3. ALL THE EARTH CAME TO JOSEPH 53-57 a. Joseph is right again. We see in these closing verses that all that Joseph said would happen came true. God gave Joseph the message and Joseph delivered it. The ordering of events is in God’s hands. He caused an amazing abundance of produce for seven years and then he brought the famine. You can see the progression of the famine in the words of these verses. Verse 54 says that the famine began to come. This was not a localized famine to Egypt, but it hit all lands. As we will see in the next chapter, the land of Canaan is a part of this famine. When other areas were feeling the famine, Egypt was fine at first. Perhaps because the abundance was so great, the people themselves had stored up food. But when that ran out they too became famished and the people cried out for bread. There is a letter in historical writing from ancient Egypt from a man to his family that was written during a famine. He described that the famine was so bad that the people resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. When the famine had spread across Egypt, Joseph opened all of the storehouses and began to sell the food that he had stored up. The famine did not just extend to the land of Egypt but it reached far beyond that so much so that “all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain.” The famine was severe over all the earth. b. Joseph is obedient again. Joseph was a thirty-year-old man when he came to power. Joseph went out from the presence of the Pharaoh and went through all the land. Joseph accomplished what he was put into power to do. No doubt, Joseph worked hard as he ensured that the entire kingdom saved the abundance. He put food in every city. And then, when the famine raged, he made sure that the right amount was distributed. When the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread, he told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.” This was the right answer because Joseph had prepared for this moment for over seven years and he had the answer.
1. JOSEPH’S PROMOTION 38-45 a. No one wiser. After hearing his interpretation and advice the Pharaoh and all his servants were happy with the proposal as to how to respond to the message of the dream. And they also noticed that there was something special about Joseph. They ask amongst themselves, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” The last phrase could also be rendered spirit of the gods. Either question would be appropriate here. Whichever way the passage ought to be read, it is clear that they recognize Joseph has a special connection with the divine. God is with Joseph and they cannot deny it. The very spirit of God is in Joseph. The gods are with him. Even if they followed their own false religion, it would be dangerous to go against Joseph. Could you throw one who God has blessed into prison again? Of course not. Pharaoh turns to Joseph and says, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are.” Joseph told Pharaoh that God would have to give the meaning and Pharaoh reasons that if God is giving him the meaning then there is no one wiser than Joseph since he has a direct connection with God. God has given Pharaoh some mental clarity here. Who is wiser than a person who knows God? As we know, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. What Pharaoh realized is still true today. The truly wise ones are those that bow the knee to God. b. Second in charge. Pharaoh then declares that Joseph is to be put in charge over his house and that the people shall do as he commands. The Hebrew idiom has the idea of kissing and comes from the same root that we have in Psalm 2 where it says to kiss the Son lest he be angry. The idea is that everyone is to pay homage, bow down, do everything according to what Joseph says. In Egypt, only the Pharaoh would be greater than Joseph. So Joseph becomes that wise and discerning man that is appointed over Egypt. He is given the signet ring so that he can make royal decrees. He is dressed as royalty. He rides around in the second-best chariot and when he shows up they call out to everyone to “Abrek!” or kneel before him. These would all be things typical for a person in the position that Joseph was given. Can you imagine the emotions and the praise in the mind of Joseph? He woke up that morning in his bed in the prison and that night he went to sleep in the palace. He went from one extreme to another in a matter of a day. c. A new name. Then Pharaoh gives Joseph a new name and a wife which would be fitting for a man in his position. He is named Zaphenath-paneah which is an Egyptian name that no one knows for sure what it meant. Some speculate it meant “revealer of secrets.” In the Latin Vulgate, it was translated as “savior of the world.” In Strong’s concordance, you have “the god speaks and he lives.” More modern scholars that have translated ancient hieroglyphics have suggested that it may not have been a proper name but a title that described his position as second in charge and keeper of the grain. His wife was an Egyptian name Asenath and she was daughter of Potiphera who is not to be confused with Potipher. Potiphera was the priest of On which was the center for sun worship. And with that, Joseph is ready to go out over the land of Egypt.
