Genesis Chapter 41
2 years after the cupbearer forgot about Joseph interpreting his dream in prison, Pharaoh dreamed a dream.
Pharaoh's Dream Part 1 ~ 14 Cows By the Nile River (vs. 1-4)
Pharaoh's Dream Part 2 ~ 14 Ears of Grain (vs. 5-7)
(1) He dreamed that there were 7 cows healthy and plump eating reed grass.(2) He, later in the same dream, then saw 7 cows, ugly and thin which he had never seen in all Egypt (vs. 19), coming after the healthy cows.(3) The 7 ugly/thin cows ate the 7 attractive/healthy/plump cows, and they remained thin and ugly afterward (vs. 21).(4) After this dream he woke up.
Pharaoh then had a 2nd dream.
Joseph Interprets Pharaoh's Dreams
(1) He dreamed that there were 7 ears of grain, plump and good, on one stalk.(2) He, later in the same dream, then saw 7 ears, thin and blighted by the east wind.(3) The 7 thin ears swallowed up the 7 plump/full ears.(4) After this dream he woke up.
In the morning his spirit was troubled, and he called for Egyptian magicians and wise men to interpret his dreams, but none could. At this, the cupbearer remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh about how Joseph interpreted his and the former chief baker's dreams correctly. Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they cleaned Joseph up before he came before Pharaoh. So Pharaoh said, "I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it." (vs. 15)
Joseph answered, "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer," or “Without God it is not possible to give Pharaoh an answer about his welfare.” (vs. 16) Pharaoh then told him his dreams (which are outlined above). After recounting the dreams he said he told the Egyptian magicians, but that they couldn’t interpret the dreams (vs. 24).
Joseph then described what the dreams meant. They are one and the same dream, and, “God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.” (vs. 25) The 7 good cows and good ears of grain are 7 years, and the 7 ugly cows and blighted ears of grain by the east wind are 7 years of famine. Then again Joseph said, “God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do.” (vs. 28) 7 years of plenty in Egypt are coming, but then 7 years of famine will come in Egypt, “And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about.” (vs. 32)
Joseph then gave counsel to Pharaoh to select a discerning and wise man and set him over the land of Egypt, and to appoint overseers over the land and take 1/5th of the produce of the land during the plentiful years, let the overseers gather all the food in the good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it as a reserve during the 7 years of famine that are to come.
Joseph’s proposal pleased Pharaoh, and Pharaoh said, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God? [or ‘of the god’s’]” (vs. 38) Pharaoh then said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command [or ‘and according to your command all my people shall kiss the ground’]. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” (vs. 37-40) So Pharaoh took his signet ring and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain on his neck, and made him ride in his second chariot, and they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” (vs. 41-43)
Pharaoh then said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all Egypt,” (vs. 44) and he named him Zaphenath-paneah, and he gave him in marriage to Asenath the daughter of Potiphera priest of On (vs. 45).
7 Years of Abundance
All of this happened when Joseph was 30 years old. During the 7 plentiful years he gathered up the food and put the food in every city from the fields around it. He gathered it up in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he stopped measuring it, because it could not be measured (vs. 49). Before the famine came Joseph had two sons:
(1) Manasseh, “For...God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” (vs. 51) [Manasseh sounds like the Hebrew word meaning “making to forget”]
(2) Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (vs. 52) [Ephraim sounds like the Hebrew word meaning “making fruitful”]7 Years of Famine Begins
The 7 years of abundance ended, and 7 years of famine began, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. When Egypt was famished [starving hungry and thirsty], the people cried to Pharaoh for bread, and Pharaoh told them to go to Joseph, and do what he says. (vs. 55) So as the famine spread, Joseph opened the storehouses [“all that was in them”], and sold it to the Egyptians. Then all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe all over the earth.
