The Plan of God in the Book of Genesis—Part 27

Joseph Made Ruler


VERSES 1-8  “And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.
“And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow.
“And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and leanfleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river.
“And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.
“And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good.
“And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them.
“And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.
“And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh.”

We are not to suppose that dreams are always revelations from the Lord of things to come to pass, particularly the dreams of those who are not in covenant relationship with the Lord. As a matter of fact, since the completion of the inspired Word of God, the Bible, the Lord has not guided even his own people by means of dreams, for it has not been necessary. We now have the inspired Scriptures which are all-sufficient for every time of need.—II Tim. 3:16,17

In ancient times, when God gave dreams to others than his own people, it was not for their benefit particularly, but in order to influence their course in life as it related to those whom he was guiding and blessing. Thus, the ‘Wise Men’ were warned by a dream not to return to Herod as they had planned, for to do so would have endangered the life of the boy Jesus. And so with Pharaoh. God was not so much interested in preserving his life and the lives of the Egyptians in general, as he was in making a provision for the children of Israel. For this reason he caused Pharaoh to have dreams which served his purpose.

VERSES 9-13  “Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day:
“Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in ward in the captain of the guard’s house, both me and the chief baker:
“And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream.
“And there was there with us a young man, an Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he did interpret.
“And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.”

In the forgetfulness of the ‘chief butler’ to speak a good word for Joseph as soon as he was released from prison we can see the overruling providence of the Lord. Had he spoken immediately, perhaps Pharaoh would not have been in a receptive attitude of mind, and nothing would have been accomplished. Indeed, he might have made Joseph’s prison life even more difficult.

The Lord’s people should endeavor to view all of their experiences in the light of being the providences of God. We may be inclined to blame what seems to be the immediate cause of trial—the unfriendly attitude of those around us, perhaps—but this is a mistake. God is able to shield us from all such unfavorable circumstances, and if he does not, it is because his wisdom sees that there is a needed lesson for us to learn, or some larger purpose of his which he is working out through us. Thus Jesus did not blame his accusers and persecutors, but said, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”—John 18:11

VERSES 14-24  “Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.
“And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it.
“And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.
“And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river:
“And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow:
“And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed, such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness:
“And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine:
“And when they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they were still ill favoured, as at the beginning. So I awoke.
“And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good:
“And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them:
“And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears: and I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me.”

When Pharaoh discovered that his trusted wise men and magicians were unable to interpret his dreams for him, he was greatly distressed. The circumstances reminded the chief butler of Joseph and of the promise he had made to him. Here, then, was an ideal opportunity, not only to do a good turn for Joseph, but also to solve a problem for Pharaoh, so he related to the king the experience he had with the prisoner Joseph.

Pharaoh was impressed and had Joseph ‘brought hastily out of the dungeon.’ Although some authority had been given to Joseph over the other prisoners, apparently he still had to suffer the hardships of prison life, which at that time were often cruel. That he was in the dungeon when sent for by Pharaoh indicates that life was not made easy for him in prison.

When Pharaoh told Joseph why he had sent for him, that he had been told he was an interpreter of dreams, Joseph was quick to deny any special ability of his own; but, as on former occasions, gave the credit to the Lord. He said to the king, ‘It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.’ The additional two years Joseph had languished in prison, after the chief butler had been released and had promised to speak a good word for him, had not embittered Joseph. He still trusted in the Lord and was quick to give the glory to him for any ability he might possess in the way of interpreting dreams.

VERSES 25-36  “And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do.
“The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one.
“And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine.
“This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh.
“Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt:
“And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land;
“And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.
“And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.
“Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.
“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 pears.
“And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities.
“And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt, that the land perish not through the famine.”

Pharaoh related his dreams to Joseph, telling him of the seven fat kine (cows) and the seven lean kine; also the seven full ears of corn and the seven thin ears. Seemingly with the thought of impressing upon Joseph what truly difficult dreams these were to interpret, he explained that the magicians had failed to reveal what they meant.

Joseph’s approach to the problem was direct, and in a single sentence he simplified his answer by explaining that both dreams meant the same thing, that they were ‘one.’ ‘The seven good kine are seven years,’ he said, ‘and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one.’ In the dreams of his fellow prisoners, the chief baker and the chief butler, the things they saw represented days, but in Pharaoh’s dreams things represented years.

The dream foreshadowed a period of fourteen years—seven years of plenty—represented by the fat kine and the full ears—and seven years of famine—represented by the lean kine and the thin ears. The dream was doubled, explained Joseph, because the thing was assured by God, and he would shortly bring it to pass. This method of establishing a truth was in keeping with the Lord’s arrangement that every great truth must be confirmed by the mouth of two or three witnesses. So both the kine and the ears testified concerning the seven years of plenty to be followed by seven years of famine. Thus there could be no doubt about the coming fourteen years in the land of Egypt.

