The Old Testament in the News: Joseph

The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament in the News

Every day, the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is mentioned in secular newspapers, magazines, and religious publications. Sometimes secular and religious publications provide information about the content of the Bible. Other times, people cite the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament in order to prove a point or to illustrate the message they are trying to communicate.

From time to time I will blog on some of the articles where the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is mentioned. Whenever I mention an article in a publication, I am not endorsing the content or the information found in the article. My only goal is to examine how the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament was used in that article.

Today I will begin my review of the Old Testament in the news with two references to Joseph.

Government Diginomica

Gary Flood, writing on the financial crisis faced by local governments in the UK, wrote:

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says Twin Halls have seen an average cut to their budgets of almost 26% since 2010, while the Local Government Association estimates the Treasury’s Revenue Support Grant will shrink by 77p in the pound between 2015-20, while almost half of all councils, 168, will no longer receive any core central government funding in the 2019/20 budgetary year.

The solution to the problems faced by local governments in the UK, according to Flood, is the appearance of a wise man, like the biblical Joseph, who could find a solution to the financial crisis faced by the local governments. Flood wrote:

The Old Testament tells of seven years of fat, followed by seven years of lean for the people of Egypt. UK local government is now entering its eighth successive year of ‘lean’, though – and it doesn’t seem to have many Josephs with smart ideas about how to deal with all this.

Flood is right. When Egypt faced seven years of crisis, the “seven years of lean for the people of Egypt,” Pharaoh needed a man of wisdom and good sense, someone whom Pharaoh could put in authority over the land of Egypt (Genesis 41:33). Pharaoh recognized that Joseph’s advice was very good. Pharaoh said, “there is no one so discerning and wise as you” (Genesis 41:39). So, Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of the whole land of Egypt.

Flood calls for another Joseph to solve the financial crisis faced by the local governments in the UK. However, I firmly believe that the “Joseph solution” for the crisis Egypt faced, would be rejected by the leaders (and the people) of the local governments.

This is what Joseph proposed to solve the crisis in Egypt:

So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh. All the Egyptians sold him their fields because the famine was so severe, and soon all the land belonged to Pharaoh. As for the people, he made them all slaves, from one end of Egypt to the other. Then Joseph said to the people, “Look, today I have bought you and your land for Pharaoh. I will provide you with seed so you can plant the fields. Then when you harvest it, one-fifth of your crop will belong to Pharaoh. You may keep the remaining four-fifths as seed for your fields and as food for you, your households, and your little ones.” “You have saved our lives!” they exclaimed. “May it please you, my lord, to let us be Pharaoh’s servants.” Joseph then issued a decree still in effect in the land of Egypt, that Pharaoh should receive one-fifth of all the crops grown on his land. (Genesis 47:20-26)

What Joseph did was intended to save Egypt as it faced an economic crisis. First, Joseph bought all the land that belonged to the people for Pharaoh: “All the Egyptians sold him their fields because the famine was so severe, and soon all the land belonged to Pharaoh.” Second, Joseph required all the people of Egypt to become slaves of Pharaoh. As serfs of Pharaoh, they would work the land and Joseph would provide them with seed so they could plant the fields. Third, Joseph established a system of taxation in which one-fifth or 20% of the crops would belong to Pharaoh.

If the political leaders of the local governments in the UK would follow the wisdom of Joseph, then all the citizens would sell their property and themselves to the local governments and work for the government as serfs and pay 20% of their income in taxes.

I am sure that all the people would strongly reject the idea of selling their properties and themselves to the government. However, knowing how the government taxes its people, most of them would gladly pay 20% of the income to the government, since most of the people already pay more than 20% of their income in taxes.

New York Post

Natalie Musumeci, writing about the arrest of Lenny Dykstra, a former Major League Baseball center fielder for the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies, wrote:

Troubled Mets great Lenny Dykstra brushed off the “ridiculousness” of the charges stemming from his most recent arrest during a rambling Twitter session in which he cited Taylor Swift lyrics — and compared himself to Joseph from the Old Testament.

According to Musumeci, Dykstra was arrested for allegedly threatening an Uber driver with a weapon in New Jersey. Dykstra was charged with third-degree making of terroristic threats and drug offenses. The Uber driver told police that Dykstra put a weapon to his head and threatened to kill him after the driver refused to change his destination..

Musumeci says that Dykstra compared himself to Joseph in a tweet addressed to his fans. Musumeci wrote:

In another tweet directed at a fan — and a group of rabbis, including Rabbi Josh Yuter, Rabbi Shmuley, Rabbi Ari Shishler and Rabbi Shaul Wertheimer — Dykstra wrote: “Just remember that Joseph was only able to make his impact in Ancient Egypt and, more long-term, on the Israelites after a BS trip to jail.”

There is a difference between the imprisonment of Joseph and Dykstra. When Joseph went to jail, Joseph was innocent of all charges laid against him. That is the reason he was able to make an impact in Egypt.

As for Dykstra, he is only allegedly guilty of the charges laid against him. It will be up to a jury to decide whether he made “a BS trip to jail.”

Claude F. Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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This entry was posted in Book of Genesis, Joseph, News, Old Testament and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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