Introduction: Chapter 41 tells one of the most uplifting and memorable accounts in the entire Book of Genesis. The noble and innocent man who was sold into slavery, framed for attempted rape, unjustly incarcerated and forgotten in prison would finally be redeemed and elevated to be the second most powerful person in Egypt. It is the story of God’s redemption, His sovereignty over all, and proof of His promise through Paul that He: “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro. 8:28).
This story should be read on three levels. First, it should be read as a historic account of how God brought the Jews to Egypt. Second, Joseph’s selfless faith should be viewed as a role model for believers to emulate. Third, this account mirrors many details in the book of Daniel. This provides confirmation that the events in this chapter should also be examined within the context of the end times. The parallel details and Joseph’s ascension provide seven revelations regarding the end times, Jesus’ ascension over all the nations, and His peaceful Millennial Reign.
First, after 13 years of molding Joseph through suffering and two years after God placed Joseph and the cupbearer together, God placed a dream in Pharaoh that only Joseph could interpret. This would set in motion the events leading to his redemption and ascension over Egypt. These events show that God is sovereign and in control. If you are suffering now, He may be molding you. He prepared a plan for your redemption and ascension through Jesus before time began. Second, when brought before Pharaoh, Joseph first gave praise for God. He then interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams to warn of the need to prepare for a coming seven-year tribulation in Egypt. From this, God also wants you to praise Him and warn others of the coming seven-year tribulation. Third, Joseph offered a way for the people of his world to be saved from the coming catastrophe. In this way, he foreshadowed Jesus. Jesus also came to offer a way to save all the peoples of the world who believe from the coming catastrophe. Fourth, filled with God’s Spirit, Joseph ascended as the second most powerful person in Pharaoh’s kingdom. He then married a gentile wife. Like Joseph, Jesus ascended to become the second most powerful person in God the Father’s Kingdom in heaven. Like Joseph, Jesus will take a bride in heaven (the Church) that will be filled with gentiles. Fifth, Joseph told Pharaoh to prepare for the coming plague by storing treasures of grain. Jesus tells you to prepare by storing up treasures in heaven. Sixth, God blessed Joseph with two sons. Their names symbolized Joseph’s ability to forget the pain of his past and God’s ability to make him fruitful. God also promises that both you and He will forget the pain of your sins in heaven. He also promises to make you fruitful through the power of the Holy Spirit. Finally, when disaster came, all the world of Joseph’s time came and bowed to him. Joseph offered salvation to all with what he had to offer. Like Joseph, all will eventually bow to Jesus and confess Him as Lord. While Joseph could only offer temporary salvation to his regional world, Jesus offers eternal salvation to all across the world who believe in Him in faith.
God’s faithfulness in creating a dream in Pharaoh that only Joseph could interpret. For 13 long years, Joseph suffered as a slave and then as a prisoner. Although he did not know how, God was molding him. Even though two years had now passed since he interpreted the dreams of the cupbearer, Joseph’s faith never wavered. At a precise moment that God planned before time began, He gave Pharaoh two dreams that only Joseph could interpret. This would set in motion events that God planned before the beginning of time to both redeem and elevate Joseph: “1 Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing by the Nile. 2 And lo, from the Nile there came up seven cows, sleek and fat; and they grazed in the marsh grass. 3 Then behold, seven other cows came up after them from the Nile, ugly and gaunt, and they stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. 4 The ugly and gaunt cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. Then Pharaoh awoke. 5 He fell asleep and dreamed a second time; and behold, seven ears of grain came up on a single stalk, plump and good. 6 Then behold, seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind, sprouted up after them. 7 The thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears. Then Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. 8 Now in the morning his spirit was troubled, so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh. 9 Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharaoh, saying, ‘I would make mention today of my own offenses. 10 Pharaoh was furious with his servants, and he put me in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, both me and the chief baker. 11 We had a dream on the same night, he and I; each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. 12 Now a Hebrew youth was with us there, a servant of the captain of the bodyguard, and we related them to him, and he interpreted our dreams for us. To each one he interpreted according to his own dream. 13 And just as he interpreted for us, so it happened; he restored me in my office, but he hanged him.’” (Gen. 41:1-13). Like Pharaoh, God would later place a dream in King Nebuchadnezzar that only Daniel could interpret: “Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him.” (Dan. 2:1). Like the magicians in Pharaoh’s court, King Nebuchadnezzar’s magicians were unable to interpret his dream. Like the cupbearer, a servant of Nebuchadnezzar would point him to a Jew who was filled with God’s Spirit and able to interpret his dream: “Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king’s presence and spoke to him as follows: ‘I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king!’” (Dan. 2:25). These parallel accounts show that God is both sovereign and in control. His will cannot be stopped.
