In parshat Vayigash, it explicitly says Joseph settles his family in Goshen and provides them with bread to survive the famine (as that was their whole reason for coming down). And then it talks about how the Egyptians ran out of food and basically sold themselves as slaves to pharaoh, yet they were thankful for Joseph for the food he provided (after taking all their land). Why weren’t the Egyptians mad that Joseph had nepotism and was sustaining his entire family with food, but for them they had to sell all their possessions and work for pharaoh to earn the food? And not just that they’re not angry, they’re even thankful and happy with Joseph!

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    Not to mention issuing taxes without congressional approval
    – shmosel
    Commented Dec 25, 2023 at 4:43
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    Egyptain society was not like the liberal democracies of today... the ruler had their interests and protected them in the way that they saw fit. They would also rule and administer the region; but providing perks for family was acceptable.
    – bondonk
    Commented Dec 25, 2023 at 7:12
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    What, specifically, is wrong with nepotism?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Dec 25, 2023 at 10:32
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    @RabbiKaii allocating communal resources based on your family instead of the interest of the community is trivially not in the interest of the community. The community authorized you to allocate their resources for their benefit, so it's basically theft.
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 25, 2023 at 16:11
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    @RabbiKaii In fact, it might have been seen as an extension of his policy towards the Egyptian priesthood, who also didn't have to sell themselves as serfs.
    – Meir
    Commented Dec 25, 2023 at 18:50

3 Answers 3


They were not upset at the beginning for two reasons.

  1. They all understood that without Joseph's planning, then everyone would have starved to death. Slavery in the ancient world was a common practice to save yourself from starvation. And there's no hint in the Torah that slavery at this point was harsh.

  2. Joseph's family was eventually enslaved just like everyone else. We don't read the exact moment of slavery, but scripture makes it clear everyone would become slaves because of Joseph's actions and we find ourselves slaves by the opening of Exodus.

Having said that, I do believe people eventually would become upset at us. Because it seems like when the Israelites transitioned into slavery they did so while maintaining large flocks of livestock and keeping their nice homes in Goshen. So while initially people weren't upset at Joseph's family, I think over time resentment grew and we see Pharaoh tapping into that resentment when he enacts his policies and encourages people to participate in throwing babies into the Nile. But like all things, every action has an equal reaction. These same people who participated or witnessed the genocide of the Jewish babies found the compassion to give the Israelites gold at their time of freedom, or outright joined them as the mixed multitudes.


Actually, there is grounds to say that they were indeed annoyed at the situation with the israelites.

The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh does suggests that while Yosef was alive, the israelites lived in peace and serenity.

Unfortunately, it was after the death of Yosef and after a "new" king arose in egypt that the egyptians grew tired of the israelites.

In the midrash Shemos Rabbah it is mentioned that the it was the egyptians that first suggested the idea of causing friction with the israelites. When the Pharaoh retorted that they owed their lives to the actions of Yosef, they deposed of him.


Joseph would have had a salary and would have received a dowry from Potiphar. His father and brothers would also have money and livestock. They would have the means to buy land from their own pockets without taking state funds, especially when the land wasn't productive.

Perhaps Joseph could have sustained the Egyptians without permitting them to become enslaved, but he didn't. It wouldn't be the last time in history that the upper classes took advantage of a crisis to gain ground against the lower classes, and the Jews be left holding the sack.

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