“At the end of two years, Pharaoh had a dream” (Genesis 41:1).
Two years after Joseph interprets the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker, Pharaoh has two dreams. One dream is about the Nile River, lean cows, and fat cows; the other is about seven ears of corn and the eastern winds.
The seven fat cows came out of the Nile River which was the lifeblood of Egypt. Because Egypt has virtually no rainfall throughout the entire year, it relies on the yearly flooding of the river to provide water for crops. The dream also included the Egyptian gods, Osiris and Isis. The god Osiris, represented by a bull, was the god of the Nile. The goddess Isis, represented by a cow, was considered to be the source of wisdom. She was worshiped for having power over life and death. Seeing these gods, the Nile, the bull, and the cow brought distress to Pharaoh’s spirit. He calls for his magicians, but no one in his court can interpret the dreams.
Pharaoh is told about a Hebrew man, a servant of the Captain of the Guard, who interpreted the dreams of the baker and cupbearer accurately. The Egyptians had nothing to do with the Hebrews, but Pharaoh’s spirit was so deeply distressed that he had no other option except to bring a Hebrew slave into his presence.
By this time, Joseph is 30 years old. He has spent 13 years in Egypt as a slave, a servant, and a prisoner. He has waited for this moment, not realizing the years in captivity were a preparation. The number 13 in Hebrew represents cleansing and purifying.
Joseph washed and dressed for his meeting with Pharaoh, his action of purification. I have been told many times that Elohim doesn’t care how we dress when we go to ‘church.’ I always refer these people to Matthew 22 and the King’s wedding feast. There is one person who arrives wearing the wrong clothes and is removed from the banquet. There is protocol when meeting with a king, whether it’s the King of Kings, the King of England or the King of Egypt. Joseph prepares physically to meet Pharaoh because his appearance will be his first testimony; he must show respect for Pharaoh and the great task before him.
Joseph has also been prepared spiritually. He has matured since the days of his youthful dreams when he antagonized his brothers by calling attention to his self-righteous superiority. After years of being humbled through slavery, false accusations, and prison, he realizes Elohim’s faithfulness to protect him and keep him alive through all the trials. He has been prepared to win the confidence and respect of a heathen king and court by giving full credit to the Elohim of Isra’el. He acts with utmost courtesy and restraint, and directs all of his praise to Him.
Once he listens to Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph explains that the dreams predict seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. The famine will be so severe that the time of abundance will be forgotten. The fact that both dreams have the same interpretation is a ‘witness of two’ indicating the matter has been fixed by Elohim and cannot be changed.
Others in Pharaoh’s court had tried to interpret the dreams, but they could not resolve the conundrum of lean and fat cows and full and dried ears of corn occurring simultaneously. Joseph’s interpretation satisfied Pharaoh’s longing for understanding. Only the Spirit of Elohim could still the distraught ‘spirit of Pharaoh’ and bring him shalom.
Hebrew Word Pictures
Peace or shalom – שלום – shin, lamed, vav, mem
– destroying the leader bound to chaos
Not only did Joseph interpret the dreams, but he offered advice on managing the years of abundance and the years of famine. Because he was able to interpret and offer a solution to the problem, Pharaoh saw something different in Joseph and exclaimed, “Can we find anyone else like him? The Spirit of God lives in him!” “The Spirit of God lives in him!” (Genesis 41:38)
In Egypt, the winds generally blow from north to south, but there is a southeast wind that blows from the deserts of Arabia. It is called a khamsin and has disastrous effects upon plants because it is hot and dry. It also brings small dust particles which are harmful to humans if inhaled, so most people stay in their homes during this time. Khamsin means 50 in Arabic and generally the winds last about 50 days. In the days of Joseph, this southeast wind either lasted seven years or came in 50-day intervals over seven years rendering every living thing in Egypt dead.
The number 50 in Hebrew is the letter nun. The Hebrew Letter Picture is a ‘fish’ and means to ‘life.’ Even though a deadly eastern wind was coming to destroy Egypt, life is being offered to Egypt and the children of Isra’el through a Hebrew savior named Joseph.
A Wise Man
“Look for a man both discreet and wise to put in charge of the land of Egypt. Appoint supervisors over the land to receive a twenty percent tax on the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. They should gather all the food produced during these good years coming up and set aside grain under the supervision of Pharaoh to be used for food in the cities, and they should store it. This will be the land’s food supply for the seven years of famine that will come over the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish as a result of the famine” (Genesis 41:33-36).
Joseph was not vying for the position he suggests to Pharaoh. He was an Egyptian prisoner, a Hebrew slave. He knew he was not trained for such authority, had no experience with that kind of responsibility, and was still only a young man. What he didn’t realize as he spoke was that Elohim had prepared him for this exact moment. Joseph had been faithful in the little things of which he had been put in charge, now he would be put in charge of many things.
