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A Humbled King and an Exalted Slave — Genesis Chapter 41

This blog post will cover the devotionals #169-174 for Genesis Chapter 41.

Please note that this devotional book is for sale as a physical (paperback) &/or digital (PDF) book on my website.

[169] Genesis 41:1-7,9-13,17-24

One night, two years after the butler was reinstated and the baker hanged, Pharaoh had two dreams. He was standing on the riverbank, and seven plump cows came up out of the river and fed in a meadow. Then, seven more cows came up, but these were ill and scrawny. They joined the fat cows and ate them all up. He woke up and fell back asleep. This time, seven full, healthy ears of corn came up on one stalk, and seven more followed. These empty, thin, wind-blasted ears sprang up and devoured them. He woke up again, and realized it was a dream, and was troubled. The chief butler witnessed Pharaoh’s confusion when he couldn’t get any of his magicians and wise men to properly interpret his dreams. It was so upsetting because they had a vibe of terrible disaster. The butler witnessed the terror infiltrating the entire palace as the agitation increased, and it reminded him about his own experience in the prison, when he couldn’t comprehend the dream he had himself. In that moment, he remembered the one who’d interpreted his own dream, and he felt instant remorse for being so forgetful and ungrateful towards the man who’d relieved his fears and treated him so well. Two full years had passed since he’d been released from prison, and Joseph had remained there all the while. Joseph’s hope that had been sparked (at the possible opportunity to be saved) had finally fizzled out. Now, on top of all the other struggles he experienced, he felt the sting of ingratitude. Joseph didn’t merely suffer disappointed expectations but was the object of a sin—of which the chief butler was guilty. God views ingratitude as one of the most aggravating sins. He feels disgust and hatred for it, and thus, it’s not wrong that Joseph felt hurt by it as well. The butler knew he’d sinned (even though he wasn’t a God-fearing Hebrew), because he felt conviction of his wrong. He himself even told the king, “I remember my faults today.” Though he’d sinned and disregarded the one who’d done so much for him, he still had the chance to make it right. That was the hand of God. The timing of his memory of Joseph lined up with an event that God Himself instigated (the foreboding dreams He gave Pharoah), and it was His hand that would open the prison gates. The butler immediately told Pharoah about how he and the chief baker had dreamed—and how a Hebrew prisoner had correctly interpreted their dreams.

[170] Genesis 41:8,14-16

Just as King Nebuchadnezzar would be incredibly troubled by his dream about his kingdom and what’d happen with the surrounding nations, Pharaoh had been disturbed by the two dreams he had the previous night. Just like Nebuchadnezzar would call for all his magicians and wise men, and none could help him, Pharaoh experienced the same. After some time of this, and his chief butler had told him about the dreams he and his coworker had been given, and about Joseph, Pharaoh humbled himself and consulted the slave. Joseph (whose hair had grown long in his extended stay in the dungeon) was retrieved from prison. He cleaned and groomed himself and was brought before the king. Pharaoh was humiliated to have to consult a slave (especially a Hebrew) and that his own wise men and magicians couldn’t get the job done (this sounds an awful lot like what King Nebuchadnezzar would experience), but he was willing to accept help from absolutely anywhere to find relief for his troubled mind. This also means that he was willing to accept it from God, because before Joseph heard and interpreted the dreams, he made it known that God Himself would give the meaning (as we’ll see in devotional #171)—and Pharaoh decided to still tell the dreams despite the named source of both the dreams and their interpretation.