Hans Holbein the Younger 1497/8 – 1543 (Pharaoh's Dream)1
God is sovereign over all creation and more powerful than any evil in the world. God’s careful control over Joseph’s destiny shows that He is sovereign and has control over kings, nations, and all time. Daniel explained: “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.” (Da. 2:21). “He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away.” (Job 12:23). “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.” (Is. 40:15). “All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.” (Is. 40:17). “But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation.” (Jer. 10:10). “The LORD is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land.” (Ps. 10:16). “You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; . . .” (Is. 9:3(a)). “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Dan. 4:35). Have you placed you trust in powerful people or in God alone?
You also can trust in His promises to you. Thirteen years earlier, God gave Joseph a vision that all creation would bow down to him: “Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, ‘Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”’ (Gen. 37:9). The events here show that He is always faithful to keep His promises and that you can also trust His promises for you as well. “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thess. 5:24). “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” (Dt. 7:9). “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). He is faithful even when you are not: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). Have you given thanks that you can trust in His faithfulness even when your faith fails Him?
God made a plan before time began for Jesus to die to give you life. The Old Testament is filled with prophecies that Jesus would need to die as part of God’s greater plan. “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” (Is. 3:5; 1 Pet. 2:24). Jesus also told His disciples of His death before it happened (Matt. 16:21; Lk. 24:7, 26, 46). Do you trust in God’s plan for salvation that He planned through Christ before time began?
God also calls upon you to be patient as He molds you for His greater plans. Like Joseph, God may use suffering to mold you for His greater glory: “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Is. 48:10; Ps. 66:10; Zech. 13:9(a); Dt. 8:2-3). Like Joseph, God wants you to be patient because He prepared great plans for you out of love while you were still a sinner: “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,” (Eph. 1:4-5). “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Ro. 5:6, 8). You are called upon to accept and confirm God’s calling in your life: “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;” (2 Pet. 1:10). “knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;” (1 Thess. 1:4). In the face of suffering, will you patiently trust that He has a plan for you?
Joseph’s praise for God, and his warning of the coming seven-year tribulation in Egypt. When given the chance to bargain for his freedom, Joseph’s primary interest was in making sure that God received the credit for the dreams that he boldly promised to interpret. He then showed his concern for others by warning of a coming seven-year tribulation in Egypt: “14 Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh. 15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ 16 Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, ‘It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.’ 17 So Pharaoh spoke to Joseph, ‘In my dream, behold, I was standing on the bank of the Nile; 18 and behold, seven cows, fat and sleek came up out of the Nile, and they grazed in the marsh grass. 19 Lo, seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and gaunt, such as I had never seen for ugliness in all the land of Egypt; 20 and the lean and ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows. 21 Yet when they had devoured them, it could not be detected that they had devoured them, for they were just as ugly as before. Then I awoke. 22 I saw also in my dream, and behold, seven ears, full and good, came up on a single stalk; 23 and lo, seven ears, withered, thin, and scorched by the east wind, sprouted up after them; 24 and the thin ears swallowed the seven good ears. Then I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me.’” (Gen. 41:14-24). Every dream that Joseph interpreted came in patterns of two, the number of God’s confirmation (2 Cor. 13:1). Like Joseph, God later gave Daniel wisdom that far surpassed the power of the magicians who practiced sorcery: “As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm.” (Dan. 1:20). Like Joseph, Daniel gave credit to God for the dream that he would interpret. Daniel also explained that the dream was an end time revelation: “However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed. As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place.” (Dan. 2:28-9). These parallel accounts reveal that both accounts explain the end times. Indeed, even the Jews understood that Pharaoh’s dreams referenced the end times.
