When last we saw Joseph, he had been sold into slavery by his loving brothers and had his death faked. Obviously, things could only get worse! Joseph is sold to an Egyptian – the Bible hates the Egyptians – and is made the head servant over all the other servants. In fact, he is so senior and highly thought of that his master abdicates all responsibility to Joseph (Genesis 39:6):
6And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.
I can’t understand why it is that the Egyptians are thought of so badly. So far in Genesis every time we have encountered an Egyptian they have been really nice to the Jews they have met. Jospeh’s master’s wife takes a fancy to Joseph and asks him to sleep with her. Joseph turns her down and leaves his garment with her; she uses this to prove an allegation of attempted rape and(Genesis 39:20-23):
20And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.
21But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
22And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.
23The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.
Very odd how much these Egyptians trust Joseph – first a slave, then a prisoner, but left in charge regardless. And God even helps the people in Egypt.
Chapter 40 is another of these “famous” bits of the Bible. This is the first time that Joseph gets involved in Die Traumdeutung (“Dream Interpretation” – as named by Freud). While he is in prison the Pharoah’s chief butler and chief baker fall from favour and are thrown in prison. Both of these me have a dream and Joseph interprets the dreams. The butler’s dream means that he will be restored to favour after three days and the baker’s dream means he will be put to death in three days. Not particularly uplifting. Anyway, it all comes to pass and, even though he promised otherwise, the butler forgets that Joseph interpreted his dream correctly. I think that Joseph was expecting the butler to arrange for the Pharoah to free him, though if I had an accurate dream interpreter I think I’d want him where I could find him too.
Chapter 41 is the best job interview in the universe. The Pharaoh the has his 2 dreams – the first is of the 7 healthy and 7 starved cows, and the second is of 7 healthy ears of corn and 7 thin ears of corn. Joseph interprets this to mean that there will be 7 years of pleanty followed immediately by 7 years of famine. He suggests a cunning plan (Genesis 41:33-36):
33Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.
34Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years.
35And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities.
36And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.
Sensible idea and one that Pharaoh would have probably come upon himself. In a shock twist, Pharaoh decides that Joseph should be that man and, furthermore, should be second in command to the Pharaoh himself! It’s almost an abdication. Because it all works, there is plenty of food in Egypt and they have enough for other nations to want to buy from Egypt when they have no food. And there we end, except for this:
Firstly, there are no hidden meanings in this tale. God helps Joseph to elevate himself via the medium of dream interpretation. And it works. However, God is actually helping Egypt to enslave Israel – with the money Egypt gains from the famine and, no doubt, the extra political power, God is setting up Israel to be enslaved by a stronger country. If I was an Israelite I would be absolutely furious. But, as we shall see in future episodes, God is playing a long game and Israel can’t remember anything beyond breakfast and so everything is a great surprise to them.