WHEN MONEY FAILED The Egyptian Example - Part II
n yesterday's commentary on the continuing economic crisis, we addressed how a vast amount of food reserves, set up for Pharaoh by Joseph in anticipation of a gigantic famine, brought vast amounts of money into the Egyptian treasury. The text in Genesis tells us all the money was dutifully given to Pharaoh by Joseph, who had been appointed the equivalent of Prime Minister, or in the ancient provincial expressions, Grand Vizier.
"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" (Genesis 47:14)
When you first read this verse, it sounds as though it is simply saying that Joseph, in his role as the overseer of the Egyptian survival program, turned over the proceeds of the distribution program to the king of Egypt. However, the statement is far broader, and because it has direct bearing on what ultimately occurs in the economic structure, demands further examination.
When the text says Joseph "gathered up" the funds for Pharaoh, it specifies that it was "all the money that was found in the land of Egypt" -- which spins the meaning considerably. To put it another way, the program over which Joseph presided, was a magnet which caused every single "dime" found in Egypt to be drawn into the coffers of the country's leader -- in this case, the Pharaoh.
Thus, this isn't saying Joseph turned over all the money to Pharaoh, it's telling us that Pharaoh ended up with, literally, all the money that had been circulating in Egypt.
"Money" is an instrument that is only valuable if someone is willing to accept it in exchange for something which is also deemed to be of value. History is filled with examples of currencies which, at one time had a store of value, but due to adverse circumstances, later became completely worthless. Confederate notes, for example, issued by the Southern states during the first American civil war, could buy most anything in the South at one time: cotton, hay, food, a horse, a plantation, or who knows what else.
At the end of the war, the Confederate secession had been crushed, and the paper was worthless. Ironically, some collectors held those same notes, and passed them down as simple memorabilia to their heirs, and those fortunate ones found that those Southern collectibles are now worth a considerable amount of Northern money because of their scarcity.
In a similar vein, I remember how, as a boy, I was a comic book fan, and collected every issue I could obtain of certain titles (I was a Marvel fan). The comics were a dime then, and when they went to 12 cents, I complained. As I collected them, I went to used issue dealers, and remember paying my entire week's allowance of $2 for issue number 1 of one of my favorites. Years later, after having left my parent's home, and neglecting a closet full of comics for years, they finally threw them out.
I later learned that same number 1 edition of my favorite comic, for which I paid $2, was now worth thousands of dollars -- which I hope illustrates my point. Perhaps some of my readers have similar stories with other items like baseball cards, or other collectibles. The fact remains that, if I had those comics today, I probably couldn't sell them in Mogadishu, Bangladesh, or Tehran, but I could definitely get a bundle for them in Europe, San Francisco, or New Orleans -- however, if Katrina was in town, New Orleans wouldn't be the best place to take bids.
The point of this is, monetary value is based upon some form of market in which an exchange can take place. In Egypt, once the government became the holder of every ounce of the monetary measurement in use at that time, even though there may have been people willing to accept Pharaoh's funds for things in their possession, Pharaoh's money couldn't buy food because Pharaoh also had all the food.
Furthermore, in even a tightly controlled market economy, such as that found in the leftist crippled monetary system in America, government produces nothing. Government doesn't build things, people and private organizations build things. Government doesn't grow things, people grow things. Government doesn't function as a producer, or even a consumer, as government (Pharaoh) can only use its intrinsic power to drain economic vitality, and then redistribute it.
In the case of ancient Egypt, as the scales became so incredibly imbalanced in favor of government, the basic mechanism of trade was lost and, as the text states,
"...money failed in the land of Egypt" (Genesis 47:15)
[For the record, the LORD instructed the author to begin this series on Wednesday August 3rd, the day before the monetary crash which occurred on Thursday August 4th. Next: The Barter Economy Emerges]
An informative and insightful look at Joseph, and the political changes that occurred during his tenure in Egypt, are studied in audio form. For more, listen to the short online audio clip found at ENTRANCE INTO EGYPT: The Story Of Joseph.