Genesis 40:1-41:57 Lesson 15b
Key Verse: 41:51,52
"Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, `It is because
God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's
household.' The second son he named Ephraim, `It is because
God' has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.'"
This lesson begins with Joseph at the lowest point of his life. He
is a slave in a foreign land, and he is in prison, accused of a crime
which he did not commit. There is no one to whom he can turn; he has no
clout--except God. From a human point of view, he has no hope of
getting out. But God's plan for Joseph was slowly unfolding. If he had
not been thrown in prison, he might have lived and died as a faithful
servant in Potiphar's house--and no more. But through his prison
experience God opened the way for him to become prime minister of all
Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. This was a time of testing for Joseph.
Could he handle prison? and even more, could he handle being ruler of
Egypt? Proverbs says, "Under three things the earth trembles, under
four it cannot bear up: A servant who becomes a king, a fool who is
full of food, an unloved woman who is married and a maidservant who
displaces her mistress." Joseph was a servant who became a king. Would
he forget God? Would he become proud and useless?
1. A shepherd and Bible teacher in prison (40:1-23)
Joseph was put in the prison where the king's prisoners were kept.
This prison must have been under the authority of Potiphar, the captain
of the king's guard--and Joseph's master. Joseph did not hold a grudge
against Potiphar or his wife. He did not allow hatred and anger at the
injustice that had been perpetrated on him to paralyze him. He did not
despair or give up. He overcome himself and depended on God, and God
was with him in prison. Soon he was in charge of the prison. 39:22 says
that "the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in prison and
he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no
attention to anything under Joseph's care, because the Lord was with
Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did." If Joseph had doubted
God's love, or allowed bitterness to fill his heart, he could not have
won the victory. A man must win the victory over himself if he is to be
victorious in life. Joseph could win this victory over himself because
he knew that God was with him. He did not understand what God was
doing, and he couldn't find meaning in his suffering at the time, but
he trusted God and lived before him--and did his best to be a faithful
steward of the prison.
Sometime later, two of Pharaoh's officials were put in the prison
where Joseph was. They were political prisoners, so they were put in
the king's prison. One was the king's cupbearer and the other, the
king's baker. While these jobs may seem to be menial, actually they
were very high level jobs. The cupbearer was frequently in the king's
presence. He had to be a trustworthy man. The baker's position also
gave him access to the king's food. He was in a position to poison the
king. We are not told anything about what these men were accused of, or
whether they are guilty or innocent. The main point is that Joseph was
put in charge of them. They became his sheep. He did not take care of
them in a superficial way; he was sensitive to their needs. One day he
noticed that they looked depressed. When he talked with them, he found
that they had each had a dream. They realized that their dreams had
some special meaning, but they had no one to interpret them. At that
time there was no written Bible, so God used dreams as a means of
revealing his will to men. God had given these two men a special
revelation through their dreams, but they didn't understand what he was
saying to them. So they needed a "Bible teacher." Joseph taught them
that interpretations belong to God. He then listened to their dreams
and as God's servant, told them the meaning.
The two dreams were very similar in many ways--and very different.
The cupbearer's dream was good news--his head would be lifted up and he
would be restored to his former position within three days. But the
baker's dream was bad news: His head would also be lifted up--on a
gallows--in three days. Joseph did not mince words. He told each man
the meaning of his dream. He was God's servant, and he did not try to
sugar-coat the bad news. Then he asked the cupbearer to remember him
when he was restored to his former position serving Pharaoh. Things
happened just as Joseph had said, but sheep are sheep and the cupbearer
completely forgot about his shepherd Joseph.
2. A Bible teacher and shepherd for Pharaoh (41:1-40)
Two full years after the cupbearer's release, Pharaoh had a dream.
