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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 41

Expositor's Dictionary of TextsExpositor's Dictionary

Verses 1-57

Joseph the Optimist

Genesis 41:33

Neither the personality nor the public position of Joseph accounts for his effect on posterity. His peculiarity is not that he rises to a pinnacle of earthly splendour. It is that his splendour has come out of his dungeon.

I. The portrait of Joseph is a philosophical picture the earliest attempt to delineate a theory of the universe in the form of the narrative. Joseph is made the spokesman of the new evangel. He comes before us as the advocate for optimism.

II. In the life of Joseph there are three periods:

( a ) A child of his father's old age, he has two qualities by heredity and one by education. From his grandfather Abraham he has received the spirit of optimism, from his father Jacob the spirit of ambition, but from his mode of education the spirit of selfishness. The infirmity of this boy Joseph is just his want of encumbrances. He has never had to ask for anything twice.

( b ) The second part is one of enforced service. He is stolen from home, sold as a slave, and transferred by them to an Egyptian soldier. Suspected innocently of grave offences, he is immured in a dungeon. He begins to interpret the dreams of his fellow-prisoners and reveals his poetic genius as he never has revealed it before.

( c ) The boy of the desert, the youth of the dungeon has become the adviser of royalty. The enemies of his boyhood, these brothers whom he had wronged and his aged father are there. The old patriarchal life is there. But they are all changed. The father has given up his unjust partiality, the brothers have given up their jealousy, and Joseph has given up his selfishness, his dreams are now humanitarian.

III. There is only one feature of this portrait which has been alleged to be an artistic blemish, a blemish in its picture of optimism. It has been said, Why did Joseph let his father believe him to be dead for so many years? Had not he been unjust, selfish, monopolizing, eager to grasp more than his share. How could he better make reparation than by effacing himself, allowing his name to be blotted out from the living members of that circle whose harmony he had done so much to disturb, and whose unity he had helped to destroy.

IV. Even the closing scene of all, the hour of his death, is grandly consistent with the ideal of the picture. Why is it that the writer to the Hebrews has fixed upon this final hour of Joseph as the typical hour of his life? It is because, to be optimistic in that valley is optimism indeed, because the man who can there keep the light in his soul has proved that his faith is supreme.

G. Matheson, The Representative Men of the Bible, p. 174.

Genesis 41:38-49

Many specimens of these old Egyptian signet rings have been found. A writer states that one of the largest he ever saw was in the possession of a French gentleman at Cairo. It was a massive ring, containing some £20 worth of gold. On one face of the stone was the name of a king, successor to the Pharaoh of our chapter, on the other side was the engraving of a lion with the legend, 'Lord of strength'.

References. XLI. 38-48. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Genesis, p. 253. XLI. 51 . Expositor (3rd Series), vol. iv. p. 401. XLII. 1-2. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v. No. 234; ibid. vol. xl. No. 2379. XLII. 6. R. Hiley, A Year's Sermons, vol. i. p. 152. XLII. 8. Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 4. XLII. 9. F. D. Maurice, The Patriarchs and Lawgivers of the Old Testament, p. 118.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Genesis 41". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/genesis-41.html. 1910.
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