Joseph Remembered

“So in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh” (Gen. 41:8).  

- Genesis 41:1–13

God never said His people would have easy lives. On the contrary, the first promise of salvation said that the woman’s seed will have His heel bruised (Gen. 3:15). The woman’s offspring (the Messiah and those who trust Him) will suffer at the hands of the serpent and his seed (all who hate the Lord). Patriarchs such as Jacob, who was forced to serve Laban for twenty years (31:36–42), demonstrated this word to be true. Then of course, Joseph was forgotten in prison even after he did a great deed for one of the royal officials (chap. 39–40).

Yet the bruising of the woman’s seed is not all God promised in Genesis 3:15. He also promised that the Messiah, and in Him all believers, will crush Satan’s head and have final victory over evil. As we return to our study of Genesis, we will see how this aspect of God’s promise to Adam and Eve became a reality in Joseph’s life.

Moses tells us in Genesis 41 that the Lord sent dreams to the pharaoh to rescue Joseph from jail. Ancient Egyptians believed dreams were revelatory and that their king was the chief recipient of such oracles. Notably, Pharaoh’s dreams (vv. 1–8) contain images familiar to him. It made sense for cows to come out of the Nile because they often stood in the river to find refuge from the heat and flies (vv. 1–4). Although ugly, thin cows eating fat ones without gaining weight was a horrific sight to the pharaoh, it paled in comparison to his vision of the seven blighted ears of corn (vv. 5–7a). His country usually fared well during famines because the annual overflow of the Nile river kept the soil enriched with minerals. Centuries after Joseph, the Roman empire turned to Egypt as its chief source of grain. Understandably, the pharaoh is unsettled when he wakes up because blighted crops were rarely found in his land (vv. 7b–8).

It has been two years since Joseph first heard that he might find his way out of his unjust sentence (40:14–15; 41:1), just enough time for him to lose hope that the cupbearer would remember him before the king. But as so often happens, the Lord intervenes here at what seems to be the last possible moment; the pharaoh’s nightmares will ensure that Jacob’s favorite son is forgotten no longer (vv. 9–13).

Coram Deo

Matthew Henry notes that if the chief cupbearer had commended Joseph to the pharaoh right away, he might have gone back to Canaan and not be in a position to interpret the dream and save his family. Indeed, as Henry says, Joseph could later look back and see that “God’s time for the release of his people will appear at last to be the fittest time” (Gen. 50:20). The Lord may intervene at what seems to be the midnight hour, but He always intervenes according to His timing.

Passages for Further Study

Gen. 22
Ex. 14
Ps. 118:10–13
Rom. 5:6
2 Peter 3:8–10

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