INTRODUCTION This week we pick up the story with Joseph standing before the Pharaoh. How did he get here? We’ve been following the twists and turns of Joseph’s life and we’ve seen his life have some dramatic turns. Most of us can sympathize with Joseph. Joseph was a young man in Canaan, loved by his father but hated by his brothers. And then one day as he is obeying his father he finds himself a slave on the way to Egypt to be sold in the marketplace. In slavery, Joseph shows himself to be reliable and God’s blessings are poured out on him and Potiphar’s house but with one false accusation, Joseph finds himself in the Pharaoh’s prison. Joseph stands out as a model prisoner and is trusted with running the prison. One day two officials who have been incarcerated with Joseph tell him their dreams and God gives him the meanings. Three days later Joseph is shown to be a prophet of God but he is quickly forgotten about and remains in prison. Then God gave two dreams to the Pharaoh, two dreams which no one could interpret. No one except a Hebrew prisoner. The cupbearer remembered the Joseph gave an interpretation to his dream and the chief baker and he got both of the interpretations correct. Pharaoh, desperate to know what his dreams meant and since his wise men were not able to help, calls Joseph up from the prison. Joseph explained to the Pharaoh that interpreting dreams was not something that was in Joseph as if he had a special skill in this area. It is not by magic or by some mystical arts that Joseph arrives at the meaning. Joseph explains that God must give the answer. And God does. Joseph explained the dreams and then went on to give what Pharaoh’s response ought to be to the dreams. This is where we start the story today. What will the Pharaoh do? Will he believe Joseph? Will Joseph have to go back to prison? Will the Pharaoh respond in the way that Joseph said? All of these questions and more were probably swirling in Joseph’s head as he awaited the response of the king. In our time together there are three main ideas I want to point out to you. First, we are going to look at verses 38 – 45 where we find the response of Pharaoh and Joseph’s promotion. In 46-52 we find the theme of abundance, abundance in food, and the abundance of God’s blessings. We’ll finish our time together looking at 53-57 as we see God blessing the nations through Joseph as all the earth goes to him for food.
From Joseph’s rise and fall and rise and fall and rise again we need to learn that God has a plan. His plan is far more elaborate and extensive than we can imagine. We often get so absorbed in our own lives that we forget that our lives are not about us. We exist for Jesus. And our individual lives are about God redeeming a people for the Son. When we look at Joseph’s ups and downs we can easily place ourselves in the story. We can imagine what it must have been like to go through these dramatic life changes. But we must also remember that the reason that Joseph is going through all of this is that Jesus was coming. His life and the events that we have read are all about Jesus coming into the world. How would the one that would crush the serpent’s head come? Well, Joseph was sold by his brothers into Egypt and that led to a whole slew of events that led him to be a ruler in Egypt, which saved his family, which allowed Perez to grow up and have kids and his son had a son and his son had a son. Think of all the events that were ordered for the line of Judah to be the line of Judah. Think of all the times the line could have ended. Jesus did come and all those events culminated in his resurrection. But from there, a new event, in which all events, would be gathered. The great wedding supper of the Son where a person from every language and tribe and people will be there. People don’t realize that their individual lives are all a part of how God is going to get all of those people, his people, there. This is the amazing mind of God. So when you are tempted to despair, like being falsely accused and arrested, have hope. When you think all hope is leaving you, remember that your life is part of a greater plan than just your individual life. And remember the example of our brother Joseph, who was faithful to God in all of life’s circumstances. You are called to be obedient and follow him and trust that he has already planned how all of this will work together for your good.
a. The Pharaoh’s story. Without further ado, Pharaoh launches into the telling of his dreams. There is not much difference between the two accounts given in the text except in the second Pharaoh adds some commentary. He says that he had never seen such ugly cows in all of Egypt and after they had eaten the plump cows they were still ugly. The sight of the evil cows and bad corn left an obvious impression upon the man. At the end of the story, Pharaoh mentions again that his magicians had failed him. b. Why two dreams? In verses 25 – 32 Joseph gives the meaning of the two dreams. First, the two dreams are foretelling the same future events. Joseph says that the reason there were two dreams instead of one is that the thing is fixed by God and God will shortly bring it about. The repetition shows the importance, the certainty, and the closeness of the events to come. This should remind us of Joseph’s own dreams that he had that were two different visions but had the same meaning. Often skeptics will read Scripture and see the repetitions as errors or a repackaging of a story, but we are reminded here that God often brings repetitions about to secure in our minds that he is sovereign and that the events that occur are not accidental but planned by an infinite mind. c. The Meaning. The meaning of the dreams is fairly simple. There will be seven years of abundance throughout the land of Egypt, but then there will be seven years of famine. The famine will be so great that the seven years of abundance will be forgotten. You wouldn’t even be able to tell that the good years even happened that’s how bad the famine will be. And so, God has graciously given the Pharaoh a warning as to what the next 14 years will bring. What will the Pharaoh do with this information? Will he heed the warning or will he just enjoy the seven good years? d. Joseph’s advice. Joseph doesn’t just give the interpretation of the dreams, but he also gives his advice as to what the Pharaoh needs to do in response to the dreams. First, Pharaoh needs to appoint a wise and discerning man to oversee everything. Then he needs to appoint overseers throughout the land to take as tribute one-fifth of the produce in the seven plentiful years. They are to gather up the food and store it and then distribute it to the people when the famine hits thereby saving the land of Egypt.
