GENESIS - CHAPTER 41
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
41:1. “And it came to pass at the end of two full years that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.”
From chapters 37-40 we have seen in the experiences of Joseph the foreshadowing of the sufferings of Christ, and His rejection during this present age. Chapter 41, however, records the deliverance of Joseph from the dungeon, and his exaltation to the place of supremacy over Egypt, and in these events we have the symbolic revelation of Christ’s coming exaltation over the earth.
We have noted in our study of Ge 39:2 that Joseph’s years in the dungeon represent the ministry of Christ during this present age of grace when He “serves” His own as their great High Priest and Intercessor; and as Joseph during those years was hidden from the view of the Egyptians, and of his brethren, so is Christ, during this present age, hidden not only from the world, but also from the nation of Israel. Joseph was seen only by his master, and by those to whom he ministered in the prison. During this age Christ is seen only by His Father, and by His own to whom He ministers, they seeing Him by faith.
Joseph’s exaltation began with his interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream which proved to be the symbolic revelation of future events. The dream came at the end of two full years. Those two years represent the two millennia of this present age, for they followed immediately after the events of chapter 40, which are themselves a clear picture of Calvary, the number two reminding us that this age has been invested with the special character of witness.
The river by which Pharaoh stood in his dream, was the Nile, but in the present context it symbolizes the river of time.
41:2. “And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favored kine and fatfleshed, and they fed in a meadow.”
Verse 29 reveals that they represent “seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt.” But just as those seven years were symbolic of a time period in the near future of that day, so are they also symbolic of another time period which in relation to that age was in the distant future. Most Bible scholars take the abundance of that era to be symbolic of the Church age. As there was during those literal seven years an abundance of corn in Egypt, so during this present age has there been an abundance of spiritual “corn” (the Gospel) in the world. As God multiplied the corn in Egypt during those seven years, so has He also, during this present age, multiplied the “corn,” the bread of life offered through the Gospel.
This raises the question, however, If the final two years of Joseph’s imprisonment represent the Church age, how can those seven years of plenty also represent the same age? The explanation is that the two years represent the Church age with the emphasis upon Christ’s ministry to believers, while the seven years of plenty represent the same time, but with the emphasis upon the truth that it is a time when God’s abundance is poured out to unbelievers through the Gospel. As in the gospel of Matthew we are shown Christ as King; and in Mark, Christ as Servant, so in the two years we are being shown His ministry to believers during the Church age; and in the seven years, His ministry to unbelievers during the same period.
The great disparity in the symbolic duration of those two time periods, points perhaps to the difference between the brevity of the believer’s earthly pilgrimage, and the extent of God’s patience with the unconverted, as it is written, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pe 3:9.).
41:3. “And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favored and leanfleshed, and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river.”
Verse 30 interprets this symbol: these lean cattle represent seven years of famine to follow the seven years of plenty, and most Bible scholars understand them to represent also, in a wider context, the seven years of the Tribulation that will follow the Church age.
The question may be asked, If the Church age, of about two thousand years, is represented by the seven fat cattle and the seven years of plenty, why is the very much shorter period of the Tribulation (seven years as compared to approximately two thousand years) represented also by the same number of lean cattle and years of famine? The explanation appears to be that since seven is the number of perfection or completeness, the seven cattle and the seven years refer symbolically, not only to the duration of the Church and Tribulation ages, but to the fact that each is a complete time period. In the former, God will complete the Church; in the latter He will complete His program for the restoration of Israel, and the inauguration of the millennial kingdom.
41:4. “And the ill favored and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favored and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.”
Verse 30 explains the meaning of this. The abundance of the good years will be swallowed up in the following years of famine; and as we have seen, this is the prophetic announcement that the spiritual abundance of this present age will be forgotten in the spiritual famine that will be in the Tribulation. That fast approaching age of famine is graphically described by the prophet, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord ... they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it” (Am 8:11-12).
The prophetic message, however, is not the only one in this passage. As there was for Egypt a literal coming time of famine, in which is portrayed symbolically the world’s coming time of spiritual famine, God would warn men that those who fail to “store up” the bread of life here on earth will experience an eternal famine in the torment of the lake of fire.
41:5. “And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good.”
Verse 32 informs us that the revelation of the same truth by means of two different dreams was, “because the thing is established by God, and God will surely bring it to pass.”
Not only does God declare the certainty of coming events, He declares also His concern for men. Before the famine comes He would first send abundance so that those who heeded the warning would not perish in the famine. The response to the warning would indicate the belief or unbelief of the hearers: the believers would store up in the time of plenty; unbelievers would not.
This discloses the attitude of God towards sinners. He loves them, and warns them to “lay up corn” in anticipation of coming famine. Some heed the warning, and trust in Christ; others ignore the warning, and refuse to trust Him, with the result that when the “famine” comes they will perish.
