Reading through Genesis is an interesting journey. By carefully studying this book alone I was able to unpack (…and unravel) many “bible-based” teachings I had experienced over the years. One of the most interesting discoveries I made was the bible’s depiction of ancient Egyptian history, and how the house of Pharaoh rose to global recognition and insurmountable wealth while the Egyptian people became slaves – moreover, willingly chose slavery. The story is recorded in Genesis 41 and Genesis 47: 13 through to Genesis 47:26.
The background to this particular story is interesting, as it positions a man torn from his family, accused of rape and deceived by one he considered his last hope to get out of jail – squarely beside the head of a growing nation… advising him. Joseph’s tale to this point is one riddled with misfortune and promise, however strange, but true that may sound. More importantly, the story covers the rise of a nation from regional powerhouse to global sovereign – all through the work of one God-inspired man.
Things to note as you look at this story:
- God’s inspiration came directly to a NON-CHRISTIAN. Though Pharaoh was unable to fathom the meaning of the message, the message was given to him. Why? Some speculate that if Pharaoh had not experienced God’s touch first-hand, then Joseph could not have been elevated in the way he needed to be. You choose your own explanation.
- Joseph worked for more than fourteen (14) years on what was revealed in one night. How much time and energy have you invested into your own spiritual leading and convictions? Fourteen years based on one dream. He never lost sight of God’s message to him.
- Pharaoh and his household never converted. I think this little bit is often overlooked. What is the lesson here? Simple. There are times when we are placed somewhere and our mission is not meant to be evangelism. As a matter of fact – I firmly believe that God introduces us to various situations for TWO reasons and TWO reasons only: (1) For IT to CHANGE US; or (2) For US to CHANGE IT. Don’t destroy what may be a key relationship by evangelizing your way out of a job. Listen to God and let Him direct your actions and interactions.
The Business Strategy in the Bible:
One of the most mind-boggling things about this particular story is just how much it resonates with the advice of career advisor that I’ve written about in the “Strategy done right” series. “Strategy is informed decisions and timely action”. Joseph used the information given him to create a strategy that would not only sustain the nation of Egypt, but would also elevate the his boss (the Pharaoh) and all those in his organization (the Egyptian royal house) to higher levels of power. By wisely storing up during the period of abundance, Joseph was able to wait for a problem to arise that only he had the solution to. From that position he pressed into the advantage until the house of Pharaoh not only owned ALL the land and ALL the people (except for the priests and their allotment), but also had a self-replenishing and self-evolving revenue stream in the form of a sort of tithes.
Joseph’s informed decisions:
- Create Storage: Joseph created storehouses of everything necessary to survive, AS WELL AS everything necessary to conduct trade
- Ensure Logistics: He knew the extent of the need that would be created and designed city-scale storehouses to handle the expected global traffic
- Centralize Accountability: Joseph carefully established a chain of command with him as the head
Joseph’s timely actions:
- Offer a real solution to a real problem: Pharaoh’s storehouses were not opened until there was global demand. This ensured there was little negotiation of price and/or value
- Strong negotiation: According to the Genesis record, Joseph had handled the situation so well that having set a price that could not be met – offers began to come to him
- Accumulate wealth AND resources: Joseph “took” everything from the people of Egypt – but a little at a time, and ONLY when they came to him and offered it. He took their money, their livestock, their land and their freedom. It may sound harsh – but it IS true. So why does this count as a timely action? Joseph controlled the distribution of his solution in a way that his stores never ran dry and his consumers never felt taken advantage of. In fact – they often thanked him as he took their property (for comparison: think about how people responded to Apple releasing a barely changed/upgraded product versus their response to Microsoft after the release of the fully revamped Windows 8).Additionally, this particular action has a “hidden” lesson however – it is not whether or not you are wealthy… it is what you DO with that wealth that matters. Joseph may have taken their freedom, but he never seemed to remove any of their civil liberties – instead, he translated the price of their freedom into a revenue stream for the Pharaoh’s household – one fifths of everything produced in Egypt was Pharaoh’s.
Now… I am almost certain that about 10% of readers who have gotten this far will probably be a little perturbed that I am crediting Joseph as the grand architect and not God – but I assure you I give God his due as the One who fuels and inspires. I however, also believe that the same God gave us all TWO beautiful and wonderful gifts: a brain; a free-will. It is my opinion that Joseph took the insight given by God and did what a smart man would. I hope to be equally ready and able to consistently do the same should the opportunity present itself.
Some quick lessons to live by:
- There are usually two types of people that MUST come together to make global change: The “dreamer” – who has the vision; and the “dream-realizer” who has the capacity and ability to act in ways that will bring the dream to life
- The “dreamer” may very well have no idea what to do with his/her dream… but that’s not what matters! What matters is: (a) as a “dreamer” being willing to admit your weaknesses and seek out the strength of others; and (b) as a “dream-realizer” being ready to act, and act consistently with the dream
- People will do things you would never expect if you deprive them of “comfort” long enough. This applies in all contexts – so, if you’re having issues with productivity of your workers – check their comfort levels. If you’re having a recurring issue with your child – check his/her comfort with his/herself and your home… maybe even school.
That’s it for now. Hope this helped to add another perspective on things. As usual – let me hear your thoughts in the comments.
Image credits: http://wwp.greenwichmeantime.com/time-zone/africa/images/cairo-egypt.jpg