Someone forwarded the following article to me. I found it quite thought-provoking.
(I don't know its source, sorry.)
The Story of Joseph—or—“Those Who Won’t Learn From History . . . .”
As a child, I attended Sunday School. I distinctly remember being taught the
Old Testament story of Joseph (a son of Jacob). I was taught how Joseph had been
sold by his brothers into slavery to the Egyptians back about BC 1700; how Joseph
correctly interpreted two of the Pharaoh’s dreams to mean that there would be seven
wonderful years of plenty, followed by seven terrible years of famine; how Pharaoh
made Joseph his second-in-command; how Joseph built granaries during the seven
good years to store enough surplus grain to feed the Egyptian people during the
subsequent seven bad years of famine. I was taught how Joseph saved the Egyptian
people; that he was a great man and an extraordinary blessing to the people of Egypt.
I was much surprised to learn that my Sunday school’s characterization of
Joseph was perhaps not true. Joseph, as it turns out, was a diabolical cad who didn’t
save the Egyptian people, but rather used his foreknowledge of the coming famine and
understanding of economics to subject the formerly free Egyptian people to slavery.
That’s right. Long before the Egyptians enslaved the Hebrews, Joseph, the
first Hebrew to enter Egypt, enslaved the Egyptians. So far as I know, Joseph was the
world’s first economist; our first “John Maynard Keynes”.
As you’ll read from text in the Bible, Joseph was no hero—quite the
opposite. More importantly, the story of Joseph shows that it was understood at least
3,700 years ago how to manipulate an economy so as to enslave an entire nation. And
Joseph’s story—openly published to this day in Chapter 47 of Genesis—has been
ignored and overlooked by the world, for centuries.
The impact of Joseph’s story and the world’s failure to learn from that story is
Truly, to understand the story of Joseph is to understand “what fools we mortals
be”. Joseph’s story may be the quintessential illustration of George Santana’s
observation that those who won’t learn from history, are destined to repeat it. In fact,
Americans (and even the world) appear to be repeating the story of Joseph, right now.
What follows are excerpts from Genesis, Chapter 47, and my observations:
“And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that
the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine. And
Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land
of Canaan, for the corn which they bought: and Joseph brought the money into
Pharaoh’s house.” Gen 47:13-14
The seven bad years of famine had begun. But Joseph—contrary to the
benign characterization I learned in Sunday school—did not provide free grain to the
starving Egyptians. Instead, he sold the grain he’d accumulated during the 7 good
years until he “gathered up all the money” and then brought all of it “into Pharaoh’s
Thus, in the first year of the famine, Joseph had 1) cornered the grain market;
2) sold grain to starving Egyptians for such a high price that he collected all of their
money (silver); 3) deposited all the money into Pharaoh’s coffers and thereby removed
all the money from circulation in the Egyptian economy; and 4) exacerbated the famine
by pushing the Egyptian economy into an economic recession and/or depression.
I.e., if the Egyptians still had money in circulation, they might’ve been able to
buy grain at better prices from foreign countries. They might’ve been able to work their
way through the famine. But without food (grain) or money (silver), their economy
collapsed, and they were trapped in the famine, trapped in poverty and absolutely
dependent upon and subject to Joseph.
23"And when money failed in the land of Egypt . . . all the Egyptians came unto
Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? for the
money faileth.” Gen. 47:15
Of course, the “money failed”. Why? Because Joseph had removed it from
circulation and cached it away in the “Pharaoh’s house”. By doing so, Joseph caused
an economic collapse/depression that, in conjunction with the famine, subjected the
Egyptian people to the fear of death by starvation. In that fearful condition, the
Egyptian people became more easily enslaved.
The Egyptians understood that their money had “failed” but they apparently
regarded this failure some sort of natural but inexplicable anomaly. They did not
suspect that their money (and thus economy) had “failed” because Joseph had
collected all of their money, removed it from circulation, and deposited that money with
Coincidentally, our own government removed all the gold money from
domestic circulation in A.D. 1933 and all the silver money in A.D. 1968. The vast
majority of the modern world’s gold (and much of the silver) has been deposited in the
bank vaults of our modern “pharaohs” (governments and central banks). Thus, much
like the Egyptians of 3,700 years ago, we too, have no real money in circulation.
