October 27, 2016

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

PART IV: JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN (Gen. 37:1-50:26)

 

 

Topic #C: JOSEPH BECOMES GOVERNOR OF EGYPT. Gen. 39:1-41:57.                                                                                                                                                      

 

 

Lesson IV.C.7: Joseph Is Made Governor. (Gen. 41:37-46)

 

 

 

Genesis 41:37-46 (KJV)

 

37 And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.

38 And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?

39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:

40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.

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

42 And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck;

43 And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt.

44 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.

45 And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.

46 And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.

 

 

Introduction

 

Joseph interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh, and he advised him on how to meet the impending disaster (41:33-36).  To Pharaoh and his royal retinue, no other candidate but Joseph qualified for the task of working out this good plan of his, because they recognized that he spoke God-given revelation and insight (41:39).  Joseph’s focus on his Lord had quickly taken him from prison to the palace (41:41). Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph, “a man in whom the spirit of God is,” that he elevated him to a position second only to his own position (41:40).

 

 

Commentary

 

37 And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.

 In a council meeting, Pharaoh and his advisors quickly saw the value of Joseph’s advice (See the previous lesson for the advice Joseph gave Pharaoh.), and, furthermore, it was immediately clear that Joseph was the right man for the job (41:38; Numbers 27:18; Daniel 5:11).

Note: it was the unrivaled will of God not merely to present Joseph to Pharaoh but also to have Pharaoh promote Joseph (41:38-44).

 

 

38 And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?

Pharaoh gives exactly the response that Joseph would have hoped for.  The Egyptian monarch has not been turned into a monotheist by Joseph, but he has gone along with Joseph’s idea that human wisdom is a gift of God, or the gods, and the expression he uses could have had behind it the force of the “Holy Spirit.” “The Spirit of God is” the source of practical powers, as well as of moral and spiritual gifts.

Note: perhaps “spirit of the god’s” would be a better rendering, since Pharaoh was speaking.  The word “spirit” should probably not be capitalized in such passages since reference to the Holy Spirit would be out of character in statements made by pagan rulers.


39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:

Everything thus far had taken place in the same council meeting where Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams. Pharaoh and his servants (council members) decided that Joseph’s interpretation and advice were excellent.  Pharaoh (41:38) characterized him as “a man in whom the spirit of God is,” and reported to Joseph that they had agreed he should be the man to supervise the grain storage plan.  His rank would be next to Pharaoh himself in power and authority. 


40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.

“Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled.” The Hebrew says literally “by your mouth,” in lieu of “according unto thy word.” The clear meaning is by your commands, by the directives you issue.

For our sakes, God is involved with the secular as well as the sacred life (Acts 6:3). 

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

Joseph for the moment has remained silent, uncertain what to say to Pharaoh’s astounding proposal, even if enlisting such a proposal may have been his expressed intention.  So Pharaoh must repeat himself—this time in a speech-act in which he officially confers the high office on Joseph and confirms the act by adorning the Hebrew slave with regal insignia: the signet ring, the golden collar, and the fine linen dress (41:42).  Now we know that Joseph was lifted then and there to the highest post in the land; that absolute power was placed in his hands, power second only to that of Pharaoh himself; that Joseph walked into Pharaoh’s presence that day a condemned man, straight from prison, and walked out again the greatest man in the world.


42 And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck;

“And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand.” By the way, that ring had a signet on it.  When that was put down in wax, it was just the same as Pharaoh’s signature.  Pharaoh is making Joseph his agent.  He has the right to use the king’s signature.

 

“And put a gold chain (golden collar) about his neck.” Although English translators have repeatedly rendered this as “chain,” Egyptian bas-reliefs show a more elaborate ceremonial ornament made out of twisted gold wire that covered part of the shoulders and upper chest as well as the neck.  In fact, the Hebrew word is not the normal term for “chain,” and reflects a root that means “to plait,” “to cushion,” “to pad.”

 

Potiphar must have been there.  Imagine what must have happened that night when he arrived home.  He would look his wife in the eye at supper and say, “Do you remember that Hebrew slave we had around here some years ago, the one you accused of molesting you?” The woman’s face would become drained of all color.  “Well, what about the wretch?” “I only hope your accusation was just, my dear, that’s all. Pharaoh has just appointed him grand vizier of Egypt and I’m to report to him tomorrow morning.”


Note: Bas-relief is a type of sculpture that has less depth to the faces and figures than they actually have, when measured proportionately (to scale). This technique retains the natural contours of the figures, and allows the work to be viewed from many angles without distortion of the figures themselves.


43 And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt.

Joseph’s appointment is now made official; “Bow the knee” is the rendering of “Abrek.” In modern Egypt cattle-drivers say “Ibrik,” when they want their camels to kneel, and slave owners use it with their female slaves when ordering them to get on their knees as a sign of repentance.

A chariot was given to Joseph and he was paraded publicly with the proclamation that he was to be honored by the populace. When Joseph traveled anywhere with Pharaoh his chariot was right behind Pharaoh’s, in second position, signifying to all that Joseph was second in-command. The Egyptian people bowed as a sign of respect and homage to Joseph’s position—not as a sign of worship. 

