Gleanings In Genesis

43. Joseph's Exaltation

Genesis 41

Our present chapter opens by presenting to us the king of Egypt dreaming two dreams, and awaking with his spirit troubled. The court magicians and wise men were summoned, and Pharaoh told them his dreams, but "there was none that could interpret them to Pharaoh." Then it was that the chief butler recalled his experience in prison. He remembers how he had a dream, and that a Hebrew slave had interpreted aright its significance. He recounts this now to the king, and Pharaoh sends at once for Joseph, who explains to him the meaning of his own dreams. There are several important truths which here receive a striking exemplification:

First, we are shown that "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of waters. He turneth it whithersoever He will" (Prov. 21:1). It was no accident that Pharaoh dreamed as he did, and when he did. God's time had come for Joseph to be delivered from prison and exalted to a position of high honor and responsibility, and these dreams were but the instrument employed by God to accomplish this end. Similarly, He used, long afterwards, the sleeplessness of another king to lead to the deliverance of Mordecai and his fellows. This truth has been expressed so forcefully and ably by C. H. M. in his "Notes on Genesis," we cannot refrain from quoting him:

"The most trivial and the most important, the most likely and the most unlikely circumstances are made to minister to the development of God's purposes. In chapter 39 Satan uses Potiphar's wife, and in chapter 40 he uses Pharaoh's chief butler. The former he used to put Joseph into the dungeon; and the latter he used to keep him there, through his ungrateful negligence; but all in vain. God was behind the scenes. His finger was guiding all the springs of the vast machine of circumstances, and when the due time was come, he brought forth the man of His purpose, and set his feet in a large room. Now, this is ever God's prerogative. He is above all, and can use all for the accomplishment of His grand and unsearchable designs. It is sweet to be able thus to trace our Father's hand and counsel in everything. Sweet to know that all sorts of agents are at His sovereign disposal; angels, men and devils—all are under His omnipotent hand, and all are made to carry out His purposes" (p. 307: italics are ours). How rarely one finds such faith-strengthening sentiments such as these set forth, plainly, by writers of today!

Second, we are shown in the early part of Genesis 41 how that the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. As it is well known, Egypt stands in Scripture as a figure of this world. In Joseph's time, the land of the Pharaoh's was the center of learning and culture, the proud leader of the ancient civilizations. But the people were idolaters. They knew not God, and only in His light can we see light. Apart from Him, all is darkness, morally and spiritually. So we see it in the chapter before us. The magicians were impotent, the wise men displayed their ignorance, and Pharaoh was made to feel the powerlessness of all human resources and the worthlessness of all human wisdom.

Third, the man of God was the only one that had true wisdom and light. How true it is that "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him!" These dreams of Pharaoh had a prophetic significance: They respected the future of Egypt (typically, the world), and no Gentile, as such, had intelligence in the purpose of God respecting the earth. God was pleased to make known His counsels to a Gentile, as here, a Jew had to be called, each time, as interpreter. It was thus with Nebuchadnezzar. The wise men of Chaldea were as helpless as the magicians of Egypt; Daniel, alone, had understanding. So, too, with Belshazzar and all his companions the aged prophet had to be called in to decipher the message upon the wall. Well would it be if leaders of the world today turned to the inspired writings of the Hebrew prophets of the things which must shortly come to pass.

Fourth: That "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose," is writ large across our lesson. And well for us if we take this to heart. But the trouble is, we grow so impatient under the process, while God is taking the tangled threads of our lives and making them "work together for good." We become so occupied with present circumstances that hope is no longer exercised, and the brighter and better future is blotted from our view. Let us bear in mind that Scripture declares, "Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof" (Eccl. 7:8). Be of good cheer, faint heart; sorrow may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. So it was with Joseph. For a season he suffered wrongfully, but at the last God vindicated and rewarded him. Remember Joseph then, troubled reader, and "let patience have her perfect work." But we must turn from these moralizings and consider the typical bearings of our chapter. We continue our previous enumeration.

43. Joseph, in due time, was delivered from prison. Joseph had been rejected by his brethren, and treated unjustly and cruelly by the Egyptians. Through no fault of his own he had been cast into prison. But God did not suffer him to end his days there. The place of shame and suffering was to be exchanged for one of high dignity and glory. The throne was to supplant the dungeon. And now that God's time for this had arrived, nothing could hinder the accomplishment of His purpose. So it was with our blessed Lord. Israel might despise and reject Him, wicked hands might take and crucify Him, the powers of darkness might rage against Him; His lifeless body might be taken down and laid in the tomb, the sepulcher sealed and a watch set, but "it was not possible that He should be holden of death" (Acts 2:24). No; on the third day, He rose again in triumph o'er the grave, leaving the cerements of death behind Him. How beautifully this was prefigured in the case of Joseph. "Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon; and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh" (Gen. 41:14). Compare John 20:6, 7!

