Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 41:56-57

56 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.

57 And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.

Joseph saves countless lives and makes a healthy profit for the Pharaoh at the same time! It really speaks to the incredible bounty of the first seven years that the excess was enough to keep the locals alive and still have more to sell.

Also, once again foreknowledge is essential for him to be able to handle the situation with clarity and decisiveness. God had not only forewarned of the famine, but He had also specified exactly how long it would endure for. By knowing that he needed to divide the resources across seven years Joseph would know exactly how much of their stock he could afford to sell off each year. If it weren’t for that ability to plan ahead, one might have been tempted in the fourth or fifth year to say “this famine might never end! I better hoard everything remaining for myself and let the rest of the world starve.” Then war might have occurred, and unnecessary deaths would have abounded everywhere.

As Joseph conducted his business and sold the grain to many foreign hands, I wonder whether the thought ever occurred to him that his own father was caught within this famine and might very well send for some corn. Did he have any inkling that he might soon see his brothers yet again?

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 41:53-55

53 And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.

54 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.

55 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.

The time of plenty was drawing to a close on all that region of the world, but not on the life of Joseph. He had been made to suffer separately from the rest of the world but now he was going to flourish apart from it as well. In all the area was a great famine and hunger, but in Joseph’s storehouses there was grain aplenty.

When the Egyptians complained to Pharaoh about the issue, he simply referred them to Joseph. “What he saith to you, do.” This is one matter of royal responsibility that the Pharaoh did not need to lose any sleep over. This very well could have been the single greatest hurdle of his entire rulership, and the whole thing had already been taken care of!

I can’t help but assume that seeing seven years of plenty, just as Joseph had foretold, would have cemented Pharaoh’s faith in the entire interpretation. By the sixth and seventh years it would have been easy to start assuming that the extreme yield would never subside. But then it did. Then as the famine proceeded year after year, one might be tempted to assume that there would never be good times again. But there would be, and Pharaoh could rest easy in that knowledge, because he had already seen the first half of Joseph’s prophecy come true.

There is a lesson to be learned of the calming reassurance that comes by having God’s guidance in our lives. Things might be tumultuous, good and then bad and then good again. When we are in the middle of a season it might be easy to feel like it will last forever. But though there be chaos around us, and for very long, if we are securely tucked in the hand of our maker, uncertainties can be sureties, giving us a constant, abiding peace inside.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 41:50-52

50 And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On bare unto him.

51 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.

52 And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.

As God had promised, there comes to Egypt seven years of plenty. But aside from just the bounteous grain this is also a special “time of plenty” specifically for Joseph. He has been made a ruler in Egypt, given a wife, and now the blessing of two sons. What a whirlwind period this must have been for Joseph! For a time, he was in the lowest pit of human existence, but now the riches are coming at a furious pace.

Manasseh’s name means “making to forget,” meaning that Joseph has been made to forget all the years of suffering, but also to forget the old life he once dreamed of. Once he was of the family of Jacob in Canaan, and presumably his ambitions were tied to those people and that place. But now he has been given a new station and a new calling to fulfill. This is his work now and this is his family. He can’t ever go back to just living under his father’s roof and tending the flocks.

In fact, one transformation that I imagine Joseph never anticipated is that he would be married to an Egyptian woman. That, of course, means marrying out of the covenant, something that was a typically an embarrassment to the lineage of Abraham. But while “strange wives” will become associated with the Israelite people giving up their God, this is not the case with Joseph.

Yes he is married to an Egyptian, yes he is in the employ of the Pharaoh, yes he is surrendering any ambitions related to his father’s house…but never is he giving up his worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Joseph has the fortitude of spirit to become an Egyptian while still retaining all his covenants as well.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 41:46-49

46 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.

47 And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls.

48 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.

49 And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number.

We know that Joseph was seventeen years when he lived in his father’s house, before his brothers sold him into Egypt. From that introduction the only timed interval that we know is the two years after the chief butler was redeemed from prison and forgot to speak up for Joseph. That leaves eleven years divided between Joseph being resented by his brothers, being carried into Egypt, serving as a slave in Potiphar’s house, and being in jail before interpreting the dreams of the butler and baker.

