Daybreak: Genesis 40:1 through 41:36
“And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” (Genesis 41:16)
Samuel Morse, famous inventor of a single-wire telegraph system and co-inventor of Morse code, was never one to take glory to himself, but pointed his admirers to the Source of all wisdom. Proof of that is his first telegraph message, sent on May 24, 1844, over a wire strung between Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington DC: “What hath God wrought?”
One time Morse was asked if he had ever encountered situations where he did not know what to do. He responded, “More than once, and whenever I could not see my way clearly, I knelt down and prayed to God for light and understanding.” Though Morse received many honors because of his invention of the telegraph, he felt undeserving of the acclaim that came his way. He said, “I have made a valuable application of electricity not because I was superior to other men but solely because God, who meant it for mankind, must reveal it to someone and He was pleased to reveal it to me.”
In our focus verse, Joseph’s words to Pharaoh reflect the same spirit of humility. Like Samuel Morse, Joseph was undoubtedly greatly gifted and highly intelligent. However, he made no attempt to impress Egypt’s ruler or to improve his personal circumstances by taking any glory for interpreting Pharaoh’s dream. Just as he had told the butler and baker earlier, he declared to the heathen ruler that the power came from God.
Humility is an essential attitude for success in the spiritual life. Any self-importance, whether based upon intelligence, abilities, material advantages, position, or the praise of others, is an obstacle on the path. Humble people are willing to have their names and talents eclipsed so that God’s glory may be increased. Their attitude is, “Let me decrease; let Christ increase.” They fully recognize that they have no ability in and of themselves, and view all their accomplishments and abilities as gifts from God. God is the Source, and they are only the channel.
May we all have and show a true spirit of humility that glorifies God in all that we say and do.
In today’s text, dreams again played an important part in Joseph’s life as he interpreted the dreams of the butler, baker, and Pharaoh. Approximately eleven years had passed since Joseph’s brothers had sold him and he had been brought to Egypt. Having been thrown into prison as a result of the false accusations of Potiphar’s wife, Joseph was made keeper of the other prisoners. Thus, the king’s butler and baker were placed in his charge when they were imprisoned.
The positions of chief butler and chief baker were eminent in the Egyptian court, as the men in these positions had the responsibility of supervising hundreds of people. Only individuals from noble and well-known families were appointed. The word butler means “cup-bearer,” and as such, he would have sampled food and drink to be certain it was safe before the king partook. In addition, he managed the court’s vineyards and wine storage. The word baker means “cook,” so he supervised all areas of the king’s food preparation. Having held trusted positions, the conversation of these men potentially taught Joseph a great deal about the political system of Egypt and the operation of the court.
After these men had been in the prison for an unknown period of time (Genesis 40:4 says “they continued a season in ward”), they had dreams that they sensed were important, and were troubled because there was no one to interpret them. Had they been free, they would have sought out a dream interpreter to tell them the meaning. Joseph asked the men to relate their dreams, and stated that God would give the interpretation (Genesis 40:8). What Joseph foretold came to pass in every detail, including the butler being restored to his former position. However, after his release the butler forgot Joseph’s request that his innocence be mentioned to Pharaoh.
Chapter 41 recounts Pharaoh’s dreams. The repetition and sense of foreboding that resulted from these dreams prompted the ruler to seek an interpretation. The river he dreamed about was the Nile. In Egypt at that time, cows (or “kine”) were symbols of fruitfulness, and “corn” referred to grain. The magicians and wise men Pharaoh called may have been experts in hieroglyphics, or men who studied science, the stars, and engaged in occult practices. When these men could not give an interpretation, the butler remembered Joseph.
At Pharaoh’s command, Joseph was brought out of the prison “hastily” (verse 14). However, cleanliness, shaving of both the beard and the head, and the wearing of appropriate attire were imperative to the Egyptians, so this was quickly accomplished. As Joseph stood before Pharaoh, he again gave God all the credit for the interpretation of dreams. The Egyptians considered Pharaoh a god personified. Yet in Genesis 41:25, Joseph declared that Elohim — the supreme, eternal and one true God — had revealed what was soon to transpire. In verses 33-36, Joseph followed the interpretation with detailed advice on how to prepare for the coming famine.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The early history of the chosen race
5. Joseph’s sojourn in Egypt
b. As a prisoner
(2) The dreams of the cupbearer and baker (40:1-23)
(a) The setting (40:1-8)
(b) The cupbearer’s dream and interpretation (40:9-15)
(c) The baker’s dream and interpretation (40:16-19)
(d) The interpretation realized (40:20-23)
(3) The dream of Pharaoh (41:1-36)
(a) The dream (41:1-8)
(b) The cupbearer’s remembrance (41:9-13)
(c) The dream rehearsed (41:14-25)
(d) The dream interpreted (41:26-36)
A Closer Look
- What was Joseph’s connection with the butler and the baker?
- Why do you think Joseph was so confident that God would give him the interpretations of the dreams?
- How has God used the circumstances of your life to teach you to be humble?
A humble attitude will always make sure that the glory goes to God.