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Summary Outline

  • 41:1-14 -> Pharoah has a dream, sends for Joseph

  • 41:15-40 -> Joseph interprets Pharoah’s dream and is promoted

  • 41:41-57 -> Joseph in charge of Egypt, and builds a family

  • 42:1-26 -> The brothers’ first visit to Egypt

  • 42:27-38 -> The brothers return to Jacob, ask for Benjamin

41:1-14 – Pharoah’s Dream

  • Joseph stays in the pit (prison) 2 more years after the incident with the cupbearer

  • Notice the patten of twos throughout the whole account – in this chapter and also in the dreams throughout the Joseph narrative.

What is the significance of this? “The matter has been fully decided by God…”

  • Joseph’s understanding of the reason for the doubling of the dream can’t help but bring to mind Joseph’s own earlier double dream.
  • None of the wise men of Egypt can help. Like Moses later in the Pentateuch, we see Joseph is enabled to do what Pharoah’s magicians cannot.

  • Insights:

    • If the cupbearer has kept his promise to Joseph, it may have amounted to nothing at the time, or Joseph may have even been freed, but either way he very likely would not have been available for this moment.

    • The language of the pit is intentional here. Joseph’s brothers betrayed him into a pit and it is an Egyptian king who delivers him out of it.

    • After a long wait where it appears that faithfulness means nothing, suddenly it becomes clear that God is at work in this very thing. Have you faced situations in your life where God’s timetable has differed from your own?

41:15-40 – Joseph’s Exaltation

  • Another repetition of Pharoah’s dreams

  • Joseph gives the interpretation and warns of the upcoming famine

  • Joseph’s wisdom gives Pharoah a plan to follow

  • Joseph is exalted to the second in command over all of Egypt

  • Insights:

    • The fact that what was going to happen was “determined by God” did not lead to complacency or a sense of fatalism (que sera sera), but it led to determined action in light of the certainty.

How should our confidence in God’s promises and his sovereignty spur us to action?

  • Even the pagan king recognizes that practical wisdom is a divine gift. c.f. Ex. 31:3 – The skill given to Bezalel to adorn the tabernacle is attributed to the Spirit of God as well.

How often do we rightly recognize practical skill as a gift of God?

  • Notice how Joseph defers to God and not to his own wisdom. During the retelling of the dream, the words “good” and “evil” are repeated over and over. In this story, Joseph is presented as being able to discern between good and evil, but only by the knowledge that comes from God. This is true wisdom. This draws us back to the Genesis 3 where the desire was to obtain the knowledge of good and evil apart from God, and here we see a reversal of that.

  • There is a great reversal here where Joseph, suffering patiently and serving faithfully in his humility, is exalted above all others in due time. This is a biblical pattern we find often repeated, for example in David, Daniel, Mordecai, and culminating in Jesus (Philippians 2:6-11). This whole account is also a living witness to us of the encouragement of 1 Peter 5:6 – “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s might hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

41:41-57 - Joseph, Ruler of Egypt

  • Joseph is “set over all the land of Egypt…”

  • After 13 years in servitude, God has blessed him richly and given him a role that will bring blessing to many. He is in a position to save not only Egypt but the whole world from famine. The echoes of the covenant blessing ring loud here.

  • His two sons:

    • Manassah – Forgotten hardship

    • Ephraim – Fruitful in affliction

  • Insights:

    • How does Joseph carry forward the expectation Genesis has been building of what is to come in God’s unfolding plan?

      • In addition to the covenant blessing, Joseph is an initial fulfillment of the promise to Abraham and Jacob that from their offspring would arise kings (17:6; 17:16; 35:11). Looking ahead, though the royal line is carried forward in Judah, it is portrayed in terms that force us to look back to Joseph as the kind of king who would come. Gen. 49:8 – “your father’s sons will bow down to you.” Sailhamer: “It is difficult not to see in this statement an intentional allusion to the dream of Joseph (37:10) in which his father’s sons would come to bow down before him. In other words, that which was to happen to Joseph, and did happen in the course of the narrative, has been picked up by way of this image and transferred to the future of the how of Judah. That which happened to Joseph is portrayed as a picture of that which would happen to Judah “in the last days.” (49:1).
    • In a sense, Joseph is portrayed as an Adam figure who rules rightly from the wisdom that God provides. As scripture unfolds, the language points us to Joseph as an ideal king:

      • Psalm 72:16 – “May there be abundance of grain in the land”

      • Isa 11:2 – “And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”

    • As one commentator notes, it is “a reflection of what might have been, and anticipation of what still yet may be.” Joseph is a picture of the king who will come from Judah.

42:1-26 - Joseph’s brothers seek help

  • In Chapter 41, Joseph’s assimilation into Egyptian culture is made explicit – shaven, Egyptian clothes, Egyptian name, Egyptian wife. Many of the words used in that section are actually loan words from ancient Egyptian – Nile, reeds, magicians, fine linen, “make way”. All of this sets up the fact that Joseph would have become unrecognizable to his brothers.

  • Once again, Jacob’s family is threatened with destruction – previously via assimilation at Shechem, and now through famine.

  • What do we make of Joseph’s testing of his brothers? Is he attempting to see if there is contrition for what they did to him?

    • At a minimum he’s trying to get all of the brothers together at once. It does seem that he’s already forgiven them.

    • V.21 Seems like the first time they’ve really come face to face with their evil actions

    • “You are spies…” – I wonder if Joseph’s brothers ever accused him of being a spy for their father.

    • V.6 We see Joseph’s first dream fulfilled. Only 10/11 brothers are there, but Joseph’s his first dream had his brothers bowing down to him and left the number unclear. However, his second had his father and mother and explicitly 11 brothers as well.

  • Interesting parallels with Ch. 37-38: “Members of Jacob’s clan go to Egypt, are unjustly accused of a crime they did not commit, one (Simeon) is imprisoned under false pretenses, several of the brothers acquire silver after consigning a brother to live in Egypt, the (supposed) eldest living son of Rachel is forced to go to Egypt, and Jacob is made to grieve over Rachel’s son.1

  • The requirement for Simeon to stay back sets his brothers up for a decision – will they again sacrifice one brother in exchange for money, or will they in fact return and keep their word?

  • Other insights:

    • The need and potential for brotherly reconciliation, compare w/ Cain/Abel | Isaac/Ishmael | Jacob/Esau

42:27-38 - Returning for Benjamin

  • Does Jacob suspect his sons of mischief regarding Joseph? V.36 seems to read that way.

    • Simeon is no more brings an implicit accusation that they sold their brother for food just as happened with Joseph.
  • At the end we see Reuben again try to assert himself on behalf of his brother, but unsuccessfully. What do you make of his offer?

  • This chapter ends with Jacob displaying very little in the way of hope – he is at the point of near total despair. God’s promises and covenant hang out there but there does not appear to be a fulfillment in sight. As readers of the story, we know this is not the case. What encouragement can’t be drawn here?

Other Thoughts

  • Joseph is portrayed as a good leader and a partial fulfillment of the expectations of Genesis, but consider some possible ways that Joseph falls short of being an ultimate blessing to the nations:

    • While his family receives freely from the stored grain, it is sold back to the people it was collected from.

    • Overall, it is a somewhat oppressive arrangement that results in all of Egypt being handed over to Pharoah and serfdom for the people.

Contrast this with the true and better Joseph who abounds in unmerited blessing without cost to all of the nations.

  1. Bergen, R. D. (2017). Genesis. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 71). Holman Bible Publishers.