Apart from the fact that the immutability of the foretold events is declared in the twice-repeated dream, there is the question of whether there is any special significance connected with the symbols themselves. The fat cattle and good corn, both of which are man’s food, are symbols of Christ Who is the believer’s spiritual food. The cattle, having to die in order to become man’s food, portray Him dying to give men life, while the corn represents Him, not only as the corn of wheat that fell into the ground and died, but also as the One Who is the true Bread upon which the believer feeds in order to nourish his new spiritual life.
Connected with the cattle is the thought of bloodshed: it is only by the shedding of Christ’s blood that man’s sin can be forgiven. The thought of blood, however, is absent in connection with the corn. It is the symbol in which the emphasis is upon His resurrec-tion life, and His being the “true Bread,” the believer’s daily food.
In this connection it is significant that before the Israelites were given the manna, they were given first, and only once, quails, “And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host, and ... upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing.... And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, it is manna” (Ex 16:13-15). The quails, given only once, had to die: their blood was shed. They represent Christ dying once for our sins. There is no blood connected with the manna. It represents Christ as the daily food of His blood-bought people.
Significantly also, the quails came at night, while the manna came in the morning. Christ “the quail” died for us when we were in nature’s darkness, but those who feed on Christ “the manna” do so in the light of morning, for they are “the children of light” (1 Th 5:5), having been translated, by faith, out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, Col 1:13.
This interpretation of the fat cattle and good corn requires, however, that we also view the lean cattle and bad corn as being also types of Christ. That they may be so viewed will be apparent when we realize that in their case the emphasis is not upon their sustaining life, but rather upon their destroying it. The solemn lesson being taught is that the Christ, Who during this age of grace offers Himself to men as the Bread of life, will not be available to them as such once they go from time into eternity. He who today rejects Christ as Savior, must meet that same Christ as the Judge presiding at the great white throne, Re 20:11. Today Christ is the minister of life, then He will be the minister of death.
41:6. “And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them.”
Here is another demonstration of the truth that in Scripture the east is always connected with evil. In this present context the east wind represents the judgment of God that will sweep the earth in the Tribulation. That God the Holy Spirit will be the Power behind those judgments is revealed in the fact that it was the wind that had blasted those ears of corn, and in Scripture the wind (singular) is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, while winds (plural) symbolize both good and evil spirits, the context indicating which. See, for example Jn 3:8, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
41:7. “And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.”
Further comment on this verse is unnecessary since we have already considered its typological significance.
41:8. “And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; and there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh.”
To avoid confusion in regard to Pharaoh, it is necessary to remember, that as king of Egypt, he represents Satan, the prince of this world, and it is as such that he is most frequently set before us in Scripture. As has been noted already, however, in this present section we find this particular Pharaoh being used to represent God the Father. But in addition, he also represents man, for the king is simply the representative of those he rules. It is as the typical man, then, that he reacts to the Divine communication - “his spirit was troubled.” The natural man can respond in no other way, for God’s first communication to the natural man is, “Ye must be born again” (Jn 3:7), “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Ro 3:23), and, “The wages of sin is death” (Ro 6:23).
Significantly the troubling of his spirit came “in the morning.” The morning speaks of enlightenment. Before a man can be saved he must be enlightened. It is only the man who is sick who goes to the doctor seeking a cure. Many a man, however, has been enlightened, but not saved. The Pharaoh of Moses’ day is an example of such a man, as is also Felix, Ac 24:25. He trembled as Paul preached, but we don’t read that he was ever saved.
But this Pharaoh was a man of a different caliber. He obeyed the word of God spoken by Joseph, and made himself thereby the representative of all who obey by trusting in Christ.
In sending for the magicians and wise men of Egypt he was doing typically what many another has done under similar circumstances. Lacking understanding himself, he turned to those who might have been expected to have it, for those magicians and wise men were of the priestly class. Many a troubled sinner has gone to modern-day ministers and priests seeking spiritual enlightenment, only to learn that they are as much in darkness as he is himself.
41:9. “Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day.”
In our study of chapter 40 we noted that what transpired in the dungeon was a picture of Calvary, in which the butler represents the repentant thief who became the possessor of eternal life even as he lost his life physically. The type, however, isn’t limited to one application. That repentant thief may well be the representative of the early converts in general, and they were Jews. While there may have been Gentiles among those earliest believers, Cornelius is the first of whom we are certain, and scholars are generally agreed that his conversion occurred about eight years after Pentecost. Those first converts were the true Jewish remnant, and would have been the nucleus of the new converted nation that would then have entered into the millennial kingdom had the nation as a whole believed. The nation, however, refused to believe, with the result that those early Jewish believers became instead the nucleus of the Church. The butler therefore, is also the representative or type of that remnant. After those first few early years, the Church became predominantly Gentile, and for the past two millennia there has been no Jewish testimony. That two-thousand year silence is symbolically portrayed in the two-year silence of the butler.
