So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, "In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh's cup, and put the cup in his hand."Three days later Pharaoh had a birthday party and invited the chief cupbearer and the chief baker to attend. He restored the chief cupbearer and hung the chief baker, just as Joseph had said. The chief cupbearer, however, forgot all about Joseph.
"This is what it means," Joseph said to him. "The three branches are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh's cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon."
When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, "I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread. In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head."
"This is what it means," Joseph said. "The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat away your flesh."
When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.Two years have passed, and Joseph was thirty years old but still in the Egyptian dungeon waiting on his Lord. Then one night God gave Pharaoh two dreams. Kings were thought to be close to the divine realm, so they were often credited with revelatory dreams according to the ancient oriental texts. The Pharaoh was troubled and sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt to interpret his dreams. They had four clues out of their Egyptian religion: First, seven was a sacred number sometimes symbolizing fate (for the Hebrews it symbolized completion, based on Genesis 1-2,where God created the world in seven days). Second, the reeds by the banks of Nile symbolized the vegetation alongside the Nile. Third, the Nile was both the basis and the symbol of Egypt's power and wealth, for as it overflowed it became the source of the fertility of the land. And fourth, the cows were the symbol of Egypt as well as one of their goddesses, Isia. Isia was the goddess of the all-sustaining earth, and in the hieroglyphics the cow represented the earth, agriculture, and food. But even with these four clues the magicians were unable to provide any spiritual wisdom or reasonable interpretation.
He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted---thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.
In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.
Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, "Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged.
So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.
Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it."
"I cannot do it," Joseph replied to Pharaoh, "but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires."
But finally the cupbearer remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh about his dream as well as the baker's dream, and how this Hebrew prisoner had interpreted them both to the letter: "I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged." So Pharaoh sent for Joseph and brought him out of the dungeon. Then they shaved him (the Egyptians hated hair and would shave all the hair off their bodies and then wear wigs), changed his clothes, and brought him before the king. Joseph, the former shepherd, slave, and then prisoner, stood before the king of Egypt. The king repeated the dreams to Joseph with the hope, based on the story of his cupbearer, that he would be able to interpret them. Joseph once again gave honor and glory to Yahweh, saying, "I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires."
"To God belong wisdom and power;
counsel and understanding are his...
He leads counselors away stripped
and makes fools of judges...
He silences the lips of trusted advisers
and takes away the discernment of elders...
He reveals the deep things of darkness
and brings deep shadows into night."
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows came up---scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.
In my dreams I also saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads sprouted---withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none could explain it to me."
Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, "The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.
"It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and famine will ravage the land. The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.
And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine."
The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. So Pharaoh asked them, "Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?"
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you."The king was encouraged to believe Joseph, because in contrast to the complexity the magicians had put into their attempts to interpret his dreams, Joseph's interpretation was clear and practical. Notice that the Egyptian rulers didn't like to work! (1) Potiphar turned everything over to Joseph, (2) the prison warden turned everything over to Joseph, and (3) now the Pharaoh turned everything over to Joseph (of course, in each case Joseph was under their authority).
So Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt." Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph's finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and men shouted before him, "Make way!" Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt." Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.
Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh's presence and traveled throughout Egypt. During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.
Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, "It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household." The second son he named Ephraim and said, "It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering."
The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph and do what he tells you."
When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world.
There are numerous examples of Semites rising to positions of great authority in Egypt from the Middle Kingdom...and New Kingdom periods. One of the most striking parallels from the time of Akhenaton is that of Titu, who, among other offices, was appointed "highest mouth in the whole country." This last title meant that he had total authority in the special task he was given and was responsible only to the Pharaoh. It is one of the titles that Joseph is supposed to have had. The wall paintings on the tomb at Tell el-Amarna show Titu's appointment by the Pharaoh, who is putting the golden necklace of office around his neck. They also show him leaving the palace, getting into his chariot and riding off as the people prostrate themselves before him in acclamation. (Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 2, Gordon Wenham.)He was given Potiphera's daughter Asenath in marriage. (Potiphera was a priest of On, the sun god, and his daughter belonged to the goddess Neit. From a very early date there was a celebrated temple of the sun god in Egypt. It had a learned priesthood, and it held the first place among the priest colleges of Egypt.)
"Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name,The great famine of the prophecy finally arrived, and it affected not only Egypt but other lands including Israel, where Joseph's family lived in Hebron. But because of the wisdom of Joseph there was now food in Egypt. When the people of Egypt went to Pharaoh and cried out to him for food, he told them to go to Joseph. Joseph then opened the storehouses and sold to the people the grain that he had been storing for the last seven years. Then the word got out, and all the countries that were affected by the famine also began sending their people to Egypt to purchase grain. And once again this was part of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant as stated by God to Jacob in a dream: "...In you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 28:14.)
make known among the nations what he has done...
[God] called down famine on the land
and destroyed all their supplies of food;
and he sent a man before them---
Joseph, sold as a slave.
They bruised his feet with shackles,
his neck was put in irons,
till what he foretold came to pass,
till the word of the LORD proved him true."
...When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!...It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death---and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.Spiritual maturity begins with (1) learning to live by faith in God regardless of the immediate circumstances. The next step is to (2) no longer trust in ourselves. All this is possible when we are (3) filled with the Spirit of God. And then we (4) allow the Lord to raise us up at the right time to serve him all the days of our lives.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth---even those long ago dead and buried---will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11 in The Message, a modern paraphrase by Eugene Peterson.)
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