After Joseph is falsely accused and put in prison, the Lord continued to be with him and bless him (as we saw last time). In this portion of the story (Genesis 40), we see that at some point in Joseph’s imprisonment, he is joined by Pharaoh’s chief baker and chief cupbearer. We’re told that after some time of being imprisoned with Joseph, each of these men dreams a dream on the same night, and each is troubled by the dream, realizing that it is a meaningful dream with an unknown interpretation. Joseph, through the power of the Lord upon him, is able to tell them the interpretations: the baker will be executed, while the cupbearer will be restored to his job. Joseph only asks the cupbearer that he tell Pharaoh about Joseph’s false imprisonment (v. 14). However, the cupbearer forgets about him (v. 23).
Two years later, though, Pharaoh himself dreams two troubling dreams (Genesis 41:1–7). None of his wise men are able to give him an acceptable interpretation, but the cupbearer remembers that Joseph’s interpretation came true two years ago. Pharaoh brings him up from prison. Again, by the power of the Lord with Joseph, he tells Pharaoh what his dreams mean: there will be seven years of great harvest, followed by seven years of terrible famine. Joseph also says that since the dream happened twice, the interpretation is fixed by God. This should ring some bells in our memory, as Joseph himself had a similar dream twice in chapter 37.
Joseph tells Pharaoh that he should appoint someone to collect and store a portion of the great harvest so that there will be food to get Egypt through the famine. Pharaoh, recognizing that God’s hand is upon Joseph and that he has great wisdom, appoints him to this task and makes him second in command over all of Egypt. Joseph might not realize it yet (the Bible doesn’t tell us at this point), but his dreams of his family bowing down to him are also fixed by God, and the stage is being set for them to be fulfilled as well.
The story makes a point to tell us that Joseph had two sons before the famine struck, and their names are very meaningful (Genesis 41:50–52). His oldest is named Manasseh, because God made him forget his hardship and family with all of this blessing. His youngest is named Ephraim, because God had made him fruitful (or blessed him) in his affliction and trouble. These are also significant thoughts because they again show that God’s hand has been with Joseph to fulfill his dreams, but more importantly to fulfill the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. His blessing and presence cannot be overshadowed by trials and affliction.
There are a few lessons that we noted from this story. First, we often have to wait on God’s timing. Joseph spent so much time waiting on the Lord, first as a slave, and then as a prisoner. But the Lord’s timing is perfect, even when it is far slower than we desire (which is often the case). Second, God is with us even when our waiting makes it feel like he isn’t. Joseph could have easily given up hope, but he recognized that the Lord was still with him, even though it surely didn’t always feel like it when he was imprisoned and forgotten for years (literally). Lastly, our faith and obedience while we wait are always worth it. It can be tempting to take things into our own hands (like Abraham and Sarah trying to have a son), but this never ends well. If we continue to trust God and patiently obey, we will never be let down. The Lord is always with us, and trust and obedience is always the best response in the darkness and doubt of trials.