We continue our three-part study of Joseph’s life and his prophetic foreshadowing of worldwide conditions in the last days. To this point in the story, Joseph had responded to the first pleas of starving Egyptians. Joseph collected ALL the money that was found in Egypt. Joseph took every last penny in return for grain he sold so that people might eat and be saved from the famine.
He deposited all of this money into Pharaoh’s coffers. Joseph then controlled all payment specie (money) in Egypt.
What happened next? Predictably, once all the monetary savings of the people had been depleted (ending up in Pharaoh’s coffers), the people then faced a cash crunch—what Wall Street practitioners today call a “liquidity crisis.” There was no more transactional specie (cash) circulating in the land after that point.
Thereafter, from that time on, people could only barter.
The famine continued for another year.
At this point, the populace again had no grain or money left. What to do next? They needed to replenish their cupboards.
They again begged Joseph to give them food. What did Joseph do in response? He provided handouts. Actually, no, that would be a false statement. Truly, what did he do next? He demanded the people’s livestock.
In an agrarian society, as existed during that time, livestock represented assets that generated a large part of household income. Consider also that in that era, livestock was the equivalent of today’s industrial capital. They were the equivalent to our factories and transportation systems today. Horses, cattle, sheep, and other animals in Joseph’s time were the means to the production of wool, butter, and many other products. What was the result?
Here is what the hungry people did: “[…] they brought their livestock to Joseph, and he gave them food in exchange for their horses, their sheep and goats, their cattle and donkeys. And he brought them through that year with food in exchange for all their livestock” (Genesis 47:17).
Now Joseph—on behalf of Pharaoh—was in control of ALL the capital stock of Egypt. Joseph had secured ownership of the land-based transportation system (donkeys and horses) and the productive capacity of factories (livestock). He could now sell the outputs of milk and meat, as well as transportation services.
Pharaoh had become a countrywide rentier.
However, the takeover by the state didn’t stop there. Relentlessly, the famine continued yet another year.
People needed more grain, and they again became desperate. What were they forced to do? They now said to Joseph: “Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in bondage to Pharaoh” (verse 19). What did Joseph do next?
He reduced the people to complete servitude. He took all their land. Now, everything from one end of Egypt to the other became the property of the state and under the control of one man— Pharaoh (with the exception of a small amount of land that was owned by the priests and special elites).
At this point, the populace owned absolutely nothing and was totally enslaved. They probably remained as such until the end of their lives.
Will the Real Joseph Stand Up?
Are there two Josephs mentioned in the Bible, or are we dealing with the one and the same?
Many see Joseph as an Old Testament picture of Christ. We would not disagree. He suffered so that he might be able to save his family in Egypt; to go ahead and, like Jesus, prepare a place for them (John 14:3). It is also noted that Joseph is the only major person in the Israelite lineage of Christ found in the Bible, of which no character flaw or sin is explicitly mentioned.
Joseph surely was a sinner like every other human being, so why are his sins not mentioned? Yet, we do discover that through his errors, this instrument of God—like all the others from Abraham to King David—has bequeathed lessons to mankind that are very relevant for our day.
An impartial examination of Joseph’s life reveals that the results of his actions were not entirely beneficial, nor his techniques virtuous. That statement will likely strike the reader as disrespectful. Should this be said of Joseph, a venerated person mentioned in the Bible?
While it is true that Joseph succeeded in saving many lives, his mission was not performed entirely in the spirit of a merciful rescue operation. Egyptians and others seeking to buy grain had to virtually sell their souls and freedoms to gain access to grain.
We note that Joseph did not donate the grain to needy people but instead required payment. Think of it. People were starving, and he asked for money for grain. Few Christian aid organizations today would think they are fulfilling Christ’s command to “feed the poor” (Luke 11:41) or their enemies (Romans 12:20) if they were profiting from their ministries.
To the contrary, the entire ownership structure of the land of Egypt was changed virtually overnight from private ownership to vassalage. With the exception of a few Egyptian priests, the immediate family of Joseph, and probably some other high-ranking elites—the entire land of Egypt came under the direct ownership of Pharaoh.
Moreover, we are told that as a result of Joseph’s policies, a system of onerous taxation resulted that is “still in force today” (Genesis 47:26). Indeed, government taxation is the norm today.
Just imagine what would happen if this type of “absolute” power that Joseph attained for Pharaoh were given to a diabolical entity or person in our day? Indeed, the Bible does clearly indicate that just such an individual is prophesied to appear in the last days.
Thankfully, Joseph was a person whom God prospered and blessed in almost everything that he did (Genesis 39:2). Yet, as mentioned, the Bible remains silent in its judgment of his techniques. It will be evident to any reader that the consequences of Joseph’s actions were not entirely ideal.
