Genesis | Chapter 41

Genesis 41:1-57

 “From the prison to the palace”

  1. Intro.
  2. Vs. 1-13 Dreams and remembrance
  3. Vs. 14-36 Dreams with a design
  4. Vs. 37-57 Joseph’s promotion and program


The 41st chapter seems to cause us to erase the true value of the Lord’s work in the life of Joseph over 13 years. But this chapter is not meant to be an illustration of a man finally getting his lucky break. Joseph’s promotion to being Prime Minister of all of Egypt was not the prize instead the prize was the process that took 13 years transforming his character. The bottom line was that those 13 years had transformed Joseph to the point that he was grateful and not hateful of his experience. Paul said to Timothy in (1 Tim 6:6) “godliness with contentment is great gain.” He wrote to the Philippians in 4:11-12 “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” I confess that there is a longing in my heart to see only the Lord as my prize and not the circumstances of my life meeting me expectations!

Vs. 1-13 Dreams and remembrance

Vs. 1-8 Egyptologists tell us that these dreams fit perfectly with in the framework of Egyptian hieroglyphics which gives credibility to this book. In Egyptian hieroglyphics cows symbolize agriculture and grain symbolizes fertility. I don’t think that the symbols were things that Pharaoh or the interpreters could not understand. What they could not understand was the fact that the ugly gaunt cows and the thin blighted heads of grain consumed yet they were not prospering by the consumption of the fine fat cows and the plump good heads of grain. These dreams were so real to Pharaoh that according to verse 7 he was not sure if they were dreams. When the morning came Pharaoh was troubled by the dreams and calls for two separate groups of people to interpret the dreams:

  1. Magicians: Were the best-educated and wisest people in Egypt. It was to this class of people that the hieroglyphics and other inscriptions belonged. They also consulted the stars as well as interpreted dreams.
  2. Wise men: Were those folks who trained the magicians in occult practices.

Neither of these two groups could give the interpretation because the dreams were from God and they weren’t.

Vs. 9-13 Pharaoh’s frustration at the wisest most qualified people in the land not being able to interpret these dreams triggered the memory of the butler. He is careful to speak of the incident which landed him in prison as his “faults” but in regards to Joseph no where does he mention the injustice done Joseph or his faith in the Lord. The only interest in Joseph is his skill in interpreting dreams, both of which came out true although not equally beneficial. Thus Pharaoh knew from the words of his butler not only that Joseph was an interpreter of dreams but that he was not afraid to speak the truth even if it was not going to be pleasant news.

Though Joseph had to wait another two years for God’s timing to be perfect when it was right with the Lord if happened quickly. It seems to me that we all go through times when there appears to be no movement forward in our lives. We tend to think that God is not at work, that we have been placed upon some sort of spiritual shelf forgotten and discarded. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is during such time as those that God is doing His greatest work of developing our characters, transforming us and making us more like His Son. Timing is everything, if Joseph would have been released two years earlier his advancement may have not ever happened. Mordecai told Queen Esther “who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” God has a great since of timing even if we don’t always appreciate it!

Vs. 14-36 Dreams with a design

Vs. 14-16 This verse reveals that Joseph had spent his time in the dungeon wisely as he prepared for the moment that God would deliver him. To the Hebrews a beard is a sign of dignity, but to the Egyptian a beard was an offensive thing. Joseph understood the culture and humbled himself to reach it. What good would it do to be an interpreter of dreams and because you didn’t want to shave no one would listen to the interpretation?

Further more notice how Joseph uses this God given opportunity before Pharaoh, he does not speak of himself, he does not use it as an opportunity to promote his greatness or even to prosper in some way. Neither does he use it as an opportunity to clear his name or right the wrongs done him. We know that according to 40:14-15 that Joseph did not want to be in prison but those two years had brought him still closer to the Lord and his only interest is in serving the Lord not his causes! Amazingly the only statement out of Joseph’s mouth is to correct Pharaoh’s misunderstanding concerning who can interpret dreams. “It’s not me, it’s God!” The thing that ruled Joseph’s life was God and Him getting all the glory do Him. Standing before the most powerful man in the world and his only concern is that Pharaoh understands who is the Most Powerful the Lord God who knows what you were going to dream before he was ever created! One of the apostle John’s students went on to become a pastor of the church at Smyrna. Polycarp was quite old and frail when he was captured during an awful time of persecution against the church. He was brought in before the lions if he did not denounce Jesus as Lord. The Lions would not touch him so they threatened to burn him alive to which he spoke to the coliseum, “For 86 years I have served my King who has saved me, He has done no wrong, so how can I deny Him now?” In the flames that took his life his hands were raised in praising Jesus!

