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A. JOSEPH AS A TYPE OF CHRIST (Please read Gen 37-50).
Studying the life of Joseph, imparts a special blessing to the reader, because it so vividly pictures the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Firstly Joseph’s character is unblemished, even during the first 13 years when he was experiencing severe tests. This is in contrast with other anointed servants of God, who stumbled in one way or the other, for instance Moses who’s anger flared up and, in disobedience struck the rock with his staff instead of speaking to it as God had commanded. David, the king after God’s own heart, committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah. Jesus, of course, never sinned. He was the spotless Lamb of God. In this, Joseph’s character is a pointer towards Christ.
The nature of Joseph’s ministry also has many similarities to that of the Lord Jesus, the most important being that he was rejected by his own people but used by God as a saviour, as a “’preserver of lives,” not only for his relatives, but also for the heathen world.
The record of God’s dealings with mankind is indeed a work of art, a tapestry masterfully woven of which the detail was sketched onto the cloth before the foundation of the world and of which the stitches are now artfully done in a multiple of colour shades and over a period of thousands of years. At the end of the ages when it will be complete, not a jot or tittle will be missing. In this work of art on which God is working, your and my life also has it’s place, although it might be just one little stitch in the vast frame of the ages.
B. JOSEPH AND HIS DREAMS (Please read Gen 37:1-11).
Joseph at home with his family.
The story of Joseph’s life has a delightful beginning. He was his father’s first born son with his beloved wife Rachel. At the age of 17, it was clear to one and all that he was to Jacob, the apple of his eye and would most probably inherit his vast estate and not Reuben, his first born with Leah or any of his other older brothers. Jacob gave an indication of his fondness of Jacob by presenting him with a full length, long sleeved robe, the attire of a king. His, was a bright future while he daily delighted himself in the loving fellowship with his father. His life would then also indeed end in a beautiful way …. but only 93 years later, of which the first 13 hit him like an unexpected tornado. He would eventually receive much more than what he had even expected, – but it would not just fall into his lap.
Like Christ, Who had to assist His Father in his carpenter’s workshop, Joseph, being part of a community of livestock farmers, at times had to herd their sheep and goats together with his brothers. Then, being with them day by day, he soon came to realize that there was a dark side to their lives which they hid from their father, ugly things not fitting a family chosen by God to become a blessing for the whole world. This troubled him and, on returning home, he revealed this to his father who, of course, took it up with his brothers. This was a serious matter because it could even affect their future inheritance. That he, a young lad, could be such a thorn in the flesh to them, caused a root of bitterness to sprout in their hearts.
Did he do right by informing his father of what his brothers were doing? Answering the following questions might help us to find an answer:
- Was he taking revenge because they were treating him badly?
- Was he trying to win even more of his father’s favour?
- Did he first, although he was the youngest brother, speak to them regarding the wrong in their lives? They were probably already married men, while he was a boy of 17 – so confronting them would have been very difficult.
- Did he feel that he had a responsibility towards his father in this matter?
- Was it his intention to forestall bad consequences for his brothers and the family? (Sometime before they had to leave the area of Sheschem when Simeon and Levi murdered the men of the city.)
These are questions which one would have to ask yourself should you land up in a similar position at work. All that Scripture says in this regard, is that his brothers hated him and had no friendly word for him.
Jacob’s love for Joseph.
For Jacob to have shown by his conduct that he loved Joseph more than his other sons, was the wrong thing to do. He had not learned from the faults of his parents, Isaac and Rebecca, who each had a favourite child. It not only lead to envy and hatred by the elder brothers, but was also detrimental to Joseph himself, because it made him, the younger brother, the focal point of the burning hatred of ten men older than himself. There was serious tension within this family. Jacob had, unknowingly, created a highly explosive situation and that, in the midst of grown men, some of whom were already walking around with highly inflammable emotions within themselves.
In the midst of this smouldering unrest, Joseph one night had a very significant dream. He dreamt that he and his brothers were gathering sheaves in the fields, when his sheave stood upright and his brother’s sheaves bowed down before it. All excited he told his brothers of this wonderful revelation which he was sure was of God. They reacted with violent indignation, gesturing with their arms and faces red with anger, shouting at him, “Do you want to rule over us?” The dust had hardly settled when the Lord gave him a similar dream in which he saw the sun, moon and stars bowing down before him. Again he told his family what he had dreamt. Now it was not only his brothers, but also his father that was affronted and he sternly rebuked Joseph, yet kept the dream in mind.
