Genesis 41 ~ 20080614 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

6/14 Genesis 41 Joseph; exaltation after humiliation

Genesis 41:1 After two whole years,

Genesis 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.

Now 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 Joseph'.

Genesis 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 awoke.

This is a disturbing dream. Cows are not carnivorous animals. But Pharaoh saw the ugly anorexic supermodel cows eat up the plump beautiful cows.

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.

In 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.

For 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.

9 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 interpret it."

The 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; ...

Joseph 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."

This 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.

17 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.

So 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.

Joseph 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:

33 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."

Pharaoh 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.'

37 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?"

Now 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.

Paul 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?

If 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 us.

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.

Joseph 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 Peter:

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.

Joseph had been humbled under the mighty hand of God. Now, at the proper time, he was exalted to a position of power and authority.

46 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.

50 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."

Joseph 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.

Just 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:

To Abraham:

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.”

To Isaac:

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,

And to Jacob:

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.

Joseph 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.

Jesus was humiliated and suffered so that he could give us life. All the nations of the earth can come to Jesus and live.