- Locate the passage
To this point in Joseph’s life, he has experienced his own dreams and also interpreted the dreams of the Cupbearer and Baker for Pharaoh. At this point in the story, his dream interpretations will be put to the ultimate test. Have you ever noticed that sometimes how God uses you in smaller areas prepares you for the bigger tests? In this passage we see how God was preparing Joseph and how He was going to use Joseph’s growth to prepare the nation for His purpose.
The passage is narrative. It contains the conversations between the Cupbearer and Pharaoh and later Pharaoh and Joseph.
- Determine the structure of the passage
41:1-7 – Pharaoh had two dreams of his nation’s future
41:8 – None of Pharaoh’s advisors could interpret his dreams
41:9-13 – The Cupbearer finally remembered Joseph
41:14-24 – Pharaoh revealed his dreams to Joseph
41:25-36 – Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams and advised Pharaoh on how to prepare for their fulfillment
41:25-32 – Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams
41:33-36 – Joseph advised Pharaoh on how to prepare for the fulfillment of his dreams
41:37-46 – Pharaoh put Joseph in charge to carry out his plan
41:47-57 – Pharaoh’s dream came true and Joseph’s plan worked
- Exegete the passage
41:1 – After two years
- Joseph served 2 years in prison for a crime he did not commit!
- Moreover, had God not intervened, he likely would have lived in that prison for the remainder of his life
- The Bible explains God’s reasons
- Why the Lord allowed Joseph to be in prison two years is unaddressed in the text.
- Obviously, the Lord owes His people no explanation; but the length of time of Joseph’s incarceration is left to Divine prerogative and perception
- But, when God was ready (or when he knew that Joseph was ready), He stepped in.
- Pharaoh had a dream by the river
- Most of us have those significant moments in our lives when we remember exactly where we were when it happened (the shooting of the President, 911, he proposed, you got accepted, etc.)
- Pharaoh was by the river
- Among the uniquenesses of this passage is God speaking to Pharaoh (a man who some thought to be a god).
- God also spoke to creation, through a donkey, to the wind, to a fish, and to a worm
- Pharaoh dreamed
- The word, “chalam” is a verb and expresses that Pharaoh “dreamed.”
- It is the same verb used of Jacob’s dream (28:12) and Joseph’s dreams (37:5-6, 9-10)
- Pharaoh dreamed two dreams, but with identical applications
- The Bible explains God’s reasons
41:2-4 – Pharaoh’s first dream was about fat and skinny cows
- Seven fat, plump cows came first; followed by seven skinny, ugly cows
- The skinny, ugly cows consumed the fat, plump ones (but, see 41:21, apparently remained skinny and ugly).
- After the skinny cows ate the fat cows, Pharaoh awoke.
41:5-7 – Pharaoh’s second dream was similar to the first, but replaced cows with stalks.
- Like the first dream, the 7 skinny stalks consumed the 7 fat stalks
- The word in 41:7 – (”consumed “) is a different word than the word in 41:4, (“ate.”)
- The text does not indicate how one stalk might “consume” another stalk, but that seems unnecessary to the application of the passage
41:8 – Pharaoh was “troubled.”
- Note the similarities between Pharaoh’s dream and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2.
- Both were “troubled” (“pa’am”)
- 41:32 for an almost identical word (one slightly different vowel in Hebrew) that means, “twice,” but serves as a verbal connection between the two.
- Both called for all their forces to interpret that dream
- Pharaoh called, “all the magicians of Egypt and all the wise men.”
- Nebuchadnezzar called, “the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans (Dan. 2:2).”
- Both seemed to know that their dreams were significant and summoned all of their forces in hopes to find one who might be able to interpret the dream (s).
- Both found no one among their experts who could interpret the dream.
- Though the strategy of Nebuchadnezzar not to tell the experts the dream first, but expected them to know the dream AND the interpretation is the significant difference between the two.
- Both were “troubled” (“pa’am”)
41:9 – Now the Cupbearer remembered …
- “I remember my faults.” (lit. “my sin”)
- The Cupbearer remembered his unfulfilled promise to Joseph and recognized the sinfulness of it.
- The sin of giving my word and not following through
App. This is a good lesson for us today, if I have given my word (made a commitment) and do not follow through, that’s a sin. Even an Egyptian Cupbearer knew that!
41:10-13 – The Cupbearer accurately recounted the events of his own dream and interpretation from Joseph
41:14 – Joseph shaved and changed his clothes
- Joseph made himself presentable to stand before Pharaoh
- We have no reason in the text to believe that Joseph knew why he was being presented to Pharaoh.
41:15 – I have heard of you
- This is the one area where the Cupbearers report was inaccurate
- Pharaoh implied that the reports he heard were that Joseph could interpret dreams
41:16 – It’s not me
- Joseph, once again, deflected the praise for his dream interpretations and acknowledged that God is the revealer of dreams
- Lit – “Only God can answer Pharaoh’s dream”
- The Hebrew, “בִּלְעָדָ֑י” (“bil’aday”) conveys the idea of “Only”
- The phrase, בִּלְעָדָ֑י אֲנִ֥י יְהוָ֖ה וְאֵ֥ין עֽוֹד from Is 45:6 can be rendered, “Only I am the Lord; there is no other!”
- Joseph refused to take credit for what only God could do.
