Joseph (Genesis) Part 2

So last week we talked about Joseph. Can anyone recap what we learned about him?

[Let them answer. If they can’t, recap with:

Joseph was the son of Jacob and Rachel. Because he was Rachel’s son, Jacob favored him over his other sons. This caused resentment amongst the brothers, and they hated Joseph. So they devised a plan to get rid of Joseph. They threw him in a well and then sold him into slavery. They then lied to Jacob and told Jacob that Joseph had been killed.

Joseph was taken to Egypt and sold to a man called Potiphar, who was a trusted member of Pharaoh’s court. Potiphar trusted Joseph with taking care of all of his matters. But Potiphar’s wife lusted after Joseph and tried to force him to sleep with her. When he would not, she accused him of trying to rape her, and Joseph was thrown in jail.]

So when we left off last week, Joseph was in a pretty dark place. He had gone from being a favored son to a slave to now a prisoner. He’s basically hit rock bottom, and I bet Joseph probably felt many times along the way God had abandoned him, but did God abandon Joseph? [Let them answer.]

That’s right. God didn’t.

Can someone read Genesis 39:21-23:

21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23 the keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.

Even in prison God is with Joseph. And Joseph is still the hardworking person he learned to be during his time with Potiphar. The guy in charge of the prison sees that, and is basically like “huh, I can use this guy to help me out and keep track of things.” So basically even though Joseph is a prisoner, and he cannot leave the prison, he becomes a manager of the prison.

It’s probably not the life Joseph ever wanted or envisioned himself having, but it’s probably better than sulking for years because he’s in jail for something he didn’t do.

In his new position, two prisoners come into Joseph’s care. One is the chief cupbearer and the other the chief baker for Pharaoh himself. These two guys worked directly for the head of all of Egypt and for one reason or another were sentenced to prison by him.

Now I’m pretty sure you guys know what a baker is, but do you know what a cupbearer is? [Let them answer.]

A cupbearer is literally the person who holds Pharaoh’s cup, the person who pours and holds his drinks. Why is this a job that needed to be done? [Let them answer.]

Well it’s not because Pharaoh is so powerful and opulent that he just wants someone to hold his cup for him. This is actually a really practical job. As the most powerful man in Egypt, there were probably people who wanted to kill the Pharaoh. And the easiest way to kill him would be to poison his drink. There are a lot of poisons in this world that all it takes is a little bit to kill a full grown human. Ultimately it’s the cupbearer’s job to make sure that pharaoh’s drink is not poisoned. He is to watch and keep safe the Pharaoh’s drinks. And if the pharaoh is uncertain if he can trust it, he might even have the cupbearer take a sip before him. So if the cupbearer lets the drink get poisoned he is risking his own death.

We don’t know why the pharaoh put these two in jail but what we do know is that controlling the pharaoh’s food and drink is a very important position. And if the pharaoh thought they might be traitorous in any way, that would be reason enough to jail them, if not have them killed.

So the cupbearer and baker end up in jail, and are basically put in the care of Joseph.

Can someone read Genesis 40:5-8?

5 And one night they both dreamed—the cup bearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own interpretation. 6 When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were trouble. 7 So he asked pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” 8 they said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”

Basically both of these guys had weird dreams, and they thought they might mean something. But there were no priests in prison with them to interpret their dreams so they didn’t know what they meant. When Joseph went to check in on them and ask why they were upset, they told him about these dreams. And Joseph offers to interpret them, since if they have a meaning or interpretation, it would be because of God. And Joseph is the only one in Egypt who knows the real God.

Can someone read Genesis 40:9-15?

9 So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, it’s blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes.11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.” 12 Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. 13 In three days Pharaoh will lift you your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. 14 only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. 15 For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.”