44. Joseph was delivered from prison by the hand of God. It is evident that, apart from Divine intervention, Joseph had been suffered to languish in the dungeon to the end of his days. It was only the coming in of God—Pharaoh's troubled spirit, the failure of the magicians' to interpret his dream, the butler's sudden recollection of the Hebrew interpreter-that brought about his release. Joseph himself recognized this, as is clear from his words to his brethren, at a later date: "And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me hither, but God: and He hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and Lord of all his house, and ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt" (Gen. 45:7-9). So it was with the Savior in being delivered from the prison of the tomb: "Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death" (Acts 2:24). "This Jesus hath God raised up" (Acts 2:32). "Him God raised up the third day, and showed Him openly" (Acts 10:40).[1]

45. Joseph is seen now as the Revealer of secrets. Like the butler and baker before him, Pharaoh now recounted to Joseph the dreams which had so troubled his spirit, and which the "wise men" were unable to interpret. It is beautiful to mark the modesty of Joseph on this occasion, "And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace" (Gen. 41:16). So, in a much higher sense, the Lord Jesus said, "I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me" (John 17:8). And again, "As the Father hath taught Me, I speak these things" (John 8:28). Once more, "For I have not spoken of Myself: but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak" (John 12:49).

Having listened to the king's dream, Joseph said: "God hath showed Pharaoh what He is about to do" (Gen. 41:25), and then he made known the meaning of the dreams. How close is the parallel between this and what we read of in the opening verse of the Apocalypse! Just as God made known to the Egyptians, through Joseph, what He was "about to do," so has He now made known to us, through Jesus Christ, the things He will shortly do in this world. The parallel is perfect: said Joseph, "What God is about to do He showeth unto Pharaoh" (Gen. 41:28), and the Apocalypse, we are told, is "the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass."

46. Joseph warned of a coming danger, and urged his hearers to make suitable provision to meet it. Joseph was no honied-mouthed "optimist," who spake only smooth and pleasant things. He fearlessly told the truth. He shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God. He declared that, following the season of Divine blessing and privilege, there would come a time of famine, a famine which should consume the land, and be "very grievous." And in view of this, he warned them to make ready and be prepared. So also was Christ the faithful and true Witness. He made known the fact that death does not end all, that there is a life to come. He warned those who trusted in their earthly possessions and who boasted of how they were going to enjoy them, that their souls would be "required" of them, and that at short notice. He lifted the veil which hides the unseen, and gave His hearers a view of the sufferings of the damned in Hell. He spake often of that place where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched, and where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. He counseled men to make provision against the future. He bade men to prepare for that which lies ahead of all—a face to face meeting with God.

47. Joseph appeared next as the Wonderful Counselor. Having interpreted to Pharaoh the meaning of his dreams, Joseph then undertook to advise the king as to the wisest course to follow in order to meet the approaching emergency, and provide for the future. There were to be seven years of plenty, which was to be followed by seven years of famine. Joseph, therefore, counseled the king to store up the corn during the time of plenty, against the need which would arise when the season of scarcity should come upon them. Thus did Joseph manifest the wisdom given to him by God, and display his immeasurable superiority over all the wise men of Egypt. Again the analogy is perfect. Christ, too, has been exhibited as "the Wonderful Counselor," the One sent by God with a message to tell men how to prepare for the future, and make sure their eternal interests. He is the One "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3).

48. Joseph's counsel commended itself to Pharaoh and his officers. "And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants. And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art" (Gen. 41:37-39). Pharaoh recognized that the wisdom manifested by this Hebrew slave had its source not in occult magic, but in the Spirit of God. Joseph had spoken with a discretion and wisdom far different from that possessed by the court philosophers, and this was freely owned by the king and his servants. So, too, the words of the Lord Jesus made a profound impression upon those who heard Him. "And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His doctrine. For He taught them as One having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matthew 7:28, 29). "And when He was come into His own country, He taught them in their synagogues, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom?" (Matthew 13:54). Just as Pharaoh and his servants were struck by the wisdom in Joseph. So here, those who listened to the Lord Jesus marveled at His wisdom. And just as Pharaoh confessed, "Can we find such a one as this is?.. there is none so discreet and wise," so the auditors of Christ acknowledged, "Never man spake like this Man" (John 7:46)!

