13 Now there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because 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 grain which they bought; and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house.
15 So when the money failed in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us bread, for why should we die in your presence? For the money has failed.”
16 Then Joseph said, “Give your livestock, and I will give you bread for your livestock, if the money is gone.”
17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for the horses, the flocks, the cattle of the herds, and for the donkeys. Thus he fed them with bread in exchange for all their livestock that year.
18 When that year had ended, they came to him the next year and said to him, “We will not hide from my lord that our money is gone; my lord also has our herds of livestock. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our lands.
19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants of Pharaoh; give us seed, that we may live and not die, that the land may not be desolate.”
20 Then Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for every man of the Egyptians sold his field, because the famine was severe upon them. So the land became Pharaoh’s.
21 And as for the people, he moved them into the cities, from one end of the borders of Egypt to the other end.
22 Only the land of the priests he did not buy; for the priests had rations allotted to them by Pharaoh, and they ate their rations which Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their lands.
23 Then Joseph said to the people, “Indeed I have bought you and your land this day for Pharaoh. Look, here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land.
24 And it shall come to pass in the harvest that you shall give one-fifth to Pharaoh. Four-fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and for your food, for those of your households and as food for your little ones.”
25 So they said, “You have saved our lives; let us find favor 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 to this day, that Pharaoh should have one-fifth, except for the land of the priests only, which did not become Pharaoh’s.
Though Joseph presumably asked a fair price for the grain, it was only a matter of time until [the Egyptians] had spent all their savings on food … Joseph worked out a barter system, allowing [the Egyptians] to exchange their horses, cattle, and other animals for food. This kept the people going another year, but finally all their animals were gone too.
The people therefore desired to dedicate themselves and their land for service to Pharaoh in return for food on a regular basis, as well as seed with which to sow their lands. … Some people have felt that this was a scheme of Joseph not only to get wealth but also to enslave the people. However, it was their proposal, not Joseph’s, and whatever gain was involved accrued to Pharaoh, not to Joseph. It is true that it created what amounted to a feudalistic economy, but the alternative—that of placing everyone on a dole system—would have destroyed personal and national morale, [and probably] would have bankrupted the government. …
In order to expedite distribution of grain and seed, and to best utilize the labor purchased in this manner, Joseph relocated many of the people, moving them nearer the various cities where the storehouses were situated. — Morris, pages 639-640.