Lesson for Jan. 8, 2012: Joseph Finds Favor (Genesis 41)

This treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson is written by Sam E. Stone, former editor of CHRISTIAN STANDARD.


Joseph Finds Favor (Genesis 41)

By Sam E. Stone

Joseph could have complained when he was sent to prison. Some would declare, “A guy tries to do right and look where it gets him! He gets thrown into jail!” We have no record that Joseph displayed such an attitude at any time, however. What we find is that “the Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:21). God “showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” Joseph’s natural ability was blessed by God, and he elicited the trust of those in charge.

While in prison, Joseph once again had occasion to interpret dreams. Dreams were considered very important in ancient times. Some priests and other religious leaders used manuals to offer interpretations of dreams to their followers. In the prison with Joseph at this time were two of the king’s most influential servants. Both had a dream one night, and both had no clue as to what their respective dreams meant. Joseph said, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” They did. God gave Joseph the correct interpretation of each dream, and he told the men (40:9-22). The baker would be executed, but the cupbearer would be restored to his position in the palace. Joseph’s only request to the cupbearer was, “When all goes well with you, remember me . . . mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. . . . I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon” (40:14, 15). The restored cupbearer forgot him, however. It was not until Pharaoh had a dream he couldn’t interpret that the man remembered Joseph.


The Plan
Genesis 41:37-46

Hearing about Pharaoh’s strange dreams, the cupbearer recalled Joseph’s correct interpretation of the earlier dreams. When Pharaoh heard the story, he called for Joseph to be brought to him. After Joseph cleaned up, he came before him. Pharaoh said, “I have heard . . . that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph replied, “I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” His striking humility illustrates the biblical principle, “Humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 15:33).

God revealed the dream’s interpretation to Joseph. The message is that God’s judgment is settled, he told the ruler. Egypt will enjoy seven years of great abundance, followed by seven years of ravaging famine. Joseph went ahead to suggest a plan that could save the people. He suggested that Pharaoh place a discerning man in charge of the land. He should then have his officials collect a fifth of the harvest during the years of abundance. They were to save this extra food, to see the nation through the coming years of famine.


The Position
Genesis 41:39-46

Pharaoh liked what he heard, and so did his officials. He asked, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” Pharaoh then made Joseph second in command over all of Egypt. He took his signet ring, placed it on Joseph’s finger, dressed him in fine linen, and put a gold chain around his neck. But that wasn’t all! He gave him a new Egyptian name, Zaphenath-Paneah and he gave him Asenath, daughter of the high priest, to be his wife.

All of this took place when Joseph was only 30 years of age! How his life had changed from those early days when he was watching his father’s flocks as a 17-year-old in Canaan (Genesis 37:2). Through all of the dramatic ups and downs of his life, Joseph had remained true to God. Because of this, God caused him to find favor wherever he was placed—whether in the home of Potiphar, in an Egyptian prison, or finally now over the entire nation of Egypt.

The intervening verses (47-49) are not in our printed text. They summarize what Joseph did during the seven years of plenty, as the extra grain was stored for the future.


The Future
Genesis 41:50-52 

While the years of abundant crops were being enjoyed, Joseph and his wife had children. Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh. The name comes from the Hebrew word for “forget.” Joseph explained, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The name of his second son, Ephraim, suggests fruitfulness. “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” Joseph continued to live in Egypt for another 80 years, dying at the age of 110 (Genesis 50:22).


*Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©1984, unless otherwise indicated.

January 2: Genesis 40:1-8
January 3: Genesis 40:9-15
January 4: Genesis 40:16-23
January 5: Genesis 41:1-13
January 6: Genesis 41:14-24
January 7: Genesis 41:25-36
January 8: Genesis 41:37-46, 50-52

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