Interesting coincidence, hmm?
"And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you [grain] for your cattle, if
money fail. And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in
exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the
asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year.” Gen 47:16-17
Thus, in the second year of the famine, Joseph offered to supply the Egyptians with
enough grain to survive for another year—provided that they surrender all of their
privately-owned livestock (their primary means of production and wealth) to Joseph
and Pharaoh. Joseph had parlayed control of the grain market into control of the
nation’s livestock (industry) and thereby reduced the Egyptian people to even greater
poverty and dependence.
I’m cynically amused by Joseph’s offer to sell grain to the people in exchange
for all of their livestock “if money fail”.
By using the word “if,” Joseph implied to the Egyptian people that he, too, was
shocked (“Shocked, I tell you!) and surprised by the strange disappearance of the
money from circulation. But, Joseph knew the the money (the medium of exchange)
had “failed” because he had personally caused it to fail by removing all of it from
circulation and then depositing it within the Pharaoh’s vaults. When Joseph offered to
trade grain for livestock, he (much like Don Corleone in the Godfather) made the
Egyptian people an “offer they couldn’t refuse”.
Why couldn’t they refuse? Because the Joseph knew that the people would be
forced to either surrender their livestock—or die. That’s an offer most cowards can’t
Coincidentally, our government has entered into “Global Free Trade” treaties
that reduced or eliminated our tariffs and caused many of our industries (our jobs and
means of production) to leave the USA to relocate into third world nations. Much like
the Egyptians of 1700 BC, we’ve also lost many of our jobs and means of production.
And don’t forget that about one-sixth of all Americans are now on food stamps
and/or welfare. Another sixth depend on Social Security. Thus, at least one-third of
Americans are directly dependent on government for their survival—and that doesn’t
include those of us currently employed by and overpaid by government. Americans
are not yet in circumstances as desperate as that of the ancient Egyptians, but we are
similarly vulnerable to natural or contrived food shortages.
“When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said
unto him, We will not hide it from my lord, how that our money is spent; my lord also
hath our herds of cattle; there is not ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies,
and our lands: Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy
us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and
give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate. And Joseph
bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field,
because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh’s.” Gen 47:18-20
Note that, prior to the famine, the Pharaoh was a “very important person”
(probably something like the nation’s “high priest”) but he wasn’t a dictator. He didn’t
own all of the money, all of the grain, all of the land and all of the people.
However, thanks to the food shortage and Joseph’s economic manipulations,
the Egyptian people agreed to first give all their money, then all of their means of
production (livestock), then all of their land, and finally themselves as servants/slaves
to the Pharaoh.
Without mounting a military threat, without shooting one arrow, Joseph was
able to single-handedly induce the Egyptian people to not merely consent to become
the Pharaoh’s slaves, but to initiate the offer to do so. Joseph didn’t ask the people if
they were would trade their land and bodies (personal freedom) for more grain. He
simply waited for circumstances to grow so dire that the people had no option other
than to prostitute themselves and sell their land to buy another year of life. The people,
recognizing their hopeless condition, therefore invited Joseph to “buy us and our land
Joseph accepted their offer, but it’s inconceivable that Joseph didn’t know all
along that the people’s desperation would drive them to “voluntarily” become slaves.
Joseph simply created economic circumstances so desperate that the people—fearful
of death—volunteered into bondage. The masses of people—who could’ve torn
Joseph and Pharaoh apart with their bare hands—instead refused to fight and
volunteered to become slaves.
Entering such servitude voluntarily is important. If Joseph had enslaved the
Egyptians by force, they’d always be looking for an opportunity to slay him and regain
their freedom. But by creating circumstances where the Egyptians voluntarily agreed to
become slaves, Joseph was far less likely to ever be murdered in a revolt.
Joseph, my Bible school’s purported hero, manipulated the Egyptian economy
so as to cause a whole nation to consent to become slaves. I doubt that there’s
another comparable story or even myth in all of history. One man—Joseph—
essentially engineered an unprecedented, unrivaled and extraordinary conquest an
This is the stuff of awe and legend.