Excellent article by @Joel_Duff on the meaning of the “whole earth” in Scripture.
A few years ago I wrote a satire piece titled Answers from Genesis: Reclaiming the Biblical Authority of Joseph’s Global Famine. It was meant to call attention to the fact that Hebrew words used in Genesis 41 to describe the severe famine at the time of Joseph are the same as those used in the Creation Account of Genesis 1 and 2 and Noah’s Flood in Genesis 6-9. An example of this language can been seen in verses 56 and 57 (ESV) of Genesis 41 which reads: “So when the famine had spread over all the land (erets) Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land (erets) of Egypt. Moreover, all the earth (erets) came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth (erets).”
My understanding of the original text follows the conventional interpretation of this passage by orthodox biblical expositors over many millennia; namely the term all the earth is used to indicate either the known world at that time (accommodationist) or is hyperbole to emphasize the importance of the event (i.e. everyone came from everywhere to come to the fair).
My purpose for the satire account was to illustrate that when young-earth apologists insist upon a static literal interpretation of certain words or phrases that support their positions, there can be great consequences. If they are fair and apply a consistent hermeneutic they must also interpret both the Great Flood and the severe famine in Joseph’s time as truly global (planet-wide) events. Furthermore, this interpretation would require that people from the entire earth would have been fed by Joseph’s storehouses of food. As such, even native North and South Americans and Australians must have also experienced this same seven-year famine and, minimally, representatives of each people group around the world would have traveled to Egypt to obtain food from Joseph.
The same observation might be made of Paul’s statement in his letter to the Colossians, when he says that the gospel already had been ‘preached in all creation under heaven’ (Colossians 1:23). Was Paul intending his audience to understand that the gospel had been presented to the Native South Americans or Aboriginal Australians at this time?