a. The cupbearer’s recommendation. When the wise men fail to interpret the dreams, the chief cupbearer has his memory jogged. The cupbearer approaches the Pharaoh with a possible solution to the dilemma he is in. First, the cupbearer says that he remembers his offenses. Which offense is he remembering? Some suggest that was thinking of what he did to make the Pharaoh angry. Others suggest that he remembered his unfulfilled promise to Joseph that he would tell Pharaoh about him. He could be thinking of both since he then proceeds to tell the whole story to Pharaoh. After two whole years, the cupbearer finally tells Pharaoh about the Hebrew servant to the captain of the guard that correctly interpreted not only his dream but also the baker. “As he interpreted to us, so it came about.” b. Joseph brought to Pharaoh. Without wasting any time, Joseph is sent for. Pharaoh has found a possible interpretation of these dreams and no time is wasted. Joseph is quickly brought out of the pit, he shaves and changes his clothes, making him presentable to go before the king, and is brought before Pharaoh. He tells Joseph that he has had a dream but no one can interpret it. But he has heard that when Joseph hears a dream he can interpret. What is Joseph’s answer? It is not in me; God will give. This is the same explanation that he gave to the two officials two years prior. Joseph denies that he has some special ability as a dream interpreter, which the wise men of Egypt would claim. He points to God for the answer. If there is a favorable answer for the Pharaoh it must come from God. Joseph is merely the messenger and not the source of the interpretation. The gifts that God bestows upon his people are not for them to boast in or to use for their personal gain but the glory of God alone.
a. Waiting on the Lord. Our chapter begins with the disappointing fact that these events don’t take place until “after two whole years.” Joseph had asked the cupbearer to remember him when he went before the Pharaoh but he had forgotten. Psalm 37:7-8 reminds us what to do when we find ourselves in the place of Joseph. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.” And so Joseph must obediently wait upon the Lord to act. b. What Pharaoh dreamed. First, he saw seven fattened cows come up out of the Nile river and began to eat the vegetation that was along the river. After the seven good-looking cows came seven ugly cows came. Now the first cows acted as normal cows act but the second group of cows was cannibalistic which is something normal cows don’t do. Upon seeing this, the Pharaoh woke up. Though he had just seen a disturbing sight he was tired and went back to sleep. As he slept he saw a stalk of corn that had seven ears that were plump and good. There was a variety of corn that grew in Egypt that would produce multiple ears on one stalk. Following the seven good ears, seven thin ears blighted by the east wind sprouted. These seven ears swallowed up the good ears, which is weird to imagine. The clarity in these dreams was so great that the Pharaoh didn’t perceive he was dreaming until he woke up. When morning comes Pharaoh can’t forget about the dreams and so he sends for the magicians and wise men to have them interpret the dreams for him. The Nile is a huge player in the mythology and understanding of the Egyptians. And the cow was the sacred animal of Isis who was the goddess of fertility. Along with the imagery of the corn, these three things strike at the Egyptian heart. As the ten plagues that will come much later, this dream is confronting the very gods of Egypt. Though these dreams seem to be easier to interpret than the officials’ dreams, all of the wise men of Egypt could not decipher the dreams.