Scripture indicates that there will be at least some interval between the rapture of the Church and the beginning of the Tribulation, as it indicates also that the first three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation may be a time of relative peace. The miraculous conversion of a hundred and forty four thousand Jews following the Rapture will result in a proclamation of the Gospel during that interval and also during the first three- and-a-half years of the Tribulation, that will be no less abundant than it is in this present age. As with the famine in Joseph’s day, the abundance of the seven good years served to mitigate the effect of the famine very considerably for the first year or two, so will it be apparently, in the time between the Rapture and the full development of the Tribulation. It may well be that the spiritual abundance of the post-Rapture period will also mitigate the “famine” that will intensify as the Tribulation progresses. The seven years of abundance therefore, may represent not only the Church age, but also the post-Rapture interval, and the first half of the Tribulation era.
It should be noted that in this section of Genesis all the emphasis is upon the years of famine, the seven years of plenty being mentioned only as the necessary precursor of that famine, which is itself representative of the Tribulation. It should be remembered also that the abundance of the Gospel will not cease immediately after the rapture of the Church. A hundred and forty four thousand Jews (whether that number is literal or symbolic is irrelevant to our present study) will be converted after the Rapture, and they, joined by their converts, will preach the Gospel in the post-Rapture interval, and in the Tribulation. Just as the literal famine in Egypt would become increasingly severe as the seven years progressed, so will it be in the Tribulation. The Gospel “famine” will be gradual rather than sudden.
In view of all this there seems to be little doubt that the butler, now testifying on Joseph’s behalf, after two years of silence, represents the Jewish remnant, which though silent for the past two thousand years, will resume its testimony for Christ after the Rapture. This will be more easily seen if we keep in mind that the Church age forms a parenthesis, a break in the continuity of God’s program for the salvation of Israel, the seven years of the Tribulation being the last week of the seventy, in which, God revealed to Daniel, that He would bring about the conversion of Israel, and bring in the millennial kingdom. The day when the Tribulation begins (the day when Israel signs the seven-year covenant with the Roman beast ruler) will be the moment when God’s prophetic clock, as it were, begins to tick again, beginning where it stopped two thousand years ago. At the beginning of the Tribulation the world stage will be set again just as it was then. As Israel was then under the dominion of Rome, so will she be again under the dominion of Rome revived in the form of the ten-kingdom coalition, with the beast emperor in the place of Caesar.
41:10. “Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in ward in the captain of the guard’s house, both me and the chief baker.”
All the elements of a true testimony are here, for the believer’s testimony must begin with an acknowledgement of his condemned state. One of the marks of an unbeliever is his tendency to generalize. He will admit that we are all sinners, but he won’t make it personal “I am a sinner,” and he will readily admit that Christ died for sinners, but he won’t say “He died for me, for my sins.” The butler began by saying “I do remember my faults,” and he didn’t attempt to make any excuses. He continued with the declaration that he had incurred the anger of his king (apparently a different Pharaoh from the one then ruling Egypt), and had been consigned to the prison (the place of death). The true believer similarly confesses that he had incurred the wrath of God, and was deservedly in the place of condemnation and death.
“Both me and the chief baker.” This is the symbolic confession of the believing remnant, as it is of every believer, that Jew and Gentile alike are equally condemned in God’s sight. Every detail seems to confirm that the butler, restored to his high office, represents the believing Jewish remnant that will be the witness for God during the Tribulation.
41:11. “And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he, we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream.”
Having discussed the details of these dreams in chapter 40, it is only necessary to note here that since the darkness of night represents a correspondingly dark spiritual state, the truth being declared is that the Jew is as much in spiritual darkness as is the Gentile. And it is here amid the spiritual darkness of this world that the future of every man is revealed: believers will be in heaven eternally, as unbelievers will be in the lake of fire eternally.
41:12. “And there was there with us a young man, an Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard, and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams, to each man according to his dream he did interpret.”
“With us” declares the truth that as Joseph was with them in the place of condemnation, so did Christ come down here, not just to be with us in the place of condemnation, but to take our place and die for us.
“A young man.” This reminds us that Christ died neither of old age, nor by compulsion: it was in all the vigor of manhood that He willingly gave up that life for us.
“An Hebrew.” Joseph was with them, and in every respect, apparently, like them, but he was different: they were Egyptians, he was a Hebrew. Christ came to be with men, and to be like them, but He was different: He was sinless and holy; they were earthy, He was heavenly; they were the sons of Adam, He was the Son of God.
Hebrew means beyond: the other side (as having crossed over.” Joseph was of that stock that had come from “beyond.” His ancestor Abraham had crossed over from Babylon to Canaan in obedience to God’s call. Christ had also come from “beyond.” He had crossed over from heaven to earth in obedience to the Father’s will.