49. Joseph is duly exalted, and set over all Egypt. "And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art. Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou" (Gen. 41:39, 40). What a blessed change this was: from shame to glory, from the dungeon to the place of rule, from being a slave in fetters to being elevated high above all, Pharaoh alone being excepted. This was a grand reward for his previous fidelity, and a fitting recognition of his worth. And how beautifully this speaks to us of the One whom Joseph foreshadowed! He was here in humiliation and shame, but He is here so no longer. God has highly exalted Him. He is "gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him" (1 Pet. 3:22).

50. Joseph was seated on the throne of another. How marvelously accurate is the type. Joseph was not seated upon his own throne; he was not in the place of rule over his brethren. Though he was placed over Pharaoh's house, and according to his word was all Egypt to be ruled yet, "in the Throne" Pharaoh was greater than Joseph. So we read in Revelation 3:21, that the ascended Christ has said, "to him that overcometh will I grant to sit with He in My Throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His Throne."

"Today our Lord Jesus Christ shares the throne of the Father as Joseph shared the throne of Pharaoh. As Joseph ruled over Pharaoh's house with his word, so today our Lord Jesus Christ rules over the Father's household, the household of faith, the Church, by and through His Word. And today, while the Lord Jesus Christ is on the throne of His Father, He is not on His own throne. Read the passage just quoted in Revelation again, and it will be seen that our Lord Jesus Christ Himself makes a distinction between His own throne and the Father's throne, and promises reward to the overcomer, not on the Father's throne, but on His own; and we know, according to the promise of the angel made to Mary, and the covenant made to David, and the title He wears as the King of Israel, ‘the Son of David, the Son of Abraham,' that His throne is at Jerusalem, ‘the city of the great King.' On His Father's throne He sits today as the Rejected Man, the Rejected Jew" (Dr. Haldeman).

51. Joseph was exalted to the throne because of his personal worth. "All this is typical of the present exaltation of Christ Jesus the Lord. He who was once the Crucified is now the Glorified. He whom men once put upon a gibbet, has been placed by God upon His throne. Joseph was given his place of exaltation in Egypt purely on the ground of his personal worth and actual service rendered by him to the country and kingdom of Egypt" (Mr. Knapp). And what a lovely parallel to this we find in Philippians 2—yet as far as our Lord excelled Joseph in personal worth and service, so far is His exaltation the higher—"Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him" (Phil. 2:6-9).

52. Joseph was invested with such insignia as became his new position. "And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck" (Gen. 40:42). And thus we read of the Antitype: "Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince, and a Savior" (Acts 5:31). And again, "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor" (Heb. 2:9). Compare, too, the description of our glorified Lord as given in Revelation 1. There we behold Him, "clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle" (Gen. 5:13).

53. Joseph's authority and glory are publicly owned. "And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee; and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt" (Gen. 41:43). On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jews who had condemned and crucified the Savior, "Therefore let all the House of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). And it is the part of wisdom, dear reader, to recognize and own this. Have you recognized the exalted dignity of Christ, and by faith seen that the One who died on Calvary's Cross is now seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high? Have you submitted to His Lordship, so that you live now only to please Him? Have you "bowed the knee" before Him? If not, O, may Divine grace constrain you to do so without further delay, voluntarily and gladly, that you may not be among the great crowd who shall, in the coming Day, be compelled to do so; for God has sworn, "that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth" (Phil. 2:10).

54. Joseph received from Pharaoh a new name. "And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnath-paaneah" (Gen. 41:45), which signifies, according to its Egyptian meaning, "the Savior of the world." So, to quote once more from Philippians 2, we read, "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him the Name which is above every name. . . Jesus" (Phil. 2:9, 10). This name He bore while on earth, but at that time it was held as pledge and promise, "Thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21) said the angel. But He could not "save His people from their sins" until He had borne them in His own body on the tree, until He had risen from the dead, until He returned to heaven and sent forth the Holy Spirit to apply the benefits and virtues of His finished work. But when He ascended on high He became Savior in fact. God exalted Him with His right hand "to be a Prince and a Savior" (Acts 5:31), and therefore did God Himself then give to His beloved Son the Name which is above every name, even the Name of "Jesus," which means the Savior; just as after the period of his shame was over, and Joseph had been exalted by Pharaoh, he, then, received the name which signifies "the Savior of the world!"

Reader, have you an interest, a personal one, in the value and saving efficacy of that Name which is above every name? If not, receive Him now as your own Savior. If by grace, you have, then bow before Him in adoration and praise.


[1] There are other Scriptures which show that the Lord Jesus raised Himself (John 2:19; John 10:17. 18, etc).. But, above, we have quoted those which emphasized the fulfillment of the type.

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