“His master said to him, ‘Excellent! You are a good and trustworthy servant. You have been faithful with a small amount, so I will put you in charge of a large amount. Come and join in your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:23)
Pharaoh gives Joseph his signet ring, a sign of his new position and closeness to the king. A signet ring could be worn on a finger or a chain around the neck; Joseph is given the gold chain. The signet ring would be evidence to everyone in Egypt and the surrounding nations that Joseph had the highest authority in all of Egypt, except for Pharaoh.
He is clothed in fine linen as evidence of his new status in Egypt and rides in the second best chariot. Everyone in Egypt ‘bows down’ whenever he passes by.
He is also given an Egyptian name, Tzafanat-Pa’neach, that would allow him to be accepted in the Egyptian court and among the Egyptian people. There are many possible meanings of his new name from ‘one who reveals mysteries’ to ‘savior of the world,’ but the most accepted is ‘the god speaks and he lives.’
Joseph is given Asenath, whose name means ‘peril or misfortune,’ as his wife. Joseph would not have chosen to marry a pagan woman, but as the second highest ranking official in Egypt, he is given no choice. Elohim honors this marriage by giving Joseph’s first two children an inheritance with the sons of Isra’el. Elohim blesses Joseph’s marriage and his offspring become an integral part of the history of Isra’el.
Elohim also uses this marriage to strengthen Joseph’s position as a national leader. Asenath is the daughter of Poti-Fera (Ra has given), the priest of On, a priest of the sun god Ra. The city of On was known as Heliopolis, the City of the Sun. It was the center of worship for Ra and located ten miles northeast of modern-day Cairo. The high priest of On held the title ‘Greatest of Seers.’ When Joseph married Asenath, he joined the social class to which only national leaders belonged. This marriage arrangement became more evidence of Pharaoh’s confidence that Joseph was a true ‘seer’ or prophet of the highest caliber.
Joseph was never part of the kingly lineage of Judah nor ever given the option of choosing long life or riches like Solomon. Instead, his path of life was determined by his brothers. He was given a wise and understanding heart and rendered justice in Egypt like no other leader. He was given great honor in the king’s court and posterity through his two sons. Solomon’s sons divided the nation of Isra’el and it remains divided today. Like Joseph, Yeshua was rejected by his brothers, had wisdom and understanding. He will soon return to render justice and restore the divided nation.
Two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, are born to Joseph before the famine arrives. From the meanings of their names, it seems that Joseph told Asenath about his past, his family, and his Elohim. Jewish tradition teaches that she became a follower of the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for Elohim does not desire that his people be unequally yoked.
Hebrew Word Pictures
Manasseh (Causing to Forget) or M’nasheh – מנשה – mem, nun, shin, hey
– mighty life consumed, revealed
Ephraim (Fruit) or Efrayim – אפרים – alef, peh, resh, yod, mem
– first strength speaks highest authority, finished work of chaos
The Testing of the Brothers
During the years of abundance so much sheber (grain) was collected, quantities like the sand of seashore, that Joseph stopped counting the amount. After seven years of abundance, the eastern wind began to blow and a famine covered the land all the way to Canaan.
Jacob heard there was grain in Egypt so the sons of Isra’el were sent to buy grain from the Egyptians. By using the name Isra’el in the passage, the journey to buy grain becomes a spiritual journey from which the sons of Isra’el learn the message of redemption through repentance, forgiveness, and restoration.
Joseph immediately recognizes his brothers, but they don’t recognize him. He is dressed in the robes of an Egyptian leader and wields great authority. He has an Egyptian name and speaks to them through an interpreter. They ‘bow down’ before him and he remembers his dream of the haystacks. Nearly 23 years later in a foreign country, the dream comes to pass.
Joseph tells his brothers that he believes they are spies and sends them to prison. For three days their topic of conversation revolves around what they did to their brother and the never-ending feelings of guilt. Joseph detains Simeon when he sends his frightened brothers home for their youngest brother, Benjamin. He also returns the money they brought in their grain bags. This confuses the brothers and causes them to face their need to repent for their actions against Joseph. The circumcision of their hearts begins.
When they need to return for more grain, Judah tells his father, “The man expressly warned us, ‘You will not see my face unless your brother is with you’” (Genesis 43:3). Judah knows that his father still grieves the loss of Joseph and fears losing his youngest son so he makes a promise to his father, “Send the boy with me; and we will make preparations and leave; so that we may stay alive and not die, both we and you, and also our little ones. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me responsible. If I fail to bring him to you and present him to your face, let me bear the blame forever” (Genesis 43:8-9).
