Genesis 2011 - Lesson 40

Chapter 39:21-23; 40:1-15

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  • By his obedience and godliness, Joseph finds his situation changing from bad to worse

    • The Lord is testing Joseph by leading him through a series of circumstances

      • In each case, Joseph does the right thing

      • But the sinful world heaps more misery upon him

        • Joseph is persecuted for his righteousness

      • But we know the Lord is at work in these outcomes

        • He is allowing the troubles to pile up so He can create an opportunity for Joseph to develop his testimony

        • A testimony before the world, represented by Egypt

        • And a testimony before the family of Israel

    • These things are happening to Joseph because he has been appointed as the birthright holder within the sons of Jacob

      • His earlier dreams told us that Joseph was appointed to become the patriarch in the family

      • And he would receive a double portion of the inheritance

      • While Judah would receive the seed promise to bring forth the Messiah

        • We’ve already seen how unrighteous Judah was rescued by the Lord’s hand from corrupting the seed line

        • Judah’s story reveals that the salvation promise comes through men but is made possible by the grace and power of God

        • For certainly, Judah added nothing of value to the process

      • But the story of Joseph tells the opposite story

        • As a picture of Christ, Joseph’s story teaches us that God will bring salvation to the world and to Israel through the life of one man

        • This man will be righteous and obedient

        • He will suffer for his righteousness yet will pass every test the world and enemy throws at him

        • And in the end, by his obedience, he will be elevated to a position of power and authority over the world and over Israel

    • This is the story of Joseph and of Jesus Christ

      • One pictures the Other, and in that picture we come to understand the reason Joseph is called to suffer in these ways

      • Joseph has been appointed to bring this picture to us through his life, but what a challenge this must have been for the man Joseph

  • Today we cover the final verses of Chapter 39 and then move into Chapter 40

    • Joseph has been accused of rape and imprisoned by Potiphar

      • He enjoyed great success as a slave, but now he’s starting over

      • And he’s moved into an even more challenging set of circumstances 

Gen. 39:21 But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. 
Gen. 39:22 The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it.
Gen. 39:23 The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper. 
  • Even as we see Joseph’s situation deteriorating, we hear that the Lord continues to extend His grace to Joseph

    • Once again, take note of the way scripture melds Joseph’s negative circumstances with a testimony of God’s favor and kindness

      • These two things are not in conflict

      • The measure of God’s goodness or kindness is not whether our life is carefree or easy or without suffering

      • Joseph’s descent into prison didn’t mean God was displeased with him 

        • It didn’t mean Joseph had done anything wrong

        • It wasn’t unfair

      • On the contrary, the Lord was with Joseph, was extending kindness to him and giving him favor

        • The word for favor in Hebrew is chen, which simply means grace

        • Joseph received grace from God

        • But that grace came in the context of prison, not freedom

      • Given the option of a trial-free life without God’s grace or a trial-filled life accompanied by God’s grace, we should always seek for the latter

  • In this case, God’s grace came in the form of a jailer who took notice of Joseph’s superior leadership qualities

    • Like what happened in Potiphar’s house, the jailer places Joseph in charge over all the other prisoners

      • Clearly, a pattern has emerged in Joseph’s life

      • Everywhere he goes, he quickly establishes himself as the authority figure over others

        • He ruled over his brothers

        • He ruled over the slaves

        • Now he rules over the prisoners

    • This is an outcome of God’s grace in his life

      • He has determined that Joseph will be the one to lead people

      • No matter where Joseph lands, this outcome repeats itself

  • At this point in the story, a fascinating parallel to Jesus’ life begins to emerge, in keeping with Joseph as a picture of Christ

    • Joseph’s time in prison is the low point in his life

      • It represents the point where he is tested to the greatest extent

      • It also represents the end of his testing

      • From this point forward, Joseph begins to increase in stature and power

    • If we draw a parallel to Jesus’ life and ministry, then we could draw a parallel to the time He hung on the cross and descended into Hell for a time

      • That point represented the low point in Jesus’ life

      • It was the greatest test and trial

      • And it made possible Christ’s exaltation

    • So as we move forward in this chapter, we’ll look for more evidence of those parallels between Joseph’s time in the prison and Jesus’ time on the cross and in the grave

Gen. 40:1 Then it came about after these things, the cupbearer and the baker for the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt. 
Gen. 40:2 Pharaoh was furious with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. 
Gen. 40:3 So he put them in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, in the jail, the same place where Joseph was imprisoned. 
Gen. 40:4 The captain of the bodyguard put Joseph in charge of them, and he took care of them; and they were in confinement for some time. 
  • Joseph gets some company in prison

    • The cupbearer and baker of the Pharaoh are thrown in prison for what
      we will soon see is a capital offense 

      • These officials of the court shared the same feature of Potiphar – they were eunuchs 

        • The same word for “official” used here was also used to describe Potiphar

      • What did these gentlemen do to anger the Pharaoh? 

