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Over all the earth?

I was recently reading Genesis 41 and was struck by v. 56:

When the famine was spread over all the face of the earth, then Joseph opened all the storehouses…

Genesis 41:56 (NASB)

It reminded me of the Flood narrative from earlier in Genesis (chapters 6-9). The release of sufficient water to literally cover every mountain peak and to wipe out all non-marine life except that on board an ark with a small crew is beyond rational conception, relying on miracles upon miracles.

This passage is long past the Babel dispersion (Gn 11:9) so how did far-flung civilisations survive a seven year famine without wise Joseph’s to guide them into storing up supplies from the good years? If the face of the earth has a smaller scope, as seems to be taken for granted in most readings of this passage, perhaps that can be read back to the earlier story. A devastating flood across the Middle East and North Africa is still miraculous but conceivable. Could this be a reading that meets modern ‘scientific’ understanding that the human race has passed through some periods that it was small enough to be living on a knife edge while still respecting the fabric of the account?

It was, of course, a long time ago. Faith, or at least Christian faith, isn’t built on that but on Jesus. As the old hymn says, “Here is love, vast as an ocean, loving kindness as the flood, when the Prince of Life, our ransom, shed for us his precious blood…”

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