The events covered here will be found recorded in Genesis, Chapter 41, and will be contemplated in chronological sequence. At the close of our last article, Joseph was in jail for a crime he did not commit. He rightly interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh's butler and baker, and requested the butler remember him on his deliverance. He had, however, been quickly forgotten by the chief butler, and now could only await for his appointed time; the wondrous time when the Divine Hand of God would deliver him from his extended and unjust imprisonment. There can be no doubt but the patience of Joseph was sorely tried. His enemies had triumphed over him, and he was a stranger in a strange land, and a prisoner too. Yet from what we have learned from him in the past chapters of Genesis, he clearly was guided and stayed by the unerring wisdom of his God. He had no other anchor than the trust which God had granted him. And so, in the steady march of time, (then a full two years later) Pharaoh dreamed a most troubling dream. (Genesis 41:1). It is always a marvel to see the detail in Scripture; and how that the Spirit of God directs that every necessary point of truth be covered for our edification and learning. And so it is here; that at the appointed hour, as did the butler and baker, Pharaoh dreamed his dream. If he was like the rest of humankind he had dreamed many times before. But on this precise occasion, his uncanny dream had been Divinely sent. This was a dream which God had given him for a specific reason, and a designed purpose. The purpose from God was that Pharaoh, without knowing why God willed it, would release Joseph from his prison and elevate him to his right hand. From Pharaoh's view of things he would release Joseph for the benefit of the Egyptians, never knowing the Divine Will was at work. This proved to be, however, but one more link in the chain of Divine providence in bringing God's children finally into the land of promise as a great multitude and nation.
Pharaoh's dream was extremely unique. In that time of sleep he had been shown in his two-fold dream something unlike anything he had ever seen before. In the first part of this mysterious vision, there was arrayed before him seven ill favored and leanfleshed kine which devoured up seven well favored and fat kine. Upon dreaming this, Pharaoh awoke and then slept again, and dreamed a second time. This time the dream took a different nature – seven ears of corn on one stalk, rank and good, and seven thin ears, blasted by the east wind. As with the leanfleshed kine, the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. After this, as might be expected, "Pharaoh awoke and behold it was a dream." (Verse 7) Pharaoh was more than a little troubled. The Scripture says that his spirit was so troubled that he called for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt; note – all that there were. This was obviously a moment of extreme emergency to his well being. His interest was in determining the meaning of this two-fold dream. Yet none of these wise men could interpret for Pharaoh. Obviously they dared not even try to fake an interpretation for the Pharaoh. How this failure to divine the dreams of the King must have debased these frauds. And, should not this teach us, that despite the rank and elevation of men of supposed letters and learning, none of them can see into Divine things; which clearly this dream was, for God had sent it as surely as He dwelt in the Heavens. The wisdom and magical capabilities of the Wise men and Magicians was reduced to mere nothing as the King sought for an honest revelation for his dreams. Our knowledge of human nature in all its frailties suggests to us that at that moment poor Pharaoh was saddened and sorely disappointed, for none of his Sages could perform for him what he at this time desperately wanted; and that was give him the interpretation of his dreams. Can we doubt that God stirred up this sense of urgency?
Had Pharaoh lived in this day, no doubt but some of our modern wise-man preachers (religious hucksters) would say that he had been under a lot of stress; that he needed to rest and possibly take a vacation, or some other fleshly activity to get his weary mind off of his troubles. But we know from many places in the Scriptures that this troubling of spirit would not go away. God alone could relive it for him, and God alone would relive him; but He would do it as Pleased Him. Not as Pharaoh, or the would-be wise men, or the sages would have it be, but as God would have it be, so it was.
At this very time the butler, who had been in prison with Joseph, remembered his faults, and so he stated the incident to Pharaoh. He related, apparently without fear, the circumstances pertaining to his dream while he was in the dungeon with this young Hebrew slave. It was no moment of "good luck" that the butler just "happened" to remember this matter. It was not a "chance" that his brain brought forth this tidbit of information, but rather this was nothing short of the secret workings of our God Almighty in this individual to further the train of incidents that would bring this day Joseph's sudden elevation and distinction. Thus the butler freely discloses all he knew at this time. It would be well for us to recall that the butler had soon forgotten Joseph while this matter was yet fresh on his mind. Pharaoh had freed him, and Joseph then slipped from his thoughts. In digressing, are we not much like the butler? Our Joseph (Jesus) is often forgotten until some great need arises and then our memory is refreshed. To return to the subject, however, had he remembered earlier, it would have sustained no good purpose for Joseph. But now at the predestinated moment, when Pharaoh needed an interpreter, and Joseph needed deliverance, and God's purpose was to be fulfilled, all of the events came together for this exact time. And so it was that Pharaoh, being obviously excited about this matter, called for Joseph. The text says, "Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph,. And they brought him hastily out of the dungeon." (Verse 14) Notice carefully the word "then." Pharaoh had no need of Joseph until "then." Until "then" Joseph was just another forgotten foreigner in his jail. Had Pharaoh earlier been informed of Joseph's capabilities as an interpreter of dreams he no doubt would still have preferred his own wise men and magicians above him, and would not have given him a second thought. But now, the test had come. His wise men, his magicians, and his soothsayers could afford him no good whatever. His dreams remained shrouded in mystery. But there was not one hope, and Pharaoh turned to it. This was the diviner of dreams the forgetful butler recommends; young Joseph the innocent prisoner. Thus he was brought swiftly from the dungeon to appear before the monarch. And the text says, "Joseph shaved himself and changed his raiment and came in unto Pharaoh." (Verse 14) See here one very worthwhile item for our learning. Joseph had no notion of going before the great Pharaoh in his shabby dungeon garments, nor with an unshaven visage, but rather as best he could, with what time was allotted him, he cleaned himself up and presented himself in a capable a fashion as he was able to for the moment. Such an excellent example that can be for us now. Irrespective of the wickedness, or the power, or character of leaders, kings, potentates and presidents; it behooves us as those called and chosen to stand in our Master's Name in as good appearance as possible.
