Genesis 40–43: Testing & Triumph

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 11: Monday

So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made you know all of this, there is no one so understanding and wise as you are. 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.”
Genesis 41:30–40 LSB

Monday’s reading of Genesis 40–43, opens with Joseph in prison. Pharaoh has thrown his cupbearer and chief baker into confinement, and Joseph is placed in charge of them. Genesis 40:4 says they were in confinement for some time when they both had dreams. Joseph interprets the dreams of his fellow prisoners, and implores the cupbearer to speak to Pharaoh about him and get him out of prison.

Then Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: the three branches are three days; within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you will put Pharaoh’s cup into his hand according to your former custom when you were his cupbearer. Only remember me when it goes well with you, and please show me loving­kindness by remembering me to Pharaoh and getting me out of this house. For I was in fact stolen from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should have put me into the pit.”
Genesis 40:12–15 LSB

The baker’s dream predicted his execution. After three days, Joseph’s interpretation of both dreams comes to pass. The chapter ends with this sad commentary:

Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
Genesis 40:23 LSB

Genesis 41 opens by saying:

Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing by the Nile.
Genesis 41:1 LSB

The Bible emphasizes that Joseph has been in prison for well over two years. He was already there and supervising the prison when the cupbearer and chief baker joined him. Genesis 40:4 says they were in confinement for some time before they had their dreams. Now we learn that two full years have passed since then and Joseph is still prison.

The cupbearer finally remembers Joseph when Pharaoh is disturbed by his dreams of the cows and corn and none of Pharaoh’s magicians or wise men can interpret the dreams.

Pharaoh calls for Joseph to interpret the dreams; he explains God has declared to Pharaoh there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.

“So now let Pharaoh look for a man understanding and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh take action and appoint overseers over the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and let them store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them keep watch over it. And let the food be appointed for the land for the seven years of famine which will happen in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not be cut off during the famine.”
Genesis 41:33-36 LSB

Joseph not only interprets the dreams, but also gives Pharaoh a working plan to prepare for the years of famine.

So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made you know all of this, there is no one so understanding and wise as you are. 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.”
Genesis 41:30–40 LSB

Joseph’s skills of administration, proven in Potiphar’s house and in prison, are then put to use as he has grain gathered and stored for the hungry years.

Joseph was only 17 years old when the train of events began that lead to his slavery in Egypt. Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Thirteen long years of enduring hatred, slavery, lies, and prison, with his sterling character and faithfulness to God proven time and again. We get a glimpse of what he suffered in the naming of his sons.

Pharaoh gives Joseph a wife, and when their sons are born, Joseph names them Manasseh, lit., making to forget and Ephraim, lit., fruitfulness.

Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”
He named the second Ephraim, “For,” he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
Genesis 41:51–52 LSB

Meredith Kline comments:

“Joseph’s explanation of the names of Manasseh and Ephraim continued his witness to his God, with thanksgiving. He had forgotten the house of Jacob (v. 51) only in the sense that the hard­ship brought on him by his brothers was a thing of the past by virtue of the remarkable turn of providence.”1

Joseph’s time of testing has ended in triumph. In Psalm 105 God’s purpose in sending Joseph to Egypt is described. Alec Motyer has this translation:2

And he summoned a famine over the land;
the whole staff of bread he broke.
He sent ahead of them a man,
sold as a slave, Joseph.
They afflicted his feet with fetters;
his neck came into iron.
Until at the right time
his word came about,
the word of Yahweh refined him.
The king himself sent and set him free;
the ruler of peoples released him.
He appointed him sovereign over his house,
and ruler over all his property
To bind his princes at his desire,
and to make his elders wise.
Psalm 105:16–22 AM

In a footnote on his neck came into iron, Motyer gives an alternate translation of iron entered his soul.3 Derek Kidner comments,

“Coverdale’s haunting expression, ‘the iron entered into his soul’ (PBV), comes from the Vulgate, not the Hebrew, The latter has it the other way round : his nepeš entered into iron’, wheren nepeš can mean ‘soul’, ‘life’, ‘self”, or possibly (it has been suggested on the basis of the Akkadian and Ugaritic) ‘throat’—hence the ‘iron collar’ of most modern translations. This last suggestion may be right; but the choice of this word rather than a more obvious one for ‘throat’ must have aroused at least some thought of the word’s most fundamental meaning, i.e., that it was more than Joseph’s flesh that felt the iron : his whole being came into its embrace. While Genesis highlights his undaunted spirit of service in prison, the psalm poetically emphasizes the other side : the cruel fact of being caged.”4