Testifying of God’s blessings.
Was it right of Joseph to tell his brothers of his dreams (dreams that we will later see were clearly from God?) Taking into account the tense relationships experienced within the family, it was humanly speaking an unwise thing to do, adding brush wood to the smouldering fire and this seed which he had sown he would later on sorely regret.
When we want to testify of the blessing we received from God, the following questions are of importance:
- Generally speaking, it is very important that we share, with the right people, what God told us, for in so doing, our faith is strengthened and we work together with Him to bring about His plans. Should we later on, due to difficult situations that arise, be tempted to doubt whether we had heard correctly, we can think back of the occasions when we had shared our vision with others and will remember how convinced we were of what we had heard of God.
- There are however qualifications attached to the bearing out of our testimony namely:
- Is it to give vent to our joy, to bless others and to glorify God, or are we boasting about the exceptional favour we are experiencing from God? In other words, is it all about myself? What is my motive; what do I want to achieve?
- For whom did God intend these revelations: For myself only, or also for others? Was Joseph’s prophetical dreams only for his own information or also for that of his relatives? Looking at it superficially, it seems that they were intended only for him; with the purpose of strengthening his faith during the difficult time that lay ahead.
- The Lord Jesus also warned that one must not cast your pearls to the pigs; that is, not speak of these precious revelations you received from Him, to people that are only interested in worldly things and especially in dirty things, people that would take offense of your words and use them against you (Math 7:6). You must exercise wisdom.
The other side of the coin is that if the brother’s relationships with God and with Joseph had been right, they, who’s father, grandfather Isaac and great-grandfather Abraham, had been used to receive revelations from God, would have seen these dreams of their brother in a different light and would, like their father have thought deeply about them to discover what they meant.
God’s directing of events.
Irrespective of our view on this matter, God allowed this unpleasant family strife to serve as a link in the chain of events that would lead to Joseph’s abduction to Egypt, his later ascending to the thrown and the saving of the lives of his people. His brothers would also, some 20 years later, when they bowed down before him in Egypt, have recalled the prophetical dreams that he had shared with them and had made them so angry. Yes, they would then realize that they had unknowingly rebelled against God.
Let us also note how the Lord communicated with each successive generation. The Lord loves to work within families, generation after generation, therefore, thank the Lord in all humility if you are so privileged to be part of a believing lineage and pray for those that are from a very murky, worldly background and had not been exposed to the light of God’s revelation from early childhood.
C. JOSEPH SOLD AS SLAVE (Please read Gen 37:12-36).
Searching for his brothers.
In those days, of course, the land was not cut up into farms as we have it today, and livestock farmers moved about with their herds to provide them with the best pasture. For this reason, Jacob’s sons., excluding Joseph and Benjamin, (as we can deduce from later happenings) moved with their livestock from Hebron, where Jacob’s camp was, to Sheschem; probably some 80 km’s further North. There was little opportunity to inform Jacob on a regular basis how they were, with the result that he got concerned and sent Joseph to go and look for them, then return and inform him.
Joseph, a young man of 17, immediately agreed for he probably also became bored at home and it would be exciting to tackle such a long road on his own. On arriving at Sheschem, an area where they had previously dwelt, he could however not find his brothers. Having roamed about for a considerable time, he met a man who told him that he had heard that his brothers had relocated to Dothan. After another 40 km travel, Joseph at last found them there.
An unforeseen, incomprehensible disaster.
But this was not a joyful get reunion of relatives. They had noticed him when he was still a long way off and his beautiful robe, which his father had presented him with, immediately caused their hatred of him to flame sky high. Before he even reached them, his destiny was sealed. “Now just look, there comes the dreamer,” one of them called out! “Let us kill him,” many of them echoed! Reuben however, the eldest brother and leader, felt for him, and especially also for their father, and quickly thought of a plan to save his life and allow him to return home safely. “No wait, let us not do such a harsh thing like murdering him and getting his blood on our hands. Let us cast him into that dry well so that he can die in his own time,” he suggested. He did this because he intended to return without them knowing, pull him out and send him back home.