When Joseph stood before Pharaoh, the anxious old king related to him that he had a dream that none could interpret, but he had heard that this Joseph could understand and interpret dreams. Humbly, and in a spirit reflective of the Lord, Joseph declined to accept the credit for himself. And how magnificently he here exemplifies our Redeemer in saying, "It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace." (Verse 16) See carefully, "It is not in me," as if he was saying with the voice of our Saviour in centuries to come, "Not my will but thine be done. To God be all the glory." Our beloved Lord, in all of His walk, and in all of His ministry ever sought to exalt His Father. And so here Joseph would seek to exalt his God before this Pharaoh. Here in Verse 16 he tells Pharaoh that God would give him an answer of peace, as if to immediately console the troubled mind of Pharaoh that this dream was not a message of distress, but rather peace. And so again in Verse 25, "The dream of Pharaoh is one: God has showed Pharaoh what he is about to do." Verse 16 says, "God shall give Pharaoh an answer." And then in Verse 25, "God hath showed Pharaoh had recited his dream unto Joseph. The young Hebrew in turn explained to him that the dream was one, and that this was God Himself revealing to Pharaoh what was to come to pass. And so Joseph interpreted the dream thus; the seven kine and the seven ears represented seven years of plenty and in the land which were yet to come. The seven lean kine and the seven blasted ears represented the seven years of famine. And so again in Verse 28 he says, "This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh. What God is about to do He showeth unto Pharaoh." There can be no question that Joseph sought the glory of God in this matter, and asked for no credit to himself whatever.
Joseph then rendered his sage advise which, no doubt, God had given him as he stood before Pharaoh. He determined that Pharaoh should seek out a man discreet and wise to be set over all the land of Egypt because this matter had been established by God, and would be shortly brought to pass. He said, "Let Pharaoh do this and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years." (Verse 34) This was a plan so simple, and yet so profound that when Pharaoh and all his servants heard such it was good in their eyes. They were well pleased with his advice, because God was in the matter. Human nature being what it always is, there can be little doubt that Joseph would have been quickly moved out to make room for some more worthy Egyptian, but for Divine intervention. Why would they accept this stranger to rule over them, except the Lord had stirred their hearts to look on him with favor? Joseph was thus, under the providence of God, moment by moment, being exalted in the eyes of these leaders and rulers, and they could not do anything to prevent their feelings, or the sense of excitement that this dream was from the God that ruled the universe. They were now satisfied that Joseph had answered wisely and judiciously, and that there was none so discreet and wise as Joseph, for God had showed him all of these things. And too, even as extraordinary, God secretly stirred their hearts to approve him without dissent.
From Verses 39-44 we see the acknowledgement of Joseph's wisdom by Pharaoh, and his elevation to ruler over all of the land of Egypt. In verses 40 and 41 there is recorded what seems to be a three-fold rule conferred on Joseph by Pharaoh. 1. Joseph was to be over Pharaoh's house; 2. he was to rule all of the people by his word, and 3. he was to be over all of the land. The vastness, and the extent of Joseph's authority and rule was without end regarding the territory of Egypt, as it was known at that time. All of the rule, and all of the reign of the whole of Egypt was then in his hand; the throne excepted. When Pharaoh told Joseph that he had set him over all of the land of Egypt, no doubt he meant it for the good of his own people, but in the secret providences of God, it was chiefly for God's people Israel that the lad Joseph was not in this strange land being at that very moment promoted to the position of ruler beside Pharaoh. Pharaoh then, in a sweeping show of approval, gave Joseph his ring, clothed him with fine line, and placed a golden chain about his neck. Despite any private feelings that might have been entertained towards Joseph, no one could dare question his authority. Certainly Joseph had come up in the world from where he was just a few moments before. From the dungeon to the throne in one fell swoop. Was not all this because the purpose and plan of God must be fulfilled in every detail? We surely then can see in Joseph as a type of Christ, the rise of a far greater Saviour and Redeemer centuries later. As Joseph rose from the dungeon to the throne to deliver the people, Jesus ascended from the manger to the mountain to save His people from their sins. And yet, the type departs there as the Redeemer must suffer the agonies of the cross, while Joseph was spared further harsh trials.