Reflections on Genesis 41
First, notice that Joseph is 30 years old (vs. 46). When his trials started he was 17 (Gen. 37:2). He was stripped naked and left in a pit, then sold into slavery, then falsely accused, then imprisoned in Egypt, then forgotten by the cupbearer - 13 years of misery. Was Joseph's dream that he would rule over his family just a farce? Was God playing some kind of demented trick on Joseph just to get kicks out of watching him writhe in pain and depression? No!!! God was working His purposes for His own glory, but also for Joseph's good. As we see here, in Genesis 41, God was not only for Joseph's good, but for Pharaoh's good, for all the people of Egypt's good, and even for the whole earth's good. Joseph surely desired for God's timing to be to get him out of his nightmarish circumstances as soon as possible, but God's timing is perfect, and we see a small glimpse of that in this chapter. If we knew God's purposes for His glory and for our good we would surely choose God's timing, but often we don't know His purposes, so we toy with depression and throw temper-tantrums along the way. We should trust Him, because His timing is perfect, even though we often wouldn't have chosen it. He is for our good if we are His. That said, when the Lord begins to reveal the purposes for which He delayed, we can look back over the specific contours we walked and trace the line of His bountiful grace, and say, "I get it now, it all makes so much more sense than it used to." We may not be able to say that in this life, but if we are His people we will one day when we are with our Lord and He wipes away every tear from our eyes. I'm reminded of the popular quote, "God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart."*
Second, notice that God, in contrast to the "magicians" "philosophers" and "wise" people in the world, alone is wise, knowledgeable, and in meticulous control. No one else could give interpretations of Pharaoh's dreams, not even Joseph, and look at what the text describes about God:
What does all this mean? Only God can interpret dreams, and it's impossible to do it without Him. In these specific dreams of Pharaoh, God is working to bring to pass what He revealed in Joseph's dreams 13 years earlier. But God's doing something else here too. Let's not miss the forest of Israel and God's grand redemptive plan for the individual tree that Joseph is. God made a promise to Abram in Genesis 15:13-14, remember? "13 Then the LORD said to Abram, 'Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.'" What is that land? Well, here we're beginning to see that it will be Egypt. How would Israel end up in this land of slavery? Certainly not by choice, right? Well, it appears not, but we need to let the rest of the story play out over the rest of Genesis.Vs. 16 - God will give an answer, or without God it is impossible to give an answer.Vs. 25 - God has revealed what He [God] is about to do.Vs. 28 - God has shown what He [God] is about to do.Vs. 32 - God fixed what will happen, and God will shortly bring it about.Vs. 39 - God has shown. [Pharaoh is speaking here]
God is merciful and gracious here to show what He is about to do. God has fixed what Pharaoh's dreams reveal will come to pass, and He will make it happen. Man is responsible too though. God is in control over time, events, and people, but the people make decisions and are active agents in doing the things that God brings about. He has fixed these things, and He not only fixes events and then passively lets someone or something else enact them to come to pass. No, He does it and brings it to pass Himself. (41:25, 28, 32) He's actively doing this while the people are active too. The world is the stage for this display of God's grace and mercy to the point that even an unbeliever, Pharaoh, is crediting God to have shown the interpretation to Joseph.
God is continuing to preserve His people in order to bring about the promised Messiah from Eve's lineage as it is further seen in His sovereign choosing of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen. 3:15; 15). Now, here in Joseph's temporal redemption from the literal pit, we see a little more of a glimpse about the circumstances that surround His steadfast love expressed in His preservation of the people of His covenant, and in how ultimately in Jesus Christ He will redeem a people from their sin.
Pointing to Jesus Christ
Joseph clearly prefigures Moses here, who will lead Israel out of slavery in Egypt, another picture of redemption. But both both Joseph and Moses' redemption accounts prefigure Jesus Christ's. That Jesus Christ suffered the greatest misery of all, taking upon Himself the sin of His people. Being tortured and then raised upon the cross to bear the eternal wrath of God in His own body on the tree for His people. Then, 3 days after His death, He was raised from the dead defeating, sin and death. If we would repent and believe, we can know with certainty that it was our sin that He defeated, and we can be assured of our redemption through Him.
* Many attribute this quote to C. H. Spurgeon, but I don't know of a reference.