So, when Joseph, excitedly and not expecting any danger, ran up to them and greeted them, they grabbed and stripped him of his beautiful robe, which they so much hated. Initially he must have thought that they were just joking, then realized that his life was at stake and hit and kicked with all his might, but against such odds he had no hope. They dragged him some distance up to a dry well. He cried and plead (Gen 42:21) but the next moment they swung him over the edge so that he tumbled down to the bottom. Dazed from the fall, he lay on the moist sand, then sat upright, listening, but it was absolutely quiet. Only the patch of blue sky was to be seen way up top, unreachable, and he realized with shock that they had left him there to perish by hunger and thirst. He explored every option to get out, but the hard vertical sides offered no hope. Here, no one would find him, because the other shepherds in the area knew that this was a dry well and would not go there. For hours on end he sat like this, then he faintly hear voices and suddenly saw the faces of his brothers peering down over the edge. He lifted up his hand, waiving at them uncertainly. “Would you like to get out,” one of them called? “Grab hold of this rope and tie it well around you!” His heart rejoiced, then, after all, it was just a cruel joke. He tied the rope round his waist, then called out, “OK, pull!” He felt the robe tightening and gradually he was lifted higher and higher until he could crawl over the edge on hands and knees.
He was crying, so relieved was he, but through his tears he became aware of more people, Ishmaelite traders. Confused, he saw the leader looking him up and down, then counting a number of coins into one of his brother’s cupped hands, saying, “Only twenty pieces of silver, no more. That is the going rate for a slave and just see what he looks like. He might not even live out the rest of this day.” The next moment, one of the other traders, grabbed him, bound his wrists together hobbled his legs and tied him behind one of the camels. Suddenly it struck him, “A slave, that is what I am, a slave, being carried away to Egypt.” “Farewell dreamer,” some of his brothers, mocking, called after him.” “Are you not your father’s blue-eyed boy? His heir? Now we will see what your dreams will come to.” And slowly the caravan disappeared into the distance.
Too late for tears.
Reuben, who had been absent from the group for a while, possibly to see to some of the livestock further away, eventually returned and immediately, stealthily, went to the well to remove Joseph from it and send him home, as he had originally planned, but … Joseph was gone. What had happened to him, when, how? He realized that something seriously was amiss and tore his clothes in dismay, ran to his brothers that were sitting some distance away and shouted, “The boy is not there! And I, where must I turn to now?”
Sinning to cover their sin.
Having told him what they had done with Joseph, they realized that there was now no way of undoing it. Of one thing they were certain and that was that they were now for ever rid of this thorn in their flesh. One sin lead to the next; now they had to deceive their father to cover up their sin. They dipped Joseph’s robe in blood and returned it to Jacob with a messenger, inquiring whether it did not perhaps belong to Joseph? Their evil deed did not only affect Joseph, but also their father. He would not be comforted. Year by year his grief would remind them of what they had done and they would certainly have asked themselves the question again and again, whether it had been worthwhile to allow their jealousy to drive them to such lengths. Continually they would live in fear that their evil deed would be discovered. Repeatedly they would have to tell the lie to everyone inquiring of Joseph. The consequences of a deed committed in a moment of thoughtlessness, may endure for ever.
We do not know what the future holds, but we know Him Who holds the future.
Regarding Joseph: how quickly and unforeseeable can a person’s life can take a totally new direction; one moment he was the carefree, chosen, favourite son of a very rich man and the next moment he was a slave with no rights at all.
Something of which a child of God has no need.
Let us also note how sin had torn apart this family who believed in God and were His chosen people. The devil certainly is a hater of mankind and concentrates on tearing families apart.
Jealousy leads to inhuman cruelty but children of God never need to be jealous of one-another. Every one of Joseph’s brothers were destined to live in the best part of Egypt, to have ample provisions and to become the patriarch of one of the tribes of Israel. How senseless is was of them to be jealous of their brother. If only they had trusted God and had waited on Him, they would have had it all without committing such a base crime.
We too need not be jealous of one-another, because God has more than sufficient resources for each one of us in this life, and in the life hereafter an eternity in heaven with Him.