When Joseph was 17, he had two dreams. In one his brother’s sheaves bowed down to his. In the second, the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed down to him. These two dreams were interpreted as foretelling the future. One day, Joseph’s family would come a bow down before him. Of course, this drove his brothers to jealousy and hatred. How could the second to the last born son of the family be in the position of authority over all of them, including Jacob? Who could this be? Jacob wondered about these things but Joseph’s brothers decided that it would not come to pass. They created their plans to make sure that the dreams would not come true. They plotted cold-blooded murder, but Reuben steered them away from that and suggested they just leave him for dead in a pit. Judah, seeing the traders going by, convinced the brothers to sell Joseph into slavery. How could a Hebrew slave in a foreign country be someone that the brothers would have to bow to? Through a series of events, Joseph found himself in jail listening to the dreams of two officials. God gave him the meaning of the dreams and Joseph was able to correctly interpret what they meant. God had shown the officials what was going to happen in three days. The cupbearer would be restored to his position and the baker would be dead. Three days later, it happened just as Joseph said. Joseph had asked the cupbearer to remember him when he was restored to his position in the presence of the Pharaoh. Unfortunately, for Joseph, the cupbearer forgot all about him. And with that, Joseph’s hopes of leaving the prison began to fade away. The dreams he had before became a distant memory. After all, how could a Hebrew slave in prison be the one to whom his family bows? But this is exactly where Joseph needs to be. God has placed him in the right place at the right time, which is what God often does for his people. When all hope is lost, as the years tick by, and there is nothing humanly possible to be done, God intervenes. His plan begins to unfold before our eyes. People’s lives are changed. All human boasting is destroyed and one can only boast in the Lord. God is the hero of this story, of our stories. In 1-8, we have the telling of Pharaoh’s dreams followed by Joseph being called to act as an interpreter. And finally, in 17-37, Joseph explains what the dreams mean and Joseph explains what must be done in response to the dreams.
It is amazing to just step back and see the plan of God unfold in Joseph’s life. He was thrown into prison by Potiphar who kept the Pharaoh’s prisoners. The cupbearer and baker became prisoners of the Pharaoh and, therefore, ended up in the same prison as Joseph. Because of Joseph’s honesty and hard work, which both Potiphar and the jailer recognize, he is put in the position to get to know the cupbearer and baker. God gives the two officials dreams and God gives Joseph the interpretation of those dreams. God has brought Joseph to this point in his life. And God will soon bring the next phase of his promise to Joseph to fruition. The question today is: Do you believe in this God who is in control of everything. You saw in this story that God works in the lives of people in many different ways. He uses lives for his purposes and moves people where he wants them. Do you believe in this God? Many people make God into their butler who only works and acts when they permit him. They pretend that God won’t bless or save unless they first tell him he is allowed to do so. This is not the God of the Bible. This is not the one true God. God does what He wills and takes counsel with no one. God gives grace to the undeserving and unknowing and will bless, as we have seen in Genesis, even those that are in sin. God will do whatever he wants. Is this the God you believe in? If not, then I pray that you will find the one true God. If you have found Him, then my prayer is that we would grow in our faith and trust in him. Joseph could have lamented being falsely accused and jailed and cursed God. But he remained faithful in those horrible circumstances. May we follow his example. May we follow the example of our savior who was like a lamb that was led to the slaughter. May we like so many of the brothers and sisters that have gone before us, that stood for the truth, for the faith, though it cost them their lives. May we know and act according to the fact that, though we might find ourselves in a place we hate and never thought we would be in, that, in the end, there is laid up for us a crown and Jesus is waiting there to give it to us.
a. Joseph is proven true. Three days pass and we find that it is the Pharaoh’s birthday and he makes a feast for all of his servants. At the feast his lifts up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. This means that they were both brought to trial on this day. The cupbearer is either found innocent or is pardoned for his crime and is restored to his position as chief cupbearer. The baker is found to be guilty and is beheaded and his body hung on a spike. Everything happened just as Joseph had said. He was right. Interpretations come from the Lord. Joseph was a wise man of God, like Daniel after him, and this special gift from God will one day lead him to importance in the land of Egypt. b. Joseph is forgotten. At the very end of the chapter, we find the connecting sentence between chapters 40 and 41. We might be wondering why we received all these details about these two officials and their dreams. Well, this last verse ties these two stories together. Joseph had asked the cupbearer to remember him when he was restored to his position. Joseph hopes that his case would come before the Pharaoh and the truth of his wrongful imprisonment would come to light. But, the cupbearer, being restored to his position simply forgot about Joseph. We should not judge the cupbearer too harshly because how many times have we found that when our lives are at ease and things are going well that we forget about the troubles of others. It will not be until the end of two full years that God will change the entire direction of Joseph’s life, again.