“Servant to the captain of the guard.” In Joseph the servant, God would have us see a picture of Christ the perfect Servant Who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many, Mk 10:45.
“He interpreted.” The One represented by Joseph is the great Interpreter. It is He Who interprets God for man, and it is only as He indwells us through His Holy Spirit that we can interpret the Scriptures.
41:13. “And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was, me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.”
The exact fulfillment of Joseph’s interpretation points to the fact that there will be also exact fulfillment of every word spoken by the One whom Joseph typifies.
41:14. “Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.”
Joseph’s time in the dungeon we have taken to be symbolic of Christ’s present priestly ministry during which He serves His own as High Priest and Intercessor. His removal from the dungeon therefore, represents the end of the Lord’s ministry of service, and the beginning of His millennial reign, a reign that is typified in Joseph’s rule over Egypt.
“They brought him hastily out....” The Lord’s service as Priest and Intercessor will end at the Rapture, and in regard to that coming for His Church we are informed that it will be “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Co 15:52). Joseph’s hasty removal from the dungeon brought an abrupt end to his service there, and in that haste we may see the abruptness with which the Lord’s priestly ministry to the Church will cease.
“And shaved himself.” The Egyptians shaved their heads as well as their faces, and this recalls the fact that when the days of the Nazarite’s vow of separation were completed, he also shaved his head, and was free to drink wine again, Nu 6:18-20. The Nazarite, however, is also a type of Christ, and it is significant that on the night of His betrayal, the Lord declared, “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Mt 26:29). The end of the Lord’s priestly ministry to the Church therefore, is portrayed both in the Nazarite’s shaving himself, and drinking wine, and in Joseph’s shaving himself as he left the dungeon. As that day was one of joy and gladness for Joseph, so will the day it typifies be for Christ a day of joy and gladness. That joy is symbolized in the “wine” that He and His redeemed Bride will drink when they sit down together at the great wedding feast in the Father’s house.
“... and changed his raiment.” As Joseph laid aside his prison garments, so will the Lord Jesus Christ lay aside His priestly robes. As the Egyptians thereafter saw Joseph in the robes of the ruler, so will the world also yet see Christ.
41:15. “And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it.”
As Joseph was glorified by what had been said of him, so is Christ also glorified by everything that is written and said concerning Him.
Since the dreams of the butler and baker, and of Pharaoh, were all the revelation of God’s counsels, Joseph’s ability to interpret them simply declares the truth that it is only through Christ that men can know God.
41:16. “And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”
In Joseph’s determination to glorify God we see foreshadowed the determination of Christ to glorify the Father, that resolve being expressed in Jn 17:4, “I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.”
In his assurance that it would be “an answer of peace” we have the assurance that all of God’s answers are answers of peace to those who are willing to be obedient.
41:17-30. Since we have already discussed the significance of these verses, there is no need to repeat that discussion here.
41:31. “And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following, for it shall be very grievous.”
This points to the terrible nature of the Tribulation judgments, particularly as they will affect the proclamation of the Gospel.
41:32. “And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.”
In addition to declaring the immutability of God’s purposes for Egypt and for the world of that day, this verse also reveals the truth that the principle of immutability attaches to everything God says.
41:33. “Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.”
There is nothing to indicate that Joseph even entertained the thought that he himself might be that man, but he was. In his own twice-repeated dream he had been shown that his own family would one day bow down to him, but by this time the fulfillment of that dream must have seemed an impossibility, and the apparent failure of that dream certainly left no room for any expectation that he would rule over the mighty Egyptian empire. In this we see a dim foreshadowing of the truth that God’s reward to those who honor Him surpasses the ability of man to imagine, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Co 2:9).
Since Joseph is a type of Christ, his being the man discreet and wise who was to be set over the land of Egypt, points to the discretion and wisdom and millennial glory of the great Antitype, the Lord Jesus Christ.
41:34. “Let 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.”
As was discussed in our study of verse nine, the seven good years may be symbolic, not only of the Church age, but of the post-Rapture period, and also of the first half of the Tribulation era. In its application to the Church age, these officers would represent Church elders, and the lesson being taught is that it is the responsibility of elders to ensure that the “corn” of the Word is stored up in the hearts of their charges to fortify them against times of “famine” - temptation, discouragement, persecution, bereavement, loneliness, etc.
The spiritual significance of the “fifth part” becomes apparent when we remember that five is the number of responsibility. There is not only the responsibility of elders to teach those whom God has committed to their care, the individual himself is responsible to do his part in storing up “corn” against the days of “famine.” Effective teaching requires that there be not only one willing and able to teach, but that there be also one willing to be taught. The best teacher in the world can’t teach an unwilling pupil.
Inasmuch as the primary application of this section appears to be to the post-Rapture and early Tribulation period, we learn also that during those years there will be apparently, the equivalent of today’s local churches, and they will be guided by the equivalent of today’s Church elders. For those elders and their flocks, that period will also be one of responsibility to “lay up corn”, because the Great Tribulation - the final three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation era, will be a time of famine literally and spiritually, far worse than anything the world has ever known.