D. JUDAH AND TAMAR (Please read Gen 38).
Both the good and the bad teach us valuable lessons.
Joseph’s story is now suddenly interrupted and the focus shifts to give us insight into the life of one of his older brothers, namely Judah.
God of course, does everything with a purpose and with this insertion he possibly wants to contrast the lives of these two brothers with one-another in order that we may so much more realize how much Joseph excelled his brothers in spiritual character.
The lesson to be learned by this, is that a godly background does not guarantee a godly lifestyle (nor can we blame an ungodly background for our failures). Everyone is free to choose how he wants to live and how near to God he wants to be. So, we neither have an excuse nor a ceiling because of our past; we can rise up, spiritually, with the wings of an eagle and fly as high as we wish.
Furthermore, the Lord also wants to show us how necessary it was for these chosen men to be spiritually renewed to become worthy patriots of the twelve tribes of Israel. At this stage they were called but not be sanctified.
A brother deviating from the appointed road.
We see this in the life of Judah where he separates himself from his brothers to settle down with a friend, a Canaanite. Next, he marries a Canaanite woman called Shua. Some commentators are of the opinion that he was quite young when he got married, possibly under the age of 20. This marriage was not, as the custom was, organised by his father; it was a union of his own choice regardless of God’s will and of his father’s blessing. He had three sons with her, Er, Onan, and Shelah, in this order. He definitely did not raise a God-fearing family because the first-born lived such an ungodly life, that he provoked the anger of God, Who caused him to die. His second-born son also did not walk according to the will of God. He was selfish and wangled his sexual intercourse with the widow of his brother in such a way that his seed was spilt on the floor with the purpose of not raising descendants for her deceased husband, ensuring a greater inheritance for his own children. It is interesting to note that this “marriage by a brother-in-law” which was later incorporated in the Torah (Deut 25:5) already, at this stage, was an ordinance of God for the offspring of Abraham. The Lord considered the disregarding of this ordinance such a serious offence, that He also caused Onan to die.
Judah then, instead of blaming his own sons for their misfortune, blamed Tamar to be some sort of a “bad luck woman” who caused the death of any man that would have intercourse with her. Therefore he sent her back to her father’s home under the pretense that she was to bide her time there, until Shelah, the third brother, had come of age. But time passed and, as a matter of convenience, he just forgot about her. Tamar however, was not satisfied to remain without children and devised a clever plan to deceive Judah to sleep with her. Her plan succeeded and she became pregnant. Since she had been pledged to Shelah, she technically committed adultery and Judah was entitled, as head of the family to sentence her to death which he summarily wanted to do, because this was a golden opportunity to get rid of the “Tamar-pain-in-the-neck”.
Why the difference?
The question however remains why Judah would so easily condemn her to death for a type of crime which he too committed? The answer is to an extent contained therein that harlotry, in the heathen community of that time, was not seen as a crime and was even incorporated in their religious rituals. Since children generated by such sexual intercourse were not reckoned to be the responsibility of the man, some married men enjoyed such an outing without fear of any consequences. The situation was different regarding a married woman. A child conceived with her by someone to whom she was not married, became part of her husband’s family and inherited together with his other children. Foreign blood (genes) introduced into the family by way of the wife’s harlotry, was therefor seen as a very serious sin punishable by death. (More about money than about morals.)
Judah did the right thing.
In this instance, however, Judah was trapped by his own sin and both his injustice done to Tamar and his sexual escapades at Enaim, were revealed to all of his family who had gathered to witness the execution of Tamar. What an embarrassment! He at least was humble enough to acknowledge that he was in the wrong.
Can Tamar be excused?
Can Tamar be excused for taking her own father-in-law to bed? Certainly not. In the law which the Lord later gave through Moses, incest (Liv 20:12) as well as harlotry (Lev 19:29) was forbidden. (See also Hos 4:11).
A bad tree bearing good fruit.
Whether she had it right or wrong, Tamar had two sons in the end. One of them was Perez (Pharez) who was an ancestor of King David who, in turn, was an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ (Math 1:3). In this God demonstrates His greatness and grace by bringing forth good from man’s evil.
This then is how things were in Juda’s house, the house from which the tribe of Judah would develop which eventually would become the leader of the 12 tribes of Israel from which their Messiah and the Redeemer of mankind would be born. But let us now switch back to see what happened to Joseph.
