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Saturday, July 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 41

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 14


‘Pharaoh sent and called Joseph.’

Genesis 41:14

I. Trouble is glad to find a deliverer anywhere, it matters not what his condition may be. Else had Pharaoh scorned the notion of seeking instruction from a Hebrew slave out of a dungeon. The readiness of the king to profit by the experience of others is commendable. Why remain sick when there is a Physician with ‘balm in Gilead’?

II. The king’s pleasure cannot wait.—There must be no delay in bringing Joseph out of prison; ‘they made him run” (marg.). Are we quick to execute our Lord’s commands, or do we linger, fancying any time will suffice to enter upon the duty assigned? ‘The king’s business requireth haste.’

III. Yet prison garb does not befit a king’s court.—Extreme haste did not prevent the necessary preparations for a decent appearance before Pharaoh. Joseph ‘ shaved (his beard and perhaps his head) and changed his raiment.’ Too often we rush into the presence of the King of kings unthinkingly, without the preparation of the heart and seriousness of manner which become us before the Holy Lord God. Joseph’s prison dress would have seemed an insult to the monarch. The ceremonial law of Israel never permitted the priests to minister before God with any sign of mourning upon them. Let us come before God not defiled but cleansed in the blood of Christ, wearing His robe of righteousness, not sorrowful but rejoicing, not looking like slaves but as His children. One day Christians will be presented faultless before the Father’s throne.

IV. The diligent servant is honoured by standing before the king.—This was an illustration of Proverbs 22:29. Had Joseph not been faithful to his work he had not been appointed warder and attendant on the state officials, nor had he noticed their sadness, interpreted their dreams, and been called to Pharaoh’s aid. Our acts are linked together, we cannot foresee the consequences of the most trivial deed. Let all our labour be conscientiously discharged.

V. The true prophet ascribes credit and power to God alone.—How modestly Joseph disclaimed the knowledge attributed to him, and referred the glory to Him whose messenger he was. Humility ever decks God’s servants, for they say, ‘What have we that we have not received?’ Pride on account of intellectual ability or rank or strength or character is unwarrantable. ‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’ Herein did the Saviour assert His Divine dignity, for He scrupled not to draw attention to Himself, and to perform miracles in His own name. Whereas the highest of men echo the petition, ‘Not unto, us, O Lord, but unto Thy name give glory.’

VI. The king is assured that God will answer him to his advantage.—Indeed, all God’s revelations concerning the future are for our welfare, even threatenings may be profitable by leading us to amend our lives and avert the evil of which we are warned. The ‘ answer of peace’ was to prove really beneficial to Pharaoh, though it predicted both abundance and dearth. Besides, the interpretation of the dreams would ease the monarch’s restlessness. God is ever ready to ‘speak peace to His people and to His saints.’


(1) ‘There is a morbid feeling which delights in railing against human nature, but it seems to me that there is a wiser lesson to be gained from this story than merely speaking of the butler’s ungratefulness. Consider, first, the suspense in which he was respecting his trial, and then the onerous duties he had to perform. What Joseph did for him after all was not so much, it was merely the interpreting of his dream. The lesson that we draw from this is—in this world we do too little, and expect too much. We bless a poor man by giving to him, and we expect that we have made him our debtor through life. You fancy that the world has forgotten you. For this world, from which you expect so much, what have you done? And if you find that you have done little and received much what marvel is it that you receive no more? The only marvel is that you have received so much.’

(2) ‘A very remarkable circumstance, and an important point of analogy, is to be found in the extreme rapidity with which the mental operations are performed, or rather, with which the material changes on which the ideas depend are excited in the hemispherical ganglia. It would appear as if a whole series of acts, that would really occupy a long lapse of time, pass ideally through the mind in one instant. We have in dreams no true perception of the lapse of time—a strange property of mind! for if such be also its property when entered into the eternal disembodied state, time will appear to us eternity. The relations of space as well as of time are also annihilated; so that while almost an eternity is compressed into a moment, infinite space is traversed more swiftly than by real thought.’