        • Scripture doesn’t say

        • But we can make an educated guess

    • A cup bearer and baker were positions that served Pharaoh directly

      • A cup bearer wan’t merely responsible for holding a cup

        • He acted like a Secret Service bodyguard to Pharaoh

      • He was responsible for ensuring that Pharaoh’s entire food chain was kept safe

        • He would oversee the food bought in the market

        • He would inspect all food brought into the Pharaoh’s kitchen

      • And to ensure the food was safe, the cupbearer would sample all the food before the Pharaoh ate of it

        • This way the cupbearer had a strong incentive to ensure it was poison-free

        • He got his title from his role of sampling the drink before giving the cup to Pharaoh

    • The baker had a subordinate role, preparing the meal in the kitchen

      • He shared responsibility for ensuring the food was safe

      • So between these two men, the Pharaoh’s protection from his enemies was their highest duty

  • Since they were each responsible for the Pharaoh’s bread and drink, perhaps Pharaoh had reason to suspect one of them was trying to poison him 

    • Remember, that the Pharaoh was not an Egyptian (he was a Hyksos) 

      • He must have feared regularly for his safety 

      • Since there was apparently some doubt about which one of the men was guilty, they were both placed in the prison with Joseph 

      • They were awaiting the Pharaoh’s decision for who to hold responsible

    • The jail the three of them are in is attached to the captain of the guard’s house

      • That’s Potiphar’s house – he had a jail attached to his home 

      • As court officials, they would have received special handling 

      • The fact that the court officials were sent to this prison while
        awaiting judgment says this was not an ordinary prison 

      • Joseph was sent to the same prison, a jail in the best of circumstances 

      • So God continues to protect Joseph even though He is sending Joseph through these trials

  • We’re told in v.4 that Joseph spent “some” time in this prison 

    • The Hebrew word for some is the word yom, which literally means a day

      • But in this case, the word is used in a secondary meaning of an age

      • As in an extended period of time

      • We learn later that Joseph will leave prison and be elevated by Pharaoh when Joseph reaches the age of thirty 

        • Remember, Joseph went into Egypt at seventeen

        • So Joseph was in Potiphar’s house and that jail for a combined total of 13 years

        • And based on the opening verses of 41, Joseph must have been in the jail for at least 2 years and probably several more 

    • We’ve already understood that bad things happen to good people when God chooses to work in us through trials

      • But are you prepared to accept how long a trial may be required in God’s plan to test us?

      • Remember, Noah was called to suffer 100 years during the years he devoted to build the ark in keeping with the Lord’s command

        • To say nothing of the 14 months he spent living inside the ark?

        • Talk about a prison!

      • And do you think Daniel suffered during Israel’s 70 years of captivity?

        • To say nothing about his experience in the lion’s den?

      • And what about Joseph?

        • His circumstances required he spend 13 years suffering

        • We read about it in just a chapter or two of Genesis, but it took more than a decade for Joseph to rise above his trials

        • That’s almost as long as we’ve been studying Genesis

    • So why must Joseph suffer for so long?

      • The writer of Psalms tells us

Psa. 105:17 He sent a man before them, 
Joseph, who was sold as a slave. 
Psa. 105:18 They afflicted his feet with fetters, 
He himself was laid in irons; 
Psa. 105:19 Until the time that his word came to pass, 
The word of the LORD tested him. 
Psa. 105:20 The king sent and released him, 
The ruler of peoples, and set him free. 
Psa. 105:21 He made him lord of his house 
And ruler over all his possessions, 
Psa. 105:22 To imprison his princes at will, 
That he might teach his elders wisdom. 
  • Joseph is being prepared to teach his elders wisdom

    • That preparation involves 13 years of learning the ways of Egypt

      • Consider that when Joseph arrived in Egypt, he didn’t know the language

      • He didn’t know the customs

      • He didn’t understand Egyptian laws or traditions

    • But the psalmist says Joseph was appointed to become a lord over the house of Pharaoh

      • To demonstrate wisdom, to execute God’s purpose in Egypt

      • Ultimately, he comes to picture Jesus in all these things

  • But if Joseph is going to fulfill this purpose, he must spend time learning Egypt inside and out

    • So the Lord puts Joseph in the house of a servant of Pharaoh

      • In that place, Joseph learns the language and etiquette of royal society in Egypt

      • He learns the names and functions of court officials

      • He becomes familiar with law and customs in Egypt

    • Then he goes to prison, but not just any prison, the king’s prison

      • And here Joseph comes into contact with more court officials

      • And through one of these court officials, Joseph begins to make inroads to reach the most powerful man in the world – Pharaoh himself

Gen. 40:5 Then the cupbearer and the baker for the king of Egypt, who were confined in jail, both had a dream the same night, each man with his own dream and each dream with its own interpretation. 
Gen. 40:6 When Joseph came to them in the morning and observed them, behold, they were dejected. 
Gen. 40:7 He asked Pharaoh’s officials who were with him in confinement in his master’s house, “Why are your faces so sad today?” 
Gen. 40:8 Then they said to him, “We have had a dream and there is no one to interpret it.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell it to me, please.” 
  • After some time together in the prison, Joseph notices both men looking particularly sad

    • Only someone like Joseph could look upon two men sent to prison and ask why are you so dejected