E. JOSEPH IN THE HOUSE OF POTIPHAR. HE LANDS UP IN PRISON (Please read Gen 39:1-20).
After a long trying journey of some 30 days which he probably had to travel on foot, Joseph was lead into Egypt where he was auctioned like a piece of merchandise. Since he was young and good looking, he probably reached a good price when bought by an important man, Potiphar, the officer in charge of Pharaoh’s bodyguard.
Adjusting to a foreign land.
For Joseph, all of this must have been an indescribable traumatic experience and on that long dirt road to Egypt, he must have continually been asking himself the question whether his dreams had just been his own fantasies. An unexpected cultural shock also awaited him; from a peaceful nomadic way of life, he was suddenly transferred into a city, teaming with people to which he had to adapt himself, and on top of it all, he was brought into a rich and important man’s house where there was a great flow of people. He also immediately had to begin to acquaint himself with this foreign language so as to be able to interact with the people around him and to understand the assignments of his owner’s assistants. Worst of all, must have been the many idols being worshiped there and the pressure put on him to participate therein. But amid all these temptations and trials, he stood firm and persevered in serving the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Him only.
Choosing God’s way.
Joseph could have been lazy and rebellious, rendering a poor service because, as a slave, he received no salary. But no, he did his very best. Though he had no Bible or any portion of Scripture with him, he demonstrated that the will and ways of God were written on his heart, as it was, ages later, given to us in Eph. 6:5-8:
Servants, be obedient to those who according to the flesh are your masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not in the way of service only when eyes are on you, as men pleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7 with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men; 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is bound or free. (WEB),
Sowing and reaping.
No wonder then that the Lord’s blessing rested on everything he did. He was separated from his family but not from his God. He was stripped of his royal garment but not of his principles of honesty, zeal and dependability. At the start he probably would have been given the most menial work, but he applied himself to it with abandonment. His supervisors noticed and allocated more responsibilities to him until his lord himself saw that God was with him and appointed him over all of his estate, no longer taking care of anything himself.
Life so often is what you make of it. Joseph probably enjoyed more peace and joy here in Egypt than did his brothers as free men in Canaan. By walking uprightly with God, you can make a Canaan of your Egypt and by living a bad life, you can turn your Canaan into an Egypt. Uprightness, a clean conscience and a heart that forgives others for what they had done to you, is like a soft balm that heals your inner wounds. Jealousy, carrying of grudges and a guilty consciences on the other hand, is like a whip of barbed wire that inflicts fresh wounds and new pain every hour; it is like being locked up in a jail with cruel, revengeful warders. Joseph had passed his first test by accepting his fate as slave cheerfully.
Really? Did he really … ?
But there would be many more tests. The next text was aimed at his sexual life, an area in which young people are very vulnerable. He was indeed a very attractive young man and in this the devil found an opportunity to further scourge him. The woman he would use was not just a common servant girl of which, certainly there were many trying to catch his attention, no, it was the wife of Potiphar that enticed him to have intercourse with her, and God allowed her to do so.
Let us note the reasons why he refused to succumb to her desires: a. Because in doing so, he would violate the trust which his master had in him; b. Because he would sin against God. Many young people live an exemplary life in the home of their parents, but as soon as they leave, they degenerate into lasciviousness. A person is not which he is in public, but who he is in secret, where no-one can see. What you think is what you are.
When they were alone at home, she grabbed him but he tore himself loose and fled from the home. Someone said that there is no fury like that of a woman scorned. Potiphar’s wife’s honour was scorned and she retaliated by falsely accusing Joseph with her husband before he would have the opportunity of reporting the incident himself. Potiphar might have had his doubts regarding what had happened behind the screens, but had to uphold his honour before his people and did so by casting Joseph in jail. Possibly Joseph did not want to defend himself and hurt his master by telling him what a bad wife he had.
Not all admirable choices are rewarded in this life.
Although a person may serve the Lord with all of his heart, it is not to say that all will be going well with him, or that other people will treat him justly. The devil will hate such a person and lie in ambush for him, tempt him and bring all sorts of disasters across his way attempting to quench his faith.
How did he cope?
