When we left Joseph at the end of chapter 40, he was alone, forsaken, forgotten in the depths of the prison. Remember how he got there. He was the favoured son, a young man in-home his father delighted, and upon whom God’s favour rested. His visions of supremacy over his brothers, supposedly given him from God, enraged them to the point at which they despised and rejected him. Although they initially planned to kill him themselves, Judah sold him for the price of a slave, delivering him over to a group of Gentiles. Although God was with him and no guilt was found in him, he was falsely accused of sin, and unjustly sentenced to prison where he was forsaken and forgotten.
When we pick up the story in Genesis 41, we find that Joseph has been languishing in prison for over two years. Thus, in the third year of his imprisonment, the circumstances of chapter 41 can be fairly described as a miraculous resurrection. More than that - a miraculous resurrection and ascension, orchestrated by God for the deliverance of the world.
The Resurrection of Joseph
The circumstances leading to Joseph’s resurrection regard a third set of dreams recorded by Moses in these chapters. The first set of dreams were the ones given to Joseph in his youth, in which he saw representations of his brothers and family bowing before him. The second set of dreams were given to servants of the Pharaoh in prison with Joseph, in which one foretold of the baker’s execution, and one of the cupbearers restoration. And now the Pharaoh, most high over the land of Egypt, has his spirit troubled over a dream he has one night in which he first has a vivid picture of seven healthy cows being swallowed up by seven sickly weak cows, and seven plump ears of grain being swallowed up by seven sickly ears of grain. the dream was vivd and it was troubling. When he woke up the next day he called for all the magicians (probably better understood as fortune tellers, astrologers) of Egypt and all the wise men, and no one’s interpretations of the dreams were able to bring peace to Pharaoh.
At that, the chief cupbearer remembers Joseph and how Joseph’s interpretation of his dream in prison had come to pass. Pharaoh, a desperate man, sends and calls for Joseph, and in the blink of an eye, Joseph is raised from the prison to stand before Pharaoh, shaved and in new clothes. Just an aside here about the trustworthiness of scripture. One of our students in China was bothered by this detail - why does it record that Joseph was shaved? She thought it was such an arbitrary detail to include, if one were writing this story as fiction. So she actually went to her campus library and check out all the books on Egyptian culture and she found that the Pharaoh and his priests and everyone in Pharaoh’s court would remove all the hair from their face and head, and then wear false beards. Her amazement that the Bible would record such a detail was one of the factors that led her to believe in Christ.
And so Joseph stands in front of Pharaoh and testifies that it is not in him to interpret the dream, but that God himself will give Pharaoh the answer. Pharaoh tells Joseph the dream and Joseph interprets the dream for him. Now it is interesting here: we are not told that God whispers the interpretation in Joseph’s ears, or any such thing as that. It seems that Joseph is able to interpret the dream using the God given wisdom he has acquired. Joseph is able to speak wisdom and insight into Pharaoh’s dream that no one else is able to, because Joseph has a different picture of God than Pharaoh’s wise men. In other words, a true perception of God provides us with the ability to truly perceive and interpret the world.
He tells Pharaoh that this dream is from God. Pharaoh soul is unsettled because he knows that there is meaning in the dream beyond what his men are telling him. The wise men of this world who do not believe in the God of Scripture are unable to perceive that God is and that He is personally interacting with the lives of men. Pharaoh soul is unsettled because he knows that there is meaning in the dream beyond what his men are telling him.
He tells Pharaoh that this dream are one and the same Joseph sees that in the repetition of the dreams there is a unity in the message.
He tells Pharaoh that this dream is revelatory Joseph declares to Pharaoh that the God who exists and who is over all things is revealing a message to him through the dreams. God is not a silent idol who does not speak but a God who reveals his ways to humanity that we might know him and his purposes.
He tells Pharaoh that this dream declares the purposeful intent of God: Many ancient world views believed in an array of gods who were at cross purposes with one another and engaged in a battle for supremacy. Joseph knew the truth - that there is one God and he has one intent, and he relates to Pharaoh that the dream he has dreamed reveals the purposeful intent and plan of the one true God. In this case, the healthy cows and grain represent seven years of plenty followed and swallowed up by seven years of famine represented by the sickly cows and ears of grain.
He tells Pharaoh that this dream declares the fixedness of God’s intent: Joseph understands that the recurrence of the dream underscores the fixedness of God’s intent, that God’s purposes cannot be thwarted and at least in this case, will not be averted.
He tells Pharaoh that this dream declares the urgency of the hour: Finally, Joseph notes that the years and plenty and the years of famine that the dreams posted to will begin immediately and that the clock is running.
Finally, Joseph gives Pharaoh counsel. This is perhaps an overstep, as Joseph has only been asked to provide an interpretation of the dream, and not necessarily be an advisor. Yet the Lord’s wisdom not only gives Joseph the ability to discern the dream but the the clarity to see a path forward. And so he advises Pharaoh:
Gen. 41:33 Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. 35 And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36 That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”
This proposal leads to the most shocking turn of events in the entire book of Genesis:
The Ascension of Joseph
Gen. 41:37 This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. 43 And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” 45 And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-paneah. And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.
Joseph is made second-in-command over one of the most powerful nations on earth at the time. Moses devotes so much attention in telling the story of Joseph to Joseph’s clothes, from the multi-coloured robe of his father, to being stripped of it by his brothers, to the garment that was grabbed by Potipher’s wife, to the change of clothes before being brought before Pharaoh, and now to the garments of fine linen, including the gold chain, signet ring, all given to him as a sign of Pharaoh’s authority now conferred upon Joseph. Joseph is given a new name, a new office, a new wife, a new life. He does according to the plan he proposed to Pharaoh, stockpiling resources during the land of plenty and distributing them during the years of famine, and in this way, not only the Egyptians, but many the inhabitants of the earth are saved, as Moses records in Gen. 41:56
Gen. 41:56 So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.