It was a powerful dream, and it was clearly God's message to Pharaoh,
but Pharaoh could not understand it. His dream troubled him, so he sent
for all the wise men in his kingdom to tell him the meaning of the
dream, but no one could interpret it. Then the cupbearer remembered
Joseph was brought out of the dungeon to stand before Pharaoh. This
was his chance! Joseph however, didn't try to impress Pharaoh. He told
him the truth. He said, "I can't interpret dreams, but God will give
Pharaoh the answer he desires." Then Joseph listened to the dream.
Seven skinny cows came out of the Nile River and ate up seven fat cows.
Then, a second dream followed. Seven skinny ears of corn ate up seven
fat, plump ears of corn. Joseph told Pharaoh, "God has revealed to
Pharaoh what he is going to do." If Pharaoh had been a proud man, like
most of the Egyptian Pharaohs, he could have become angry at the
mention of God. Pharaohs thought that they were God. But Pharaoh didn't
seem to object to Joseph's testimony about God. He listened carefully.
Joseph told him that God had firmly decided to grant Egypt seven years
of abundant crops, followed by seven years of severe famine. In other
words, God, not Pharaoh, controlled Egypt. Joseph then added some
advice which the king had not asked for: He advised the king to put
some one in charge of the agriculture of Egypt and strictly gather
grain during the years of plenty so that there would be enough to eat
in the years of famine. Pharaoh did not become angry at Joseph's
presumption. Instead, he did a surprising thing! He said, "Can we find
anyone like this man, one in whom is the Spirit of God?" And he put
Joseph in charge of the whole land of Egypt!
3. Joseph becomes steward of Egypt (41:41-57)
Joseph went out from Pharaoh' presence with Pharaoh's signet ring on
his finger. He was dressed like a prince and given a late model chariot
for his personal use. He was second only to Pharaoh in the land of
Egypt. Whenever he rode around the streets of the capitol, someone ran
before him shouting, "Make way!" Pharaoh put him in charge of the whole
land of Egypt. Pharaoh said, "I am Pharaoh, but without your word no
one will lift a hand or foot in all Egypt." From a slave to a king in a
day! It was enough to make any man proud. But what did Joseph do? He
didn't make a list of those who had wronged him and get revenge.
(Potiphar's wife would have headed the list!) He went out from
Pharaoh's presence and traveled throughout Egypt. He began immediately
to make plans for mobilizing Egypt for the famine that would occur
after seven years.
Pharaoh introduced him to a beautiful girl to be his wife. She was a
very religious person, the daughter of the high priest. For seven years
both Joseph and Egypt prospered. Joseph firmly believed God's word:
There would be a famine. To most people, it seemed as if the times of
prosperity would go on forever. Sometimes, it was as difficult to
believe that there would really be a severe famine as it had been for
Noah to believe that there would be a flood.
By faith, Joseph stored up grain and kept careful records until
there was so much grain that it was impossible to keep records. It was
like the sand of the sea.
During that time, God blessed Joseph with two sons. He named the
first one Manasseh, which means "forget." Joseph thanked God who made
him forget all of his trouble and sorrow that he had experienced at the
hands of his brothers. He could have remembered their jealousy and all
of the small ways they had tormented him. He could have harbored deep
hatred for them for tearing him away from his loving father and selling
him as a slave in a foreign land. But he turned those feelings and
thoughts over to God. God healed him and filled him with joy. His
second son he named Ephraim, which means "twice fruitful." God had not
only healed his deep heart wounds, but God had made his life very
fruitful. He said, "God has made me fruitful in the land of my
suffering." He didn't deny that he had suffered in Egypt. He was
realistic about his life. But he acknowledged God's sovereignty and
praised God for the blessings he had poured out on him. God fulfilled
the promises of the dreams in the life of a man who held those dreams
in his heart. God healed the heart of the man who accepted God's love
and gave thanks to God in all circumstances. God was with Joseph in
Egypt. He trained him until he could be a blessing to Egypt and to all
the world--and especially to God's chosen people. God was working out
his purpose for the descendants of Abraham.