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Chapter 41

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ch. 41:1-40    ch. 41:41-57

Pharaoh's Dreams (ch. 41:1 - 40)


In verse 1 we see that two full years had passed.  This is in reference to the events of the last chapter when Joseph interpreted the dreams of the cup bearer and the baker.  He asked the cupbearer to remember him to Pharaoh, but it is clear that the cupbearer forgot about Joseph's request as soon as he was free.  The events of this chapter happened two years later, when the cupbearer finally remembered Joseph could interpret dreams.


Many scholars suggest that Joseph was in prison for at least thirteen to fifteen years before He got out.


In verses 1 through 4 we see Pharaoh's dream. In the dream he saw seven healthy cows and seven frail  cows.  Cows in Egypt represented agricultural success.  Both groups of cows grazed among the reeds of the Nile River.  Along the shore line of the Nile River there was marshes, and that was where these cows grazed in Pharaoh's dream.  In reality cows did actually graze here. The seven frail cows ate the seven healthy cows and then Pharaoh woke up from his dream. 


In verses 5 through 7 we see Pharaoh's second dream.  There was a stock of grain with seven heads that looked very healthy.  Like the seven cow dream, there were also a stock of grain that looked unhealthy.  The dry easterly wind made them dry.  In that part of the world a dry easterly wind can rise very quickly and increase the temperature rapidly, drying out crops.  That is what happened in the dream.  As in the dream of the cows, the weakly stock of grain swallowed up the healthy stock of grain, and then Pharaoh woke up.


Verse 8 says that "in the morning his mind was troubled".   Other translations use the word "spirit' because the Hebrew word translated as mind is also commonly translated as "spirit".  Why the NIV translates the word as "mind" I don't know, other than the translators must have equated spirit with mind, or else they felt from the context it was Pharaoh's mind that was troubled, and not spirit.


Also in verse 8, because Pharaoh was so troubled, he called in all the magicians in Egypt to interpret these dreams.  In Egyptian society, and in most polytheistic societies back then, there were a group of men called by various titles that felt that they could hear from the gods and interpret such things as dreams.


There's a couple of things we might note at this point in time.  There are two men in the Old Testament that are noted for interpreting dreams.  They are Daniel and Joseph.  As we will see, both men state that it is God that really does the interpreting.  They just hear from Him.  That would make Joseph a prophet, as well as Daniel, because a prophet is one who hears from God and speaks what he hears to people. 


Both Joseph and Daniel interpreted dreams for their respective Gentile kings.  Both Joseph and Daniel were Jews.  They both interpret these dreams in two locations that throughout the Bible represent the world.  Joseph interprets dreams for the King of Egypt, while Daniel interprets dreams for the King of Babylon.  In both cases there are significant historical and prophetic significance to these two nations.


In verse 9 we see that the cupbearer is reminded of his "shortcomings".  He says this to Pharaoh.  That was probably a pretty mild way to put it.  Whatever his shortcomings were, they were severe enough for Pharaoh to have put him into prison.  I don't think the cupbearer wanted to remind Pharaoh of the details of these shortcomings. 


In verse 10 the cupbearer simply reminds the Pharaoh that at one time in the past he was angry  with him and the baker.  Again, no details seem to be mentioned here. 


From verses 11 through 14 the cupbearer tells a shortened version of how Joseph interpreted his dream as well as the baker's dream, and both interpretations turned out to be true.  Finally Joseph's request to the cupbearer came about.  You will remember that once the cupbearer was set free, Joseph asked him to remember him to Pharaoh.  It took two years, but now Joseph was going to be set free.  All these years imprison for Joseph was a training ground for him.  It is amazing to me how many real servant's of God suffer much in their lives.  Life as a servant of God is not always about the so-called "good life".  May those who suffer as a servant of God not suffer in vain.


Verse 14 says that Pharaoh called for Joseph to come and interpret his dreams.  The text says that Joseph was shaved and had a change of clothes.  This would have been necessary since he was probably pretty shabby looking from being in prison for so long,  That being said, it is commonly understood that in such circumstances, when a man got shaved, it wasn't just his head, but his whole body.  Egyptian culture appears to be clean shaven, while Hebrew culture appears to be not clean shaven.  Actually, it is said that the Hebrew custom saw a man's beard as giving glory to God.


In verses 16 and 17 we see the first exchange between Pharaoh and Joseph.  Pharaoh acknowledges that it is his understanding that Joseph can interpret dreams.  Like Daniel, Joseph says that it is God who does the interpreting.  He simply hears from God and passes it along.  This should be the stance for any of us who have any gift from God.  We acknowledge where the gift comes from.  We are simply the vehicle to expresses the gift that comes from God and is given away to someone else.