It is clear that Joseph’s resurrection from the pit of prison and ascension to the right hand of Pharaoh is the most expansive picture yet in Genesis of the promise to Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in one of his descendants. It is a partial fulfillment of the promise, yes; yet, we also know that this cannot be the ultimate fulfillment. For one thing, Joseph, is an individual, he is not in himself a great nation, as the Lord had promised Abraham. His brothers are still just a family, not a nation, and a divided family at that. Neither is Joseph in the land of promise, but in Egypt. Joseph is well aware of this himself, for although he will spend the rest of his life in Egypt, his dying wish stated to his brothers and his sons, and of which he made them swear to do, was that when God would finally visit his people and bring them back to the land of promise, that they would carry his bones back to the promise land and bury him there. And so Joseph, the saviour and deliverer of the entire ancient world, by faith looked to a greater deliverance to come - a fact that the author of Hebrews points out in Hebrews 11:22:
22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.
And so while Joseph is not the ultimate deliverer, he is a type, a foreshadowing of the deliverer that God promised Abraham would come.
Let me say a few words about Biblical Typology, for it might e a new concept to you, unless you were here for our series on the book of Hebrews.
Typology understands that Biblical History, while being a true and accurate account of what happened, is but a shadow pointing to the substance of Jesus Christ and life in the New Covenant. The invisible spiritual realities are more real, more substantial, than what happened physically in history.
Typology recognizes that though there is one human writer of Scripture, there are two authors of Scripture, human and divine. Therefore, while the human author recorded his accounts according to his purpose, God is also moving the author to write according to his intent. For example, there is no doubt that Moses is presenting Joseph as the deliverer of Israel, yet Moses himself, by ending the book of Genesis with Joseph’s death, intends us to understand that Joseph is not the ultimate deliverer. However, Moses could not have understood how much the life of the ultimate deliverer would be a fulfillment of his account of the life of Joseph. Yet God gives us a picture in Joseph of Jesus. This means that as we look backward from the cross we see pictures of Jesus in the historical accounts, that God intended us to see, and that the human authors suggested but did not fully understand.
Peter says it this way: 1Pet. 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.
Typology is not allegory. Allegory is a “point-for-point comparison between [spiritual] intangibles under discussion and specified representations.” Typology does not make these sort of point-for-point connections. It’s a broader stroke. Its a fuzzy picture that comes into focus when exposed to the light of Jesus Christ and New Testament revelation.
So for example, In one of the few New Testament passages reflecting on the life of Joseph, the evangelist Stephen testifies to the Pharisees,
Acts 7:9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.
Stephen’s point, made later in that same speech, is that just as their father’s did to Joseph and the rest of the prophets “who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One”, so now they have done in betraying and murdering Jesus Christ. In other words, even though Joseph was not the son through whom the line of the saviour would be established, he is still a picture of God’s elevating his chosen One over the satanic resistance directed at him by evil men. Joseph is a picture of the promise to Abraham, a partial fulfillment in his generation, a blessing to the nations, a triumph of the plan of God over the wicked intentions of man, yet He is not the ultimate fulfillment of the Promise - he himself would point us to Jesus, who was also a young person favoured by God and men, who was also rejected and despised by his brethren for claiming a unique position among them, who was also handed over to the Gentiles for the price of a slave, who was also falsely accused of wickedness though no sin was found in him, who was also unjustly assign the fate of the wicked, who was also raised up from the pit yet in a literal and not figurative way, who was also given authority over the earth by the King over all, who also became saviour of all who would seek his aide, who also offers bread of life, freely to those who will come to him in our spiritual famine. Jesus is the greater Joseph.
And let me leave you with two words that come out of this chapter detailing the resurrection and ascension of Joseph. Two words that speak to the Lord’s salvation, two words that Joseph himself found significant as the Lord had lifted him up and exalted him over the nation: Forget and Fruitful. The two words come from the names Joseph gave his two sons in the midst of his ascension to the right hand of Pharaoh. They both speak to what God was doing in and through Joseph in raising him up, and they speak a word to us today as well.
Gen. 41:50 Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph. Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him. 51 Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” 52 The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
The First Word: Forget: Joseph gave his firstborn son the name Manasseh, which sounds like the Hebrew for “making to forget” saying, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The phrase is likely better understood “God has made me forget all the suffering of my father’s house.” It is not that Joseph forgot his family - it is that the Lord has allowed him to forgive and move beyond the sins of his brothers toward him. It is a name which signifies that as Joseph has been raised up by the Lord, the stain of family’s sin has been removed, set aside and remembered no more.
This is what redemption does. This is what salvation does. This is what Jesus does. This is the promise of the New Covenant, that we celebrate each week in the Lord’s supper:
Jer. 31:33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
It’s not that God forgets our sin, as if he has a faulty memory, it is that he chooses not to hold them against us any longer, for the sake of his name and in honour of the work of His Son.
Psa. 103:9 He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
In the death, burial resurrection and ascension of the true Deliverer, Jesus Christ, our sins are removed and forgotten, and thus we also proclaim forgiveness of sins in his name, forgiving one another as we have found forgives in Him.
Your sin stands before you, yet God proclaim “Forget”
The Second Word: Fruitful: Joseph gave his second son the name Ephraim, which sounds like the Hebrew for “making fruitful” saying, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.