Studies in Genesis. Presentation 59. From Humiliation to Exaltation Gen 41v1-57. Presentation 59. Introduction.
Joseph has been buffeted with one sore circumstance after another, cruelly treated by his brothers, falsely accused by Potiphar's wife and disappointed by the ingratitude of the king’s cupbearer. Unknown to Joseph, God was at work in this boiling cauldron of human experience. Joseph was unaware that God was about to deliverer not just Egypt, and his family but much of the then known world through his instrumentality.
In this passage for the first time Joseph
begins to find some answers to the big
that hung over his suffering.
God’s light begins to shine!
God set in motion a plan to deliver Joseph and advance his own greater purpose. Pharaoh had two disturbing dreams: seven thin cows ate up seven fat ones and seven blasted ears of corn devoured seven full ears. Pharaoh would have had bizarre nightmares before, why then was he so disturbed by these dreams? God persuaded him that they were portents of the future, affecting the welfare of his kingdom.
‘The king’s heart is truly in the hands of the Lord,
he turns it wherever he wishes.’
Ancient Egypt prided itself as a centre of learning and culture. Under normal circumstances the wise men would have been expected to come up with some sort of interpretation rather . They certainly would not want to appear foolish before Pharaoh. But for the first time in their lives these wise men were unable to provide a credible explanation of the dreams. Who had wiped their minds blank? God of course! He has ordered these
circumstances according to his will.
The wise men’s failure to interpret the dreams was the catalyst the cupbearer needed to remember the help that Joseph had given him in prison cf v9ff. The scene is set for one of the most radical reversals of fortune in Scripture.
A forgotten prisoner was about to be made prime minister of Egypt.
There are times in our dungeon experiences when we can lose heart and think that God has forgotten us. However, when God does act you had better
have your suitcase ready!
We must allow hope to operate in
our hearts for, "The end of a matter
is better than the beginning”
“Sorrow may endure for the night
but joy comes in the morning”
Before Joseph appears before Pharaoh, the prison smell is washed off, his clothes are changed and his beard shaved. Facial hair was culturally unacceptable in the Egyptian palace.
Pharaoh's request was straightforward,
"I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said
of you that when you hear a dream you
can interpret it." v15.
Joseph's immediate reply is so
consistent with his character
‘Don't look to me for help, I am
inadequate to the task but the
God I serve he can help’.
Was Joseph tempted to answer Pharaoh differently? He could have reasoned,
‘The Pharaoh's of Egypt think themselves to be god-kings, if I begin to speak of another God, one he does not know, one he does not recognise, I might give him cause for offence. Besides if God does give me the interpretation should I not take the credit for myself?
If I do this would place Pharaoh in my debt
and might even be the means of my
release from prison.‘
But Joseph was determined that God
should get the glory for the successful
It is easy in Christian work to bathe in the glory that rightly belongs to God, to want credit for our success in God’s work, and to revel in the spotlight of man’s praise. God says, “l will not share my glory with another”. Isa 48.11. There is a beautiful irony at work here, those who are most concerned to attribute to God the glory that is truly his are those, whom God exalts in his service. They are trusted with increased responsibility just as was Daniel in Nebuchadnezzar’s court!
Joseph’s interpretation described seven successful harvests followed by seven lean years. Egypt was the bread basket of the ancient world. The Nile regularly overflowed her banks irrigating a vast alluvial plain. The Egyptians could harvest two or three crops a year and often had vast grain surpluses. Other nations sourced their grain from Egypt, when their land was devastated by drought, disease or locust infestation. Clearly, this dream had far wider implications than the internal grain
consumption of Egypt.
Joseph was as ready to tell Pharaoh the bad news as he was the good.
‘He was no honey-mouthed optimist who spoke only smooth and pleasant things. He fearlessly told the truth. Seven years of plenty followed by seven years of devastation. In this way he emulated the Lord Jesus who spoke with equal clarity not only of the blessings of obedience, which come
to men but of the spiritual famine which would result
from their disobedience. It is the task of a
witness to share both good news and
bad without fear or favour with
good reason Jesus is described in
Rev 3.14 as
'the faithful and true witness'.
Joseph not only interpreted the dreams, he suggested a solution- the construction of vast granaries to store grain during the years of plenty. This not only met with Pharaoh’s approval but to Joseph's surprise, he was appointed the administrator of the scheme and next to
Pharaoh held the highest rank in the land.