41:35. “And 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.”
The cities, being the places where men dwell together for mutual benefit, are apt symbols both of local churches, and of their Tribulation-age counterparts. The necessity to lay up food in the Egyptian cities during the abundance of the good years, becomes therefore, the symbolic revelation of the fact that wherever and whenever there is a local corporate testimony, there is a corresponding necessity that that place be, for saint and sinner alike, the place where there is “corn” to meet his spiritual need: for the sinner, the “corn” is the Gospel; for the saint, it is the Word ministered for his edification.
41:36. “And 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.”
The purpose of this provision was “that the land perish not through the famine,” and in this we are reminded that God’s purpose in the Tribulation is not to destroy the earth, but to bring a rebellious world to repentance, so that it can be blessed, for God cannot bless disobedience whether it be in the world, a church, or an individual.
41:37. “And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.”
As the words of Joseph were pleasing to Pharaoh so are the words of Christ pleasing to God. That pleasure, however, becomes the measure of the divine displeasure that will attend rejection of those words. Well might the writer of Heb 2:2-3 ask, “For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord....?”
41:38. “And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?”
Pharaoh’s appraisal of Joseph symbolizes God’s appraisal of Christ, and the value of that appraisal is declared on every page of Scripture, e.g., “I will make Him, My firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth” (Ps 89:27).
41:39. “And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:”
As Joseph surpassed all others in Pharaoh’s kingdom in discretion and wisdom, so does Christ transcend all others, not just in these two virtues, but in all things.
It is instructive to note that Joseph’s discretion and wisdom were directly related to the revelation he had been given by God; but that revelation was the recompense of his obedience by which he first honored God. The spiritual lesson isn’t difficult to read: he who honors God with an obedient life will enjoy fellowship with God that will make him not only discreet and wise, but a sharer also of God’s counsels.
41:40-41. “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. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.”
Joseph as head of Pharaoh’s house, is a picture of Christ as Head over God’s house, the Church. The New Testament counterpart of Joseph’s promotion after his resurrection out of typical death (the dungeon) is found in Eph 1:17-23, “That ... God ... may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know ... what is the exceeding greatness of His power ... which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand ... far above all principality and power ... and gave Him to be the head over all things to the Church.”
Joseph’s dominion, however, wasn’t limited to Pharaoh’s house: it extended to the furthest boundaries of the empire. The dominion of Christ likewise embraces not only the Church, but all creation. Joseph’s dominion is a picture of Christ’s.
“... only in the throne will I be greater than thou,” confirms that in the context of this portion of Scripture, this Pharaoh, as Joseph’s superior, is a type of God the Father. In the Millennium, only the Father will be greater than Christ.
41:42. “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.”
The ring, having no beginning or ending, is the fitting symbol of what is eternal, and since here it is the symbol of authority and power, it speaks not only of Joseph’s being invested with all authority, but also of the investiture of Christ with all authority in the Millennium, and throughout eternity.
“... vestures of fine linen” is literally “of silk.” Joseph’s brethren had stripped him of the many colored coat that had been the badge of his father’s love. Potiphar’s wife had taken his garment and used it to traduce him. Because of her false charge he had been consigned to the dungeon (numbered with transgressors) where his garments would be considered those of a felon. But his humiliation is ended: he now wears the robe of the ruler.
“And put a gold chain about his neck.” In Scripture, gold is the symbol of glory, so that the gold chain upon Joseph’s neck declared that he who had been humiliated was now glorified.
It is easy to trace in all of this the foreshadowing of Christ’s experience, the summation of the typological details being nowhere better expressed than in the words of the late F.W. Grant, “From the humiliation and agony of the cross, in which He is the interpreter of man’s just doom on the one hand, and of the mercy for him on the other, the lowly Minister to human need comes forth to serve as the Wisdom and Power of God upon a throne of grace” Numerical Bible p.109.
41:43. “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.”
The proclamation that preceded Joseph wherever he went reminds us that concerning the One Whom he portrays, it is written, that because He, too, was willing to endure humiliation, “God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow ... and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Php 2:9-11).
41:44. “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.”
This indicates the delegation of total authority, the metaphoric use of “hand” and “foot” showing the great extent of that authority. Since the hand is the Scriptural symbol of work or service; and the foot, of the walk or manner of life, the truth being declared symbolically is that during Christ’s millennial reign His control will be absolute. The unbeliever will be compelled to yield to Him the service that the believer yields willingly, and his manner of life will have to be such as conforms outwardly, at least, to God’s law. There may be rebellion in the heart, but the moment it becomes overt the rebel will die.
41:45. “And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-paaneah, and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.”