But how could Pharaoh set a Hebrew prisoner over the land of Egypt on the basis of a dream’s interpretation without waiting to see if it was true?  The answer is in Proverbs 21:1: “The Kings heart is in the hand of the Lord.” Cream rises to the surface.  Joseph was the first of many godly Jews to rise to prominence in Gentile governments.


44 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.

“I am Pharaoh!” Most commentators and translators have interpreted this as an implied inconsistency: though “I am Pharaoh, without you no man shall raise hand or foot.” . . .  But this is unnecessary because we know that royal decrees in the ancient Near East regularly began with the formula: I am King X.  The sense here would be: by the authority invested in me as Pharaoh, I declare that without you, etc.

Envious looks, like darts,  might well have been thrown at Joseph by high officers of the court as Pharaoh took Joseph, the despised and rejected of men, and set him on high at his own right hand and invested him with power.  That is where Jesus is today, seated at the right hand of the majesty on high.  The jealousy and rage of men cannot alter His role.

Note: the inconsistency is probably that Pharaoh, the most powerful man in Egypt, tells Joseph,Without you no man shall raise hand or foot.”

45 And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.

 

“And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnathpaaneah.” Joseph was highly exalted; he was also highly celebrated. “Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnathpaaneah,” and later, when “Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt,” men were appointed to run before his chariot and to cry out, “Bow the knee!” The change to an Egyptian name goes along with the assumption of Egyptian dress and the insignia of high office.

 

The whole vast assembly of Egyptians that were present in Pharaoh’s palace that day, went down on their knees before Joseph; dignitaries, the guards, the military chiefs, the lords and ladies of the court, the attendants, the dancing girls, the aristocracy, the high and the low alike.  From one end of the vast audience chamber to the other the word was whispered like the wrestling of a forest’s leaves before the evening breeze, “Zaphnathpaaneah!” To the Egyptians the name would mean “Savior of the world,” which is exactly what Joseph was to them.  To the Hebrews the name would mean “revealer of secrets,” which is what he had been to his brethren in the days of his dreams and what he would be to his wife “Asenath” in the days to come. It is certain that Joseph would have told her about his God. The wife given to Joseph is a further proof of his thorough identification with Egypt. This girl was from a high-ranking family of the priestly city of On. Her father was Pitiphera (or “Poti-phera), the priest of On, who served an important Egyptian deity named Ra (the “sun God”). This city (On) is called Heliopolis by the Greeks; it is still a suburb of modern Cairo.  The girl’s name was “Asenath,” meaning “one belonging to the goddess Neith.” We know nothing else about the woman beyond her name and the occupation of her father; but we may infer from her name that she was herself, a priestess of the ancient Egyptian goddess Neith, the Earth Mother of the Delta.  Evidently, she came right out of heathenism. Joseph was thrust into intimate contact with Egypt’s paganism, but he was not overcome by it.

 

Note: all the dreams interpreted by Joseph since he entered Egypt—had been revealed by God in a rare display of manifesting truth through pagans, so that Joseph would be established in Egypt as a leader and thus elevated—could be used for the preservation of God’s people when the famine came to Canaan.  Thus God cared for His people and fulfilled His promises.


46 And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.

 

“And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt.” Joseph had spent 13 years in Egypt, and now he finds himself in a position which would correspond, I believe, to prime minister.  He was second only to Pharaoh in the land of Egypt. 

Have you ever wondered why Pharaoh was so willing to accept him?  Primarily, of course, the answer is that God was with him.  All the way along we have seen that.  The hand of God, by His providence, was leading this man. There may be another very practical reason for Pharaoh’s accepting Joseph so readily.  Many scholars hold that the Pharaoh at this particular time in history was one of the Hyksos kings. The Hyksos were not native Egyptians but were Bedouins from the Arabian Desert.  They were a nomadic group, and for a period they came in and took over the throne of Egypt.  If this is true (and I think it is), Pharaoh was actually closer in nationality to Joseph than to the Egyptians, and this gave him confidence in Joseph.  Actually, these Hyksos kings found it a little difficult to find someone in Egypt who would be loyal and faithful to them.  Faithfulness was certainly characteristic of Joseph.  His confidence that God was moving in his life produced in him faithfulness to whomever he was attached.  He was faithful to his task because he knew that God was in it.  The racial bond with pharaoh may well be the reason that Joseph found such a ready reception with him at this time, and he certainly proved to be faithful to him, as we shall see.

“When he stood before Pharaoh.” This could mean when he entered Pharaoh’s service, though it is equally possible that it refers literally to the scene just reported; when he stood before Pharaoh and made his way to greatness by interpreting the dreams. 

This event in Joseph’s life furnishes another parallel with the life of the Lord Jesus.  Joseph had a Gentile bride, and the Lord Jesus Christ is presently calling out of this world a Gentile bride, which we call the church.

And in this same verse there is still another parallel; Joseph stood before pharaoh when he was 30 years old and the Lord Jesus began His ministry when He was 30 years of age.  So at 30, Joseph takes up his work in Egypt.  During these seven years of plenty he is gathering into storehouses the abundant produce of the land.

 

 

 

 

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