Even as Joseph was being publicly elevated, he was also empowered with great dignity, and what amounted to absolute authority over the whole realm. Reflect then, as he rode in the second chariot beside Pharaoh, how they cried before him those superlative words, "Bow the knee!" How profitable to the inner man it is when he is blessed to contrast the jurisdiction of Joseph with that of our Saviour, "Let every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Christ to the glory of the Father." So we read in Philippians 2:9-10 and Ephesians 3:14. "Bow the knee" was a suitable plaudit for one whom God had blessed; this one who had been promoted to the highest position of supremacy and authority; this one who would shortly with his wisdom and power (which God had given him), deliver those who must certainly die without his salvation. "Bow the knee" was a fitting tribute then, and "bow the knee" is a fitting tribute today. What a hallowed thing it is for the little children of God to see the beloved Redeemer with the eye of faith, as He passes by in the glorious chariot of Eternal redemption. They hear the comforting sound of the herald trumpet proclaiming, "Bow the knee." And a certain truth it is that all the elect host have no desire to bow to anything else. When their Redeemer is before them, they all, in holy submission, hasten to "bow the knee." "Bow the knee" is a most suitable and pleasant declaration for those who live their Lord in truth.
"And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt." (Verse 44) Joseph was extended absolute authority in the fullest. No man could move, no man could work, no man could either come or go, without the explicit authority of the newly-crowned saviour of all the land. Joseph was in total and complete control. Yet, we see too, that under his authority, the citizens were free to go about much as they had before. But, the jurisdiction and power of Joseph could not be questions, for he had been promoted by the Highest authority.
Another product of this circumstance that has intrigued the minds of many readers is recorded in Verse 45 where Pharaoh "gave him to wife, Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On." It has been believed by most, and it is probably the truth, that this is an emblem, or figure of Christ taking a Gentile bride. We have no desire to extend our remarks on that point, but simply observe that it is in all probability a very consistent view. Both Joseph and Jesus, in the zenith of their ministry, took to themselves a bride. In each case it was under the direction of their head and master. In Joseph's case Pharaoh gave him a bride from the daughters of Egypt. As regards the Lord, Jehovah, His father in heaven, gave Him a bride from the daughters of Jerusalem. It is also interesting to see that Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh; exactly the same age as our Redeemer was when He began His public ministry, when John the Baptist said, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." This is more than just circumstance. It is, to our mind, clear proof again of the inspiration of the Scriptures.
So Joseph went about for this period of seven years of plenty, gathering a fifth of the abundance of the land each year. He accumulated corn as the sand of the sea, as the text says until it was "without number." Joseph was making preparation for all the people, not just part of them. Everyone would, at a future day, benefit from the wisdom and direction of Joseph's efforts. There is little doubt too, that probably many curious minds were busy at work when they saw him storing the bounty during this seven years of plenty. "Why," they would ask, "would anyone want to lay up corn when the land is obviously so productive; when the gods are pleased to give us abundance?" There is a very great similarity in circumstances seen here, and with those when Noah built the ark in preparation for the flood. Surely there were multitudes then who concluded the man Noah was insane. To prepare for something as unlikely as a flood was beyond belief. Who could ever believe a flood would occur? So then, Joseph prepared for a famine. Who could believe a famine was imminent with the land producing in such abundance? Only by the moving of God in their lives could they perceive what was in store. And while Pharaoh, in his wisdom appointed Joseph to this position, he never would have done so had it not been for the direction of God. So Joseph toiled. His appointed task was to bring about the purpose of God over the land. In this Pharaoh also was but an unknowing actor in the Eternal Plan.
And then the moment came. Sure and certain, the predestinated event unfolded. "And the seven years of plenteousness that was in all the land of Egypt were ended." (Verse 53) As the wise man Solomon said, "To every thing there is a time and a purpose." There was time for plenty, but it had ended. Now the time of famine came on apace. How easy it is to believe when we are in the prime of life, and good health, with things going well, that things will never change for the worse. But rest assured, dear readers, that as certainly as we have sunshine, we'll have nightfall as well. As certainly as there is plenty, there will also be famine in our lives. But blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for He has enabled us to see that we have a greater than Joseph to deliver us when our trials come. And this hope, though often small, continues to sustain us.
And so, the people began to cry to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh thus informed them all, "Go unto Joseph. What he saith to you, do." (Verse 55) How comforting and sublime to read such language as we are comparing Joseph with Jesus. Is not this the very message of Heaven itself? "Go unto Jesus," for He alone has the word of eternal life. "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) We need not go to Pharaoh, or to rulers, or would-be leaders. There is only one that can deliver the starved soul in spiritual famine, as but one could deliver the Egyptians in the time of their famine. We must go where authority is. Joseph then; Jesus now; and none can come except the Father which has sent Him draw them.
So the famine was over all the land, and Joseph opened the storehouses and sold unto the Egyptians. It is a contrast beautiful beyond description to see here Joseph selling to the Egyptians, and in later chapters refusing the money from the hands of his brothers. Their money was worthless. They could not buy, for the grace of Joseph would provide for them. His mercy and compassion to his kinsmen would be their benefit, and their deliverance, when they sought food and refuge.
Volume 4, No. 4