Genesis 41 by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:57 mins 33 secs

Suffering for Blessing: Divine Promotion; Genesis 41


We are tracking the development of Joseph as God prepares him for a unique role of leadership as a non-native Egyptian in the second highest position in Egypt, and He is using that for a special place of safety and security to bring the rest of the family out of the promised land and into Egypt. The large picture of this section is how God is bringing Israel and the descendants of Jacob out of this pagan environment in Canaan. He brings them down to Egypt because they have become so complacent spiritually. They have compromised so much, they don't care about spiritual things, they are intermarrying with the Canaanites, and it threatens to dilute the seed, the descendants of Abraham.


Joseph has been in prison now for almost three years and God is teaching him. God has him in His training school to prepare him for his future role of leadership. What are the qualities that we would want in a good leader? One quality that is needful in a good leader is humility—genuine humility, teachability where he can learn. A leader who becomes so convinced of his own rectitude but is unwilling to take correction, either from his superiors or from his subordinates when he is wrong, unwilling to have the objectivity to look at his own decisions and actions, cannot be a good leader. Biblically speaking a good leader has to have genuine humility. A genuine leader has a servant's part; he is one who is to serve, not someone who is to be served. A second quality is trust in God. He has to be willing to rest and relax in the provision of God; he has to mature in the faith-rest drill. Third, he has to be oriented to grace, because there are many times when one is a leader that he will be attacked, he will be insulted and assaulted, and yet he has to develop a thick skin and treat people not as they deserve to be treated but out of grace, and have kindness toward them even though they don't deserve that. He also has to be doctrinally oriented, specifically oriented to the plan and purposes of God. Doctrine provides that framework for understanding history and where things are going. He has to have a love for God, a love for people, and he has to focus on who God is, and his thoughts need to be occupied with Him. 


After Joseph was arrested and put in prison, and immediately God grants him grace in the eyes of the prison authorities. They elevate him to authority over things, Genesis 39:22 NASB "The chief jailer committed to Joseph's charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible {for it.}" So he not only has leadership development as the chief slave for Potiphar but now he is elevated to basically run and administer the prison. He gets lots of opportunities to interact with people, to organize things, to make sure that problems get solved, logistical issues get solved, personal conflicts get resolved. God has him in a place where he has to learn these things and one of them is patience, to wait on the Lord. Joseph wants out but God doesn't let him. Many times we find ourselves in that same position, where we want things to hurry up and be resolved, and God says no, the issue isn't getting through the process, the issue is how you go through the process. It may take three years in some tests, it may take five years, ten years, fifteen years, or even longer; but that adversity is the school that God is taking you through that He has personally tailored for you because He knows your soul, your sin nature, your strengths, your weaknesses, and He has brought that right into your life because He knows that is what you need to bring you to spiritual maturity.


Joseph was sold into slavery at around 17 or 18 years of age. He spent about ten years or so as a servant to Potiphar before he is arrested and thrown in prison, and he spends about three or four years in prison. So he's about 30 or 31 when he is finally released from prison. He has been going through this training session, and training involves suffering and adversity.


The doctrine of suffering for blessing

1)  God's training program utilizes adversity to teach us to use the ten problem-solving devices. These are spiritual skills that we have to develop, to hone through practice, until they become second nature to us.

2)  As we learn to use those skills they enable us to stay in fellowship so that we can learn to walk by the Spirit and abide in Christ.

3)  Each skill operates within the environment of testing. We can't just learn it in the classroom. As we do that we have the option of relying on either human viewpoint or divine viewpoint.

4)  Why do we suffer? We suffer for three basic reasons. a) We suffer because we all live in a fallen world. b) We live with fallen creatures. c) We have our own sin nature. The first two involve undeserved suffering. The third involves deserved suffering. The only way to handle these is through these spiritual skills that God gives us.

5)  The purposes for deserved suffering. a) the natural consequences of our own sins or bad decisions, Hosea 8:7; Galatians 6:7; b) divine discipline. Undeserved suffering can have four different purposes. a) It can serve as a wake-up call to evangelism for the unbeliever. It may be God's way of getting their attention; b) For the believer undeserved suffering is related to spiritual growth; c) It is a witness to others. How we handle the crises in our life is a testimony to the angels and to other believers; d) It is an encouragement to others by watching our example.


Genesis 41:1 NASB "Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing by the Nile." From here to verse 8 we have the story of the dreams themselves. The details of these dreams are going to be repeated again when Pharaoh describes the dreams to Joseph in verses 17-24, so there is a certain amount of repetition in the text to make sure we understand what happens in the dream.


Genesis 41:2 NASB "And lo, from the Nile there came up seven cows, sleek and fat; and they grazed in the marsh grass." These were fine looking, healthy cows that were going to be good for eating.

Genesis 41:3 NASB "Then behold, seven other cows came up after them from the Nile, ugly and gaunt, and they stood by the {other} cows on the bank of the Nile." They were just skin and bones.