Lucas van Leyden 1494 – 1533 (Joseph before Pharaoh)2
The Jewish interpretation connecting Pharaoh’s dreams to the end times. In Hebrew, the books of the Torah were originally written on scrolls. Each scroll could only accommodate a certain number of chapters. The Jews named each scroll based upon the first verse within it. In Hebrew, this scroll is titled “mikketz” or “the end”. This is based upon the words “at the end” in verse one. According to one Messianic Jewish group: “The word mikketz seems to allude to the eschatological ketz hayamin that is ‘the end of days’ when Messiah comes and brings the final redemption and the Messianic Era. The Midrash Rabbah connects the name of the Torah portion (Miketz) with ‘the end’ of days when Satan and the evil inclination will be uprooted from the world. According to this interpretation, Joseph’s years in prison symbolize this current world which is held in bondage to the Adversary. Joseph’s sudden and unexpected release from prison symbolizes the appointed time of ‘the end’ and the coming of the Messiah.” (First Fruits of Zion, Torah Club, Vol. 2, Shadows of the Messiah, Miketz, p. 195-6; Genesis Rabbah 89:1). The Jews further believe that Pharaoh summoned Joseph in a hurry on Rosh HaShanah. This beginning of the New Year is marked by the blowing of trumpets (Id. at 196). In a similar way, Jesus’ return will be marked by the blowing of trumpets (1 Cor. 15:52). The orthodox Jews also observed Rosh HaShanah over two days because no one knew the precise hour it began. In the same way, no one knows the hour of Christ’s return (Matt. 24:36; Mk. 13:32). Are you living ready at all times for Him?
Like Joseph, the Holy Spirit has given you the wisdom to warn others of God’s judgment. Pharaoh’s magicians could not interpret Pharaoh’s dreams because they came from the Holy Spirit. A person who is not Spirit-led cannot discern the things of the Spirit: “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one” (1 Cor. 2:14-15). Like Joseph, God has placed the Holy Spirit inside of you and has given you hidden wisdom to be used for His Kingdom: “But it is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.” (Job 32:8). “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matt. 7:7). “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Prov. 2:6). “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Ja. 1:5). In order to avail yourself of this Spirit-led wisdom, you must read the Word and pray regularly. If you read the Word, the Spirit will reveal God’s warning of judgment upon the sinners of the world. Will you be His instrument of warning for others to repent?
The Church must warn of the coming Great Tribulation and pray for the world to repent. Joseph warned that Egypt faced a seven-year tribulation. In his parallel dream interpretation, Daniel warned that the entire world faces an intense seven-year tribulation (Dan. 9; Rev. 12:6-15). Both catastrophes would be preceded by times of plenty. Like Joseph’s day, the future seven-year Great Tribulation will bring natural disasters across both Egypt and the entire world: “The canals will emit a stench, the streams of Egypt will thin out and dry up; the reeds and rushes will rot away. The bulrushes by the Nile, by the edge of the Nile and all the sown fields by the Nile will become dry, be driven away, and be no more.” (Is. 19:6-7). On many other occasions, God promised to use natural disasters to cause wayward nations to repent. “I smote you with scorching wind and mildew; and the caterpillar was devouring your many gardens and vineyards, fig trees and olive trees; yet you have not returned to Me,’ declares the LORD.” (Amos 4:9). “Disaster on disaster is proclaimed, for the whole land is devastated;” (Jer. 4:20(a); Amos 7:1; Joel 1:4; 2:25; Nahum 3:15-16; Dt. 28:38-39; Is. 64:10). Yet, He has also told the Church what it must do to heal the land. If “My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14). Are you praying for the western nations to repent of their sins?
Joseph’s God-given wisdom in creating a plan to save Egypt from seven years of drought. Although God told Joseph exactly what Pharaoh needed to do to save Egypt, Joseph made no attempt to lobby for the job or even ask for any special favors. Instead, he remained focused on saving the lives of others from the impending disaster: “25 Now Joseph said to Pharaoh, ‘Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has told 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 and the same. 27 The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven thin ears scorched by the east wind will be seven years of famine. 28 It is as I have spoken to Pharaoh: God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do. 29 Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt; 30 and after them seven years of famine will come, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 So the abundance will be unknown in the land because of that subsequent famine; for it will be very severe. 32 Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about. 33 Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. 35 Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it. 36 Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.’” (Gen. 41:25-36). Without seeking to promote himself, Joseph’s list of qualifications matched his own. God had prepared him to watch over others as a shepherd. He taught him to administer others by administering Potiphar’s house and his prison. As a slave and as a prisoner, He also taught Joseph to be humble and take orders without seeking to glorify himself. Joseph gave credit to God for these gifts and his gift of prophecy. God also wants you to give credit to Him for your gifts. He also wants to warn others to prepare for His Day of Judgment.
