Pentateuchal Investigative Reporting

From the Merriam-Webster online dictionary: Pentateuch

Main Entry: Pen-ta-teuch
Pronunciation: \?pen-t?-?tük, -?tyük\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English Penteteuke, from Late Latin Pentateuchus, from Greek Pentateuchos, from penta- + teuchos tool, vessel, book, from teuchein to make
Date: 15th century

: the first five books of Jewish and Christian Scriptures

There is a dark side to the story of Joseph in Egypt — a tale that is found in Genesis, shared in Jewish and Christian scriptures, and retold and amplified in the Koran. It is one of the best-known stories of our human species:

Shortly thereafter, in 1844, the Bábi religion arose in Persia, followed nineteen years later by the Bahá’í Faith, together ushering in perhaps the most tumultuous religious episode of the nineteenth century. From the moment of the inception of the Bábi religion, the story of Joseph held central importance in it and, in fact, became part of its historical development. The story has no less importance in the Bahá’í Faith that followed….

The brief version of the story is that Joseph was the first-born son of his father’s favorite wife. He has a younger brother by the same mother, and nine older brothers by other wives.

His father makes a huge mistake in family politics and openly favors Joseph in every way, making a special coat — a coat of many colors — for the boy. This is guaranteed to win the enmity of the nine older brothers, which it does, in fact, do. Happy young Joseph is a bit of a prodigy, as well, who has amazing dreams, and like a great innocent dumbass tells everybody his dream that all his brothers would bow down before him. Perhaps he did it at a Walton-style family meal, the details aren’t recorded.

His brothers grow to hate and despise him, and try to figure out a way to bump him off, probably convinced that the crazy old man will leave all his flocks and property to the kid, and they’re stuck working as his herders for the rest of their lives. Anyway, bad family politics, tragic consequences.

There’s some kind of thing that the Old Man needs, so he sends Joseph out to the sheep site to take a message. Naturally, Joseph puts on his fancy pants coat, and heads out, oblivious to not being the happy center of the Patriarchal Universe. Brothers stick him in a well, argue about how to off the little schmuck, passing caravan happens by, Joseph is sold as as slave for a chunk of change (how that chunk of change is spent isn’t recorded) and goes to Egypt, where he’s resold into a high Egyptian household.

The brothers take the “Coat of Many Colors,” dip it in the blood of a goat and tell the Old Man (Jacob) that Joseph was killed by a wild beast. The Old Man is inconsolable.

Meantime, in Egypt, Joseph makes good. Becomes #1 slave, wife wants to sleep with him, he’s virtuous, gets sent to prison. Meets out-of-favor Royal servants, interprets their dreams — correctly, as it turns out. One is killed, one is sent back to work for the Pharaoh.

Pharaoh has nightmares, nobody can explain them in a satisfying manner, servant whispers: “There was this guy I knew in prison …”

In desperation, Pharaoh calls for Joseph (who’s now the chief trustee in the prison: he’s a hard-charging self-starter anywhere he goes, a natural upper-management type). Joseph explains the dreams, seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph suggests Pharaoh exact a percentage of the goods in the seven good years, save it, and disburse it during the seven LEAN years.

Pharaoh buys it. Pharaoh puts his ring on Joseph’s finger, says “Great! You do it.” Joseph does well, ends up acting as Pharaoh’s prime minister while Pharaoh runs off and has fun in a Pharaonic manner that isn’t explained. (Sort of Reaganesque, evidently.)

But no one ever talks about the dark side of what Joseph does.

When the famine comes, what does Joseph do? As originally promised, he gives out the supplies that were prudently stored up during the good years, but, in return, everyone has to trade their land for food. With the exception of the Egyptian Priesthood, all other properties in Egypt are now under the ownership of Pharaoh. Joseph literally buys the Land of Egypt out from under the Egyptians’ feet, using their own food — grown on that land — to do it.

The prisoner has neatly turned the tables and enslaved an entire nation. From landowners, who gave of their work and their land, in return for the return of what they grew, they must give up all claims to the very property they grew it on. And what did Joseph contribute?

Joseph would have done well on Wall Street.

Because it doesn’t matter what you create, or grow, or earn. What matters is that if you get a step ahead of everyone else, you can claim the spring, and extort everyone who follows who wants a drink.

And that is the dark side of Joseph.

And that is the dark side of what has happened to us with our “credit.”

Our mortgages. Our payments.