Genesis 41:4 NASB "The ugly and gaunt cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. Then Pharaoh awoke."

Genesis 41:5 NASB "He fell asleep and dreamed a second time; and behold, seven ears of grain came up on a single stalk, plump and good." Similar terms are used as to the first dream.


This was so real to Pharaoh that when he woke up it bothered him. He didn't understand what these dreams meant but he had this sense of foreboding, an overwhelming sense that whatever it was, it wasn't good. So he calls in the magicians, the diviner priests. In the ancient world they had various guilds of magicians. These were men who practiced demonism. They were involved with fortune telling, with necromancy, all kinds of divination trying to foretell the future, and they came up with a complex variety of ways to interpret dreams. Yet none of them could interpret these dreams.


The cupbearer was in a high position and would be always present with the Pharaoh. He was the most trusted of all the servants and at this time he remembers. God caused him to remember Joseph.


Genesis 1:14 NASB "Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh." Joseph recognized that if he was going into the presence of Pharaoh he would have to be dressed in a way that was pleasing to the Egyptians. The Egyptians, especially the aristocracy, were fastidious about their cleanliness and their appearance. They shaved their heads and their faces, they did not have beards. The viewed other people as rather barbaric if they had facial hair or the men had hair at all. So Joseph wants to present himself in a manner that is non-offensive to the Pharaoh.


Gen 41:15, 16 NASB "Pharaoh said to Joseph, I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it. Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer." This is Joseph's God-orientation. In the Egyptian understanding of things the Pharaoh was god; he was the incarnation of god. Joseph doesn't back off, he is very courageous; yet he is not confrontive in the way he deals with this.


Pharaoh describes the cream to Joseph and then Joseph interprets the dream, beginning in verse 25, and points out that both dreams are dealing with the same principle. That is, that there were going to be seven years of plenty throughout all of the land of Egypt and then there were going to be seven years of famine. This was important for Egypt because it was one of the most significant grain producers throughout all the ancient world.


Genesis 41:28 NASB "It is as I have spoken to Pharaoh: God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do." So that Pharaoh can prepare.

Genesis 41:32 NASB "Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, {it means} that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about." Notice how diplomatic Joseph is. He is very gentle and wise, and that shows his maturity, that he has learned to handle himself and to present his position in a way that is winsome.

Genesis 41:33 NASB "Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt." The word for "discernment" is the Hebrew word bin, and it means to make a decision between two options. It is somebody who is decisive, someone who can understand the issue, who can make good decisions and cut through all of the chaff and get to the heart of the matter. The second word, translated "wise," is the Hebrew word chakam, which means someone who is skilful at constructing something, producing something.  Joseph lays out a table of organization of how all of this should be accomplished. This impressed Pharaoh, this ability to see how this should happen.


Each year there would be a 20 per cent agricultural tax in each of these seven good years and then put that into storage cities in order to prepare for the seven lean years. This lays down an important economic principle in Scripture. That is, the importance of saving for future bad times. You never know what is going to happen around the corner. It is important to have a regular and consistent plan of taking from what God gives us and putting it in savings in order to plan and prepare for the future, whether it is for retirement or difficult times. The course of wisdom is to save a good chunk of income on a regular and consistent basis. Genesis 41:36 NASB "Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine."

Genesis 41:37, 38 NASB "Now the proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants. Then Pharaoh said to his servants, 'Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?'" Pharaoh recognizes that the Spirit of God is on Joseph. It is apparent to this unbeliever that Joseph is blessed by God. Pharaoh sets him up as the number two person in Egypt. He is, as it were, the Prime Minister of Egypt.

Genesis 41:44 NASB "Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, "{Though} I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt." That is the kind of power God gave Joseph, and Joseph didn't abuse that power. He shows what real integrity is like in leadership. He does exactly what is right for the people.

Joseph has two children, and this is a reminder of the Abrahamic covenant and the promise of blessing and fruitfulness. He has two sons and he names the firstborn Manasseh, which means making forget. It is the idea that with Manasseh he is forgetting that which has gone before, the slavery, the facts of what his brothers had done. Genesis 41:51 NASB "Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, "For," {he said,} "God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household." The second son he calls Ephraim, and his name has the idea of fertility, of pasture land, and so this is a reminder of the fact that God has caused him to be fruitful and productive in the land of his enemies.

Genesis 41:54, 55 NASB "and the seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said, then there was famine in all the lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, 'Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, you shall do.'" Then not only did all the Egyptians come to him, but in the last verse all the countries surrounding Egypt came to Joseph for food. So God has taken him from the prison and elevated him to a position of power, and he had to prepare him first for that position of power spiritually so that he could handle those responsibilities with integrity and leadership. God does the same thing for us. We may not be destined to be the second in command in our nation but we are being prepared to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ as kings and priests, and our training ground is here on earth right now where we learn doctrine. There is only one thig we are going to take with us when we die and that is the doctrine in our soul and the capacity we have.