I do believe in modern day prophets, but many of these men that I've seen over the years are not humble men as Joseph is here.  That suggests to me that they aren't really prophets of God. 


I won't comment on verses 17 to 24 because Pharaoh simply repeats the dreams to Joseph.  There pretty much the same.  There is a slight difference.  In the dream with the cows we note that the seven unhealthy cows looked no better after eating the seven healthy cows.  Some liberal scholars want to point out discrepancies here, but I don't think that is necessary.  Anyone telling a story may leave parts out at times and reinsert these parts at another telling of the story.  It doesn't mean we have a problem with the text. 


In verse 25 Joseph said that he had received the interpretation from God, and the two dreams had one meaning.


In verses 26 and 27 Joseph begins to tell Pharaoh what the dreams meant.  The seven healthy cows and the seven good heads of grain represent seven good years in Egypt.  The seven sickly cows and sickly heads of grain represent seven bad years in Egypt that would follow the seven good years. 


The interpretation continues in verses 28 through 31.  The first seven years were seven years of great economic growth in Egypt, but after these seven good years will be seven bad years.  There would be a severe famine in the land.  It would be so bad that the seven good years would be long forgotten.  There is extra-Biblical evidence that this actually happened, so this makes the text very credible.


We see in verse 32 why Pharaoh had two dreams of the same event.  It was to confirm beyond a doubt what would happen.  The text clearly states that God was the one that caused the seven good years and also the seven bad years.  We see here again that God does intervene in the affairs of nations.  Although the famine was ravaging for Egypt and the surrounding countries, it was good for Joseph and Israel.  It was this famine that brought Joseph's brothers to Egypt and subsequently were re-introduced to their brother Joseph.


It is important for Christians to realize that we are not Deists.  Deists are those who believe in God, but believe that after He created all things, He stepped back from all things, and let creation evolve.  Christians are not Deists.  We believe, as we see here that God remains involved in the affairs of the world and in the affairs of nations, as well as in the affairs of individual people. God is still involved in the affairs of nations right to this day, and will be to the very end.  Secular man does not see how God works behind the scenes.  God is often behind both good and bad events.  Only those with Biblical understanding can see these things.  If there is an earthquake somewhere, the secular man simply says it's mother nature.  The Christian might suggest that it was an act of God for which they will be highly criticized for, since the secular man would not think God would do such a thing if in fact there was a God.   


It is interesting to note that God brought a famine on the known world in these days, and in my thinking, it was to help Israel.  God can do the same today.


In verse 33 we see that Joseph, the prisoner that was just released from prison, actually gave some advise to Pharaoh that Pharaoh actually accepted.  This was probably a miracle from God.  The interpretation of these two dreams was clearly a miracle, and the acceptance of Joseph's advice was another miracle.  Joseph is like Daniel, a Jew, who became very influential in a secular government.


In verses 35 through 37 Joseph continues to tell Pharaoh his plan.  Simply put, he suggested that for each of the seven good years, five percent of the food grown should be set aside for the seven bad years.  He also said that commissioners should be appointed to oversee this collection and storage of food.


In verses 37 and 38 Pharaoh and his advisers agreed with Joseph.  They thought it was a good plan.  They all clearly believed the interpretation of the dreams that came from the lips of Joseph.  Then Pharaoh asked if there was anyone in the land more suited for the job to oversee these things than Joseph.  The reason why they said and thought this is because they believed that the "spirit of God", that's Elohim, was in Joseph.  That was there perception since Joseph could give the interpretation of the dream, and since he claimed it was from his God. 


With our New Testament understanding, we know that the Spirit of God did not dwell in men or women as He can today.  But the Holy Spirit did come and go upon men in Old Testament times.  The Spirit of God came to Joseph and that is why he could interpret the dreams.  It wasn't that the Spirit of God lived inside of Joseph.


In verses 39 and 40 we see that Pharaoh made Joseph second in command of all of Egypt because he was a wise and discerning man.  Once again, a man of God rules in a secular nation.  This should prove that from time to time, there is a place for some, who are called of God to be involved in government.  That being said, in these New Testament times, our first allegiance  is to the Kingdom of God .  I always like what Ern Baxter once told me, "a preacher of the gospel has a higher calling than the president of the United States ."  Ern Baxter was a well known charismatic Bible teacher in the last half of the twentieth century.