Give God the credit when He does a great work for you. Like Joseph, the great leaders of the Bible always gave credit to God when He performed great works through them. Peter, for example, gave credit to God when the Holy Spirit healed a man through him: “But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, ‘Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?”’ (Acts 3:12). Paul also attributed his ability to act boldly to Christ: “Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,” (2 Cor. 3:4-5). “For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed,” (Ro. 15:18). “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (Ja. 1:17). When others praise you, do you give that praise to Jesus where it belongs? If you hoard this praise for yourself, pride is likely to emerge.
God offers protection for His people from the coming Great Tribulation. Four hundred years later during the seventh plague, God miraculously protected the Jews from the plague of hail: “Only in the land of Goshen, where the sons of Israel were, there was no hail.” (Ex. 9:26). Likewise, during the campaign to defeat the kingdoms of southern Israel, He again miraculously protected His people from the judgment of hail (Josh. 10:8-11). This foreshadows the end times when He will spare His Church from the worst judgments. He will rapture His Church in the blink of any eye (Matt. 24:31; 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16-17). Are you living ready for His return any time by staying holy and serving Him?
Warn others where they can find refuge in Christ. Jesus is the light of the world today (Jo. 8:12). His light burns inside you as a beacon for those around you (Matt. 5:14). Yet, many love darkness and reject His light. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” (Jo. 3:19). These people fail to understand that everyone is a sinner in God’s eyes and worthy of His judgment. “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecc. 7:20; Ro. 3:23). Those who reject Christ will ultimately face judgment (Rev. 20:4-6; 12-15). Thus, like John the Baptist, you are called upon to warn others by telling them of their need to repent: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:2). This was also part of Jesus’ message that you should follow: “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matt. 4:17). “‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:15). Are you preaching to sinners the need to repent of their sins?
Pharaoh’s acknowledgement of God’s Spirit in Joseph, and Joseph’s ascension over Egypt. Pharaoh was a pagan idol worshiper. Yet, he made no attempt to praise the Egyptian gods for Joseph’s wise advice. Instead, he recognized the power of God’s Holy Spirit within Joseph. He then elevated Joseph as second in command over all of Egypt. He also gave him a gentile wife named Asenath: “37 Now the proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants. 38 Then Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?’ 39 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.’ 41 Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.’ 42 Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put the gold necklace around his neck. 43 He had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, ‘Bow the knee!’ And he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Though I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.’ 45 Then Pharaoh named Joseph Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, as his wife. And Joseph went forth over the land of Egypt.” (Gen. 41:37-45). Joseph’s ascension foreshadowed Christ. It is also prophetically alluded to throughout Scripture: “For he has come out of prison to become king, even though he was born poor in his kingdom.” (Ecc. 4:14). “The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples, and set him free. He made him lord of his house and ruler over all his possessions,” (Ps. 105:20-21). Like Joseph, Christ will rule over all and marry His appointed gentile bride.
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo 1696 – 1770 (Pharaoh gives his ring to Joseph)3
Like Joseph, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. Joseph is the first recorded person to be described as being filled with the Holy Spirit. Yet, he would not be the last. Isaiah also prophesied that the Messiah would be filled with the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” (Is. 11:2). Jesus fulfilled this prophecy: “John testified saying, ‘I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him.’” (Jo. 1:32; Matt. 3:16; Mk. 1:10; Lk. 3:22). He also promises to fill you with the Holy Spirit to allow you to also do mighty things for Him (Jo. 14:16; 15:26; Acts 1:4; 5:32). Like Joseph, are you acting boldly in the Spirit for the Kingdom of Heaven?
Jesus’ ascension over all mankind. After being released from prison, Joseph ascended to the throne of Egypt. After rising from the grave, Jesus ascended into heaven where He sits on the throne (Rev. 21:5). In Joseph’s day, all bowed to him. All will one day also bow to Christ: “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,” (Phil. 2:10). “For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.”’ (Ro 14:11; Is. 45:23). Jesus may be your Savior. Yet, is He also Lord over every aspect of your life?
