Front Matter Book Intro

Detailed Outline

E. Joseph Rose to Power in Egypt: The Power of God to Work Things Out For His Servant, the Believer, 41:1-57

(41:1-57) Introduction Sovereignty: this chapter is an excellent study of God's power. God definitely has the power to move events, to work things out for the sake of His servant and His people. Note the following three verses that show this so clearly. The verses explain exactly what was happening.

"God [has shown] Pharaoh what he [God] is about to do" (Genesis 41:25).

"What God is about to do he [has shown to] Pharaoh" (Genesis 41:28).

"...the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass" (Genesis 41:32).

God was now ready to raise Joseph to power in Egypt so that He could save His people, Israel. God was now ready to use His servant Joseph to fulfill His promises to the chosen family (see Division Overview and Deeper Study #1 Genesis 37:1-50:26). God's power is seen moving both small events (e.g. the butler's memory, Genesis 40:9-13) and worldwide events (e.g. exalting Joseph to be the nation's leader).

Note that Joseph was unmistakably God's servant. All that he had learned through the trials of his life was now used by God in a great purpose for both Israel and the world. Israel would now be saved and the world blessed (see Division Overview and Deeper Study #1 Genesis 37:1-50:26).

This is the great truth of this passage: God will do whatever is needed to fulfill His will upon earth. He will move the smallest detail or the greatest event in order to fulfill His promises and purposes. God will work all things out for the sake of His dear servant and follower. God will work all things out for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). This is the great subject of this most important passage: Joseph Rose to Power in Egypt: The Power of God to Work Things Out For His Servant, the Believer, 41:1-57.

1. God's power to strengthen and trouble men (v.1-7).

2. God's power to make men ineffective: the wise men failed to see the need and to meet the need (v.8).

3. God's power to make men remember: the butler remembered God's servant, Joseph (v.9-13).

4. God's power to deliver His servant: Joseph was needed to help others (v.14-24).

5. God's power to give His servant insight: Joseph saw the great trial coming upon earth (v.25-32).

6. God's power to give counsel and wisdom and to speak through His servant: Joseph showed how the need could be met (v.33-36).

7. God's power to use His servant: Joseph was exalted to be governor (v.37-44).

8. God's power to meet His servant's personal needs (v.45).

9. God's power to make his servant wise and competent (v.46-49).

10. God's power to bless His servant's personal life: Joseph was blessed with two sons (v.50-52).

11. God's power to meet the needs of people through His servant (v.53-57).

1. (41:1-7) Power, Of God Sovereignty: God has the power to strengthen and trouble men. God has the power to do what He wants, the power to work within people as He wills. However, God's power is never arbitrary and never unjust or evil. God wants the very best for us and for the world. This is clearly seen in the passage before us. Note how God used His power to help everyone involved, both the good and the evil, both the believer and the unbeliever, both His servant and those who worshipped false gods.

1. God's power strengthened Joseph to endure prison for two more years (Genesis 41:1). Note the reference to two years. Joseph was in prison for two entire years after the chief cupbearer's release. Remember the cupbearer had promised to appeal Joseph's case before Pharaoh, but he had forgotten all about his promise, ignored and forgotten all about Joseph and his suffering in prison. Joseph went through what any of us go through when we are facing terrible problems and friends forget us: disappointment, disgust, discouragement, and wondering what to do next. Our emotions can even turn into anger, bitterness, hatred, and retaliation. Or they can turn into depression and a broken spirit that makes us feel hopeless, wondering why we should go on.

But not Joseph. Joseph was bound to be disappointed, but he knew something: he knew that God cared and that God had always helped His people. Joseph believed in God and Joseph followed God; therefore, he knew that God would help him. Joseph obviously did what all believers do when bad circumstances crush in upon them: he cried out to God for help and strength, and God encouraged his heart and strengthened him to walk through the terrible trial. And keep in mind how much longer the trial lasted, two entire years. He had already been in prison for many months, perhaps years. And now two more years had passed, for a total of three or more years. But the fact to note is God and His power: God was with Joseph, always helping and strengthening Joseph through his trials and terrible suffering.

2. But God not only used His power to strengthen His servant, God used His power to disturb a man, Pharaoh himself (Genesis 41:1b-4). God disturbed Pharaoh through a dream. The dream was this:

Pharaoh stood by the river Nile (Genesis 41:1).

Suddenly, seven well-fed cows came up out of the river and began grazing among the reeds by the bank (Genesis 41:2).

Then all of a sudden, seven thin, poorly fed cows came up out of the Nile river and stood by the well-fed cattle (Genesis 41:3).

Suddenly the seven thin cows turned on the well-fed cows and ate them (Genesis 41:4)

3. God startled Pharaoh and he woke up. The suggestion is that he was disturbed (Genesis 41:4b). Note that Scripture simply says that Pharaoh awoke, but keep in mind that God was behind the whole scene causing Pharaoh to dream.

