of southwestern North America and rice-paddies in China.
This historical fact, plainly revealed in God’s Word can found in Genesis 41 and specifically in verses 56 and 57 (ESV) which read: “So when the famine had spread over all the land (erets) Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.”
Notice that even the liberal ESV scholars responsible for this less-than-literal translation could not deny the global scope of the author’s (Moses) intent here: “all the earth came to Egypt” and the “famine was severe over all the earth.” However, they still try to subvert the text by translating erets as “the land” in the beginning of verse 56.
The translators of the King James Version, who were not biased by modern science and evolutionism, translate Genesis accurately as: “And the famine was over all the face of the earth.” It should not escape our notice that these are the same Hebrew words used in Genesis 1:2 (ESV) which describe the original state of the whole creation wherein the Spirit hovered “over the face of the deep.”
The global intent of the phrase “the face of the earth” in the creation account can also be seen when describing another global event, Noah’s Flood. In Genesis 8 we find multiple uses of the same phrase, for example, in reference to Noah’s Flood Genesis 8:9 (KJV) states: “for the waters were on the face of the whole earth.”
So, we can see that the plain reading of the authoritative Word of God absolutely requires that this severe famine causing “neither plowing nor harvest” (Gen 45:6 ESV) must have covered the entire planet Earth. Even though God’s eyewitness testimony should be enough for us to believe this historical fact, He has further blessed us with confirming physical evidence of this worldwide calamity leaving us with no excuse for our denial of this dramatic global event.
Amazing confirmation of Joseph’s Global Famine
Based on that clear description of this real historical event, it is very rational to conclude that we should expect to find evidence today of a devastating global famine in historical records and its physical effects on the surface of the earth. And indeed, that is exactly what we do find. (1)
Observational evidence and historical records from around the world attest to a global famine around the year 1700 B.C. We will limit ourselves to just a few of the many examples.
The respected website Ancient Patriarchs reports that research shows that Chinese emperor Cheng Tang recorded a seven-year famine from 1704-1697 B.C which directly overlaps possible dates of Joseph’s famine. Civilizations such as the Olmecs who migrated to the Yucatan Peninsula in 1700 B.C. invented plumbing, demonstrating a sudden need and interest in water conservation in land not usually lacking water. Other civilizations find their origins around 1700 B.C. such as the South American Indians who established their kingdom in what is today Bolivia at this time. This high amount of migration attests to a time in which food supplies were waning and people were moving to find new sources of food not knowing that the entire world was engulfed in this severe famine.
Lastly, the use of technologies similar to those of the Egyptians across the globe is a direct testimony that people from the “whole face of the earth” came to Egypt to find food. At that time they were able to witness the technology that Egypt had and then adapted it to their cultures in the centuries following that contact, e.g. the Mesoamerican pyramids.
God uses Joseph’s famine for good not just for Israel but all the earth’s inhabitants
We know that the Bible is accurate in every detail and this helps us to understand that this global famine, just as Job’s life attested to the reality of the single Ice Age following the global Noahic Flood, attests to an extreme global warming event brought on by God. The Ice Age was an after-effect of a global Flood but such an icy world would have presented problems for future generations. Hence, the famine caused by a great warming and lack of precipitation, though a judgement on the people of the Earth, was also a great blessing since it reshaped the physical world.
We propose the 7-year famine was used by God to quickly remove the vast ice fields that covered the earth. The massive melting caused the formation of the astounding Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Yosemite Valley and many other erosional features of the earth including large deltas that would be valuable agricultural land in the future. Through God’s gracious provision people could now spread across the world into regions previously made uninhabitable by the ice caused by Noah’s flood.
Since we have abundant evidence of a world-wide famine we can ask what might have caused such an effect. Of course God is the first cause but in Noah’s day he used many secondary causes—i.e. natural mechanisms—to achieve His purposes. For example, an asteroid or a passing planet was providentially timed to pull on structural weaknesses in the Earth—placed there during creation in anticipation of this future event—causing the storehouses of water below the surface to be released initiating the Flood. For the Famine of Joseph, we propose that a second interloping planet passed close to the Earth causing a disturbance in the axis of the earth causing more extreme weather patterns for several years. Our omniscient God, knowing the position of every object in the solar system and its trajectory knew this was going to happen and sent the information to Pharaoh in a vision which and gave Joseph the insight to properly interpret this vision thus preserving Israel and the seed of Abraham.
It is worth noting here that this is real global climate change and it is recorded for us right there in our Bibles. Today, our politicians and even some of our church leaders look at changes in polar ice caps and increasing carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere and worry about climate change but we ignore and belittle real climate change that caused a massive famine throughout the whole world just 3700 years ago. We deny real global catastrophes while gnashing our teeth over minor blips in temperature changes that may take decades to have lasting impacts..
It’s a Biblical Authority issue
This is ultimately about the authority of God’s Word, which plainly teaches that the Famine of Joseph was global in extent. Indeed, if the text of Scripture in Genesis 41 clearly teaches—as it does—that the Famine of 1700 B.C. was global and we reject that teaching, then we undermine the reliability and authority of other parts of Scripture, including John 3:16. God’s Word must be trustworthy and authoritative in all that it affirms. (1)
These and many more biblical, theological, and scientific considerations make a local famine compromise so often promoted by liberal seminary professors totally untenable. This is all ultimately about the authority of all of God’s Word, which plainly teaches that the Famine of Joseph was global in extent. (1)
We all have the same data. It’s really a question of the worldview we interpret that data though and when viewed with the right worldview “glasses” the biblical and scientific evidence support a global famine.
It is time to recognize and defend the historicity of one of the most profound events that has taken place in earth’s history. No less than biblical authority is at stake. (2)
- This text was copied from The New Answers Book 3 published by Answers in Genesis except I have replaced references to Noah’s Flood with Joseph’s Famine.
- This is a work of satire but should not be interpreted as promoting a mythological view of Joseph or that I don’t subscribe to a high view of biblical authority. I believe Joseph was a real person in history and that there was a severe famine in the land as is recorded in scripture. That said, I don’t believe biblical exegesis requires that famine to be global in extent and that peoples from literally the whole earth came to Egypt to buy grain.