FROM THE PRISON TO THE PENTHOUSE
Remember, in Joseph’s life we want to watch for these four specific lessons:
- You must not be weakened by you situation
- You must not be deceived by the persuasion
- You must not be gentle with your emotions
- You must not be confused with the immediate results.
Last week, early in our lesson we saw in Genesis 39:2 – The Lord was always with Joseph, and he prospered. But, as we ended the lesson, Joseph was in prison, having been accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife. That crime was a capital crime, and a person would ordinarily be beheaded for it immediately, but Joseph wasn’t. We believe that Potiphar probably believed Joseph’s story more than his wife’s.
We also saw in a Proverb written by King Solomon that it was possible that God was in all that Joseph was doing. Proverbs 16:7 – When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him. (NIV)
Now in Genesis 39:19-21, we will see how Joseph is treated in the king’s prison. When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.
He is kept in “general population” with all the common criminals and was not treated harshly. However, even in prison, God is with him, just as God is with us no matter where we are or what we are doing.
Joseph is in prison even though he had done the right thing. He was not weakened by the situation (#1), nor did he give in to the persuasion of the moment (#2), and he was not gentle with his response to the temptation (#3). Now let’s see how he responds to the immediate results of his actions.
As we move on to Genesis 40:1-6 let’s see how Joseph is treated. Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. 2 Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, 3 and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. 4 The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them.
After they had been in custody for some time, 5 each of the two men — the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison — had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.
6 When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. We see that the king’s cupbearer and baker are thrown into prison.
That seems to be a common malady, this prison landing. But the cupbearer being thrown into prison is a little unusual since the usual sentence for failing as the King’s Cupbearer was death, immediately, usually beheading.
Shortly after their arrival, the newcomers had dreams. If you will remember, Joseph is very familiar with dreams. Dreams are part of what got him to this place in the first place. Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.
Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” (Genesis 37:5-9)
So, Joseph interprets the dreams of the baker and the cupbearer. Unlike Joseph, after three days the Pharaoh decides to change the status of the two new prisoners. Overall, we do not know how much time Joseph spent in prison. But, during these years Joseph never loses his faith. He is truly a great example for us to follow.
When Joseph told the cupbearer and the baker the meaning of their dreams, he had told the cupbearer that he would be restored to his former position as cupbearer. And he told the baker that he would be hanged. And as Joseph had predicted, the cupbearer was again resorted to his former position as cupbearer to the king, and the baker was indeed hanged. Everyone else’s dreams were coming true, but as of yet we haven’t seen Joseph’s dreams come true.
After his success with his interpretation of dreams Joseph is forgotten by his “roommates.” He is left to rot in prison, more accurately in a dungeon. (Joseph tells us) For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon. (40:15) Again, here we need to remember #4 – do not be confused by the immediate results. The immediate result for Joseph’s proper interpretation of the dreams was that he would be left in prison and seemingly forgotten.
Now we come to Genesis 41:1-8 – When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. 4 And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.
He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. 6 After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted — thin and scorched by the east wind. 7 The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.
In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.
While Joseph is in the dungeon the Pharaoh has another dream. It seems like dreams keep coming up in Joseph’s life, whether they are his or someone else’s. But no one can be found to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream. Then the cupbearer remembers his “roommate” and tells the Pharaoh about Joseph. In 41:14-36 Joseph interprets the Pharaoh’s dream properly, always giving God the credit. Genesis 41:14-36 – So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.
Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”
“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, 18 when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. 19 After them, seven other cows came up — scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. 20 The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. 21 But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.
“In my dreams I also saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. 23 After them, seven other heads sprouted — withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. 24 The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none could explain it to me.”
Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. 27 The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.
“It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, 30 but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. 32 The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.
“And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. 36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.” (NIV)
The Pharaoh is so impressed that he puts Joseph in charge of everything in Egypt. Did you hear that? Instead of a prison cell a palace, instead of a cistern Joseph is in the penthouse. When Joseph was 30 years old he was the second most powerful man in Egypt. Can you now see that God was always with him; and Joseph was always quick to give God proper credit? So, please remember Proverbs 16:7 – When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he (God) makes even his enemies live at peace with him. (NIV)
Bostwick UMC 1/24/21