Joseph, son of the Bible’s patriarch Jacob, was a smart, hard-working leader in Egypt. He was appointed to be the Egyptian pharaoh’s right-hand man. Joseph managed well all the cities in Egypt. And he understood the concept behind banking. He knew it was wise to save for the future. He also knew that grain was worth more than just its weight in nutrition. People would trade it for goods and services.
Genesis chapters 41 and 42 tell the story of Joseph’s business savvy. When there was plenty of food, he gathered it in. “And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.” (Genesis 41:49)
How did Joseph know to store all that grain? God allowed Joseph to interpret (understand) a troubling dream Pharaoh had. That dream is recorded in Genesis 41:17-31. Joseph knew it meant that God was sending famine. Joseph worked to prepare Egypt before famine hit.
Ancient Egyptians measured wealth in grain. They built silos and filled them with wheat and barley. The silos were like banks in a way. The grain they held was like Egyptian money!
Tell Edfu is a 3,500-year-old city site in Egypt. (A tell is a mound or hill.) Archaeologists uncovered seven silos there. Egyptians built the large, mud-brick buildings in a city courtyard. They were easy for people to get to. They show us what the granaries Joseph used during Egypt’s plentiful harvest seasons might have been like.
Famine did come to Egypt. Genesis 41:54 says, “There was famine in all the lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.” Joseph sent hungry, worried people to the silos. Genesis 41:56-57 says, “Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the Earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain.”
The food provided for the people in need. God always provides for His people.