The Word that Upturns the World

  • Luigino Bruni
Part of the Virtues and Economics book series (VIEC, volume 4)


The word profit, bèça’, makes its first appearance in the Bible when a brother is sold. After they had cast Joseph in the pit, the brothers gave heed to Judah and sold him for 20 shekels of silver to the merchants travelling through those parts. It was the price of a slave or a pair of sandals, 20 times less than the price Abraham paid to the Hittites for the tomb for Sarah. Thus Joseph, the younger brother was sold as a slave to the Ishmaelites, descendants of the son of Abraham and Hagar, the boy who was also refused and expelled to the desert by Sarah. Money and profit are presented to us as closely related to death. They come into play as a means to avoid it, but in reality they continue to stay very close to it. The great civilizations knew very well that the territory of profit shares a border with love and life, but on the other side also with death and sin; and that the stakes are mobile with border crossings in both directions that are very easy and frequent. Our civilisation, however, is the first that has entirely forgotten the existence of the left side border of the land of profit. After that horrible sale, Judah went down from his brothers and turned aside, and went into the land of Canaan, where, together with his daughter in law Tamar he becomes the protagonist of one of the most beautiful stories of Genesis.

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luigino Bruni
    • 1
  1. 1.GEPLI Department – EconomicsLibera Università Maria SS. AssuntaRomaItaly

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