[171] Genesis 41:16,25-32

Before Joseph agreed to hear and give the interpretation of the dreams, he prefaced that the interpretation wasn’t going to come from himself (he didn’t possess special wisdom), but that God Himself would give the king a peaceful answer for the mystery. He’d given the same testimony to the king’s officers in prison, and Daniel would later give the same testimony to the Babylonian king. Once Joseph heard the dreams, he told the king that God gave him two dreams (with the same meaning to impress upon him their importance) to show Pharaoh what He was about to allow to happen. The seven good cows and the seven good ears of corn represented seven abundant years (just as the butler’s and baker’s three vine branches and three white baskets represented three days). The seven poor cows and seven empty ears that came up after the good ones also represented seven years, but this time, of famine. He again repeated that God was showing the king what was about to happen, but specifically, to Egypt. All of Egypt would experience seven years of abundance, followed by seven years of famine— which would be so bad that the abundance would be entirely forgotten, and the land would be entirely consumed. The fact that God gave him the dream twice meant that God was establishing the fact that it was going to happen. As we’ll see in devotional #172, the very dream that Joseph interpreted for Pharaoh also tasted of the prophetic situation in which Joseph would find himself. God revealed the meaning of the dreams to Joseph. He showed the long famine that would occur, and how to prevent the nation’s destruction. After Joseph shared the interpretation of the dreams, he proceeded to give godly counsel to the king (who was glad to receive it). Why did God decide to tell Pharaoh of what'd happen? Amos 3:7 says, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” The purpose for God to reveal what He is going to do (or allow) is for people to have the opportunity to cooperate (or at least prepare for it). By alerting Pharaoh to the bad that would occur before it did, He gave him a great opportunity to prepare when there’d be enough to cover fourteen regular years. This is what God would do with the Sabbath manna in the wilderness (outside of Egypt). Normally, He would only provide enough manna for a single day and wouldn’t maintain its freshness for longer than a day. Yet, when it was Friday (preparation day for Sabbath), He would send extra to provide for both Friday and Saturday (Sabbath) and would also maintain the soundness of the food for two days. Yet, it was still up to the people to collect enough for both days. Likewise, He would send extra food during the seven good years preceding the seven bad years, and He would sustain it throughout the seven years (in which they’d have nothing to harvest). It was up to them to do their part. In devotional #172, we’ll see exactly what Joseph suggested, and what the king did with his advice.

[172] Genesis 41:33-41

Joseph suggested that the king should select a discreet (discerning) and wise man to put in charge over Egypt’s land, and let officers be appointed over the land to take up (aka, tax) a fifth of the land in the seven abundant years of Egypt. All the food should be gathered from those seven good years, and all the corn stored up under Pharaoh’s possession. The food was to be kept in the cities so there’d be provisions during the seven years of famine, and the land wouldn’t perish during that time. This was incredibly discerning foresight, and there was no doubt that it was wise counsel. Pharaoh didn’t act rashly in appointing the man for the job. This was going to be a huge responsibility that would require great trust. Pharaoh’s choice for the executer of the plan would determine the preservation, or lack thereof, of his nation. It troubled him as he considered it for some time. Pharaoh had learned not only of Joseph’s interpretation of the butler’s dream in prison, but also of the wisdom of the prison guard in appointing Joseph as manager. He clearly had incredible administrative skills. When the king asked the butler for verification of his report, he sought to make up for his ingratitude by warmly praising his benefactor. His report was confirmed by others as well. Out of the entire nation, Joseph had been the only one to alert of the coming danger and/or give the preventative measures to be taken, and this convinced Pharaoh that he was best qualified—especially being supported by divine power. None of his own men could manage the crisis as well as he believed Joseph could. His Hebrew origins and slavery were insignificant to the king compared with his wisdom and judgment. The decision was made and announced, to the astonishment of all. “Can we find one like this, in whom the Spirit of God is?” He then said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all of this, there is nobody as discreet and wise as you are. You will be over my house, and according to your word, all my people will be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than you. Look, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Proverbs 16:10 says, “A divine sentence is in the lips of the king: his mouth does not transgress in judgment.” Psalm 105:21, 22 says, “He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance: to bind his princes at his pleasure; and teach his senators wisdom.” And Proverbs 19:10, 12 says, “Delight is not suitable for a fool; much less for a servant to have rule over princes. The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion; but his favor is like dew on the grass.” Joseph certainly wasn’t promoting himself to Pharaoh for the ruling position over Egypt (like the way Haman did with King Ahasuerus) but like Mordecai, he showed himself to be worthy and fit simply by his long-demonstrated faithfulness and good character. Joseph may have finally begun to understand his own dreams God had given him (recall, He had given Joseph two dreams to impress the surety of what’d happen, just like He did with Pharaoh), but did he also foresee how identically his brothers would honor him?

