Pharaoh's Chief Executive
There was no food in the land - the famine was
severe. Not only was Egypt stricken, it had spread also through
Canaan. Joseph gathered into the Treasury all the silver in the
region, in exchange for grain.
When their money ran out, the Egyptians came to Joseph again, clamouring for food: "Will you just watch us die?" "Well," said Joseph, "If your money is gone, bring in your livestock, and I will give you a ration." So they brought in their horses, flocks, herds, and asses. That carried them through for another year.
Then distress brought them once more to Joseph. "We are now destitute. Everything has gone except our fields - and ourselves. Let Pharaoh take the land, but at least give us grain for survival." So Joseph acquired for Pharaoh all the land of Egypt, and the people everywhere became his slaves. (Only one group was exempt - the priests. With a set allocation from Pharaoh they were under no pressure to give up their holdings.)
That was not the end of it. At harvest time, according to decree, one fifth of the crop was set aside for Pharaoh, and the remainder was for the people themselves. So they were able to survive. They accepted the arrangement without protest, and even counted themselves fortunate.
paraphrase by Evan Lewis