Summary: Joseph languished in prison for two years after he thought he had a chance to get out. But when Pharaoh came calling suddenly he was ready to serve. So how do we keep "at the ready" when God comes to ask us to serve unexpectedly?
2 years passes after Joseph gives interpretation to the baker and butler. What must Joseph had thought. After it looked like God was making a way for him to get out of prison – the days were followed by weeks which were followed by months and years – and nothing. You’d think God had given up on you. But for God – a thousand years is like a day. In that timescale it’d been less than 5 minutes since Joseph interpreted the dreams.
Lesson? Don’t judge God’s intentions by our impatience.
Verses 2 – 7
We don’t really know which Pharaoh we’re talking about here – and the first name isn’t mentioned.
Dreams that come in twos in the Bible are often used as a way to indicate that the matter was certain – it was going to happen. In verse 32 – Joseph as much as says this.
Pharaoh knew this dream wasn’t just an ordinary one – but significant. The Pharaohs considered themselves divine – so it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to have his dreams interpreted.
The magicians and wise men are the same kind that try to mimic the plagues found in Egypt. They were either professional dream interpreters or sorcerers who interpreted dreams along with other duties. This is very similar to what we see in Daniel. They couldn’t interpret it – we don’t know if they threw up their hands or somehow God kept them from forming an opinion because he wanted to jostle the memory of the chief cupbearer.
Verses 9 – 14
So you’re Joseph. You feel abandoned – maybe a little sorry for yourself – rotting in prison. And one day these guys come rushing in – “get up, you’re going to meet Pharaoh!” And they hand him some clothes and a razor and point him to the showers.
What do you suppose he was thinking – either this is good or very very bad.
It reminds me of what Jesus said:
Luke 12:11-12 "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say."
2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season;
“in season or out of season” means “when its convenient and when its not.” God doesn’t often give us a “heads up” that we need to testify of Him.
Go with God’s flow!
Verses 15 – 16
Like Daniel – Joseph tells the king that he cannot interpret dreams – but God can.
“the answer he desires” doesn’t mean it’s the answer Pharaoh wants but like saying “Pharaoh wants an answer and an answer he is going to get.”
Verses 17 – 24
A retelling of the dreams for Joseph’s benefit.
Verses 25 – 32
This would have seemed strange to Pharaoh. Joseph does not name Yahweh as the source of the interpretation – but generic “God.” In Pharaoh’s world view it would have to be a powerful god to hold back the river flood – which was very dependable. Egypt didn’t often suffer from famine. But normally a god would have had to be offended in some way to bring about some negative circumstance.
No offense is given – and even stranger, the famine is proceeded by 7 years of plenty. So Pharaoh has got to be shaking his head.
Okay – so we’ve seen Joseph be ready to jump in there in an unusual situation and allow God to speak through him. But this next part was Joseph’s native and God-given abilities coming out – a lesson for us as well.
Verses 33 – 36
This was, of course, God’s plan all along – it was why He had Joseph go to Egypt – in order to protect this infant nation during a terrible famine – then also rescue them later from Egypt to show them His power and introduce Himself formally to them – all this to protect the line of the Messiah, the ultimate rescuer.
But notice that Joseph understands the political and social implications of the dream and instantly has a solution to propose to Pharaoh. I think this was Joseph – his innate administrative abilities – introduced in chapter 37 – honed by his experiences as a slave and as a prisoner – coming out in full force.
It’s really quite a brilliant strategy. He could have suggested that the people be forced to save crops themselves – but by creating a central administration and control he secures the kingdom for Pharaoh politically – plus equally provides for the sustaining of the people by a central storage then reselling of the crops to the people.