THE WISDOM OF JOSEPH'S
Joseph was sold by his brothers
and ended up in Egypt. It was while interpreting the dream of Pharaoh that
he was rewarded to administer the grains of Egypt for the impending seven
years of famine.
As administrator, Joseph could
have given away all the wealth of Egypt. But he was not wasteful, especially
with what belonged to others.
He preferred to sell the corn
rather than to give it to the hungry. For if he gave it free there would
have been none for most. His liberality was wise whereby there was enough
Anybody could buy corn; for if
it was perceived that the corn was free, they would give up cultivating the
land. For he who has the use of what is another's neglects to cultivate his
In his wisdom, Joseph proceeded
thus: first, he gathered up their money, then their implements; last of all,
he acquired for the king all their rights to the ground. Today that would
provoke a revolution and yet this arrangement saved Egypt and the world
Joseph did not wish to deprive
all of them of their property, but to support them in it. He imposed a
general tax that they might hold their own in safety. So pleasing was this
to all from whom he had taken the land, that they looked on it not as the
selling of their rights, but as the recovery of their welfare. Thus they
praised Joseph: "Thou hast saved our lives, let us find grace in the
sight of our Lord." For they had lost nothing of their own, but had
received a new right. Nothing of what was useful to them had failed for they
had now gained it in perpetuity.
In his wisdom, Joseph acted so
that the people should help themselves by their payments and should not in
their time of need seek help from others. For it was surely better to give
up part of their crops than to lose the whole of their rights. He required
them to give up a fifth of their whole produce, and thus showed himself
clear-sighted in making provisions for the future. Never after did Egypt
suffer from such a famine.
Note that in Pharaoh's dream,
the produce of the seven fruitful years was all consumed by the seven years
of famine. A way must be found so that the gains of the fruitful years can
be extended during the seven unfruitful years. And this is for everyone to
be able to give up a portion of their gains...i.e., not to consume all their
gains. And it was this portion that Joseph saved for the seven lean
What shall we admire in Joseph?
His watchfulness--when so high an office was given him, he gathered such
vast supplies; his justice--for having treated all alike. But what made him
truly wise was that, sold by his brothers into slavery, he took no revenge
for this wrong but put an end to their want.