The cupbearer tells Joseph about this crazy dreaming having to do with like vines and grapes and cups. Joseph interprets it to mean that in three days, the cupbearer will be back in his old job serving Pharaoh. This is good news for the cupbearer! And for this interpretation, Joseph asks for one thing in return. What is it? {Let them answer}

That’s right. When he gets out to remember Joseph and plead Joseph’s case to Pharaoh. Because pharaoh is the highest law of the land and if he says it’s cool for Joseph to get out of prison, then Joseph gets out!

Now let’s see what the chief baker dreamed about and what it meant. Can someone read Genesis 40:16-19?

16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream, there were three cake baskets on my head, 17 and in the uppermost basked there were all sorts of baked good for the Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.” 18 and Joseph answered and said, “this is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. 19 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. The birds will eat the flesh from you.”

So the baker’s dream isn’t as good is it? Joseph interprets the dream but the baker is going to be put to death, which I’m sure the baker wasn’t happy to hear.

But in the next few verses, it explains that in three days everything happens as Joseph said they would according to the dreams. The chief cupbearer is restored to his position and the chief baker is put to death.

Now if you’ll remember, Joseph asked one thing of the chief cupbearer. That he speak to pharaoh about him. Do you guys think, the chief cupbearer does this? {Let them answer}

Well let’s see. Can someone read Genesis 40:23?

23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph but forgot him.

The chief cupbearer gets out of jail and forgets Joseph. His life is great now, back in his old position. I don’t think he’s intended to be malicious, I just think he’s so happy to be alive and back in his old job and getting back into the groove of things that he just sort of forgets. I don’t know about you, but I do that a lot. I tell someone something like “I’ll pray for you” but then I get so busy with my own life that I forget to do it. I’m not trying to be mean, I’m just busy and forget. Do you guys ever do anything like that? [Let them answer.]

Yeah, it’s a very human thing to do. But the cost here is that Joseph is stuck in jail, and in the next verses it’ll say Joseph is stuck in jail for two whole years.

Because the cupbearer got busy, Joseph suffers. When you promise someone you’ll do something, it’s important that we actually remember to do it. This is an extreme example, but our thoughtlessness and forgetfulness can actually hurt people.

So for two years Joseph is in jail and the chief cupbearer is serving the Pharaoh. Let’s see what happens next, can someone read Genesis 41:1-8?

1 After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Bile, 2 and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. 3 and behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. 4 and the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And pharaoh awoke. 5 and he fell back asleep and dream a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. 6 and behold, after them sprouted seven ears thin and blighted by the east wind. 7 And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold it was a dream. 8 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 it.

So Pharaoh has two crazy dreams that are almost identical. In his dreams there are seven healthy and good things that are then consumed by unhealthy things. In one dream its cows in the other it’s ears of grain. Here the word ‘ear’ doesn’t mean like an ear on your head. Basically when you get a corn on the cob, that’s an ear of corn. It’s just a term used for describing the part you actually want to harvest of corn or grain.

Since Pharaoh has the exact same dream basically twice in a row, he’s pretty sure it’s important and means something. So he gathers all the important religious and wise people he knows and asks them to interpret it. But none of them can.

Why do you think they couldn’t? [Let them answer.]

Well it’s a weird dream, that’s definitely part of it. But remember Joseph said all interpretations come from God. Do you think the magicians and religious people of Egypt were very familiar with God? Yeah, probably not.

Suddenly the cupbearer, who is probably always very near pharaoh, remembers Joseph. After two years he remembers this kid who interpreted his dream. So he’s basically like ‘hey pharaoh, when I was in jail with the baker, we had these crazy dreams. And there was this young man in jail named joseph who interpreted it for us and then three days later exactly what he said would happen happened! I was restored to my position and the baker was put to death!

And at this point pharaoh is desperate, so he’s like “Okay! Let’s get this kid out of jail and bring him before me!”

Can someone read Genesis 41:14-16?

Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. 15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “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.”16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, “it is not in me; god will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.’

In order to come before Joseph, they have to clean him up. Because jail back then would not be like jail now. There would be no showers or way for Joseph to shave or anything like that. He would smell like he hadn’t taken a bath or had a new set of clothes in two years. So they clean him up and give him new clothes so that he is presentable to come before Pharaoh.