Judah, the man who had lost two of his sons to death, the man who had twins with the righteous Tamar, guarantees the safe return of Benjamin and Isra’el’s sons’ from Egypt.
When Joseph sees Benjamin, he is emotionally overwhelmed and goes to his bedroom to weep. The brothers are fearful inside Joseph’s house. They have no idea what this Egyptian leader wants with them, and their two decades of guilt consumes them. Joseph’s servant tries to comfort them, “Stop worrying. Don’t be afraid. Your God and the God of your father put treasure in your packs. As for your money –– I was the one who received it” (Genesis 43:23).
The servant speaks of the Elohim of their father? How would an Egyptian servant know about Him? Joseph had already told them when he set them free from prison “he feared Elohim” and now his servant is telling them to put their faith in the Elohim of their father.
It becomes apparent Joseph had been Jacob’s favored son because of his love for Elohim while his brothers were much less spiritually inclined. The years in Egypt have been a time of testing for Joseph, a time of spiritual growth, and refining. His brothers had not been put to the same tests and had not grown spiritually. They remained stuck with their guilty consciences.
When Joseph returns to the room, the brothers have a meal with him. Reuben, the firstborn, sits in the place of honor, and the youngest, Benjamin, in the place of the youngest. The brothers are amazed that this powerful man of Egypt knows their birth order, yet none of them consider this Egyptian man could be their long-lost brother. The whole idea seems preposterous. The last time they saw him, he was a slave!
When they leave to return to Canaan, Joseph tests his brothers a second time. All of their money is returned to the grain bags, and Joseph’s silver goblet is hidden in Benjamin’s bag.
This cup would have been an Egyptian ‘cup of divination’ or a way to divine the gods for knowledge. According to Deuteronomy 18:10-12, divination is an unacceptable practice among Elohim’s people. Did Joseph actually divine information from a cup? No, he did not.
Joseph had a very personal relationship with Elohim who communicated with him through dreams. He had interpreted Pharaoh’s dream through the Spirit of Elohim and did not need to divine information from false gods. Having a ‘cup of divination’ was part of the religious culture in which Joseph lived. He wanted his brothers to think that he, only second in command to Pharaoh, could ‘divine knowledge,’ but the knowledge was firsthand, not from some other-worldly ‘cup of divination.’ Joseph uses the cup to frighten his brothers to believe that this great Egyptian leader had so much authority he could see right into their hearts and accuse them of the guilt that had put them in spiritual bondage.
Soon after they left the city, Joseph sends his manager to find them. He accuses them of stealing. When Benjamin is found with the ‘divining cup,’ they tear their clothes. They know what will happen to their father if they do not return with their youngest brother. The brothers return to the city with the cup and try to explain the situation to Joseph. The consequences for stealing the cup is to make Benjamin a slave.
Yeshua and His Testing
“Then the Spirit led Yeshua up into the wilderness to be tempted by the Adversary. After Yeshua had fasted forty days and nights, he was hungry. The Tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, order these stones to become bread.” But he answered, “The Tanakh [Torah] says, ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of Adonai’”
“Then the Adversary took him to the holy city and set him on the highest point of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘jump!’ For the Tanakh says, ‘He will order his angels to be responsible for you. They will support you with their hands, so that you will not hurt your feet on the stones.’”
“Yeshua replied to him, ‘But it also says, “Do not put Adonai your God to the test.’”
“Once more, the Adversary took him up to the summit of a very high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their glory, and said to him, ‘All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me.’ ‘Away with you, Satan!’”
“Yeshua told him, ‘For the Tanakh says, Worship Adonai your God, and serve only him.’”
“Then the Adversary let him alone, and angels came and took care of him” (Matthew 4:1-11).
“Then Yeshua, filled with the Ruach haKodesh, returned from the Yarden and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days of testing by the Adversary. During that time he ate nothing, and afterwards he was hungry. The Adversary said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, order this stone to become bread.’”
“Yeshua answered him, ‘The Tanakh says, Man does not live on bread alone.’”
“The Adversary took him up, showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world, and said to him, ‘I will give you all this power and glory. It has been handed over to me, and I can give it to whomever I choose. So if you will worship me, it will all be yours.’”
“Yeshua answered him, ‘The Tanakh says, Worship Adonai your God and serve him only.’”
“Then he took him to Yerushalayim, set him on the highest point of the Temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, jump from here! For the Tanakh says, ‘He will order his angels to be responsible for you and to protect you. They will support you with their hands, so that you will not hurt your feet on the stones.”
“Yeshua answered him, ‘It also says, “Do not put Adonai your God to the test.’”
“When the Adversary had ended all his testings, he let him alone until an opportune time”
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