[173] Genesis 41:42-46,50-52

After the announcement of Joseph’s election, Pharaoh removed his ring (the insignia of his high office) and put it on Joseph’s hand, along with fine linen clothing and a gold necklace. He had Joseph ride in his second chariot, and they announced before him wherever he went for people to bow the knee to him. He also gave him a wife (Asenath) who was the daughter of the priest of On. Joseph was thirty years old when this happened. He went out through all of Egypt. Joseph fathered two sons before the famine started and named them Manasseh (meaning, ‘to forget’)—because God had helped him 'forget' his toil and family, and Ephraim (‘double fruit’ or ‘fruitfulness’)—because God had made him fruitful in the land of his affliction. Proverbs 19:17 tells us, “He that has pity on the poor lends to the Lord; and He will repay him that which he has given.” Joseph had served with compassion, and God rewarded him a double portion. He took him from slavery to mastery and blessed all he did. There are many similarities between how Pharaoh lavished and promoted Joseph and how the Babylonian king(s) did with Daniel. Joseph was made ruler over all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh told him that no man would use his hand or foot without Joseph. The king renamed him with an Egyptian name, Zaphnathpaaneah, which is suggested to mean ‘savior of the world’, to commemorate Egypt’s salvation worked through him. It’s no coincidence that Pharaoh chose this name, as Joseph was in fact a representation of Christ. He ruled for many years, highly honored in Egypt. His life and character manifested lovely, pure, and noble traits—and in bearing his sorrows amid difficult circumstances, as well as overcoming temptation, Joseph’s character was that of Christ.

[174] Genesis 41:47-49,53-57

Despite being made head of state and interacting often with learned men, Joseph didn’t forsake God or his integrity. Just because he was in a position of great honor doesn’t mean he was free of difficulty or danger. His success could’ve dragged him down with temptation. Thus, his life was afflicted with both adversity and prosperity. However, he didn’t avoid interacting with those worldly men with whom he had to associate for his work. His heavenly example didn’t shine without effect among the people that Christ had offered Himself up for, taken under His wings, and lavished with both temporal and spiritual blessings—for the purpose of drawing them to Himself. Though he didn’t waiver in his faithfulness to God, and the Egyptians didn’t waiver in their idolatry, they did come to respect the principles evident in God’s servant. Joseph knew this wasn’t his home and he was far from his family, which made him sad—but he completely trusted that God had controlled his course and placed him in a position of importance. He never stopped depending on God, and faithfully performed his duties over the land that had enslaved and imprisoned him. He devoted himself to their best interest (just as Christ did), and the more he learned, the better his representation of God became. He was just as faithful to God in Pharaoh’s palace as he was in his dungeon. God’s approval of the secular work that he did as prime minister over Egypt was no greater or lesser than for the work he did as head over the house of Potiphar, and in both instances, his management brought prosperity to everything. The earth produced abundantly during the seven good years, and Joseph gathered up all the food during that time-period and stored it in the cities. He gathered as much corn as there was sand in the sea, to the point where he stopped counting it. It was innumerable. He traveled through all of Egypt, commanding massive storehouses to be built. His clear head and sound judgment aided the preparation of securing enough food to last the length of the famine. The seven years ended, and the next seven began, just as Joseph had stated. All the surrounding lands were in desperate situations while Egypt was stocked. Once the Egyptians were finally destitute of food, they begged Pharaoh for bread. He directed them to Joseph with the charge to do as he commands. Joseph opened the storehouses and sold food to all the Egyptians. All the surrounding countries began coming to Joseph in Egypt to buy corn—including his ‘homeland’, Canaan.

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