When we were studying the life of Abraham, we saw that the Lord had often, during the 20 years that he had to wait for God’s promise of a son to be fulfilled, visited him and spoken to him to strengthen his faith, especially when he began to doubt. Also in Jacob’s life it had happened more than once that God had met him on the way and encouraged him, but as far as Joseph is concerned, nothing like this is reported. Was his faith indeed so strong that he never became uncertain whether God was still with him and that his two dreams of ruler ship would become true?
F. JOSEPH IN JAIL. HE REVEALS THE BAKER AND THE CUP BEARER’S DREAMS (Please read Gen 39:20-40:23).
Again scoring top marks in God’s university.
There, in jail, Joseph did not loose heart because he had been treated unfairly, but distinguished himself as a model prisoner so that the chief warden appointed him in a position of authority. Although he walked around with the prison’s keys in his hand all day long, he did not try to escape because he was waiting for the day when God Himself would unlock the door for him.
When we land up in a difficult situation, we need to hear from God whether we are to accept it as coming from Him, or whether we should try to get out of it. When a prisoner escapes, but is caught and brought back to prison, his punishment is so much more severe. The same happens when we look for a way out against the will of God. He will allow that we land up in a different prison, because His greater purpose is for our character to be shaped; to develop our ability for long-suffering and our faith and to achieve that, the “prison” is sometimes better than a carefree vacation at the seaside.
Warden, pastor, prophet, friend?
The prison in which Joseph was kept, sometimes also housed senior court officials like the Pharaoh’s baker and cup bearer who had displeased him. The warden put them under Joseph’s care – he had to serve them. He would treat them with dignity but could also be trusted not allow them to escape. (Comparing 39:1 with 40:3 it would seem that Potiphar, the officer in charge of Pharaoh’s bodyguard, also was the chief warden of the jail.)
One morning Joseph noticed that these two prisoners were very perturbed. He inquired what the reason was and they told him that they had both had a very disquieting dream. In this we see another correlation between Joseph and Jesus. Just as Jesus, when He was suffering terrible pain on the cross, still had an encouraging word for one of His fellow sufferers, Joseph too, did not only think of his own plight but also had an eye for the suffering of others and offered to help them.
He encouraged them by saying that there was a solution for their problems in that the same God from Whom their dreams had come, also knew the meaning thereof and could reveal it to them. The cup-bearer then told Joseph of his dream who immediately revealed the meaning, namely that within three days he would be restored to his former position.
Here we are also afforded a little insight into Joseph’s own heart when he tells the cup-bearer how he himself had been stolen from his country of birth and how, there in Egypt, had been committed to jail although he had not been guilty and then asking him to do a good word for him with the Pharaoh. How long he had been in jail, we do not know, but by now it had been eleven years since he had been sold as slave.
Encouraged by the favourable interpretation which the cup-bearer received, the baker also shared his dream with Joseph who immediately interpreted it for him; but this dream had an unfavourable content in that it revealed that the baker would be hung.
To be a truthful messenger for God, is not always a pleasant task, because sometimes we will have to tell people things they would rather not know. (This ability to reveal the hidden things of God, can be compared with the Holy Spirit’s gift of “a word of knowledge” mentioned in the New Testament in 1 Cor 12:8.)
Joseph’s revelations came true to the last letter when the cup-bearer was reinstated in his post within three days and the baker was executed. This confirmed that Joseph was a man of God who was unjustly imprisoned.
The cup-bearer however forgot about Joseph and did not mention him to the Pharaoh. The Lord had not blessed Joseph’s attempt to be delivered from jail, because He, Who knows the depth of every man’s heart, saw that he needed more moulding, before He would be able to use him in the way in which He had pre-ordained.
Why these dreams?
Why then had the Lord orchestrated the whole episode regarding the dreams? As regards the baker and cup-bearer, one cannot really see the reason why the Lord would favour them by revealing to them three days in advance what would happen to them. No, as far as God was concerned, it was more about Joseph. By this incident He wanted to strengthen Joseph’s faith so that he would not doubt the promise he himself had received from God by his two dreams; he had to continue believing that the day would come that God would extol him like the cup-barer and appoint him as a ruler. Similarly, the Lord would take revenge for the injustice done to him just as the baker had to pay for the wrong he had done. We must commit our future to God alone. As long as we obey Him, we remain on course, although we will not be able to see the end of the tunnel.
