Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Economic Recovery and the Lessons of History : Joseph's Bailout in Egypt in the Bible : Parshat Vayigash

Ups and downs in the economy are a matter of history generally.

One example that comes to mind here is the Bible - storing up in fat years for lean years, as Joseph did in ancient Egypt, which was not sufficient, as famine still swept the land and everyone came to Joseph for deliverance. The result was a "government bailout" by which Joseph issued handouts in exchange for concessions in freedom. Since our revised chronology of Egypt places Joseph in Egypt as Djoser (a seven-year famine is recorded for both), this formed the ultimate basis of the Pharaonic empire. As written at the Wikipedia:

"Joseph gathered all the money in Egypt and Canaan selling grain and brought the money into Pharaoh's house. (Gen. 47:14.) When the Egyptians exhausted their money and asked Joseph for bread, Joseph sold them bread in exchange for all their animals. (Gen. 47:15–17.) When they had no more animals, they offered to sell their land to Joseph and become bondmen in exchange for bread. (Gen. 47:18–19.) So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh — except for that of the priests, who had a portion from Pharaoh — and in exchange for seed, Joseph made all the Egyptians bondmen. (Gen. 47:20–23.) At harvest time, Joseph collected for Pharaoh a fifth part of all the people harvested, and it continued as a statute in Egypt that Pharaoh should have a fifth of all produced outside of the priests’ land. (Gen. 47:24–26.) And Israel lived in Egypt, in the land of Goshen, accumulated possessions, and was fruitful and multiplied. (Gen. 47:27.)"

Take a look at an analysis in this vein by Rabbi Avram Israel Reisner of the Chevrei Tzedek Congregation in Northwest Baltimore, who posts at the Baltimore Jewish Times on Joseph’s Bailout, Parshat Vayigash. (The Wikipedia writes: "Vayigash or Vaigash (ויגש — Hebrew for “and he drew near” or “then he drew near,” the first word of the parshah) is the eleventh weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading. It constitutes Genesis 44:18–47:27.")

The analogy by Rabbi Avram is not perfect by any means, but thought-provoking it is. We specifically disagree with his idea that Joseph's solution to the famine had anything to do with the later Exodus, which by our chronology took place about 800 years later at the time of the explosion of Santorin on Thera. Joseph, we are pretty certain, was Djoser.

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