For this week’s Monroe on a Budget column, which runs Tuesday in The Monroe News, I pulled out one of my favorites from the archives. The original online-only version of this piece was written in 2010:
By Paula Wethington / Monroe News
I was once asked if families who lived during Bible times kept a household budget.
Those who are more learned in Bible culture and history than I might be able answer that question in more detail.
But I suspect any man or woman of long ago who did not have a basic idea of what it cost to support his or her family for an extended period of time would quickly know and understand the consequences.
Families of the Old Testament and New Testament times had annual festivals, baby dedications, religious holidays and weddings to prepare for such as we do today. Behind closed doors and under tents, maybe even on the fishing boats, one can expect there was some discussion along the lines of: “How are we paying for the feast that we will serve when the relatives arrive next week?”
But bigger challenge is that they had to plan for household needs as much as a year ahead. Those families did not have the expectation of an income that arrived on a week to week basis, or month to month, such as we do today. Their food, clothing, shelter and other basic needs were met with the harvest season, butchering season, or fishing season. Even the merchants and artisans such as the Proverbs 31 woman or the tax collectors of the Roman Empire would have incomes that fluctuated according to the local macroeconomics.
In addition, some heads of household were responsible for the needs of not just their immediate family, but that of extended family members.
These questions probably came up as part of those discussion:
- How many measures of flour did the household expect to use during the coming year?
- How many lambs need to be set aside for family use rather than for market?
- How many olive trees needed to be tended for the harvest to be considered productive?
- How many pieces of kitchen pottery needed to be sold in order to buy a wedding garment for next spring?
The “mother” of all Bible budgeting stories, so to speak, involved a wise man. Joseph, son of Jacob, was his name as a youth. In his adult years, he was known as Zaphnath-paneah, the dream teller of Egypt.
This is the advice Joseph is credited with in Genesis Chapter 41 verses 33-36:
“Therefore, let Pharaoh seek out a wise and discerning man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt.
Pharaoh should also take action to appoint overseers, so as to regiment the land during the seven years of abundance.
They should husband all the food of the coming good years, collecting the grain under Pharaoh’s authority, to be stored in the towns for food.
This food will serve as a reserve for the country against the seven years of famine that are to follow in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish in the famine.”
And then verses 55-56:
When hunger came to be felt throughout the land of Egypt and the people cried to Pharaoh for bread, Pharaoh directed all the Egyptians to go to Joseph and do whatever he told them.
When the famine had spread throughout the land, Joseph opened all the cities that had grain and rationed it to the Egyptians, since the famine had gripped the land of Egypt.
Did you catch that word “ration”? Yeah, that sounds like extreme budgeting to me.
Readers may contact Paula Wethington at email@example.com or (734) 240-5745.
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