Pharaoh chose Joseph first, because he was 'discerning
and wise' and secondly, because he recognised that
Joseph was one 'in whom was the Spirit of God’ v37.
This is the first reference in Scripture to the Spirit of
God coming upon a man for service.
See also Ex 31.3ff and Judges 14.19.
The Spirit came upon Joseph to enable him to
govern the greatest nation of that day.
On this first recorded occasion of the Spirit of God coming upon man, it was an unbeliever, who recognised the fact! Clearly, there was something different about this Joseph that was not found in any of the other wise men in Pharaoh's court or among the priesthood of
the Egyptian gods!
Do people recognise that we, who call ourselves
Christians, are different? Are they able to see that
we have a disctinctive character, which is God-given?
Donald Grey Barnhouse famously said:
'the secret of power is character,
but the secret of character is God’.
Promotions often ruin people. Christians can allow increased responsibility to dull their commitment to God. How do we know that promotion did not impair Joseph’s commitment? Joseph’s Egyptian wife, Asenath, bore him two sons. The first he called ‘Mannassah’ which means, 'It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household.'
Joseph had not forgotten his family in Canaan but he had
forgotten the hardship he endured at his brothers’ hands.
He was now able to lay his unhappy childhood behind him
and had begun to understand the reason for his earlier
Samuel Rutherford after his own bitter trials wrote,
'Now all these lie behind me, oh for a well tuned harp'.
God can equip us to lay behind us, our sore imprisonments
and help us praise him for what they produced in us!
God can help us to forget those who have wronged and abused us. Many today, live lives that are anchored in the past because they have been unable to forget it and close the door on life's bitter experiences. These past experiences not only colour their waking thoughts but invade even their dreams. In contrast, Joseph could say, ‘God has enabled me to forget’.
He saw God's ability to use all his pain constructively and recreatively and so could bury his past. Do you need God’s help to bury your past?
Joseph's second son was named Ephraim because God had made Joseph fruitful in the land of his suffering. Ephraim’s fruitfulness extended beyond the birth of children, to that of influence, power and witness. Joseph was awed by all that God had done. There must have been times when Joseph languishing in prison asked, “Will I never accomplish more than I am presently accomplishing?”
When we prove ourselves faithful in the little
things without grumbling and dissent, as
Joseph did in prison, then we are often
unwittingly being equipped for greater
It is impossible to read this passage without thinking of Jesus. He too was rejected by his own people, sold for silver, wrongfully accused, humiliated, bore a punishment he did not deserve, suffered beside two prisoners while promising life to one. He was exalted, enthroned to the Ruler's right hand, given a new name, above every name, and from all over the world many come and bow down before him seeking his help
to meet their great needs.
There is comparison after comparison
between the life of Joseph and our
Lord Jesus Christ.
Some have suggested that, Zaphenath- Paneah, the new Egyptian name given to Joseph, means “Saviour of the world”, though "God speaks and he lives” is perhaps a more accurate translation. Even so, what a marvellous testimony this new name is, as it points out that the character of God is reflected in Joseph. Pharaoh's confession indicates that everything Joseph was, he had become in accordance with God's will and through God's power. God spoke and it came into being.
Uniquely, God’s Word became enfleshed in the
person of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour
of the world.
He perfectly reflected the character of the
Father cf Jn. 14.9, Col.1.15.
And when Jesus spoke none of his words
fell to the ground.
One final comparison can be made. Pharaoh's response to those who came to him for food was, 'Go to Joseph and do what he tells you’ v55.
The world in which we live today is no less despairing and needy than the world of Joseph’s day. World leaders do their optimistic best not to speak of a bleak future, when confronted with pollution, the exhaustion of the world's resources, population growth, terrorist threat
and international tensions.
A famine with many different faces grips
our world. Should we be surprised when
so many people and their leaders have
There is however, an alternative to despair. God's man, the Lord Jesus Christ has come. And God, the true King of the universe says, ‘Go to Jesus.'
Are you spiritually hungry? … Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life’.
Are you thirsty? … Jesus said, ‘Come to me and drink.'
Are you weary and burdened with life?... Jesus says, ‘I will give you rest’.
Are you aware of a spiritual famine in your life?
Do you want to know how to satisfy those hunger
pangs? Then go to Jesus, who sits enthroned in
heaven waiting for men and women to petition
him for help. We do not ask in vain! He has been
exalted to the highest place for the benefit of his