Genesis 41 Joseph; exaltation after humiliation
Genesis 41:1 After
two whole years,
40 began 'some time after this'. Now Genesis 41 begins 'after two
whole years'. Somebody has been keeping track. I wonder if there
were hash marks on Joseph's cell wall. In fact, Joseph has been in
Egypt as a slave and then as a prisoner for 13 years. He had a
glimmer of hope when the cupbearer of Pharaoh was returned to his
position after Joseph had interpreted his dream. Joseph had
requested that he remember him and get him out of the pit. But the
chapter closed with these words:
40:23 Yet the
chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
Joseph spends two more years forgotten in the pit. And yet we learn
that not a moment of those years was wasted. God was at work in
Joseph refining him and molding him and shaping him to prepare him
for the work God had for him to do. We were told 'the LORD was with
41:1 After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by
the Nile, 2 and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows
attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. 3 And behold,
seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them,
and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. 4 And the
ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh
is a disturbing dream. Cows are not carnivorous animals. But Pharaoh
saw the ugly anorexic supermodel cows eat up the plump beautiful
5 And he fell
asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain,
plump and good, were growing on one stalk. 6 And behold, after them
sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. 7 And the
thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh
awoke, and behold, it was a dream. 8 So in the morning his spirit
was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt
and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was
none who could interpret them to Pharaoh.
the last chapter the cupbearer and baker were in prison and were
troubled because they had dreams but they didn't have access to
Pharaoh's magicians. Now the Pharaoh himself has a dream, and
although he has access to all his magicians and wise men, they are
of no help - no one could interpret his dream. I think this is the
biggest miracle in this passage; the magicians of Egypt were not
able to offer any interpretation of the dream - God must have
restrained their tongues from offering any fabrications.
the chief cupbearer, the completely different world view of the
Hebrew slave in prison, and his brief but bold testimony to the one
true God must have stuck with him; 'do not interpretations belong to
God' - God owns the interpretation and can give it to or withhold it
from whomever he wishes.
Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, "I remember my
offenses today. 10 When Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put
me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the
guard, 11 we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a
dream with its own interpretation. 12 A young Hebrew was there with
us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he
interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man
according to his dream. 13 And as he interpreted to us, so it came
about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged."
14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought
him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his
clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. 15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph,
"I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it.
I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can
cupbearer now confesses his sins to Pharaoh – he had sinned
against the Pharaoh and it landed him in prison. Now he had sinned
against Joseph by leaving him in prison without exercising his
influence to free an innocent man. So Joseph is summoned. That had
to be a shock. 13 years in Egypt. 2 years after the last glimmer of
hope had faded. Things consistently had gone from bad to hopeful to
worse. Suddenly 'the Pharaoh would like to speak with you!'. This
had to be somewhat terrifying. What did I do now; what's next?
Joseph makes the appropriate preparation to meet the Pharaoh; he
shaves his head and beard and changes out of his bright orange
jumpsuit. Pharaoh immediately puts him on the spot. None of my
experts can interpret my dream. I've been told that you can
interpret dreams. Is it true? This is Joseph's golden opportunity to
take advantage of his gift. 'Yes, I can interpret any dream. I've
got 100% satisfaction with all my customers. By the way, did you
know I was unjustly imprisoned? Your captain of the guard is a crook
and his wife is a hoar. And your cupbearer – he's so
forgetful, maybe you should hang him like you did the baker. I've
got what you want – what's it worth to you? Just call the
number at the bottom of your screen and make your pledge. Our
operators are standing by to take your call.' No, instead Joseph
makes a gutsy risky move. This could get him killed.
16 Joseph answered
Pharaoh, "It is not in me; ...
says 'sorry, I can't do it. I am completely incompetent. There's no
way I can interpret your dream. You're looking to the wrong guy. You
were misinformed. I wonder if Joseph paused dramatically here,
seeing how many veins he could count popping out of the Pharaoh's
head before he went on:
...God will give
Pharaoh a favorable answer."
was gutsy and this was risky, but Joseph takes this opportunity to
point the top man in the most powerful nation on the earth to God.
This man has a need. He has had a dream that he doesn't understand
and he is looking to Joseph to help him out. Joseph points the
Pharaoh away from himself and to the God who answers. And look at
how he portrays God. God is a God who gives answers. And it will be
an answer of peace. Pharaoh is troubled. God is a God who speaks
peace. Based on Joseph's circumstances, I would expect a different
portrayal of God – a God who stands distant and aloof, who
allows injustice to fall on the righteous, a God who forgets and
abandons his people. Or I could see Joseph coming to Pharaoh
unshaven and unkempt saying 'God is going to get Egypt for what it
did to me. Doom, doom on the enemies of the people of God.
Destruction to the Godless empire'. No, God says 'shalom' – he
brings completeness, soundness and safety.
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Behold, in my dream I was
standing on the banks of the Nile. 18 Seven cows, plump and
attractive, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass. 19
Seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and thin,
such as I had never seen in all the land of Egypt. 20 And the thin,
ugly cows ate up the first seven plump cows, 21 but when they had
eaten them no one would have known that they had eaten them, for
they were still as ugly as at the beginning. Then I awoke. 22 I
also saw in my dream seven ears growing on one stalk, full and good.
23 Seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind,
sprouted after them, 24 and the thin ears swallowed up the seven
good ears. And I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who
could explain it to me." 25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, "The
dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is
about to do.
