Genesis 41


Two years have passed since the cupbearer left the prison and Joseph's situation has not changed. The hope that rose in his heart has undoubtedly waned or perhaps set. As this passage begins, Joseph is not a part of what is taking place. The God of dreams is working in ways that Joseph could not possibly comprehend. Pharaoh has two dreams which trouble him deeply. In the first dream, seven fat cows emerged from the Nile and began to graze. Soon after, seven thin, ugly cows come out of the Nile, and they ate the fat cows. Pharaoh woke up but eventually he was able to go back to sleep. In his second dream, seven ears of grain are growing on a single stalk but after they sprouted seven ears that had been blighted by the east wind. These blighted ears devour the seven full ears of grain. Pharaoh awakens, and he is distressed. The next day, Pharaoh is so troubled that he summons the magicians and wise men to interpret his dreams, but they are confounded by these dreams, and no one can provide any assistance. 

Remember Me?

The cupbearer is made aware of Pharaoh's trouble, and he suddenly remembers his offense. He relates his experience to Pharaoh explaining that he had struggled with a dream and its meaning. He details how a young Hebrew slave came to his aid and interpreted the dreams for both he and the chief baker. His interpretation proved accurate, and he was restored while the chief baker was hanged. Pharaoh sends for Joseph immediately, and he is brought out of the pit. The prison officials properly prepare Joseph to meet with Pharaoh by giving him new clothes and a shave because he should not enter the presence of royalty in his current state. Joseph is brought quickly to Pharaoh. Imagine what it was like for Joseph. His routine was not only interrupted, but he was cleaned, changed, and shaved and given instructions about how he should behave in the presence of Pharaoh. Imagine the sights and smells as he enters and stands before the Pharaoh. Joseph has not come for a simple visit; emotions are high, and the king needs an answer. 

Glory Belongs To God

Pharaoh explains to this Hebrew slave the situation that has arisen and tells him that it has been brought to his attention that he is able to interpret dreams. Joseph has matured in his faith. Early in his life, modesty was not something Joseph practiced, but things have changed, he has changed, and he will not rob God of his rightful glory. Any dream that has been interpreted has been by the gracious work of God, and no credit belongs to his servant. Pharaoh describes the events that took place during both of his dreams and to add tension he tells Joseph that no one has been able to explain it to him. Joseph shows great wisdom as he addresses Pharaoh. He tells Pharaoh that he has received special revelation from God about what would soon take place. The interpretation is that the two dreams are the same. God would soon bring seven years of plenty which would be followed by seven years of famine. He skillfully reminds Pharaoh that God has shown him what is to come because the years of plenty would be followed by the years of famine which would consume the land because of its severity. Joseph explains to Pharaoh that the reason he had two dreams about the same thing were that it had been fixed by God and would soon take place. Joseph then counsels Pharaoh to select someone with wisdom and discernment and set him over the land with overseers under him. This team should establish a system taking one-fifth of the produce of the land and then come up with the appropriate means to store and distribute the collection during the years of famine so that Egypt would not perish. 

Meteoric Rise

Pharaoh is pleased with Joseph's proposal as are all of his servants. This Hebrew slave had found favor with the rulers of Egypt. Pharaoh asks the question, "Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?" It seems that this was a rhetorical question and Pharaoh goes on to applaud Joseph for his wisdom and discernment. Then the unimaginable happens, this Hebrew slave/prisoner is thrust into a position of power that only has one power greater, and that is Pharaoh himself. God is working in Pharaoh's heart, and he not only accepts Joseph's interpretation, but he also accepts Joseph's recommendation and bestows great favor on him. Pharaoh proceeds to a formal ceremony and gives Joseph his signet ring, clothes him, and placed a gold chain around his neck. Joseph is ushered into Pharaoh's second chariot and paraded through the kingdom with the command to bow before Joseph. Pharaoh is so confident in Joseph that he places his complete trust in him and will not make any decisions without consulting Joseph first. Pharaoh gives Joseph a new name and a wife.  

Plans Require Execution

Joseph does not stop to relish his new-found fame and authority instead he starts to work immediately. When Joseph was younger, he loved to tell his family about the power he would have over them, but he has grown in his faith and is walking well before God. He surveys the land to begin the preparations for the impending plenty and famine. Joseph is thirty when he begins his service to Pharaoh. Joseph did precisely what he had advised Pharaoh by organizing the stores of grain and locating them in the cities for distribution. God blessed the land so much that the grain that was stored by Joseph was like the sand of the sea and could no longer be measured. Before the famine came, Joseph fathered two sons, and he gave them Hebrew names. Manasseh meant that God had made him forget all his hardship and Ephraim reminded him that God had blessed him in the land of his affliction. When the famine arrived, the people came to Pharaoh, and he sent them to Joseph who was ready to serve them during this difficult time. Joseph opened the storehouses and sold the grain that had been stored. The famine was so severe that when the surrounding lands heard about Egypt, all the earth came to Joseph for aid. 

Things To Consider:

  • Why do we struggle with God's timing?
  • Why does waiting prove to be so difficult?
  • Why is important to remember that God is sovereign over the nations?
  • How does Joseph's faithful service in prison lead to authority in the palace?
  • Are we tempted to take credit for gifts and talents that God has given us? Why?
  • What are some things power cannot overcome?
  • Why would God reveal himself to a pagan king?
  • What are the implications for this today?
  • Why should we be confident about asking for wisdom?
  • What can we learn about work from Joseph?
  • What are some things you need to forget (let go of) when it comes to your past?
  • How has God blessed you?
  • Do you think Joseph was ever tempted to stop?
  • Why was it important that Joseph complete his task even when the grain could not be counted?