      • But Joseph evidently knew these two men well enough by now to sense something was different

      • They had both experienced dreams, dreams that troubled them greatly

      • But since they were in prison and had no access to the Pharaoh’s official dream interpreters, they were without a way to understand the dreams’ meanings

        • Egypt, like Babylon, employed sorcerers who used the black arts to divine spiritual knowledge

        • We see similar men working (or trying to work) in the book of Daniel

        • And also serving Pharaoh in the story of the Exodus

      • But these men fell helpless because there are no interpreters nearby

        • Or so they think

    • Joseph tells them that interpretations of spiritual messages come from the Lord, so it does not depend on certain men

      • It simply requires the Lord to grant the proper spiritual equipping, and any man can serve Him in interpreting

      • This truth is so powerful, and it remains every bit true today

        • Spiritual truth and godly counsel aren’t the privilege of a few men

        • On the contrary, these things are God-given, and all God’s children have access to the same spirit

        • So we don’t depend on a man to hear from God or to serve Him

      • On the other hand, scripture also tells us that God equips His children in different ways with different spiritual gifts to serve the needs of the body

      • So if the Lord appoints certain gifts to certain people with the Church, we do well to take full advantage of these giftings wherever we find them

      • Let gifted teachers, teach; gifted prayer warriors, pray; gifted healers, heal; gifted hearts of service, serve

  • In Joseph’s case, he was gifted to lead and to interpret dreams

    • In all the Bible, only Joseph and Daniel were gifted in this way, and both share some interesting similarities

      • Both interpreted while captive in a foreign land

      • Both serviced foreign monarchs who worshipped pagan gods

      • Both interpreted dreams given by God that no one else could interpret

      • Both speak in bold ways, sharing the interpretation without fear

      • Both were elevated into positions of authority by their interpretations

    • Clearly the Lord is working in these dreams to bring Joseph to a new and better place

Gen. 40:9  So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, “In my dream, behold, there was a vine in front of me; 
Gen. 40:10 and on the vine were three branches. And as it was budding, its blossoms came out, and its clusters produced ripe grapes. 
Gen. 40:11 “Now Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; so I took the grapes and squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I put the cup into Pharaoh’s  hand.” 
Gen. 40:12 Then Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: the three branches are three days; 
Gen. 40:13 within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you will put Pharaoh’s cup into his hand according to your former custom when you were his cupbearer. 
Gen. 40:14 “Only keep me in mind when it goes well with you, and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house. 
Gen. 40:15 “For I was in fact kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.” 
  • Each man relates his dream to Joseph

    • The cupbearer’s dream concerned a vine with three branches

      • As the grapes ripened, the cupbearer took the grapes and squeezed juice into Pharaoh’s cup

      • And placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand

    • Joseph tells the interpretation of the dream

      • The three branches reflect three days more of suffering in jail

      • But at that point, the cupbearer will be restored

    • At this point, Joseph sees an opportunity to help himself

      • Knowing a positive result is assured for the cupbearer, Joseph realizes that this man will soon be in Pharaoh’s presence again

      • Once he reaches that position, he will be able to influence Pharaoh concerning Joseph’s situation

      • Certainly, the king would have use for a man like Joseph who can interpret dreams

      • So Joseph asks for his help

    • Notice how Joseph describes himself

      • He was from the land of the Hebrews

      • That’s a statement of faith and political savvy on Joseph’s part

        • In this day, the land where Jacob lived was not the land of the Hebrews

        • It was the land of the Canaanites

        • But Joseph knew it had been given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by God by way of a promise

        • So even now he’s referring to Canaan as the land of Hebrews

      • But Joseph has also learned that the Pharaoh is a Hyksos king, not a Hamite ruler

        • And Hyksos were also Semites, like the Hebrews

        • So by mentioning his origins, Joseph hopes to persuade Pharaoh to take an interest in his case

  • Here we have the complimentary lesson to our earlier focus on learning to accept trials and sufferings as part of serving the Lord

    • Joseph may have understood that God was working in his circumstances and so he remained obedient in the meantime

      • But that doesn’t mean Joseph had to be passive in his circumstances

      • Obedience during a trial doesn’t require we abandon all hope for a rescue

      • And it certainly doesn’t mean we can work in appropriate ways to improve our circumstances

    • Joseph used his God-given talents and abilities to improve his situation everywhere he went

      • In Potiphar’s house, he worked hard and showed trustworthiness

      • And the result was a better situation as a slave

      • In prison, he did the same, and gained the benefit again

      • Now he has a chance to win his freedom or so he hopes

        • So he makes the most of it

        • But he does it by relying on the gifts God has given him

        • And he gives all credit to the Lord in the process

        • And then he waits to see what the Lord will do with his hopes and his service

    • Don’t forget Joseph’s example in the midst of your personal trials of faith and endurance 

      • Know God is working in your circumstances

      • Trust that the Lord has a good purpose in your circumstance

      • Continue to obey and serve diligently without discouragement

      • And use every God-given talent and gift and brain cell to find your way out of your circumstances

      • And pray for Him to make the most of your efforts