In harmony with the Scriptural principle that a change of state is indicated by a new name, Joseph as ruler of Egypt, was called Zaphnath-paaneah. Many take this name to mean revealer of secrets, but in the very reliable Dictionary of Scriptural Proper Names, by J. B. Jackson, it is given as treasury of the glorious rest.
It is easy to see in Joseph, the revealer of secrets, a type of Christ, “In Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” and through Him those Divine secrets are made known to believers. But the second meaning goes far beyond Joseph, for only Christ could be described as the Treasury of the glorious rest. A treasury is where wealth is stored, and it is only in Christ that men find, not just rest, but a rest that is glorious.
A third suggested meaning of Joseph’s new name is Savior of the world, and no comment is necessary on the aptness of that meaning in its application to Christ.
Joseph’s Egyptian bride is very clearly a type of the Church. She was a Gentile, and the Church is distinctly Gentile. He received his bride during a time when he was rejected by his brethren, as Christ has received His Bride during the time of His rejection by Israel. Her name means I shall be hated: she has stored up. The fitness of the first cleaning as descriptive of the Church is found in the Lord’s own words, “And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake” (Mk 13:13).
The significance of the second meaning is more difficult to decipher, though the thought suggests itself that the Church consists of those who have “stored up” for themselves eternal life, and also an eternal treasure.
Something of the nature of the Church may be discerned also in Asenath’s ancestry. Her father’s name means affliction of the locks (of hair), and On, the city of which he was priest or prince (the latter is thought to be the more accurate), means vigor: strength: iniquity.
Long hair marked the Nazarite, but the thought of shame connects with this, for in 1 Co 11:14 we read, “If a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him.” The thought connected therefore, with her father and his city is of a vigorous, wicked strength employed in afflicting those who are “Nazarites,” that is, men devoted to Christ. And such, before conversion, were those who comprise the Church, for one thing common to all unbelievers is their hatred of what belongs to God. In our unconverted state our spiritual father was “Potipherah” (Satan), and his city was “0n” vigor: strength: iniquity in opposition to God.
The similar evil spiritual ancestry of every believer is symbolically affirmed in the fact that in Israel, at the presentation of the offering of Firstfruits, the offerer was to declare, “A Syrian ready to perish was my father” (Dt 26:5).
One point remains to be discussed in connection with Joseph’s receiving his bride at the time of his promotion to be ruler of Egypt. During this present age Christ’s bride is being prepared, but she will not be presented to Him until the Rapture. That moment, however, is the one that ends His priestly ministry, and begins His investiture as King. Type and Antitype are in perfect accord. As Joseph’s prison service ended, he received his bride, and then began to rule Egypt. As Christ’s priestly service ends He will receive His Bride, and then His rule as God’s anointed King will begin.
41:46. “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.”
Joseph’s age is a number rich in spiritual significance. Basically it is the number of resurrection (three), linked with divine government (ten), and its spiritual lesson will perhaps, be more easily grasped if we take a moment to review the steps that had brought Joseph to this point in his life.
In his brethren’s rejection of him we have seen typically Israel’s rejection of Christ. His service in Potiphar’s house may be a type of Christ’s ministry to the believing Jewish remnant in the early Apostolic age, as his service in the dungeon represents the Lord’s ministry to the Church during this present age. Egypt’s last sight of Joseph was his being cast into the dungeon, an event that portrays the world’s last view of Christ as they consigned Him to the tomb. The Egyptians’ next view of Joseph was the moment we have now reached in his history - his appearance with his bride, as ruler of the land. The world’s next sight of Christ will be when He returns with His Bride to rule. In essence that view is a resurrection appearance. The interval between the Lord’s entering the tomb, and His return to reign, is a period in which, as far as the world is concerned, He has been dead. The interval between Joseph’s entering the dungeon, and his appearance as ruler of Egypt, was a period in which, as far as the Egyptians were concerned, he, too was as good as dead.
Surely it is spiritual blindness alone that fails to see Christ portrayed in every detail of the divine Artist’s sketch of Joseph’s life.
The other factors of thirty are two, three and five. Two is the number of witness or testimony; three, of resurrection; and five, of responsibility. In Joseph’s case it was a typical resurrection which is the witness or testimony to responsibility fulfilled in his obedient life, and in it we see a picture of Christ’s resurrection, which is the more dramatic witness to an infinitely greater fulfillment of responsibility, for His obedience took Him all the way to Calvary.
41:47. “And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls.”
The miraculous abundance of those seven plenteous years left without excuse any Egyptian who would die of hunger in the following years of scarcity. The famine would bring death only to those who refused to lay up a supply of corn against those lean years. The spiritual lesson is too obvious to miss. Those who die the second death, Re 20:14, will be without excuse, for that death will claim only those who refused the abundant life offered so freely today as God’s gracious gift.
41:48. “And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up food in the cities: the food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same.”