41:17-24 – Pharaoh recounted the dreams to Joseph
- He closed the dream by announcing that none of his experts was able to interpret the dreams
- The phrase resembles both a complaint and a challenge to Joseph
41:25-32 – Joseph immediately began interpreting the dreams. He told Pharaoh three introductory things:
- Both dreams meant the same thing
- God was telling Pharaoh what He was about to do
- The repetition of the dreams meant that it was about to happen quickly
- The seven good cows and the seven good stalks represented years of abundance; and the seven ugly cows and the seven ugly stalks represented years of famine
- The fact that after consuming the seven good cows, the seven skinny, ugly cows were just as skinny and ugly as they were previously suggested that the years of good will no longer be remembered when the famine comes.
41:33-36 – Joseph is no longer interpreting; now he is advising
- His advice is to select a good administrator to store up supplies during the good years to prepare for the years of famine.
- This way Egypt will not “perish” during the famine
- “be cut off”
41:37 – Pharaoh recognized that Joseph’s advice was good.
- He also recognized the difference between Joseph’s dream interpretations and his “advice.”
- All the servants, who previously were unable to interpret the dreams, also recognized the wisdom of Joseph’s plan
- It is significant that Pharaoh was still interested in the advice of the servants who had previously failed him
41:38 – The Spirit of God
- Pharaoh recognized that the “Spirit of God” was in Joseph
- Only the Spirit of God could understand what Joseph understood
- Pharaoh realized what the Cupbearer missed. This was about God more than it was about Joseph!
41:39 – God has revealed it to you
- This from a man thought to be a god!
- A supposed god recognized the True God!
41:40 – You shall be over my house
- The Hebrew is difficult in this verse
- It can be rendered, “on your mouth, all my people will kiss you.”
- Perhaps better, “according to your word, all my people will worship you.”
- Only in the throne
- The king reserved his final authority of rule
- “only the throne, I will be greater than you.”
41:42 – Joseph’s new clothes
- Once again, symbolic clothing enters the Joseph narrative
- He has gone from the coat his father gave him, to the cloak with which Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, to the garments given to him by Pharaoh.
41:43 – Joseph’s initial dreams begin to come true
- As Pharaoh commands the his people “bow the knee” before Joseph, Joseph must have remembered his dreams from his youth.
41:45 – Joseph’s new name
- Egyptian for, “God speaks; he lives”
- The woman given to Joseph, Asenath, was the daughter of Poti-Pherah; that name is related to the name, Potiphar
- This would be a reminder to Joseph that although he was unjustly treated in the home of Potiphar, God’s grace was extended to him through the home of Poti-Pherah.
41:46 – Joseph was 30 years old when he was promoted
- Many things have happened to Joseph since he first dreamed dreams at age 17 (Gen. 37:2).
- In those thirteen years, Joseph experienced favoritism by his father, resentment by his brothers, being sold into slavery by his brothers, a slave in the house of Potiphar, false accusations by Potiphar’s wife, and Pharaoh’s prison.
- Those 13 years must have seemed like a long time to wait to see the fulfillment of his dreams.
- According to Gen. 50:26, Joseph died at age 110. Thus, he ruled over Egypt for 80 years!
41:47-49 – Until he stopped counting
- The abundance that Joseph gathered could not be measured.
- This indicates the trust that Pharaoh had for Joseph to allow him to continue to stock-pile resources in a time of abundance.
41:50-52 – During that time of abundance, God also blessed Joseph with two sons
- Joseph named his children according to how God had worked in his life
- Manasseh means, “causing to (or He causes me to) forget.”
- Ephraim means, “making (or He has made me) fruitful.”
- So, the boys were a constant reminder that God had caused Joseph to forget his affliction in his father’s house and made him fruitful in the land where he had previously been afflicted.
41:53-55 – The years of plenty came to an end as Joseph said
- As the years of famine began, the people turned to Pharaoh for help. Pharaoh directed them to Joseph.
41:56-57 – The famine covered all the earth
- “all the face” of the earth was affected by the famine
- This reveals the lengths to which God would go to accomplish His purpose in the lives of His people
- All the world came to Egypt to buy grain
- This verse anticipates the coming of Joseph’s family to Egypt to buy food from him
- It also anticipates the fulfillment of Joseph’s second dream (37:9-11)
- Let the structure of the text drive the sermon
Exp. The character attributes of Joseph mark this pericope: Joseph was patient in waiting on God’s time; he was courageous in living out his convictions; he was diligent to carry out the plan God had revealed to him; He lived an exemplary life such that the Pharaoh could see the Spirit of God in him; and he remembered the faithfulness of God to him.
Exp. But, as exemplary as Joseph was in this passage, the text is about God and not about Joseph. God was in the process of carrying out His plan; the hand of God was on Joseph, even when he was oppressed; the Spirit of God was evident in Joseph’s life; the wisdom of God was revealed to Joseph; and the goodness of God was manifested in Joseph’s life.
Exp. Sometimes believers struggle in the waiting times; when we are waiting on God to carry out what He said He would do; when we are living in that parenthesis moment between what God said He would do and the fulfillment of His Word.
Exp. We can trust God’s time in our lives
Exp. When we are waiting on God to complete His purpose in our lives, we can live in confidence that what He is doing or allowing in our lives can be used to accomplish His purpose.
- While we are waiting on God to fulfill His purpose, we should continue to live lives of faithfulness
- While we are waiting on God to fulfill His purpose, we should demonstrate courage in our convictions
- While we are waiting on God to fulfill His purpose, we should trust the future that God is working out for us
- While we are waiting on God to fulfill His purpose, we should continue to allow the Spirit of God to be evident in us
App. When God carries out His purpose in our lives, we need to remember what He has done for us.