Joseph – week 3, day 3

Pentecost

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 42:1-5 (NIV*)

When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”

Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. So Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan also.

AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE

Quote BeginMy sons. What am I to do with such sons? We’re on the verge of starvation here in Canaan, and they’re just sitting around looking at each other, each hoping that the other one will take some responsibility for fixing the situation. I am an old man, and I had high hopes that my sons would grow up to take care of me in my old age. Such dreams. I’ve heard that they still have grain for sale in Egypt, and I would go there myself, but… I’m an old man! I would have thought that my boys would have taken it upon themselves to find a way to get food for me, but I’ll just have to light a fire under them. Again. I’ll send a few of them off to Egypt to buy grain so that we don’t starve. Actually, I think I’ll send them all, and get some peace and quiet for a change. But no way am I sending Benjamin with them. They don’t have a good track record of keeping their youngest brothers alive. Benjamin stays safe here with me. I can’t lose him the way I lost Joseph. I’m an old man, and that might just kill me…Quote End
— Jacob

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…

  • Why do you think the brothers were “looking at each other”?
  • This is a life and death situation (see verse 2). Why is it Jacob who comes up with a solution, and not the brothers?
  • Why do you think Jacob didn’t just send one or two of his sons to Egypt?
  • Why did Jacob not send Benjamin with the rest of his brothers?
  • If you were Benjamin, how do you think you might feel at being left behind?
  • How do you think you would have felt as one of the brothers entering the city in Egypt with all of the other people in need?

FOLLOW UP

This passage contains foreshadowing of the Exodus: “Verse 5 seems to be set already in Egypt. It blends the brothers into a crowd of peoples who have made the journey for the same purpose, picking up on the theme of 41:57. The phrase ‘sons of Israel’ appears purposely ambiguous; it refers to Jacob, but also anticipates the Israel of the exodus. The journeys in and out of Egypt mirror later developments.” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. I (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1994, 626.


Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV, © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.

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Joseph – week 3, day 2

Pentecost

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 41:50-57 (NLT*)

During this time, before the first of the famine years, two sons were born to Joseph and his wife, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of On. Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, “God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.” Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said, “God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.”

At last the seven years of bumper crops throughout the land of Egypt came to an end. Then the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had predicted. The famine also struck all the surrounding countries, but throughout Egypt there was plenty of food. Eventually, however, the famine spread throughout the land of Egypt as well. And when the people cried out to Pharaoh for food, he told them, “Go to Joseph, and do whatever he tells you.” So with severe famine everywhere, Joseph opened up the storehouses and distributed grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout the land of Egypt. And people from all around came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe throughout the world.

AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE

Quote BeginI have been very lucky in the husband Pharaoh chose for me. Zaphenath-paneah is a good man, and we have been blessed with two healthy boys in the seven years we have been together. I was initially confused when the boys were born, and he wanted to give them such strange names. So often I could almost forget that he wasn’t born Egyptian. His accent is so slight now, and he makes such a handsome administrator. Why would he want to remind everyone that he was born a foreigner? But he was so insistent, I did not want to force the point. So we named the boys Manasseh and Ephraim. What beautiful boys! They will grow up to be just like their father, and serve the Pharaoh. My husband has been faithful in carrying out his duties, and the Pharaoh often shows his appreciation to our family. And now that the famine has begun, just as my husband predicted, the Pharaoh is leaning on him more and more for advice and guidance. My husband will save our land, and he will keep our family safe and strong. I am a lucky wife.Quote End
— Asenath

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…

  • The name Manasseh stems from the Hebrew word nāshâ, which means to forget. Joseph has accepted a new name and a new life in Egypt. What point could he be making by naming his son Manasseh?
  • If Joseph has “forgotten his father’s house,” (41:50) why does he not choose traditional Egyptian names for his sons? Why does he choose names that have Hebrew roots?
  • The name Ephraim stems from the Hebrew word pārâ, which means to be fruitful. This seems to be a more positive name for his second son. Why do you think this is?
  • If you were experiencing seven years of abundance, how willing would you be to think about a future possibility of famine?
  • What parallels are there in this abundance/famine pattern in your life?

FOLLOW UP

“When the years of famine come, it affects every country, not just Egypt. But only Egypt has grain. The success of Joseph redounds to his reputation. When Egyptians cry out for bread due to the famine’s severity, they can get relief from Joseph (note that they buy grain; it is not given away). In fact, Joseph’s wisdom enables Egypt to become the bread basket for ‘all the world’ (verses 54-57).” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. I (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1994, 622.

 


Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.

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Joseph – week 3, day 1

Pentecost

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 41:37-49 (ESV*)

This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command.Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-paneah. And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.

Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.

AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE

Quote BeginIt is amazing how quickly things can change. Just a few years ago, in a matter of minutes I went from being the favorite son to a slave bound for Egypt. Then because of the lies of my master’s wife, I went from a trusted slave to a forgotten prisoner in a dingy jail. And now, oh now! From that jail to the Pharaoh’s palace! In place of that colorful robe from my father that my brothers so cruelly stole from me, I have the finest Egyptian clothes and jewelry. I have a chariot and driver at my disposal, and a signet ring symbolizing my power. I have a beautiful wife named Asenath, and even have a new name, given to me by Pharaoh himself. I am no longer Joseph, but am Zaphenath-paneah, and am in charge of the entire country of Egypt!Quote End
— Joseph

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…

  • What is the symbolism in the young Hebrew boy named Joseph being renamed Zaphenath-paneah?
  • Do you think that leaving his Hebrew roots behind him would help him to accomplish more in his new role as Pharaoh’s right-hand man?
  • We do not hear any word of refusal from Joseph to Pharaoh’s sweeping changes in his life: Egyptian clothing, a non-Hebrew wife, and new name. Why do you think this is?
  • Even though there is no criticism in the text of Joseph’s decision to accept these changes, the scripture continues to refer to him as “Joseph,” not “Zaphenath-paneah.” Why is this?
  • Look again at the Joseph at the beginning of the story, and compare this man who is in charge of Egypt. What changes have taken place?

FOLLOW UP

“The acts of giving or changing a name can be descriptive or prescriptive (that is, demonstrating the authority of the one giving the name)… The pharaoh of Egypt gives Joseph a new name as part of commissioning Joseph to be a royal administrator.” The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 4 (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 2006, 218.)

“There is some evidence that slaves from the ancient Near East achieved positions of high standing in Egyptian royal circles. The rite of installation also has parallels in that world, and rings, chains, and chariots that were used on such occasions have been found.” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. I (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1994, 622.)


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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Joseph – week 2, day 6

Pentecost

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 40:25-36 (NRSV*)

Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, as are the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind. They are seven years of famine. It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. After them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; the famine will consume the land. The plenty will no longer be known in the land because of the famine that will follow, for it will be very grievous. And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. Now therefore let Pharaoh select a man who is discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land, and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plenteous years. Let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and lay up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”

AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE

Quote BeginI was not convinced when they brought the prisoner in to see me. He could not have been thirty years old. How could he possibly interpret my dreams, when my most experienced and venerable counselors could not? And yet, these dreams burned in my heart, and I knew that they must be interpreted. So I told this young man my dreams. And without hesitation, he gave me such a clear interpretation that I immediately knew he was correct. It wasn’t pleasant, that interpretation. Seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. No ruler wants to hear that difficult times are coming to his land. But to have foreknowledge of such a disaster? That is worth everything. And then, at the end of his interpretation, this young boy said something incredibly wise: ‘Let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt.’ … Ah, well. I think I have found that discerning and wise man. Joseph will not be returning to the prison today, or ever.Quote End
— Pharaoh

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…

  • This is the third time in the story that Joseph has discussed a set of dreams. What do you see has changed in his manner of delivering the interpretations?
  • What does the way Joseph handles this interpretation tell you about how Joseph has changed and matured?
  • It was not usual for a servant, let alone a stranger, to be so forthright with the Pharaoh. How do you account for Joseph’s confidence in giving advice to the king of Egypt?
  • What does Joseph’s answer to Pharaoh tell us about Joseph’s relationship with God?
  • What do you believe God’s role was in this situation?

FOLLOW UP

“The theological explanations that punctuate this section (verses 25, 28, 32) accomplish three things: (1) They emphasize that God reveals this meaning; in other words, this is serious business; (2) they indicate that God speaks through Joseph; and (3) they provide a structure for the section…  The interpretation centers on the years of famine, the better to impress upon Pharaoh the need to take action. Joseph offers more than just an interpretation. Without waiting for Pharaoh’s response… Joseph puts forward a plan whereby these events can effectively be addressed, preventing much damage to the country.” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. I (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1994, 621).


New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

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Joseph – week 2, day 5

Pentecost

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 41:14-24 (ESV*)

Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Behold, in my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile. Seven cows, plump and attractive, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass. Seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and thin, such as I had never seen in all the land of Egypt. And the thin, ugly cows ate up the first seven plump cows, but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had eaten them, for they were still as ugly as at the beginning. Then I awoke. I also saw in my dream seven ears growing on one stalk, full and good. Seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them, and the thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. And I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me.”

AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE

Quote BeginI was in that prison for over a decade. I’m not complaining. I fully realize that my time there could have been much worse. The warden put me to good use, and I was relatively comfortable there. But I have to admit that there were times I despaired of ever being free again. I had many hours each day to think about my childhood, and all that my father tried to teach me. I wish I had appreciated it all more at the time. I thought when the cupbearer was restored to his position, he would remember to tell Pharaoh about me. But two more years went by with no word. And then, just as suddenly as it all started, here I am in the Pharaoh’s palace. The Pharaoh told me about that he had two dreams that he needed me to interpret. I knew very well what was at stake here. If I wasn’t able to interpret for him…back to the prison for me. I remembered my father talking about his God, and I told Pharaoh, “I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” That answer seemed to work for Pharaoh, and he began to tell me the dreams…Quote End
— Joseph

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…

  • The Hebrew word used in verse 14 for “dungeon” is bôr, which can also be translated as “pit,” “cistern,” or “well.” This is the same word that is used for the pit that the brothers threw Joseph into in 37:22. What is the significance of this?
  • How would you imagine Joseph is feeling as he moves from pit to palace?
  • What could be the significance to Joseph’s shaving and changing clothes before the interview with Pharaoh, beyond his need to be cleaned up?
  • Pharaoh tells Joseph that he has heard that Joseph can interpret dreams. Joseph had interpreted the dreams of the cupbearer and baker in prison without hesitation, so why here does he tell Pharaoh that he cannot do it, but that God can?
  • How would you have felt in Joseph’s shoes as Pharaoh related the contents of his dreams?
  • What do you imagine the court magicians and counselors were thinking as they waited to hear Joseph’s answer?

* Click here to view an engraving by Gustav Dore of Joseph’s audience with the Pharaoh. Courtesy of the Wesley Center online. To view a painting by Peter von Cornelius on Wikipedia, click here.

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Joseph – week 2, day 4

Pentecost

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 40:16-23 (NIV*)

Finally, the king’s chief cup-bearer spoke up. “Today I have been reminded of my failure,” he told Pharaoh. “Some time ago, you were angry with the chief baker and me, and you imprisoned us in the palace of the captain of the guard. One night the chief baker and I each had a dream, and each dream had its own meaning. There was a young Hebrew man with us in the prison who was a slave of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he told us what each of our dreams meant. And everything happened just as he had predicted. I was restored to my position as cup-bearer, and the chief baker was executed and impaled on a pole.”

AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE

Quote BeginVery early this morning I was rushed out of bed by one of Pharaoh’s servants. He said that Pharaoh was in a state, and needed me to attend to him immediately. I barely had time to wash my face before I was dragged out of my sleeping area, into the hallway, and pushed into the room where Pharaoh was waiting. I have never seen him so agitated. I poured him his favorite wine, and brought the cup to him. As I knelt in front of him, I swear, I could feel his hands shaking as he took the cup from me. After a few moments he steadied, and ordered another servant to assemble all his counselors and magicians. They came very quickly into the main hall, and I listened as Pharaoh told them his dreams from the night before. Not one of them was able to interpret the dreams! That was when I remembered Joseph. I had tried to forget those awful few days I was in prison, and the horror of the baker’s execution. But I did promise Joseph to tell the Pharaoh about his situation. But Joseph couldn’t have understood what it would mean for me to do that. Cupbearers don’t just converse freely with the Pharaoh! I didn’t want to end up like the baker, my head on a pole. So I forgot. But now, two years later, it is time for me to remember…Quote End
— Pharaoh’s Cupbearer

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…

  • What risk does the cupbearer take in reminding Pharaoh about his imprisonment two years prior?
  • Why do you think the cupbearer decides to talk to the Pharaoh about Joseph now?
  • What consequences could he have faced from this action?
  • In the same situation, might you have been tempted to keep quiet?

* Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.

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Joseph – week 2, day 3

Pentecost

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 40:16-23 (NIV*)

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. 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. After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted—thin and scorched by the east wind. 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.

AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE

Quote BeginI spent most of the night tossing and turning. I have never had such vivid dreams in my life. And disturbing! Throughout the dream, I had this feeling of dread and fear as I watched the healthy cows being eaten by the starved cows, and then the good grain devoured by the thin grain. I woke up sweating, all of my muscles clenched. I’m surprised my servants didn’t hear my blood pounding through my veins. I knew that these were not just ordinary dreams. These were important messages from the gods. Even though I dreaded what they would tell me, I immediately assembled my court magicians and wise men for their interpretations. But there was no solace to be found in an interpretation from these fools. Not one of them could tell me what the dreams meant! The wisest men in my land, and completely useless to me in my time of need! I have no doubt that the meaning of these dreams is incredibly important to my future, and to the future of my land. But there is no one to help. I, the most powerful man in the world, am powerless in the face of my dreams. I must find a way!Quote End
— Pharaoh

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…

  • Why might this dream have been sent by God to Pharaoh?
  • What are the similarities between the two dreams?
  • Why do you think none of the “wise men” of Pharaoh’s court were able to interpret the dreams?
  • How might you have interpreted the dreams?
  • If you were in Pharaoh’s shoes, how might you have felt when his counselors were unable to help him?
  • Have you ever experienced a troubling dream that stayed with you after you awoke?


* Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV, ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011, Biblica, Inc.

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