The text reads something to the effect

“Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭41:57‬ ‭

It isn’t difficult to accept that the famine was over all the earth but how does one understand all the earth came to Egypt? A representative from every country, people group? What is meant when it says the whole earth?

Would this mean that the American continents were not yet inhabited and Australia?

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    This has always seemed to me to most naturally be hyperbole, as in John 12:19. – Mike Borden Feb 28 '20 at 13:04
  • @MikeBorden in the Greek you can use that word translated world to mean the people without meaning every person or people group. It refers to the people in the immediate circle of influence that are affected. This is true in other languages, same word depending on context can mean the world or the people in general or the people in question. – Nihil Sine Deo Feb 28 '20 at 13:32
  • All the earth (El-eretz) is the name of the dragon that deceives. And that dragon was cast down, the great old serpent, that is called the Devil, and Satan, Deceiver, El-Eretz. One day the angels[a] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[b] also came with them. Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Jacob? There is no one on earth like him – R. Emery May 25 '20 at 14:40
  • @R.Emery satan didn’t come to the meeting the accuser did. Also satan is not the god of the earth but of the air. – Nihil Sine Deo May 25 '20 at 15:55
  • The Hebrew says "Satan" which means "enemy" or "accuser". – R. Emery May 25 '20 at 16:41

The word used is erets Strong 776. Brown Driver Briggs (see the Strong link) lists the use of the word in Genesis 41:54 as - unusually, so early in scripture - the plural :

and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. [KJV]

BDB comments that the use, generally, of the plural is a matter of a contrast to Canaan.

I would suggest that here in Genesis 41:57 :

And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands, [KJV]

it is, similarly, a contrast but a contrast of all the lands as opposed to the land of Egypt itself.

As with contrasts, the word may not be meant as a true totality of concept but is only used as a contrast of concepts.

The whole known earth - as known to the most settled area of the globe at that time - was in famine. Distant, almost unknown, regions - where little would be heard except the odd tale of far flung, never visited, regions where nations may or may not have settled permanently are not, necessarily, being included, as such.

I would suggest that it is a contrast of dearth in the lands, within the compass of what was generally known, being compared to the prosperity of the land of Egypt, which is in view.

  • Your remark about the Chinese is not based on knowledge that the Chinese did not come to trade too, rather it seems you’re assuming they didn’t travel to Egypt based on where you assume they settled geographically and based on the fact that you don’t believe they traded with Egypt. – Nihil Sine Deo Feb 28 '20 at 14:19
  • @NihilSineDeo I have no idea about the presence or absence of peoples on the far side of the world from the historic account in scripture. Nor as to who would make it to Egypt from the other side of the world. That is why I tentatively followed the speculation of the OP and wrote (perhaps ?). – Nigel J Feb 28 '20 at 14:35
  • To quote Chinese historian who in turn is quoting a description of the Nile, Sima Qian’s description of the topography of the Xia empire — traditionally regarded as China’s founding dynasty, dating from 2070 to 1600 B.C. “Northwards the stream is divided and becomes the nine rivers reunited, it forms the opposing river and flows into the sea.” – Nihil Sine Deo Feb 28 '20 at 14:58
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    ctext.org/shiji/xia-ben-ji – Nihil Sine Deo Feb 28 '20 at 15:02
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    I have already upvoted your response and appreciated your perspective which I sense is shared by the majority. Here is another interesting resource archive.org/details/westernoriginofe00terrrich/page/29/mode/1up which claims that the Chinese actually came from Egypt or at a minimum the west. – Nihil Sine Deo Feb 28 '20 at 15:24

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