Have you ever had the experience of bouncing a check and seeing the domino effect that follows? There is a (huge) check charge, and there is a charge from the party the check bounced to, and then a following check bounces because of the charges on the first check, and THAT vendor has a check charge and so on and so forth.

Or, if you missed a payment on a credit card, and suddenly your credit limit or rate on ANOTHER card changed dramatically?

Or tried to rent a car without a credit card?

Paid any attention to the 2005 Bankruptcy Bill? From Common Dreams:

WASHINGTON – Millions of Americans could be plunged into financial ruin if a bill giving credit card companies long-sought relief from unpaid loans gets final Congressional approval, a broad array of consumer protection, economic justice, and civil rights groups warned.

Senators on Thursday passed the bankruptcy reform bill, which political observers said was largely crafted by the credit card industry more than eight years ago, sending it to the House of Representatives. Lawmakers there said they could vote on final passage next month.

Every year, some 1.6 million Americans file for personal bankruptcy protection–more than five times as many as in 1980. The process, which in many respects mirrors corporate bankruptcy, allows them to come up with a creditor-reviewed and court-approved plan to write off some of their debts, pay off others, and reorganize their personal finances so they can make a fresh start.

Opponents of the first revamp of the nation’s personal bankruptcy laws in more than a quarter-century said the legislation would deal a ruinous blow to the overwhelming majority of those forced to declare personal bankruptcy: moderate- and low-income families, many of them black or migrant or with only one parent; and individuals of modest means hit with large divorce losses or medical expenses.

”Families are borrowing to make ends meet, and they’re one missed paycheck away from collapse,” said Tamara Draut, director of the economic opportunity program at Demos, a think tank.

Pharaoh would be pleased. It DID pass. And now, a ‘cottage’ industry has sprung up, with big lawyers and collection agencies buying up old bad paper on unsecured loans (e.g. credit cards) at pennies on the dollar, knowing that they can extend the debts indefinitely. A real growth industry, since the credit industry has been making a living for years by offering low four-figure credit to ANYONE, no matter their past credit history. At 29% interest, you can absorb a lot of bad paper, AND eventually write it off.

When that debt gets written off, who pays?

Why, the people, via the taxes that they have to pay to make up for the taxes that those who wrote off the debt DID pay.

Meantime, speculators in old bad paper are looking at profit margins from 400% to over 1000% investing in debts.

And mortgages are bought and sold all the time.

Etcetera. Etcetera . Etcetera.

Whoever our “new” Josephs are, Pharaoh would be pleased.

Oh, I forgot the rest of the story:

Driven by the famine to Egypt to buy food, Joseph’s nine brothers appear before him, and don’t recognize the slave they sold a long time ago. After putting them through a complicated mess, he gets them to bring The Old Man and all the wives and sheep and goats and horses and camels to Egypt, and everybody lives happily ever after, sort of.

At the end of the story, the Old Man blesses Joseph and his brothers, naming the twelve tribes of Israel: Joseph’s two sons by the daughter of the Egyptian Serpent Priest — who is unjustly ignored in all narratives — Ephraim and Manesseh are each a tribe, so Joseph gets two and everybody else gets one.

Which seems to be the story of his life. Whether what he did was a good thing, or a monstrous thing I leave to theologians to argue from their pulpits from now until Doomsday.

But Exodus begins thus:

Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. (Exodus 1:8, King James Version)

And the rest follows into the mosaic of Mosaic history.

Courage.

======

cross posted to The Katrinacrat
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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Pentateuchal Investigative Reporting

  1. eaglew

    Personally, if Joseph would have porked her, he would probably have not have pissed her off and ended up in prison… but he was righteous, and also scared shitless of Potiphar.

    I am sure that he figured (and rightly so) that if he porked her, Potiphar would have cut his nuts off.

    Sort of a damned if you do and damned if you don’t sort of deal.

    Good story, and typical of what happens when you have to deal with a woman scorned.

    (My God Eagle you must have missed the whole point of my blog.. huh huh?)

  2. I always wondered what Sunday dinners were like over at Joseph’s In-laws’ house. Especially after the boys were born.

    He was a priest of the serpent cult, so perhaps they lived at or near the temple. The grandkids were probably into herpetology. And Grandma would share old serpent cult recipes with her daughter.

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  4. Don’t agree that much, but still it is interesting approach :) First time I read the story retold this way as I usually get the standard religious understanding.