Through the Bible in One Year

Day 20

Genesis 41:17-42:17

Yesterday we saw how Joseph dealt with the spiritual tests of keeping his personal purity and facing death, and today we are going to see partially how he dealt with the spiritual test of the opportunity for revenge.  When we last left Jospeh he had just told Pharaoh that he could not interpret his dreams, but God could.  Now in today’s passage we see Pharaoh tell Joseph his dream, Joseph through the power of God interpret Pharaoh’s dream for him, Joseph giving Pharaoh sound advice (even when not asked for it), Pharaoh’s heeding of this advice and putting Joseph in charge of all the land of Egypt, and finally we see that Joseph’s brothers end up having to come and buy grain for Joseph in order to survive the famine.  However, there is one thing that you should notice is missing from this summary and that is the word revenge.  At no point in time did Joseph ever that the plentiful opportunities that he had to get even with those who had done him wrong.  And that is what we are going to spend the rest of our time discussing.

We all know what Pharaoh’s dreams were and what they meant, so we will not spend any of our time discussing the dreams themselves and Joseph’s interpretation of those dreams.  What we are going to spend our time on is Joseph’s response after his interpretation and his and Pharaoh’s actions after that response.

Genesis 41:33-36 records Joseph’s actions after his interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams as this:

So now, let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this: Let him appoint overseers over the land and take a fifth of the harvest of the land of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. Let them gather all the excess food during these good years that are coming. Under Pharaoh’s authority, store the grain in the cities, so they may preserve it as food. The food will be a reserve for the land during the seven years of famine that will take place in the land of Egypt. Then the country will not be wiped out by the famine.

You should take note that Joseph’s response was unsolicited and showed genuine care and concern for the people of Egypt.  But there is something more important that you should have noticed and that was Joseph makes no mention of revenge.  And why is that so important?  Because if anyone had the right to seek vengeance or retribution it was Joseph.  Remember he had been wrongly accused of a crime, falsely imprisoned for that same crime, and to top all that off he had done a great service to high ranking government official who turned around and forgot all about Joseph.  Now put yourself in Joseph’s shoes and the man in charge of the society who had done all these things to you has just told you about a dream he has had where this seemingly unjust society is going to encounter great hardship, and you have told all this to the most powerful man in this society.  Would you have finished your statement in the same way that Joseph did?  I think we all know the answer to that question, and it is no.  Even though some of you will probably say yes, but in reality deep down in your heart you would want revenge.  And the reason for this is very simply because we don’t want justice to be done, because justice is about attempting to make something whole again and vengeance is all about retribution and making some else feel your same pain.  And if you have been reading along with us in our journey through the Bible then you will know that Joseph had personally seen the destructive power of revenge, and here he clearly made a choice not to seek vengeance against those who had done him wrong no matter what.  And it was this decision that led to all of the rest of the events in Joseph’s life.

Genesis 41:37-49 records Pharaoh’s response to Joseph’s advice and the actions that he (Pharaoh) took to implement this sound advice.

The proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants, and he said to them, “Can we find anyone like this, a man who has God’s spirit in him?” So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one as discerning and wise as you are. You will be over my house, and all my people will obey your commands. Only I, as king, will be greater than you.” Pharaoh also said to Joseph, “See, I am placing you over all the land of Egypt.” Pharaoh removed his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, clothed him with fine linen garments, and placed a gold chain around his neck. He had Joseph ride in his second chariot, and servants called out before him, “Make way!” So he placed him over all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh and no one will be able to raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt without your permission.” Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah and gave him a wife, Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest at On. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.

Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Joseph left Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout the land of Egypt.

During the seven years of abundance the land produced outstanding harvests. Joseph gathered all the excess food in the land of Egypt during the seven years and put it in the cities. He put the food in every city from the fields around it. So Joseph stored up grain in such abundance—like the sand of the sea—that he stopped measuring it because it was beyond measure.

And finally in Genesis 41:53-42:17 we see the ultimate result of Joseph’s decision to not seek vengeance.

Then the seven years of abundance in the land of Egypt came to an end, and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in every land, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. When the whole land of Egypt was stricken with famine, the people cried out to Pharaoh for food. Pharaoh told all Egypt, “Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you.” Now the famine had spread across the whole region, so Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Every land came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, for the famine was severe in every land.

When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you keep looking at each other? Listen,” he went on, “I have heard there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us so that we will live and not die.” So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he thought, “Something might happen to him.”

The sons of Israel were among those who came to buy grain, for the famine was in the land of Canaan. Joseph was in charge of the country; he sold grain to all its people. His brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them.

“Where do you come from?” he asked.

“From the land of Canaan to buy food,” they replied.

Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Joseph remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies. You have come to see the weakness of the land.”

“No, my lord. Your servants have come to buy food,” they said. “We are all sons of one man. We are honest; your servants are not spies.”

“No,” he said to them. “You have come to see the weakness of the land.”

But they replied, “We, your servants, were twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no longer living.”

Then Joseph said to them, “I have spoken: ‘You are spies!’ This is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one from among you to get your brother. The rest of you will be imprisoned so that your words can be tested to see if they are true. If they are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!” So Joseph imprisoned them together for three days.

And as you can see the end result of this decision was that only were the people of Egypt saved but so was Joseph’s family, which by the way were the people of Israel and without their survival there would have been no Jesus.  And without Jesus God’s plan would have had to take a different direction.  And tomorrow we are going to deal with Joseph’s actions towards his brothers.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Genesis 42:18-43:34, Matthew 13:47-14:12, Psalm 18:16-36 and Proverbs 4:7-10

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