Vs. 17-33 The only difference in the retelling of the dreams to Joseph by Pharaoh is in the 21st verse where he is amazed by the fact that the ugly cows were as they had been at the beginning even after consuming the healthy cows. Even as Joseph gives the interpretation and then the advice there is still no request made by him to be placed into any position that would benefit himself. To Joseph he already held the most important job in all the world servant of the Lord! The interpretation of the dream was more about what to do to rectify what the dream foretold. The repeated number of “7” was speaking of the time frame to which this would all transpire. That fact that this dream had two separate stories that represented the same thing was meant to show it as a certain fact. The final words of Joseph are to give hope, “God will shortly bring it to pass.” In other word’s God not only knows what is going to happen, He also holds the outcome of what is gong to happen! God had a plan in the time of plenty as well as the time of famine and understanding what His plan was and operating within His plan would cause Egypt to prosper. All to often our prayers are about getting God to buy into our ideas and plans and bless them so we would prosper. Instead our prayer ought to be about us buying into God’s plans and ideas, then asking Him to cause them to prosper so His kingdom and will would be furthered for His glory!

Vs. 34-36 God did not stop at just giving the interpretation of dreams he gave Joseph the ability to analyze them and determine a coarse of action that would minimize the effects of the dream. The purpose of those 13 years becomes much clearer as such a gifted man who would not touch God’s glory had to be produced through much brokenness. To create a man who could interpret dreams and a man who would be able to steer a coarse through those dreams is not as difficult as it is to find a man who had such abilities but would not be lifted up in pride at God’s work through him! Talents and abilities can be produced through gifting, education and practice but a broken heart is nothing other then a man yielding to the work of the Spirit! That can take a life time if at all! That is why the person God uses is not where we should focus our attention rather our attention and study ought to be upon the heart of the person God uses. Moses and Joseph were two very different people outwardly:

  1. Joseph: Began in the land of Canaan and ended up in Egypt. He began his career as a shepherd and was exalted to the position of Prime Minister. It was God’s hand upon Joseph’s life that caused him to “step up” to save his family.
  2. Moses: Began his career as an infant prince and moved down to a shepherd among his father-in-laws flocks. It was necessary for Moses to “step down” in order to save his people!

God chose an administrator to save His chosen people, a pencil pusher, and not a warrior! God is always looking for people who do not think in terms of who they are or aren’t but rather in terms of Who He is. 2 Chron. 16:9 tells us that “the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” Joseph demonstrated this by being diligent and faithful to the day to which God had called him.

Vs. 37-57 Joseph’s promotion & program

Vs. 37-45 Pharaoh clearly sees something different about Joseph then any other in all his kingdom, the “spirit of God” is in him. It took 13 years for Joseph to go from the pasture to the palace and it was made possible only by his willingness to yield to God to transform his character, yes Joseph had God given talents but it was God’s work inwardly that enabled those talents to be used for the glory of God.

He is given all the trappings of a new position:

  1. Signet ring: Like our signature and a credit card.
  2. Clothing of fine linen and a gold chain: These were signs of his prominence among the people.
  3. Second chariot: Pharaoh got the Rolls, Joseph drove the Benz.
  4. His named changed: This meant that “God speaks and He lives” was no longer a slave or a foreigner but now an Egyptian.
  5. The daughter of the priest of the sun god: Now most likely Asenath was not a woman who did not disagree with Joseph’s worship of God. How do we know? Well if he could say no to Potiphar’s wife he would have said no to any woman who did not love his God.

Vs. 46-57 Here we are told the accuracy of the interpretation and God’s ability to direct the administration of the plan that would prosper Egypt during the years of famine.

The naming of his two son give another glimpse into his heart:

  1. Maasseh: “Making to forget” shows that Joseph had an attitude of gratitude towards God as His goodness towards him far out weighed any of the trials. There is no mention of wanting to go back home as wherever the Lord was he was at home. No sign of bitterness as we will see further in 50:20 that causes him to see everything as being for his good.
  2. Ephraim: “Fruitfulness” Joseph recognizes that all that he has is because of the Lord, there is no hint of deserving all that he now has because of what he had to endure. The Lord has turned the sorrow into joy and we see a powerful truth in these two names we shall never be fruitful until we are first forgetful! There is a worship song that goes like this: “So let’s forget about ourselves magnify the Lord and worship Him!”