Joseph In Charge Of Egypt (ch 41:41 - 57) 


In verses 41 through 43 we see the exaltation of Jesus.  For those who relate the life of Jesus to Joseph's life, they see this as a type of Jesus rising from the dead and ascending to a place of power along beside God. 


Joseph was raised to a place of power.  He was now second in command.  He wore the clothes of a king.  He rode in the chariot of the king and people bowed down before him as he drove by in his chariot. 


Some people use this verse to support the idea that Christians today are to be kings, especially if they have enough faith.  I don't believe you can use an isolated event to support this theory.  God chooses who He wants to be kings and He chooses for specific reasons.  God has a specific reason in mind here, and that was to free His people from the burden of the severe famine that spread throughout the known world.  


It is interesting to me that Joseph, one who was really used of God, spent so long in prison before he was exalted to this place of prominence.  This was and is the case with many men of God.  God often puts people through tremendous suffering before He uses them, especially if they have a real important roll to play in God's plans.  I'd suggest that this suffering is a form of training, that is, getting self out of the way in order for God to be able to take over.


We need to recognize that throughout the Bible Egypt is a nation that represents the world as a whole.  When I use the word "world", I'm speaking of the system that is of the world and is in opposition to God.  Here a man of God is in charge of a worldly nation.  God does put men of God in prominent places of authority at times, but it is for His purpose.  He just doesn't put men in places of authority to build their own ego.  I suggest that in this case, Joseph rose to a place of power for the benefit of God's people. 


We see in verses 44 and 45 that Pharaoh gave Joseph and Egyptian name and an Egyptian wife.  We note here that the girl who became Joseph's wife was the daughter of a cultish priest.  The father was "the priest of On".  "On" was a cult city. It was known for the worship of the sun god. 


We can assume that this was God's will, although I can't reconcile this with the point that all along in Hebrew history, God never wanted His people to marry outside of the Hebrew race.   My only thought on this would be that men were to find wives within Israel , but God, if He so chose, could find a wife for a man outside of Israel, but only He could do that, not the man.  It seems to me that being second in command in Egypt was important enough to God that having the Egyptian wife that was given to Joseph was sufficient evil to reach His goal.  So, even though God sets down certain ground-rules which we cannot set aside, He Himself can set aside at times if He wants.  He is God.  He can do what He wants.


We learn in verse 46 that Joseph was thirty years old when Pharaoh put him in charge of all the land.  As I've been saying, many people see a relation to Joseph and Jesus.  Although some see Joseph's exaltation as symbolic of Jesus' ascension, others see it as the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry at His baptism.  For those who believe this, the age of thirty is obviously important since that is roughly the age Jesus started His ministry.


In verses 47 through 49 we note how detailed and careful Joseph was in his storage of food project.  He traveled throughout Egypt laying aside so much food in specific places that there was too much food to count. The text says that it was numbered as the sand of the see.  We've seen this term used by God many times in Genesis to say that Israel would be numbered as many as the sand of the sea.  This should be taking literally here in chapter 41, so it shouldn't be taken literally when God says Israel will be as the sand of the sea.  It's just an idiom to mean lots, or too many to bother counting.


In verses 50 and 51 we see the first son of Joseph was born.  His name was Manasseh, which probably means "forgot".   By this time, during these seven good years, Joseph had forgotten all about the time in prison.  He had also "forgotten about his father's household," or at least it was pushed to the back of his mind.   It appears that he did not think well of his father's household, and it's not hard to understand why.  His brothers certainly did not treat him right.


We see in verse 52 a second son was born who was named Ephraim because God had made him and his wife fruitful.  Ephraim means "fruitful".


In verses 53 to 55 we see the beginning of the seven bad years of famine.  The people began to complain to Pharaoh, so he told them to see Joseph. 


The text notes these bad years  were what Joseph had predicted.  We are reminded that Joseph had interpreted Pharaoh's dream.  He prophesied that these days would come.  I don't believe the place of prophets is something just for the Old Testament.  I do believe that God has prophets today that can foretell such things, yet not all who call themselves prophets of God are.


In verses 56 and 57 we see that Joseph sold the grain to both the Egyptian people and to other nations around them.  I'm sure that Pharaoh like that.  He actually profited from the famine, but only because of Joseph's good management skills.  Therefore, because of the man of God, a secular nation was blessed, as is often the case. 


I believe the whole western world was blessed by God when they embraced the Reformation and men like Martin Luther.  The reverse is now true.  God is withdrawing His blessing as the western world moves away from Christianity.


Note here that the whole world was in a famine.  I'd suggest that this would be the whole known world.  There is extra-Biblical support for this famine, which helps support the validity of the Bible.


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