As such, a major conundrum must be noted in this story: People were saved from hunger on the one hand, yet taken captive in the process on the other. It is clear that the whole saga turned out to be a giant opportunity for the secular Pharaoh to gain power and wealth at the expense of those in need.
But did this need to occur? Joseph could have saved everyone from hunger without making Pharaoh an extremely wealthy potentate and everyone else an oppressed vassal. So, why did he not choose to do so?
We can recognize here the classic problem of mankind. People who have power and/or the opportunity will most often choose wealth … and more wealth. That is certainly the case in our day. Elites and plutocrats become ever richer.
There is one other lesson. Just as Mammon and God are incompatible, so are charity and profit. One cannot give equal weight to both. On earth, at least, money and wealth eventually win out.
Other Prophetic Parallels to Today
It may well be asked: If Joseph’s actions did indeed save millions of lives, then what does anything else matter? Wasn’t the trade-off worth it—putting entire populations into vassalage and even further widening the imbalances of the wealth distribution?
That may appear to be the same type of situation faced by those today who are making policy decisions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Should we save everyone from dying from the virus but completely destroy the global economy and place massive debts upon the shoulders of citizens? How can it be ensured that the stimulus of massive new indebtedness (created by fiat) will be distributed fairly?
Is everyone being forced into economic bondage? Attempts may be made to achieve fairness. But it would be foolishness to believe that mankind’s primordial unfaithfulness with money will suddenly turn benevolent. Pharaoh, as we have shown, ended up being super-rich. The same tendency is at work today, especially so when crises are seized as catalysts for major wealth heists and transfers.
Once policymakers begin going down the road of fiat money (Modern Money Theory) and economic interventions, there is no easy return. Temporary government policies and interventions tend to eventually become permanent fixtures. Even Joseph faced this dilemma. After serving Pharaoh for 26 years—including 12 years after the famine was over—he claimed that he was still saving lives (Genesis 50:20). Here we note that a temporary government policy measure will tend to become a permanent one.
Another specter of the Joseph story is that “[…] all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world” (Genesis 41:57). Here, in the first book of the Bible, we find the very roots of modern-day “globalization.”
The whole world converged together for reasons of “bread” (a euphemism for “money”). Egypt had become the world’s commercial center, and its grain became the senior currency of that epoch.
Pharaoh came to this position of controlling the entire world by dispensing the means of obtaining bread and prosperity. Here we see that the incentive of gaining “bread” had been harnessed by one centralized system … even one man. We may see that aspects of that process are again sweeping the entire world today under the guise of the promise of more bread for the entire world.
An Endtime Trap Foreshadowed
How long did it take for the entire known world of Joseph’s time to come under economic bondage to Pharaoh? According to this writer’s calculations, once the drought began, this process required only a period of three-and one-half years.
Three one-year periods are indicated, and an additional half year is deduced. Explicitly mentioned to last a year are these two yearly stages: Livestock was used as payment for one year of grain supply (Genesis 47:17). Another year was survived by giving up ownership of land and their “bodies” (verse 18).
What about the period before these two yearly spans? In response to the first request for grain, Joseph took all the money in the land (verses 13-15). We judge that the monetary transactions could not have purchased more than a year’s worth of grain consumption. As it was in those times, most wealth was represented by livestock and land. Transactional money did not play as significant a role in the livelihoods of people as today.
As already reviewed, Joseph did not buy the excess grain during the plenty period in the first place. Therefore, the seven years of plenty would not have produced a big cash hoard in people’s pockets, which may have been sufficient to purchase an adequate grain supply for all year.
With this logic, we so far count the duration of three years on the road to serfdom for Egypt’s population.
We next note that the Nile Basin at times supported two grain harvests each year. As such, it would be logical to assume that people would only have laid aside provisions of grain for one half-year, this being long enough to last until the next harvest. That suggests that six months of drought would have first taken place before food shortages began to occur. As of that point, money would have been used to purchase the next year’s grain supply.
If our estimates are correct, we can conclude that it required a three-and-one-half year period to bring the entire world under the control of one system, under the authority of one man.
In the final part of this series, we focus on the prophetic indications of global economic bondage of the entire world. What can yet be expected to occur in the future?
Wilfred J. Hahn is a global economist/strategist. Formerly a top-ranked global analyst, research director for a major Wall Street investment bank, and head of Canada’s largest global investment operation, his writings focus on the endtime roles of money, economics and globalization. He has been quoted around the world and his writings reproduced in numerous other publications and languages. His 2002 book The Endtime Money Snare: How to live free accurately anticipated and prepared its readers for the Global Financial Crisis. A following book, Global Financial Apocalypse Prophesied: Preserving true riches in an age of deception and trouble, looks further into the prophetic future.
Do you have questions or other perspectives, you can contact Wilfred at: email@example.com. Please note that for reasons of volume and investment securities regulation, he cannot give financial advice.