James Montgomery Boice writes,

“Joseph, who rose from slavery to a position of power, illustrates the triumph of faith…

“The greatest single characteristic of Joseph was his absolute faithfulness to God under all circumstances, and it is through this that God worked to exalt him so highly. Joseph never yielded to that saying: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” In Egypt Joseph might have been tempted to do this. He was far from home with little chance of ever seeing his father or other family members again…He knew that he was God’s child and that his responsibility was to live for and be faithful to God, regardless of what should come into his life.”

“Joseph never complained..

“Joseph never compromised.

“…Throughout his life…God continued to guide him no less when he was in Potiphar’s prison than when he was beside the monarch’s throne. God was always the chief and determining reality in Joseph’s life.

“…God was at the center of his thinking, and because his was a great God he was able to triumph through faith in any circumstances…

“Since Joseph is never reported as having done anything wrong and since he triumphed abundantly in these and many other adverse circumstances, he is an outstanding model of true godly living—second only to the examply of Jesus Christ…

“There is another thing about the story of Joseph that we must highlight…Joseph’s story is a great example, perhaps the chief example in all the Bible, of the benevolent providence of God, the doctrine spelled out in Romans 8:28” “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

“The remarkable thing about God’s providence in the story of Joseph’s life is that God used such little things as likns in the chain of circumstances by which he was to exalt Joseph to be the prime minister of Egypt and eventually save millions of people from starvation during the seven-year famine. These circumstances were as insignificant as the wonderful coat that led his brothers to hate him, or the dreams of Joseph that intensified that hatred. They were as wonderful as his being sold to Potiphar, the captain of the guard, or his being imprisoned with the cupbearer and baker of the king of Egypt, one of whom would be alive two years later to remember how Joseph had interpreted his dream while in prison and suggest that Joseph might be the one to tell Pharaoh the meaning of his dream. When these things are happening, we seldom realize how important they are. But looking back, we can see that God was at work—often when we were least aware of his working.

“…That is why we must never chafe against the circumstances God brings to us…They are God’s weaving of the tapestry of our lives. The important thing for every believer is to be living in the light of God’s presence, knowing that his or her life is being guided by God’s hand. You may look at your life and see dark threads and wonder how God can possibly use those threads to produce a thing of beauty. But you should look at the life of Joseph and remember that God uses even the wrath of men to praise him.”5

Over and over in Genesis 39, when Joseph was sold as a slave to Potiphar, and then thrown into prison, the Bible tells us that God was with him. When Stephen preached his sermon, Luke records these words:

“And the patriarchs, becoming jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt. Yet God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions, and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he appointed him governor over Egypt and all his household.”
Acts 7:9–10 LSB

When Joseph endured the physical and emotional cruelty of being caged, he did not know what God was doing. He did not know God’s purpose in those long, hard years. Yet God was with him… What great encouragement for us to remember when our days are hard to trust God and to be faithful. God is with us: Immanuel, God with us; always, even to the end of the age.

At the end of Genesis 41, famine comes to Egypt, and in Genesis 42 we learn it has also come to Canaan. Jacob, his sons, and their families begin to suffer, and the ten oldest brothers travel to Egypt to buy grain. They don’t recognize Joseph, but Joseph recognizes them. Now Joseph will test his brothers. Their travels and testing continue into Genesis 45 in next week’s reading.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Joseph Interprets the Dream of Pharaoh: Jean-Adrien Guignet: Public Domain.
1Meredith G. Kline, “Genesis,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 109.
2,3Alec Motyer, Psalms By The Day: A New Devotional Translation (Christian Focus Publications Ltd, Ross-shire, Scotland, U.K. 2016) Verses tagged as AM are Alec Motyer’s translation on 295, 295.
4Derek Kidner, Psalm 73–150 (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1975) 375.
5James Montgomery Boice, Genesis: An Expositional Commentary, Volume 3: Genesis 37:1–50:26 (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI: 1987) 13–15.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2021–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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