The first part of this verse isn’t hard to interpret, for since Joseph is a type of Christ; and food, a type of the Word, the spiritual message is that during the abundance of the post-Rapture period the Lord would have the assemblies of believers store up the Word in their midst, just as today it is stored up in each local church, a process which is accomplished by each believer’s storing up the knowledge of the Scriptures in his heart.
The second half is more difficult to interpret, for the food is described as “the food of the field,” and the field is the Scriptural symbol of the world, Mt 13:38. Since the gathered corn was the unused surplus, it may represent the Word neglected or rejected (unused) by the world. Just as the Gentiles took up the Bread of life (Christ) which the Jews had rejected, so do believers take up the Christ Whom the world rejects, so that the truth being declared in the storing of the surplus corn “of the field” may be that in the post-Rapture period believers will store up that Word which the world of that day will reject.
41:49. “And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering, for it was without number.”
In this we learn that the Word, typified by the corn, is also immeasurable. The man who gives himself to the study of Scripture learns quickly that each newly discovered truth is but the gateway to still further vistas of knowledge, each of which is the gateway to others: he learns, in fact, that the Scriptures are like the God Who gave them - infinite. And infinity cannot be measured.
41:50. “And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah the priest of On bare unto him.”
This verse is retrospective, for as we have seen already, Asenath represents the Church. Since children are but the perpetuation of the life of the parent, these two sons are the symbolic declaration of the fact that the Church consists of Jews and Gentiles whose national distinctions are lost sight of in the far more important truth that they are the children whom God the Father has given Christ, Heb 2:13.
Since the significance of Asenath’s ancestry has been discussed in our study of verse forty-five there is no need to repeat it here.
41:51. “And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh which means causing to forget, for God, saith he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house.”
Having found Asenath’s ancestry to be representative of a characteristic of the Church, we should recognize also that other characteristics are portrayed by her two sons. She represents that characteristic which is connected with the origin of those comprising the Church: we were evil, that is why we needed a new birth. In Manasseh and Ephraim, however, we are shown those characteristics of the Church which are derived from Christ, and while it is still true that even as believers we continue to manifest much that belongs to our evil past, there is also the happy truth that as new creatures in Christ, we also manifest something of His nature.
In regard to Christ it is written, “When thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed.... He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied....” (Isa 53:10-11). In Jn 16:21 Christ Himself said, “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow ... but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born....” The combination of these Scriptures informs us that when the new spiritual birth takes place, the Lord “forgets” the travail anguish of Calvary that made the birth possible. He stands in relation to that new-born man both as father and mother.
As Manasseh was the reason for Joseph’s forgetting his past toil, so is every believer a reason for the Lord to “forget” His travail toil at Calvary. But as the children inherit some of each parent’s characteristics, so do believers inherit Christ’s, and one of those characteristics is the ability to “forget.” Paul said, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore ... be thus minded,” (Php 3:13. We should certainly seek to learn from our mistakes, but nothing is gained by dwelling on past failures.
Very clearly, the words “forget all my toil, and all my father’s house” are not to be taken literally: Joseph could never forget either, though it may have seemed that he had forgotten both, as during this present age it may seem that Christ has forgotten both Calvary and Israel. He has forgotten neither. The two are inseparably linked together, for just as Calvary’s travail has produced the Church in which Jew and Gentile are one, so will that same travail yet produce also a new, converted Israel. And as in the Church, we see the Jew and the Gentile made one in Christ, so a coming day will see the Jew and the Gentile living together as one under the beneficent reign of Christ in the Millennium.
41:52. “And the name of the second called he Ephraim double ash-heap: I shall be doubly fruitful: for God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
Joseph’s fruitfulness is seen in his two sons, for while his own name is rarely found in the lists of Israel’s tribes, those of his sons are rarely absent. But Joseph’s fruitfulness is a type of Christ’s. As has been discussed already, those two sons may represent the Jew and the Gentile making up the Church, whose members Christ describes as “the children which God hath given Me” (Heb 2:13). That fruitfulness of Christ, typified in the fruitfulness of Joseph, is a characteristic of the “children” who constitute the Church. The very existence of the Church on the earth today is the evidence of that fruitfulness. Had past generations of believers not “reproduced” themselves in spiritual sons and daughters the Church would have died out.
A word of explanation may be necessary here in regard to the two meanings of the name Ephraim. They are not as disparate as would at first appear. The ash-heap indicated the size and prosperity of the city to which it belonged, and the spiritual lesson being taught in these two meanings is that spiritual fruitfulness will be in direct proportion to the degree that we are willing to consign to the “ash-heap” the things that would hold us back in the heavenly race. Paul is the outstanding example of such a man, and the secret of his spiritual fruitfulness is found in what he has written, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ” (Php 3:7-8).
41:53. “And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.”