Jesus’ marriage to the Church. Joseph married Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On (Gen. 41:45). Her name meant “she who belongs to Neith,” an Egyptian goddess. Under God’s law, he was not supposed to marry a pagan worshipping nonbeliever. Yet, he had little choice in rejecting Pharaoh’s commands. Nor were any non-pagan women available for him to marry in Egypt. By Jewish tradition, Asenath later became a convert and worshipped Yahweh (First Fruits of Zion p. 199-200). God’s point here was not to condemn Joseph. Rather, He wanted Joseph’s children not to be prideful. Later, Joseph’s sons would be elevated in stature to be comparable to Jacob’s 12 sons. They had no reason to assume that they were better than their brother tribes. Yet, Joseph’s tribes would later become filled with pride. They would then rebel and form a separate country in Northern Israel. Like Joseph, Christ will one day marry in heaven a Church filled with gentiles who committed spiritual idolatry. God was originally betrothed to Israel (Jer. 2:2). He was faithful to His bride (Ps. 18:25). He therefore implored the Jews to return to their husband: ‘“Return faithless people,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I am your husband.’” (Jer. 3:14). And at Mount Horeb, He made a marriage contract. The Jews accepted His marriage proposal: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” (Ex. 19:1-8). Yet, a wedding contract must be signed by a friend of the bride and a friend of the groom. Moses was a friend of the bride, Israel. But God did not allow him to sign the contract. Instead, Moses broke the Ten Commandments (Ex. 32:19). The sin that caused the people to break the wedding contract was spiritual adultery and idolatry. Rather than accepting their bridegroom and waiting on Him, they made for themselves a new bridegroom out of a golden calf (Ex. 32:24). Adultery is the one sin that Jesus said would justify divorce (Matt. 5:32). Jesus will one day complete His marriage with His church (Rev. 19:7-14). Your righteousness is no better than that Asenath. Like Asenath, you also are an unworthy bride. Yet, out of mercy and grace, Christ will marry you in heaven. Are you living a holy life worthy of this calling?
Allow God to humble you so that He can also exalt you without pride. God had to humble Joseph as a slave and then as a prisoner before He could exalt Joseph. He had to do these things so that Joseph would serve without pride. He also wants you to allow Him to humble you through your suffering so that He can exalt you in heaven alongside Him without any pride. “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14). “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.” (Lk. 1:52). “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (Ja. 4:10). “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,” (1 Pet. 5:6). “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5; KJV). Your suffering is one way for God to humble you. Are you humble so that He can exalt you without pride?
Joseph’s obedience in implementing God’s plan to save Egypt. Joseph did not use his authority to enrich himself. Instead, he faithfully carried out his duties to prepare the land for the coming disaster: “46 Now Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. 47 During the seven years of plenty the land brought forth abundantly. 48 So he gathered all the food of these seven years which occurred in the land of Egypt and placed the food in the cities; he placed in every city the food from its own surrounding fields. 49 Thus Joseph stored up grain in great abundance like the sand of the sea, until he stopped measuring it, for it was beyond measure.” (Gen. 41:46-49). Like Joseph, God calls upon you to be a faithful servant no matter where He may call you to serve.
Store up your treasures in heaven. While Joseph stored up treasures in vaults with guards, you are urged to store up your treasures in heaven: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;” (Matt. 6:19-20). Where do you store up your treasures?
Living in faith does not mean you should neglect to save for known needs. Some might read Jesus’ words and assume that saving is evil. Yet, this is a mistake. Jesus spoke to those who horde and prioritize their life on Earth over their future eternal existence. Joseph’s example shows that it is godly to save for known future needs or emergencies. “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up.” (Prov. 21:20). “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, and the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” (Prov. 13:22). If you spend every penny that you make, you are testing the Lord to rescue you in times of distress or during your retirement. You also preclude Him from using your wealth to bless other people, just as Joseph did for others.
Nations should also save for future needs the way that Joseph did. As an example of a country led by a godly servant leader, Joseph did not allow Egypt to spend everything that it took in. Instead, he directed the country to save for its known future needs. God later prohibited the nation of Israel from living beyond its means. He prohibited them from borrowing money to meet their needs. He knew this would place them in bondage: “6 For the Lord your God will bless you as He has promised you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.” (Dt. 15:6). “The LORD will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.” (Dt. 28:12). Many sadly see little wisdom in the Old Testament. Thus, many nations have ignored these lessons from Joseph and Moses. Instead of saving for known future needs and emergencies, the countries of the western world have become debtor nations. Like Pharaoh, they are vulnerable to future disasters.
Be a faithful hard worker wherever God calls you. As a separate lesson, Joseph worked hard no matter where he was. He faithfully served his father in Canaan. He faithfully served Potiphar in his house and later in his prison. He then faithfully served Pharaoh and all of Egypt. By proving himself faithful in the small things, he showed that he was ready for God to entrust him with large things. “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” (Lk. 16:10). “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”’ (Matt. 25:21). Wherever you are, serve diligently as if God were your employer: “Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established.” (Prov. 16:3). “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.” (Prov. 22:29). Those who fail to work hard will be chastised: “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.’” (Matt. 25:26). Are you a faithful and hard worker?