Pharaoh tells him the dream. He reiterates that his magicians
couldn't explain the dream. Joseph again points Pharaoh to God –
this time a God of revelation. God is a God who reveals himself and
communicates the future. God is a God who intervenes in human
history and does things. God acts.
26 The seven good
cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the
dreams are one. 27 The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after
them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east
wind are also seven years of famine. 28 It is as I told Pharaoh;
God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 There will come
seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, 30
but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the
plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will
consume the land, 31 and the plenty will be unknown in the land by
reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe.
32 And the doubling of Pharaoh's dream means that the thing is
fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about.
is bold here -Pharaoh is considered to be a god. Joseph's
interpretation indicates that there is a God bigger than Pharaoh who
is in control of everything and is able to tell the future. The one
true God has fixed the future and God will do it quickly. This is a
risky thing to say to a guy who thinks he's god. If Pharaoh is a
god, and he needs the help of a Hebrew slave, he's not a very
powerful god. The true God is about to show up in your country and
there's nothing you can do about it. Pharaoh, you need a new God.
Now let me give you some advice:
Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set
him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint
overseers over the land and take one–fifth of the produce of
the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. 35 And let them
gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up
grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let
them keep it. 36 That food shall be a reserve for the land against
the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so
that the land may not perish through the famine."
has just admitted to Joseph that none of his wise men are very wise.
Joseph is politely suggesting to Pharaoh that he get himself some
new wise men. It is a risky thing to give unsolicited advice to a
king. Notice how God's sovereignty and human responsibility fit
beautifully together in this passage. Joseph doesn't say 'the thing
is fixed by God so eat, drink and be merry for in seven years you
die and there's nothing you can do about it'. Instead he says 'the
thing is fixed by God and he told you about it in advance so you can
take action and make wise preparation. God has fixed the thing and
he will do it, so get up, get busy and take action.'
This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38 And Pharaoh
said to his servants, "Can we find a man like this, in whom is
the Spirit of God?"
this is amazing - they recognize that this Hebrew is indwelt by the
Spirit of God! Do the unbelievers around you recognize that you have
the Spirit of the Living God dwelling in you? Does he overflow out
of you? Jesus said:
John 7:37 ...“If
anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes
in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow
rivers of living water.”’ 39 Now this he said about the
Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet
the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
says to the imperfect believers in Corinth:
1 Corinthians 3:16
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s
Spirit dwells in you?
you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have God's Holy Spirit
living in you. And if the Spirit of God is living in us that should
be evident to those around us. The Spirit will produce fruit in our
life. Fruit like longsuffering; like 13 years worth of patience;
like joy even in the face of suffering and adversity; like peace in
the face of bad news; like kindness toward those who have mistreated
39 Then Pharaoh
said to Joseph, "Since God has shown you all this, there is
none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my
house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only
as regards the throne will I be greater than you." 41 And
Pharaoh said to Joseph, "See, I have set you over all the land
of Egypt." 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand
and put it on Joseph's hand, and clothed him in garments of fine
linen and put a gold chain about his neck. 43 And he made him ride
in his second chariot. And they called out before him, "Bow the
knee!" Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44
Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I am Pharaoh, and without
your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of
Egypt." 45 And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphenath–paneah.
And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera
priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.
was publicly installed in Egypt as second in command. Joseph had
suffered humiliation, and that humiliation had prepared him step
gracefully into his role as ruler over all of Egypt. As it says in 1
1 Peter 4:19
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust
their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
1 Peter 5:5-7
...Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another,
for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so
that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your
anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
had been humbled under the mighty hand of God. Now, at the proper
time, he was exalted to a position of power and authority.
Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh
king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and
went through all the land of Egypt. 47 During the seven plentiful
years the earth produced abundantly, 48 and he gathered up all the
food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and
put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the
fields around it. 49 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.
Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph.
Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him.
51 Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. "For,"
he said, "God has made me forget all my hardship and all my
father's house." 52 The name of the second he called Ephraim,
"For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction."
faithfully fulfilled his role and made provision for the coming
famine. During those seven years he had two sons, Forgetful and
Fruitful. These were names of worship. He was thanking God for
allowing him to forgive and forget how his family had treated him.
And he was recognizing his fruitfulness as a gift from God. The
'-im' ending in Hebrew is plural. Ephraim means 'double fruit'.
Isn't that a beautiful picture – God has made us fruitful in
the land of affliction!
53 The seven years
of plenty that occurred in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54 and
the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. There
was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was
bread. 55 When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried
to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, "Go to
Joseph. What he says to you, do." 56 So when the famine had
spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold
to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57
Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain,
because the famine was severe over all the earth.
as Pharaoh's dream had indicated, the years of abundance were
followed by severe famine. The famine was not limited to Egypt, but
affected all the surrounding regions. Through suffering God had
elevated Joseph to a place where he became a blessing to all the
nations of the earth. This is what God had promised:
Genesis 12:2 And I
will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your
name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those
who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you
all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 26:4 I
will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to
your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the
nations of the earth shall be blessed,
Genesis 28:14 Your
offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread
abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the
south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the
earth be blessed.
points us to the seed of the woman who would be a descendant of
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who would say:
John 6:35 Jesus
said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me
shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
was humiliated and suffered so that he could give us life. All the
nations of the earth can come to Jesus and live.