Once Joseph is there, Pharaoh explains the situation. Now remember, Pharaoh is the ruler of everything. He is the ultimate authority in all of Egypt and probably the single most powerful person in this area of the world at the time. There was no one in the Middle East more powerful than him. And he has come to Joseph for help.

It would be really easy for Joseph to claim that he can interpret the dream and that he is special, but does joseph do that? No. He points everything he is doing to God. It is not Joseph who is interpreting the dreams but God. Joseph is giving all the credit to God.

So then Pharaoh explains the dream to Joseph. The seven healthy cows being eaten by the seven unhealthy ones and the seven healthy ears being eaten by the unhealthy ones. Now it’s Joseph’s turn to interpret what it means. Let’s see what he says. Can someone read Genesis 41:25-36?

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 the seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. 27 The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine. 28 It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 there will come seven years of great plenty through all the land of Egypt 30 but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will consume the land, 31 and the plenty will be unmown in the land by the reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe. 32 And the doubling of pharaoh’s dream means the thing is fixed by God, and god will shortly bring it about. 33 Now, therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt 34 Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. 35 and let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store of up grain under the authority of the Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36 That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”

Joseph interprets the dream and says the dream is God warning Pharaoh about what is to come. There will be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Let’s talk about famine for a moment. Do you guys know what that is? [Let them answer.]

Right it basically means a lack of food. Famines usually happen when the weather is bad, and there is drought or excessive rain—either of those things can be super bad for crops. And without crops there is no food. Now, here in America, we don’t’ experience famine a lot do we? You can just go down to the store and buy a box of crackers, right?

In America we are really lucky for a number of reasons. We have a large nation that crosses a variety of climate zones. New Mexico’s climate is drastically different from New England’s, and if we’re experiencing a drought that doesn’t mean New England is! But most of America’s food comes from our middle states, the area that’s generally considered to be the breadbasket of our country: the Midwest and the plains states. These are long flat stretches of land that get just the right amount of water and sunshine for plants to grow! Which doesn’t mean we don’t have droughts. But we have modern irrigation technology. Which means with our ability to pipe water and with sprinklers it almost doesn’t matter if it rains, because we can get the water to the crops.

I say almost doesn’t matter, because all the water has to ultimately come from somewhere. And if it doesn’t rain for a long time that can be a real problem. But it doesn’t have to rain exactly over you for you to get water. If it rains down the street or a town over, you’re probably going to be fine.

Things didn’t work like that back then. They only had the most basic understanding of irrigation, which was mostly creating downhill ditches to run water from the Nile River to other places, or to capture water when the Nile River flooded.

And the Nile River was the only reason why Egypt was fertile. Every year the Nile River would flood—I believe it’s due to snow and rain waters in the mountains that the Nile originates in [maybe look in the map to see if you can find it]. When all the snow in the mountains melt, it runs into the Nile and floods all the land with the nutrients the Nile carries, making the soil fertile for planting once the Nile recedes again.

But if there isn’t enough snow in the mountains? The Nile might not flood at all.

If the Nile doesn’t flood, there are no nutrients and things won’t grow like they should.

If things don’t grow like they should, then there is no crops, which means no food, and people go hungry.

Remember this is a long time ago. People didn’t have trucks to ship food across the nation. They didn’t have ships to send food from America to other countries. If your country didn’t produce enough food, your people died.

And that is what God is warning Pharaoh about. If Pharaoh doesn’t do something, his people will die. Egypt will die. Do you think Pharaoh wants that? [Let them answer.]

Yeah I don’t think so either! There is no Pharaoh without people! Even if he didn’t care for them at all, without them he has no job! But I think Pharaoh probably cared, because he would consider running Egypt his job, his sacred duty.