(The Lord would also, much later, still use the cup-bearer to bring about Joseph’s deliverance.)
G. JOSEPH INTERPRETS PHARAOH’S DREAMS. HE IS APPOINTED AS RULER OVER EGYPT (Please read Gen 41).
A troubled king.
Two years after the episode with the cup-bearer and baker, the Pharaoh also had two dreams, namely those of the lean cows and sheaves that devoured the fat cows and sheaves but gained nothing in the process. He was much upset by these dreams, the more so, because his magicians and soothsayers who were paid from Government funds, were unable to reveal the meaning of his dreams to him. Only then did his cup-bearer recall how Joseph had told him what his dream meant. On sharing that with the king, he commanded that Joseph be brought to him immediately.
A prisoner connected to heaven.
Joseph’s testing period in God’s university had now run it’s course and God considered him ready to be used as His instrument in Egypt for a very specific purpose. Having listened to Pharaoh recalling his dreams, Joseph told him that he had received a revelation from God of what He was planning to do. He was going to give seven years of abundant harvests, but thereafter would follow seven years of terrible drought that would devour all the surplus of the previous seven years. The dream was repeated because the Lord was firmly committed to carry out what He had designed. Joseph, endowed with the wisdom of God, felt at liberty to also, in the same breath, recommend to the Pharaoh to appoint overseers to gather in 1/5th of the yield of the good years and to save that up for the dry years. This council was immediately accepted by both the Pharaoh and his counselors. The Pharaoh also realized that something supernatural had occurred and who but Joseph who was in direct contact with the unseen, almighty God was better qualified to direct this God given plan? So, He summarily appointed him as his second in command who had to carry out the directions received from God.
God does as He pleases.
God used supernatural means (dreams and their interpretation) to establish His plans. It is so easy for Him to persuade even a mighty king to do what He wants to be done. He can appoint whosoever He wishes in whatever position He wants to. He has all power in heaven and on earth and can use anything and anybody within His creation to accomplish His sovereign will.
From a jack to a king.
After 13 years of lonely perseverance in faith and obedience, Joseph sees how his own two dreams are fulfilled. 13 Years was actually a short period for a humble shepherd to be escalated to the position of vice-president of such a mighty, foreign country. He was then only 30 years of age and definitely a worthy great-grand-child of Abraham, the man of faith.
The appointment in that position was accompanied by great honour bestowed on Joseph. The Pharaoh also gave him a wife called Asenath. Two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim were born to him. These names, given to them by Joseph, are a revelation of the thoughts of his heart (41:51 & 52):
Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh, “For”, he said, “God has made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house.” The name of the second, he called Ephraim: “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction. (WEB).
So great was the blessing with which the Lord blessed Joseph, that he forgot all the trouble and hardship he had to endure for 13 long years; what a wonderful testimony. It reminds of God’s promise in Jer 29:11 on which you and I may also rely:
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future. You shall call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. (WEB),
Ps 126:1 & 2 also flashes through one’s mind:
When Yahweh brought back those who returned to Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, “Yahweh has done great things for them.” Yahweh has done great things for us, and we are glad.
When we walk through the gates of heaven, the memories of our suffering on earth will fall from our shoulders like a cloak.
When Joseph says that he had also forgotten the house of his father, it certainly does not mean that he had forgotten his loved ones as persons, but rather that he no longer considered the blessings which he had enjoyed in the home of his father, for they could not at all measure up to what he was now experiencing. To what extent he was still cherishing his family in his heart, we will see later on when we read about how they were re-united.
Promotion means shouldering greater responsibility.
The conscientious Joseph then personally traveled all across the country, seeing to it that all the surplus grain was stored away in the cities to provide for the drought that would follow after the seven years of abundance.
Then, at the end of seven years, a famine came over Egypt and all the surrounding countries, just as Joseph had prophesied. From the most remote places thinkable, people flocked to Egypt to buy grain because the “famine was severe in all the earth” (41:57, WEB).
Just imagine the enormous revenue it generated for the land of Egypt. Also in this, the selling of the grain, Joseph was the center of the process, the man on who the Pharaoh fully relied, knowing that he had both the wisdom and the honesty to do the best for his country.