4. God disturbed Pharaoh again and he had a second dream (Genesis 41:5-7). This dream was about grain, most likely corn.

He saw seven full ears growing on one single stalk (Genesis 41:5).

Then he saw seven thin ears sprout, seven thin ears that had been blasted by the east wind (Genesis 41:6).

All of a sudden, the seven thin ears swallowed the seven full ears of corn (Genesis 41:7).

5. God startled Pharaoh a second time and Pharaoh awoke.

Again, the point to see is God's power to work within people. God has the power both to strengthen us and to disturb us. God has the power to work within our hearts and lives, the power to work all things out for good if we will just trust Him and call upon Him. Joseph did, and God strengthened Joseph to bear the severest of trials, prison itself.

Thought 1. God will strengthen and help us if we will simply do what Joseph did: trust God and call upon God for help. But note: God also has the power to disturb us, just as He did Pharaoh. God has the power to cause an uneasiness, a confusion, a conviction within our souls. When this happens, we also need to do what Joseph did: seek God for help. God will always meet our need, no matter what it is.

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17).

"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor. 12:9).

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12-13).

"Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

"And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev. 7:13-14).

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21:4).

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him" (Psalm 28:7).

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all" (Psalm 34:19).

"The LORD will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness" (Psalm 41:3).

2. (41:8) Power, Of God Sovereignty Ignorance: God has the power to make men ineffective. God has the power to cause men to fail, to fail in seeing the need and in meeting the need. Note that Pharaoh was deeply disturbed by the dreams. He felt sure there was some significance to them, so he called for all the magicians and wise men to come to the palace court. He told them his dreams, but not a single one could interpret the dreams; not a single one could tell Pharaoh what they meant.

It is really surprising that the wise men could not interpret the dreams. The river was bound to be understood as the Nile. The well-fed cows were clearly a symbol of the productivity that the great Nile river brought to the land, the thin cows a symbol of the famine that comes when the Nile dries up and does not flood and water the land.

All indications point toward God's blocking the minds of the Egyptian magicians. God was working behind the scenes to work things out for His servant and His people; therefore, the minds of the interpreters were somehow confused. They were unable to see the great economic crisis that was soon to sweep their land and the surrounding nations.

Thought 1. God has the power to make men ineffective, the power to even block their minds from solving the simplest problems. God has the power to make men fail, to keep them from seeing what the real need is and what the answer to meeting the need is. God has the power to make men ineffective so that He can work things out for the greater good of the world and His people.

Thought 2. The wisdom and power of God are unlimited in helping us.

1) Note that the ignorance of man is a fact of life.

"For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow" (Job 8:9).

"So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee" (Psalm 73:21-22).

"For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?" (Eccles. 8:7).

"For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them" (Eccles. 9:12).

"As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all" (Eccles. 11:5).

2) Note the wisdom and power of God.

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever" (Romans 11:33-36).

"Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Cor. 1:25).

"O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches" (Psalm 104:24).

"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us" (Ephes. 3:20).

"Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all" (1 Chron. 29:12).

"He divideth the sea with his power, and by his understanding he smiteth through the proud" (Job 26:12).

"I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee" (Job 42:2).

"God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God" (Psalm 62:11).

"But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased" (Psalm 115:3).

"But Jesus beheld [them], and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).

"For with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37).

3. (41:9-13) Power, Of God Memory: God has the power to make men remember. God stirred the butler or cupbearer to remember His servant Joseph. The cupbearer was obviously standing there by the king as the magicians one by one confessed their inability to interpret the dream. Then suddenly he remembered Joseph. Note that he spoke to Pharaoh, apologizing for having forgotten about this skillful man and not mentioning him before.

1. The chief cupbearer then recalled his own past circumstances and need (Genesis 41:10-11). He had been put in prison with the chief baker. They had both had a dream on the same night, and each dream had its own meaning (Genesis 41:10).

2. Then finally, after two long years, the cupbearer told Pharaoh about Joseph (Genesis 41:12). He remembered a young man, a Hebrew, who had very special insight and understanding. The young man had interpreted the dreams for the cupbearer and the baker, and everything happened just as he had said (Genesis 41:13). The chief cupbearer was restored to his position in the court of Pharaoh, and the chief baker was hanged (Genesis 41:13).

Note, the cupbearer is suggesting that Joseph had unusual spiritual insight and understanding, and that Pharaoh should call for Joseph. But keep in mind: God was causing this chain of events; God was the Person working all things out for both His servant and His people.

Thought 1. God was the Person who had stirred the memory of the cupbearer to remember Joseph in prison. God can stir and work within the hearts of people to remember us and to help us in our desperate circumstances when we need help.

"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us" (Ephes. 3:20).

"This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles" (Psalm 34:6).

"Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed" (Psalm 37:3).

"Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I" (Psalm 61:1-2).

"The LORD hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death. Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD: this gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter. I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation" (Psalm 118:18-21).

4. (41:14-24) Power, Of God Deliverance: God has the power to deliver His servant. God took Joseph and delivered him, but note why: because he was needed to help others. The points of this note are of critical importance for us all. They tell us why God delivers us through the trials and bad circumstances of life.

1. God delivered Joseph from his bad circumstances of both enslavement and imprisonment (Genesis 41:14). (See note Genesis 39:1-6; note Genesis 39:13-20; note Genesis 39:21-23; and note Genesis 41:1-7 for a description of the terrible trials and sufferings of Joseph. It was from these that God was now delivering him.)

Note that Joseph groomed himself: he shaved and changed his clothes, and then he was brought into the king's court before Pharaoh.

2. God delivered Joseph to stand among people who were in great need (Genesis 41:15). There stood Joseph before the most powerful ruler in the world and all his top officials. They were in great need, about to face a terrifying crisis, but they were totally unaware of the coming crisis and need. But God knew what was coming, and He was going to use His servant Joseph to warn them.

Pharaoh came straight to the point: he told Joseph that he had a dream during the night, but no one had been able to interpret it. However, he had heard that Joseph could interpret dreams. Could he?

3. God had delivered Joseph for this very moment: to acknowledge God as the source of all knowledge and power (Genesis 41:16). Quickly, without hesitation, Joseph declared that he had no ability or power to help, but God did. And note: Joseph declared that God would help Pharaoh and give him the meaning to his dream.

Note how clearly Joseph acknowledged God. He was bearing a strong witness to Pharaoh and his officials, declaring that God alone could help in this situation.

4. God delivered Joseph to listen to the troubled spirit of a man. Pharaoh now shared his dream; and there stood Joseph, the servant of God, listening to his troubled spirit (Genesis 41:17-24). The dream was this:

Pharaoh was standing on the bank of the Nile river (Genesis 41:17).

Seven well-fed cows came up out of the river and grazed among the reeds (Genesis 41:18).

Seven other cows came up thin cows such as he had never seen in all of Egypt (Genesis 41:19).

Then all of a sudden, the thin cows ate up the well-fed cows (Genesis 41:20).

But even after the thin cows ate them they looked as thin as ever (Genesis 41:21).

Then he awoke, somewhat disturbed (Genesis 41:21).

He also dreamed of seven full ears of corn growing on a single stalk (Genesis 41:22).

But seven thin ears blasted by the east wind also began to grow on the stalk (Genesis 41:23).

Then all of a sudden, the thin ears swallowed up the full ears (Genesis 41:24a).

5. Joseph was delivered because the men of the world, the magicians, were inadequate (Genesis 41:24b). Note how honest Pharaoh was in sharing his distressed spirit: he had shared his dreams with the magicians, but none of them could help him, none could give him the meaning. Pharaoh seems to be suggesting that they were helpless in explaining the dreams; therefore, they would also be helpless in solving the problem.

Thought 1. Note the steps in this note. God had the power to deliver Joseph and He has the power to deliver us. But note why five reasons are seen as to why God delivers us:

1) God delivers us to free us from our problems and circumstances. We may need to suffer through our trials for a while in order to make us better persons and more diligent workers and servants. But eventually God will deliver and free us from our suffering.

"But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).

"For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried" (Psalm 66:10).

"Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law" (Psalm 94:12).

"Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction" (Isaiah 48:10).

"Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every [branch] that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:2).

"Wherein [in your salvation] ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:6-7).

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12-13).

2) God delivers us to stand among people who are in great need. There is always purpose in our deliverance: one of these purposes is to send us forth to those who are in need. God delivers us through our trials so that we can help others.

"I have showed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

"We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves" (Romans 15:1).

"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

"So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow" (2 Cor. 2:7).

"Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do" (1 Thes. 5:11).

"Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men" (1 Thes. 5:14).

"Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body" (Hebrews 13:3).

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27).

"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God" (Isaiah 40:1).

3) God delivers us so that we can acknowledge Him and bear strong witness for Him just as Joseph did.

"Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me" (Isaiah 43:10).

"And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning" (John 15:27).

"For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).

"We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak" (2 Cor. 4:13).

"Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul" (Psalm 66:16).

"I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses" (Isaiah 63:7).

4) God delivers us so that we can focus upon others and listen to their troubled spirits.

"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2).

"As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10).

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (James 1:19).

5) God delivers us because men of the world are inadequate to meet the needs of people.

"The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace" (Isaiah 59:8).

"For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge" (Jeremiah 4:22).

"Therefore I said, Surely these are poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the LORD, nor the judgment of their God" (Jeremiah 5:4).

"But they know not the thoughts of the LORD, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor" (Micah 4:12).

"For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Romans 10:3).

"Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Ephes. 4:18).