Genesis 41 With 47:13–26. Joseph Fulfills a Dream and Completes a Prophecy.
Key Notes: Joseph's economic plan saved Egypt from starvation. North African droughts. Decrees of God. A nation came from one man.
Joseph sat in jail for two more years. He worked and did not despair but there were no signs of release.
41:1–15 Then Pharaoh dreamed of seven fat cows eaten by seven gaunt cows without gaining weight. He woke and dreamed again of seven plump ears of grain eaten by seven thin ears. Suddenly reminded of dreams, the butler remembered Joseph. He was summoned up from jail, to shave and change his clothes before standing before Pharaoh.
41:16–36 Joseph's first word to Pharaoh was that he could not interpret dreams, but God would give Pharaoh an answer. Joseph prophesied seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. He advised Pharaoh to set a food czar over Egypt to collect surplus grain (20%) during the seven good years as a reserve against the seven years of famine. That could have been thought of as an emergency income tax.
41:37–45 Pharaoh asked where they could find another man who had the Spirit of God in him. And since God had shown all this to Joseph, he had no peer. He was appointed second in the kingdom, given the king's signet ring, fine linen clothes, a gold necklace and the second chariot. He was given power over all the land. He was thirty years old.
41:46 His new Egyptian name resembles the Hebrew word “to kneel”. He was given the daughter of the priest of On as his wife. By the time the famine came, he had two sons: Manasseh "(to forget") for God made him forget his hardships and his home; and Ephraim ("fruitful") for God made him fruitful in the land of his affliction. He was no longer home-sick but able to enjoy his new surroundings. These boys were half-Egyptian; their mother was not a Hebrew but they will still inherit tribal lands in Canaan.
41:47–57 During the seven good years, he gathered food in enormous amounts and stored it in the nearby cities. Although the plan was to save 20% of production, it was probably exceeded because of the rich harvests. When the famine began, Joseph opened the silos and fed the people.
[Note the chapter change.]
47:13–23 After the Egyptians exhausted their money for food, they traded their cattle for grain. It appears that the grain donated during the good years was now the Pharaoh’s and did not belong to the farmers who donated it. The third year, they offered their lands and their bodies to Pharaoh in exchange for food. All the Egyptians became slaves. Only the priests were spared, for they had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh.
47:24 Joseph gave them back seed for planting on the condition that they return 20% of the proceeds to Pharaoh. Presumably this was done after the drought ended. A 20% income tax became a permanent source of revenue.
Joseph presented a wise plan and saved Egypt from severe famine. On the other hand, in seven years, Joseph subjugated the Egyptian people to the Pharaoh, who became an absolute ruler over slaves. ("Did Joseph commit sin?" someone asked.) There was no protest that the food really belonged to the Egyptians during the famine, so we are not sure whether the government had bought or only stored the surplus grains from the Egyptian farmers. There were no riots and no revolts. And no one died due to famine. But we see that the later enslavement of the Israelites was not a unique occurrence. The precedent had been set by the Egyptians acting in concert with the Pharaoh.
A drought of this magnitude should be found in Egyptian records. The first Great Drought has been dated 2160–2100BC. (The Fall of the Old Kingdom. A Great African Drought. A.L.Negus, UC Thesis,’86. DT85 N44,’86a). Another drought occurred between 2015–1990BC. These droughts affected agriculture in N. Africa, Canaan and Syria.
"When a small water occurred in Year 25 (of his king), I did not allow my district to be hungry….I did not allow a famine to occur in it until the years of big waters returned." --Overseer of Priest in Thebes (Op.cit.p.147).
We are interested in the time of the XII-XIII dynasty of the Middle Kingdom (1979–1606BC). Dr. Negus did not study this period, but inspection of graphs (Op. cit. p.123) show a sharp drop in the water levels of Lake Chad, Lake Abme and Lake Rudolf, after 2000BC. It is evident that there were periodic severe droughts in N. Africa during this period. We have records of two others in Genesis around 2000BC: (Gen.12:10; 26:1). Incidentally, the years’70–1999AD were also drought years in N. Africa.
The Decrees of God are descriptions of large events which summarize God's plan for the human race.
"This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations." (Isa.14:26). These large events include:
Creation of the universe and the world,
Preservation and maintenance of creation,
Providence, care of human beings, families and nations,
Consummation of history.
Most of God's plan covers such large territory that we cannot grasp it. In Genesis, we see how one phase of God's plan was worked out in the short space of 30 chapters. It is the formation of the Hebrew nation. Joseph's story is the beginning of a prophecy given to Abram. (Gen.15:13). "Know of a surety that your descendants will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be slaves there, and they will be oppressed for four hundred years...."
The chain of sovereign direction in Genesis is summarized. God uses trivia and the foibles of people as well as their strengths. We will see Him directing the course of 400 years starting with one couple and ending with a nation.
*Abraham, twenty-five years after the prophecy, was given one son.
*Isaac had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Jacob won the birthright. Jacob deceived his father with the help of his mother and had to run away to his uncle, Laban.
*Laban tricked Jacob into bigamy, one wife loved more than the other. Jacob's two wives and two concubines produced twelve sons.
*Jacob's loved but infertile wife had a child, Joseph, much loved and doted on by his father.
*Joseph was envied and hated by his brothers; they sold him as a slave into Egypt.
*Joseph as a slave was slandered by his master’s wife.
*Joseph in prison was servant to the Pharaoh's butler. The butler had a dream which Joseph interpreted correctly.
*Two years later when Pharaoh also dreamed, the butler remembered his own dream.
*Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dreams and created an emergency food program for Egypt.
*The economic program saved Egypt and Jacob's family from starvation.
*When Joseph was reconciled to his brothers, they were invited to come to live in Egypt and the decision was endorsed by God. Gen.46:3.
*Israel settled in Goshen as herdsmen, abhorred and isolated from the Egyptians.
*In four-hundred years they grew into a nation too large for Egypt to contain and they were liberated by Moses into the desert and later Canaan.
"David...served the counsel of God in his own generation...." (Acts 13:36)
Like them, we serve God's purposes, although we do not understand our roles any more than they did.