Joseph not only interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams for him, but added some excellent advice. This also was timely. When Pharaoh learned what was about to occur in the land over which he was king, he was no doubt greatly disturbed. Joseph, noting this, offered his well-timed and wise counsel concerning the appointment of a food administrator, one who would see to it that during the fat years surpluses were stored and preserved, that there would be a large enough provision to see the nation through the seven years of famine.

VERSES 37-45  “And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.
“And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the spirit of God is?
“And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:
“Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.
“And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.
“And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck;
“And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt.
“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.
“And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-paaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.”

Pharaoh listened to Joseph’s advice, and was impressed. It was obvious to him that if Joseph could interpret his dreams, and then frame a plan so quickly to meet the emergency they portended, he would be the best choice to fill the position of food administrator. So Joseph was given the position, with dictatorial powers to act in accord with what he thought would be best.

Nor was this assignment of power to Joseph made privately, for Pharaoh arranged that this new ruler in the realm should be paraded before the people, and that they should be made to bow to him. This was doubtless quite an embarrassing experience for Joseph. Those with less love for the Lord, and less desirous to give glory to him, might have had their perspective of life distorted by such sudden exaltation, but it did not thus affect Joseph.

Joseph was made a virtual dictator, but it was for the good of the nation. It illustrates that the form of government is often not so important as the personnel that governs. There is no form of government which will prevent evils from being inflicted upon the people if its laws are administered by selfish and corrupt men. On the other hand, when rulers are wise, just, and benevolent, the people under them will be blessed regardless of the form of government involved. No one could move in Egypt without Joseph’s consent, yet there is no record that the people ever complained of oppression under his rulership.

VERSES 46-57  “And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.
“And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls.
“And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities: the food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same.
“And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number.
“And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him.
“And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house
“And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.
“And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.
“And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.
“And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do.
“And the famine was over all the face of the earth: and Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.
“And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.”

Joseph was still a young man when he became ruler in Egypt, being only thirty years of age. At this age he embarked upon a mission that was to preserve the life, not only of his own people, but of the Egyptians as well. Jesus was thirty years of age when he entered upon his ministry, a ministry which also was destined to give life to God’s people, and to the whole world—not a temporary extension of the present life, but life everlasting.

Leaving the presence of Pharaoh, the young ruler immediately entered upon his duties. Apparently he made a personal survey of the whole land. While doing this, he probably made a record of possible storage houses and made the necessary arrangements to have the surpluses put in them. It was a gigantic undertaking for those days, and Joseph did not have much time for preparation, as the first year of plenty was already upon them.

We read that during those seven years of plenty the earth brought forth by ‘handfuls.’ Apparently this was an expression used in ancient times to denote an abundance, an overflowing supply. One of the promises of the bounteous blessings which will be provided for the people during the thousand years of Christ’s kingdom uses this expression, saying: “There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.”—Ps. 72:16

While Joseph was made dictator in Egypt, seemingly he had little choice as to the selection of his wife, Pharaoh giving him Asenath, daughter of Potipherah, priest or prince of On. ‘On’ means ‘City of the Sun’; and in Hebrew is called ‘Own,’ and ‘Bethshemesh’; and in Greek, ‘Heliopolis.’ It was the university city of Old Egypt.

During the seven years of plenty, two sons were born to Joseph—Manasseh and Ephraim. Manasseh means ‘forgetting.’ Joseph gave this name to his firstborn, for, said he, God ‘hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house.’ Ephraim means ‘fruitful,’ and Joseph gave this name to his second son because, as he explained, ‘God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.’ These sidelights on Joseph’s attitude toward his experiences emphasize that with him the Lord came first in everything. Manasseh and Ephraim were later adopted by Jacob into his family and made heads of tribes in Israel. For some unexplainable reason, Jacob named Ephraim first, although actually Manasseh was Joseph’s firstborn.

When the seven years of famine came upon Egypt, the people soon began to clamor for food. Their appeal to Pharaoh was turned over to Joseph, who was prepared for the emergency. The famine affected not only Egypt, but all the surrounding countries, and before it was over, people were coming to Egypt from all those areas seeking for food.

The foreknowledge of God in the care of his people anticipated this situation. The Lord had in mind the care of the children of Israel when he permitted Joseph to be sold into Egypt. There is a wonderful lesson in this for all who put their trust in the Lord. We should not lose faith because of the difficulties which may confront us today, for in the experiences which the Lord is permitting, circumstances are being shaped for a larger, more suitable purpose. If faithful here, we will be exalted to reign with Christ, and in his kingdom have the privilege of giving health and life to all mankind.

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