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.