In all, Joseph had spent nearly half of his life not being free. He had matured from a youth to a man while in some form of captivity or another. That is a very long period, and it covers the most critical, transformational years in the life of a man. It is remarkable that he did not lose himself in the trial.

As soon as Joseph was set free, though, he didn’t sit around idling. Notice the directness in verse 46: “Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land.” He has a great lifesaving work to do, and the entire country needs to be prepared with storehouses and workers and a plan of action. This is a massive undertaking, one that will require structures and overseers and bookkeeping. And so he travels through the whole country, instituting his food preservation program in every city (verse 48). Joseph gathers and gathers the increase of the entire country, until the yield exceeds their numbering system!

In short, no sooner was Joseph let loose than he did his work, and he did it well. His years in confinement might have broken a lesser man. But it had not rendered him useless. He was as sharp as he had ever been, if not more so.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 41:42-45

42 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;

43 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.

44 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.

45 And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-paaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.

Pharaoh had declared that Joseph would be second only to him, that he would have power over all of Egypt, to execute things according to his will. And then, to make his declaration more than mere words, Pharaoh began to publish this assignment to all the country.

He did this by dressing Joseph in fine clothes, so he would look the part of the ruler. He put his own ring on Joseph’s hand and had Joseph ride in his second chariot beside him, so that Joseph would be directly associated with Pharaoh. He sent criers before Joseph, so that people would know to reverence him. He gave Joseph a royal woman for his wife, so that he would have legal claim on nobility. He sent Joseph “over all the land of Egypt” so that his name and face would be known.

What a great deal of effort! And frankly it goes to show the imaginary nature of human power. Pharaoh could have verbally granted any status to any person private, but if he did nothing to publicize it afterward, then the person would still have no power. They could go out and try to command others, but without Pharaoh’s nod of approval the order would only be laughed at. Pharaoh’s power was not some actual thing that could be handed over. It was only an idea, and it had to be cultivated in the minds of the people before it would actually start to work.

Contrast that to the power of God, which God sustains by Himself, in Himself, and of Himself. God is God because He requires no other person to pronounce Him God in order to be so. He may enact his will on whomever and whatever He pleases, with no outer approval. His power is self-evident and self-sufficient. Furthermore, whomever God sees fit to bestow His power, His power will be there, whether it is publicized or not. God had declared that Joseph would be a ruler over his brethren. God had seen fit to give Joseph the gift of interpreting dreams. And no man, not even Pharaoh, could ever take those powers and callings away from him.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 41:39-41

39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:

40 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.

41 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.

Ultimately, Joseph never even has to make his case to Pharaoh, never has to convince him that he was wrongfully accused and unjustly imprisoned. So far as our record shows, Pharaoh never inquires about what really went down with Potiphar and his wife.

Joseph doesn’t have to prove his innocence because it is self-evident. The man exudes worthiness. Pharaoh has seen that God is present in him, and that means Joseph must be a clean vessel.

And so, just like that, Joseph goes from the lowest of stations, a prisoner in Egypt, to becoming more elevated than any other. With one conversation with Pharaoh, Joseph supplanted every counselor and prince, every man or woman who had spent their entire lives climbing the social ranks and vying for power. It goes beyond belief. Indeed, it even goes beyond what most of us even dare to imagine in our private grandiose fantasies.

And also, just like that, Joseph must have finally understood the hand of the Lord. Now he must have known why his Heavenly Father had not redeemed him from slavery and imprisonment before this moment. Suddenly the great confusing injustice is a sensible and merciful plan.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 41:37-38

37 And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.

38 And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?

Joseph has interpreted the dream and counseled what to do about it, and all of it is “good in the eyes of Pharaoh.” For starters, he believes the interpretation. Not only does it match all of the symbols that he saw, but presumably the message rings true with the feelings of the dream. Also, he is in favor of what Joseph has suggested they should do about it. Joseph has shown how they can prepare against and circumvent the shadow of death. He has given a good interpretation and good advice.