Use your God-given gifts for the benefit of others. Joseph had gifts of administration, compassion, and prophesy. He used all these gifts of the Spirit to benefit others. You as well are called upon to use your Spirit-led gifts for others. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor. 12:7). “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Pet. 4:10). Are you using your gifts of the Spirit to help others or yourself?
God’s blessing of two sons who symbolized freedom from pain and fruitfulness in Him. Through his Egyptian wife, God blessed Joseph who two sons. After the Levites became priests, these two tribes were elevated to equal importance as the original 12 tribes. “50 Now before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore to him. 51 Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’ 52 He named the second Ephraim, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.’” (Gen. 41:50-52). Each of Joseph’s son’s names symbolize what God promises to do for you.
Rejoice that your sins will be blotted out. The name Manasseh means “making to forget”. Just as Joseph forgot about the many sins against Him, God will blot out His memory of your sins against Him: “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Heb. 8:12). “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Is. 43:25). “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jer. 31:34). “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Ro. 8:1). Self-doubt and loathing is Satan’s tool to silence believers. Are you letting your old sins hold you back? If so, you lack faith in the power of Christ’s blood and God’s promises.
Blot out the sins that others have done to you. God allowed Joseph to forget about his pain in order to help him forgive his brothers when he met them seeking food in Egypt. You must also forgive and forget the sins that others have made against you. If you don’t, God will not forgive your sins (Matt. 6:15; Mk. 11:26). Is there anyone you need to forgive?
Be fruitful in the Lord. The name Ephraim signified how God had made Joseph fruitful. (Gen. 41:52). Like Joseph, God promises to make you fruitful in Him. The fruit available to you include the nine fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23). Is the fruit of the Spirit visible in your life for everyone to see?
Joseph’s salvation for the known world of his time. As a result of Joseph’s careful Spirit-led planning, God used Joseph as His instrument to bring salvation to Egypt and the countries that surrounded it: “53 When the seven years of plenty which had been in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said, then there was famine in all the lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, you shall do.’ 56 When the famine was spread over all the face of the earth, then Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold to the Egyptians; and the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 The people of all the earth came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the earth.” (Gen. 41:53-57). Like Joseph, Jesus will bring salvation to the world.
Jesus will bring salvation to the world. While Joseph brought temporary salvation to his regional world, Jesus offers eternal salvation to all who believe across the world: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (Jo. 3:16). “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (Jo. 5:24). “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (Jo. 3:36; 6:47). “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
The nations will come and bow down to Jesus. Just as the nations came to bow down to Joseph, the nations will one day come and bow down to Jesus as the Messiah during the Millennial Reign: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is. 9:6). “Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? Indeed it is Your due! For among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is none like You.” (Jer. 10:7; Rev. 15:4). ‘“And it shall be from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before Me,’ says the LORD.” (Is. 66:23). “Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths.” (Zech. 14:16). “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and they shall glorify Your name.” (Ps. 86:9). “All the earth will worship You, and will sing praises to You; they will sing praises to Your name.’ Selah” (Ps. 66:4). “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will worship before You.” (Ps. 22:7).
Trust in the Bible’s accounts as trustworthy and accurate. Many skeptics believe that there is no evidence that the Jews were ever in Egypt. Thus, they dismiss the stories of Joseph and the later Exodus as a fantasy. This view is also mistaken. All Scripture is inspired, accurate, and trustworthy (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Scholars have found evidence that confirms the accuracy of the Bible through Egyptian records. These records confirm both the existence of Semitic people in Egypt and within the royal courts of several Pharaohs of the past. “We can confidently say that Semites, at least persons bearing Semitic names, achieved high office in the Middle Kingdom, Second Intermediate and New Kingdom periods. [One author] has shown parallels between Joseph and to Aper-El, the vizier to Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten, fourteenth century). In the vizier’s funeral chamber (Saqqarah, east of Memphis, the chief cemetery for officials), we learn the Semitic names of his family members and their communal burial in coffins, which correlate with the practices of Joseph and Jacob (49:29-32; 50:2-3; 12-14). This high-ranking Semitic superintended the king’s business in Lower [Northern] Egypt.” (Kenneth Mathews, “The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture'' Genesis 1-11:26, Vol. 1B, (B&H Publishing Group Nashville Tenn. 2005) p. 762; Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt, 94-95). Thus, you can trust in the many Bible lessons from Joseph and the Jews in Egypt.