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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Gen. 41:1–52]

AFTER two years, Pharao had a dream. He thought he stood by the river Nile out of which came seven cows, very beautiful and fat; and they fed in marshy places. After them came also seven others that were lean and ill-favoured, and they devoured the fat ones. Then the king awoke.

He slept again and dreamed another dream in which he saw seven ears of corn growing upon one stalk; and the ears were full and fair. After these came up seven other ears, thin and blighted, devouring all the beauty of the former. Pharao awoke the second time and, morning having come, he sent for all the soothsayers and wise men of Egypt, and related to them his dreams. But no one was found who could interpret them.

Then the chief butler remembered Joseph, and was sorry that he had so long forgotten him. He told the king that there was in the prison a Hebrew youth who had interpreted dreams for him and the chief baker, and that, all had come to pass just as he said.

The king’s curiosity being excited, he ordered the youth to be brought before him. Then he addressed him, saying: “I have dreamed dreams, and there is no one that can expound them. Now, I have heard that thou art very wise at interpreting them.” Joseph answered: “God alone can give Pharao a prosperous answer.” Pharao then related what he had seen.

Having heard the dreams, Joseph said: “God hath shown to Pharao what He is about to do. The seven beautiful kine, and the seven full ears, are seven years of plenty; the seven lean and thin kine, and the seven blasted ears, are seven years of famine. There shall come seven years of great plenty in the whole land of Egypt, after which shall follow seven other years of so great a scarcity that all the abundance before shall be forgotten; for the famine shall consume all the land, and the greatness of the scarcity shall destroy the greatness of the plenty. Now, therefore, let the king provide a wise and industrious man and make him ruler over the land of Egypt that he may appoint overseers over all the countries, and gather into barns the fifth part of the fruits during the seven fruitful years that shall now presently ensue, and let all the corn be laid up under Pharao’s hands and be reserved in the cities.”

 

Fig. 14. Inundation of the Nile.

This counsel was pleasing to Pharao, and he said to his courtiers: “Can we find such another man that is full of the Spirit of God?” Then the king said to Joseph: “Can I find one wiser and like unto thee? Thou shalt be over my house, and at the commandment of thy mouth all the people shall obey. Only in the kingly throne will I be above thee.”

Then the king, having made Joseph ruler over all the land of Egypt, took his ring from his own hand, and placed it on that of Joseph. He also put on him a robe of silk, and a chain of gold around his neck, and caused him to be seated in a triumphal chariot next to his own, the crier proclaiming that all should bow their knee before him and that they should know he was made governor over the whole land of Egypt (Fig. 15). He also changed his name, and called him saviour of the world. Joseph was thirty years old when he was made ruler of Egypt.

Humility. When Pharao said to Joseph: “I have heard that thou art very wise at interpreting dreams”, Joseph replied that it was God alone who could give the interpretation. This was as much as to say: “Of myself I can do nothing: I can only interpret dreams by the inspiration of God.” Thus he was humble, and gave the glory to God. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Thy name give glory” (Ps. 113:9).

The reward of virtue. Joseph had suffered for a long time, but his troubles came to an end at last, his patience and trust in God were richly rewarded, and he was fully compensated for all his past sufferings. Once his brothers tore his clothes from his back: now he is clad in a robe of silk. Once he was degraded to a state of slavery: now he is raised to the highest dignity. Once he was loaded with chains in prison: now he is distinguished by a chain of gold round his neck. Once he was dragged off to prison like the worst of criminals: now he is led through the streets in the king’s chariot, and all men bow before him. “Behold, thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord” (Ps. 127:4).

 

Fig. 15. King sitting on his throne, giving audience to a governor. Ancient Egyptian wall-painting from Thebes.

The Wisdom of Divine Providence is clearly to be seen in this story of Joseph’s abasement and exaltation. What were Almighty God’s intentions about Joseph? He had signified by the dreams which Joseph had dreamt as a boy, that he would one day be a great lord, and that his brethren would bow down before him. Man did everything possible to hinder this exaltation. His brothers sold him as a slave on account of those very dreams. The merchants took him far away; Putiphar had him cast into prison like a criminal; the chief butler, who was deeply indebted to him, forgot all about him. Humanly speaking, there was no prospect of either his freedom or his honour being restored to him; much less of his becoming a great Lord. But God made everything which was apparently a misfortune and humiliation conduce step by step to his future exaltation. By being sold, he was taken to the very land where he was to be exalted. By being put into prison, he became known to the chief butler who, later on, introduced him to the king. Even the chief butler’s ingratitude, which must have deeply wounded Joseph, led, under God’s providence, towards the desired end; for if the chief butler had remembered him sooner, and got him taken out of prison at once, Joseph would not have remained in Egypt, but would have returned to Chanaan, to his sorrowful old father. Thus all these misfortunes led, under divine providence, to the future exaltation of Joseph. Moreover, by his troubles he was confirmed in prayer, confidence, humility, and love of his neighbour, and was thus prepared for the important post for which God had destined him. When we think of all this, we can only exclaim with St. Paul: “How incomprehensible are God’s judgments, and how unsearchable His ways!” (Rom. 11:33.)

Joseph, the sixth type of Jesus Christ. Joseph, the beloved, obedient, and innocent son of his father, was envied by his brethren, illtreated by them, sold, and given over to the Gentiles: so also Jesus. Joseph was repeatedly tempted, and yet did not sin: so also Jesus. Joseph was falsely accused and unjustly condemned. Jesus suffered patiently and resignedly between two malefactors, to one of whom he foretold pardon: Jesus, crucified, between two thieves, said to the one on His right hand: “This day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.” Joseph was set free from prison, and made ruler over the whole land: Jesus was raised from the prison of the tomb, and sitteth at the right hand of His Father. Joseph was called the saviour of the world, because he saved the Egyptians from famine; Jesus is indeed the Saviour of the world, because He has redeemed the whole world from sin and hell. The Egyptians bowed the knee before Joseph to testify the homage they owed him. “In the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10, 11). (Repeat the first five types.)

Joseph’s exaltation is a type of the glory of the just in heaven. God does not always reward the just in this world; for we were created, not for a temporal, but for an eternal happiness. But we may be sure that He will reward them in the next world by an “eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). The just have to pass through many trials on earth. They may, like Joseph, be persecuted and ridiculed for their faith, piety, or conscientiousness, but some day they will be exalted, and rewarded with everlasting happiness. The more good a man has done on earth, and the more he has suffered for the love of God, the greater will be his reward in heaven. “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when they shall revile you and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you untruly, for My sake. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven” (Mat. 5:10–12). “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for, when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life” (James 1:12). “The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come” (Rom. 8:18).

APPLICATION. Men often take that to be a misfortune which is really the contrary. Never complain of the ways of God, but always, and in all things, submit to His holy will. Have you ever complained? Are you not cowardly and desponding under suffering? Say to yourself: “God knows what is best for me. Not my will, but Thine be done!”








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