Joseph began this whole thing by humbly stating that it was not he would interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, but God. By his humility he has actually put himself in a better place than if he had claimed the wisdom in and of himself. A man who is cunning is useful only until his skills are exceeded. But Joseph has claimed to be a servant of God, and thus his foreknowledge cannot be exceeded. After all, each of Pharaoh’s “wise men” had failed to interpret this dream, but one “inspired man” had easily prevailed.

Pharaoh recognizes this distinction and wonders aloud to his servants where else they could ever find such a man as this, one who carries the Spirit of God. Throughout the Old Testament we will hear of many rulers who depend upon just such a man of God to counsel and forewarn them, and it seems that that long and noble pattern begins right here with Pharaoh and Joseph.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 41:33-36

33 Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. 

34 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 years.

35 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.

36 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.

Joseph not only interprets the dream, now he provides the solution to its problem, too. If the seven years of plenty came and no one knew that it would be followed by seven years of famine, who knows but whether they would live in rich indulgence, consuming all that they wished and selling the excess for riches, which would all do them little good when their storehouses were empty and their bellies ached. But, they do know better now, and these seven years of plenty can be years of preparation.

Joseph’s plan illustrates how incredible the harvest in the seven years of plenty will be, given that a mere fifth of each year’s yield will be enough to survive a corresponding year of famine. In fact, enough to survive and still have extra grain to sell to starving neighbors. God is providing all the resources that they need and more, if they only have the wisdom to make use of it.

This is Joseph’s counsel to Pharaoh, and it is worth noting that he is, indeed, counseling Pharaoh. To me this seems a very bold maneuver on his part. He had been summoned only to interpret a dream, and he had fulfilled that, but then, unbidden, he ventured to tell Pharaoh how to do his own job. But as we will see in the next verses, Pharaoh was not offended by Joseph’s boldness at all. On the contrary, he was delighted just to have found one who had such clarity and vision.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 41:29-32

29 Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt:

30 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;

31 And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.

32 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.

Joseph explains the message of the dream in plain terms. Seven years of plenty, immediately followed by seven years of famine. Twice Joseph stresses that the dearth will far surpass the plenty, such that all who are caught within the famine will not even regard the good years any more.

Verse 32 further confirms my theory that the river and the stalk, from which both plenty and famine emerge, are representative of God Himself. I do not believe that every hardship we experience in life is by the hand of God, some tragedies are just the natural result of living in a fallen world. Some trials are authored by the Almighty, though, and the famine is one of these.

It is important to note that God does not only send the famine, though, He also precedes it with years of plenty, by which one could save up and survive the deprivation. That is, they could if they knew to do so, and so it is also important to note that God sent the knowledge beforehand as well. He did not send that knowledge to just any man, either, He sent it to Pharaoh, the single most powerful person in all the country, a man who could really do something about it.

Thus God sends the trial, the solution, and the knowledge. All the tools are there, one has only to pick them up and use them. Of course picking up the tools and using them requires one to have faith that what God has said will be will actually be. They must take Him at His word and trust in His plan. So whatever else God meant to accomplish with this trial, at the very least He was teaching His children in Egypt that they lived by dependence on Him.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 41:25-28

25 And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do.

26 The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one.

27 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.

28 This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh.

Yesterday I theorized that the one river and the one stalk from which the cattle and grain emerged was representative of God Himself. Joseph’s introductory statement that “God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do,” seems to support that theory. God is the source of what is about transpire, the bounty and the deprivation, all are in His hand.

Joseph then proceeds to give a rapid identification for each of the separate parts of the dreams. The good cattle and grain are seven good years, the ill cattle and grain are seven years of famine. And now that he has defined all of the main players, he will drop the allegories, and plainly iterate exactly what is about to transpire.

And now that I look back to Joseph’s interpretations of the butler and baker’s dreams, this was the same method he took with them as well. First, he turned the symbols into their corresponding representations: “the three branches are three days,” and “the three branches are three days.” Then he dropped the similes and spoke in plain terms. “Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place,” and “Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree.”

I had not noticed this pattern in Joseph’s dream-interpreting until now. This method seems effective at making sure that all of the dreamer’s questions will be answered. They will know why they saw what they saw, and they will know what it means.