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Scripture reading – Genesis 40-41
We concluded our study of Genesis 39, leaving Joseph imprisoned for a false charge by Potiphar’s wife (39:11-20). Remembering that Potiphar was “an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard” (39:1), I think that he did not fully trust his wife’s word, for indeed, her charge of attempted rape would have been a capital offense (some scholars believe Potiphar was Pharaoh’s executioner).
Rather than a sentence of death, Joseph found himself in prison. Characteristic of his deep faith, he did not allow his circumstances to dictate his outlook. We read, “the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper” (39:23). Joseph understood what the psalmist observed when he wrote, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). The truths he learned of the LORD from his father, and the dreams and visions he was given in his youth (Genesis 37), continued to resonate in his soul.
Genesis 40 – No Time for Prison Blues
Charged with the responsibility of “all the prisoners that were in the prison” (39:22), Joseph was serving when two prominent servants of Pharaoh’s house, “the chief of the butlers [and] the chief of the bakers” were sentenced to prison (40:1-2). The nature of the offense those men committed against Pharaoh was not revealed, but in the providence of God, Joseph was charged by the captain of the guard to serve them (40:4).
The chief butler (most likely the cupbearer and the most trusted of Pharaoh’s servants), and the chief baker, both “dreamed a dream” (40:5-11) and were greatly disturbed by what their dreams might foretell. Neither time nor space permits an exhaustive study of the dreams; however, Joseph’s interpretation (40:12-23) left the chief butler optimistic that he would be restored to his post in three days (40:12-13). Joseph requested that the butler remember him and appeal to Pharaoh on his behalf (40:14-15). Unfortunately, the interpretation of the chief baker’s dream was not so optimistic, for Joseph interpreted that in three days, the baker would be hanged “on a tree; and the birds…eat [his] flesh” (40:18-19).
Three days passed, and the chief butler was restored, while the baker was executed according to Joseph’s interpretation of his dream (40:20-22). Joseph’s desire to be remembered by Pharaoh’s butler appeared to end in disappointment, for we read, “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him” (40:23).
Genesis 41 – Forgotten by Man, But Not by God
Two years passed before the butler gave any thought to the man who interpreted his dream in prison (41:1a). Surely, that would demoralize most men; however, there was no hint that it affected Joseph’s service. On the contrary, he was faithful to his task until God was ready to promote him. In the providence of God, “Pharaoh dreamed” (41:1), and the dreams were so disturbing that the king “was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh” (41:8).
Thus, the stage was now fully set for Joseph. When Pharaoh’s spirit was troubled, and his expert advisors could offer no help, the butler confessed to the king of Egypt, “I do remember my faults this day” (41:9). Giving credibility for his recommendation, the butler recalled how his and the baker’s dreams were interpreted and came to pass as Joseph prophesied (41:10-13).
Anxious to know the interpretation of his dreams, Pharaoh commanded Joseph to be brought from prison and to his throne (41:14). Imagine what a glorious moment in Joseph’s life! So in an instance, at a time providentially appointed by the LORD, Joseph hastened to prepare himself to stand in the presence of the most powerful figure in the world (41:14). “And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it” (41:15).
From a Slave in Egypt to the Savior of Egypt (Genesis 41:16-57)
Deflecting any praise for himself, “Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (41:16). Pharaoh then shared his dreams of seven emaciated cows devouring seven healthy cows (41:17-21) and seven blighted ears of grain consuming seven healthy ears (41:22-24). Finally, the king confessed, “I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me” (41:24).
Then, God sovereignly revealed the significance of Pharaoh’s dreams to Joseph, who gave the interpretation to the king and advised him to “look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt” (41:33). Joseph went further, and suggested the administration necessary to implement storing grain. All this was to save Egypt and her neighbors from starving when the famine persisted for seven years (41:34-37).
Pharaoh recognized Joseph was not only wise, but he was also “a man in whom the Spirit of God is” (41:38). The king then appointed Joseph to serve Egypt second only to himself (41:33-44). Though only thirty years old when he was promoted (41:46), Joseph was entrusted with the granaries of Egypt as that nation prepared for seven years of famine that would follow seven years of plenty (41:45-57).
Genesis 41 closed with a revelation: “All countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands” (41:57).
Closing thought – The dreams of Joseph’s youth were on the cusps of being fulfilled.
Questions to Consider
- Despite the chief butler’s promise, he forgot Joseph after he was restored to serving Pharaoh. (Genesis 40:14, 21, 23). How did Joseph respond to that disappointment?
- “Two full years” (Genesis 41:9) passed before the butler told Pharaoh he knew a man who interpreted dreams (Genesis 41:10-15). How do we know Joseph’s faith in God had not wavered? (Genesis 41:16)
- Eleven years passed from the time Joseph was sold into slavery to when he was promoted the serve Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. What qualities did the king see in Joseph that caused him to trust him? (Genesis 41:38-40)
- What can we learn from Joseph’s rise to power and prominence? (Genesis 41:42-44)
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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