(3) ‘One of the loveliest traits in Joseph’s character was his humility. He did not pose before the great Egyptian monarch, nor take on airs not assume that he had some occult clue. From himself he turned all eyes to God.’

Verse 41


‘Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.’

Genesis 41:41

Pharaoh was a wise king. When he found a man of capacity and honesty like Joseph, he made use of him. And he did it in a royal style. He gave him a place in which he could use his qualities for the kingdom, and he invested the place with dignity and honour. The story is illustrative of the free and sweeping way an Eastern monarch ruled. But it is true of the life of Eastern lands to-day. A late Prime Minister in Persia rose from a humble place and lowly lineage to the first place in the kingdom, just as Joseph did in Egypt.

I. It does credit to Pharaoh that he admired and sought the qualities which Joseph possessed.—The Spirit of God was in him, and he had discretion and wisdom. There will always be work in the world ready for the man of whom this can be said. Discretion and wisdom are terms applicable not so much to the intellectual life as to character; to the man as a whole. The wise man is the man who knows how to do and when to do, and who does. And no man can have the Spirit of God in him doing his full work who will not become such a wise man, calm and prudent in judgment, strong and patient in plan and purpose, and steadfast and reliable in the discharge of duty.

II. Joseph accepted the position Pharaoh offered him.—It might have been dangerous for him to decline. It was surely dangerous for him to accept. There were the certain jealousies of those who would be supplanted by him, and the natural opposition of old officials and established families to an upstart, just out from prison, and with a dark history behind him. Moreover, the work before Joseph was appalling. But young as he was, he took it up. A man need never be afraid to take up any work which God gives him. He is pursuing the perilous course who runs away from God’s call, however solemn and astounding it may be. It is an easier and a happier thing to be a prime minister at God’s call and with God’s help than a hod-carrier without God. All work is easy which God gives man, and all work hard when He does not give. In prison Joseph at once acted upon all the knowledge he had of God’s will and purpose.

III. Joseph had not sought this office, nor interpreted dreams in order to get it.—He believed that he was in it for the sake of the conditions, the knowledge of which had been the means of putting him in it. And he went to work to gather the grain which the land brought forth in handfuls. What he predicted in God’s name to others, he acted upon in God’s strength himself. Joseph lived his own gospel, and at once laid out his might in accordance with it. Thou that preachest that another man must not lie, dost thou lie? Thou that tellest men to prepare for judgment, art thou prepared? Thou that preachest of a holy God, art thou clean in thine inward parts? The consistency of Joseph calls all who preach to others or who think that they believe for themselves, to act upon their beliefs and not use them merely as the means of livelihood, as stock in trade in conversation, or as mental notions untranslated into act and moral nature.


(1) ‘How casual seem the results of God’s providence! In after years, the butler might say, “By merest chance I was in the same prison with him, and happened to dream a dream, which he interpreted, and so he became ruler of Egypt.” The history of the world all hinges on seeming chances of this sort. Oliver Cromwell was on board of ship ready to start for America, when Charles I. stopped him. How nearly his services were lost to England!

The great struggle of the Dutch against Spain for religious liberty might have been fruitless, but for the storm which raised the sea, and broke through the dykes and permitted the Dutch galleys to sail over the fields right to the besieged town of Leyden with provisions and men. Our accidents are God’s designs, and the little things as well as the great are all of His appointment.’

(2) ‘There were good reasons for the time of waiting that Joseph had in the prison-house. What did it do for Joseph’s character? Perhaps it cured a tendency to undue self-esteem; certainly it helped to nourish self-control. Nothing does that so well as being compelled to wait, when we want to work. Compare the influence of David’s time of persecution on his fitness for his kingship. Joseph also had to learn this very valuable lesson, that if a man takes care to keep his character good, God will have both him and it in His safe keeping, and by-and-by make the goodness plain to everybody.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Genesis 41". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/genesis-41.html. 1876.
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