So Joseph tells Pharaoh what the dream means, and he doesn’t stop there. He also tells Pharaoh what to do to solve the problem! During the years of plenty they should hoard food so that during the years of famine they have food. And he tells Pharaoh that in order to do that he’s going to need a very trustworthy person to oversee it, as well as trustworthy overseers. Because all it would take is one person stealing food from the stores and selling it or keep it on the side and it could mean they don’t survive the famine.

Now Joseph is taking a risk by advising pharaoh like this. Joseph is a nobody. Pharaoh just asked him for an interpretation. It’s not really Joseph’s place to tell Pharaoh what to do. But God has given this insight to Joseph, and joseph cares more about doing what god asks him to do than he does about his own life. Which is why he tells pharaoh everything.

How do you guys think Pharaoh is going to react? [Let them answer.]

Well let’s see. Can someone read genesis 41:37-44?

37 This proposal pleased Pharaoh and al his servants. 38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. 43 And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee! Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Moreover Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.”

Pharaoh hears Joseph’s proposal, and then makes Joseph is second in command in all of Egypt. Pharaoh makes his foreign slave more important than anyone else. Joseph answers to no one except Pharaoh. That’s insane! Pharaoh barely knows this guy! But he sees God in him. And he sees he can trust Joseph, Joseph who since he has come to Egypt has only ever worked hard. But it’s not Joseph’s hard work that got him here. It doesn’t say Pharaoh interviewed Potiphar or the guy in charge of the jail to see if he’s fit for this job. It’s because Pharaoh sees God in Joseph that Joseph gets the job.

Joseph didn’t earn it. God through Pharaoh gave it to him.

So Joseph is put in charge and the years of plenty come. During this time Joseph gathers food and stores it away. He also gets married to an Egyptian woman and has two kids. These are a good seven years for Joseph. But let’s see what happens when the famine comes.

Can someone read Genesis 41:53-57?

53 The seven years of plenty that occurred in the land of Egypt came to an end 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.”

56 So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.

So the famine comes and Joseph is in charge of the food. The people cry out in hunger, and the Pharaoh sends them to Joseph. Now imagine if Joseph hadn’t stored food. People would cry out for food, and the Pharaoh has nothing. What do you think would happen? [Let them answer.]

Governments get toppled over this sort of stuff. You can google “bread riots” and find out all sorts of stuff about times when common people didn’t have food and because of it they took down the rich and the wealthy. Starving people only have one concern in life, and that is feeding their families and surviving. And if they think the nobility is hoarding the food for themselves, that usually results in violence and the downfall of that nobility.

But pharaoh heeded God’s warning and he wasn’t storing the food just for himself. Joseph stored the food to dispense to the people so they would not go hungry.

And according to these verses, this famine is everywhere. Now it says it’s all over the world, but back then they really weren’t aware of much of a world outside of the Middle East. So was there famine in China? Well if there was, I doubt they were sending people to Egypt to pick up more food. That’s like a two to three year journey, not really worth the risk. But the Middle East—which would’ve been all the world they basically knew about? The famine was everywhere there. All the places we’ve talked about in the past few weeks; Ur where Abraham is from, Haran where Laban lives, and even Canaan, were suffering from this famine. They had no food. But Egypt did.

So people from all of those places were traveling to Egypt in hopes to find food.

This includes Joseph’s brothers, the ones who sold him into slavery. Do you think Joseph is going to be happy to see his brothers? [Let them answer]

Do you think his brothers are going to be happy to see him? [Let them answer]

Well, we’ll see next week. Because this is a long story, and an important one. So next week we’ll finish the story of Joseph and see what happens from there.

But I think the moral for this week, the moral of this part of the story, is that God used Joseph wherever he was, for God’s purpose. Joseph’s time in jail and his time as pharaoh’s right hand man are all used to God’s purpose. All parts of Joseph’s journey help him to get to where he is, Pharaoh’s right hand man, saving the Middle East from famine. And that was God’s plan.

We’ll see next week how this saga of Joseph finishes up.