So will it be in regard to this present age. The very abundance of the Gospel has led many to despise it, but in the ending of the years of plenty in Egypt God would bid men see the truth that the spiritual plenty of this age will also have an end. And the same truth applies to the post-Rapture era. The plenty will quickly give place to the terrible judgments of the great Tribulation. Hence God’s warning, “Behold, now is the accepted time: behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Co 6:2), and again, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27).
41:54. “And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.”
The fulfillment of Joseph’s words is a warning that the words of his great Antitype will have similar certain fulfillment. Joseph’s warning related to a coming time of literal famine limited to seven years. Christ’s warning concerns a future of unlimited misery for unbelievers in the lake of fire. The remedy for the famine foretold by Joseph was to lay up bread as provision for those years. The only remedy for the future foretold by Christ is to “lay up” the Bread of life, that is, to trust in Him as Savior.
We are reminded, too, of the impossibility of escape. “The dearth was in all lands.” In this is declared symbolically the impossibility of escaping that eternal doom of the unbeliever foretold by Christ.
“But in all the land of Egypt there was bread.” This raises the question, If Egypt represents the world, how can the world ever provide anything to minister to man’s spiritual need? Egypt does represent the world, but it is very clear in this present context that it is being used to represent only a part of the world: that part ruled by Joseph. The “Bread of life” is to be found in the world, but only in that part ruled by the Lord Jesus Christ. That part is the true Church made up of born-again men and women, for that is the only part of the world where Christ’s rule is acknowledged. As Egypt, under Joseph, was the great storehouse to supply the need of “all lands” so is the true Church the great storehouse in which is laid up the spiritual “Bread” which alone can meet man’s desperate need.
The term “church” is used here as the generic description of any corporate testimony, and not specifically of the Bride of Christ, the Church of this present age. In this general sense Israel was a church, see Ac 7:38, and will be again, after the rapture of the Church which is the Bride of Christ.
The progress of the famine affected Egypt also, for though corn remained there, its rationing became increasingly stricter. As applied to this present Church age, this teaches the lesson that is all too apparent: the spiritual famine that grips the world has laid its lean hand upon the Church also. The failure of believers to give themselves to the study of the Word has produced “a famine of bread,” so that there is not only scarcity of the true Gospel, but scarcity also of what is available to God’s people in the way of ministry.
Today we are drawing on the equivalent of the “seven good years.” The best ministry available to the Church today is that which was given by men of past generations, and is now available only in their writings.
The more accurate application, however, is to the post-Rapture era. The abundance that will mark the beginning of that time will give place to the terrible three-and-a-half years of the great Tribulation in which “the famine shall consume the land, and the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following, for it shall be very grievous.” But that terrible Tribulation-age famine is itself but the symbol of the “very grievous famine” that will “consume” the unbeliever eternally in the lake of fire.
The remedy for Egyptian and foreigner alike was to “go unto Joseph,” and the remedy remains the same. As has been noted already, in this present context the Egyptian represents the believer, while those of the other lands represent unbelievers. Does the believer find that the “bread” is becoming scarce, that there is little ministry that feeds the soul? The remedy is Christ. His ministers may prove unfaithful, but “He is faithful, changing never.” The “bread” that might have been available but for the negligence of evangelists, pastors and teachers may still be found by the man who is willing to sit down with his own Bible. The heavenly Joseph will be faithful to give that man an abundant portion. And as it is today so will it be in the coming Tribulation. There may be little or nothing available from the hand of man, but with Christ there is “bread, enough and to spare” for saint and sinner alike.
Pharaoh’s response to the cry of the people was, “Go unto to Joseph.” God’s reply to man’s cry is, “Go unto Christ.” “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Ac 4:12).
41:55 "And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do."
41:56. “And the famine was over all the face of the earth: and Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians, and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.”
The worldwide scope of the Tribulation judgments is indicated in the words “the famine was over all the face of the earth.” But Joseph’s opening the storehouses declares also that even in the midst of those judgments the Word of God will still be available, though very much restricted.
The fact of his selling the corn to the Egyptians may at first seem a symbolic contradiction of the Scriptural principle that the Word of God is free. There is no contradiction, however, but rather the emphatic reminder that the Tribulation-age believers will be compelled to pay a high price for their faith: it will cost many of them their lives. Nor is this the only place in Scripture where we find the idea of payment connected with salvation. Isaiah, for example, issues the invitation, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy, and eat, yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa 55:1.) The truth, of course, is that salvation is free, but the price relates to what must be given up in order to possess this priceless gift. He who would enjoy eternal life in the world to come must be willing to relinquish this world, and live as one who is “dead to the world,” having been “crucified with Christ” (Ga 2:20).
It is emphasized that “the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.” Since Egypt, in this present context, represents the community of believers during the Tribulation age, the truth, then, being declared is that that community will be the one that will suffer most in that terrible time which is described as the time “of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:7). Believers, experiencing the horrors that will afflict all men, will suffer the additional misery of being persecuted also for their faith.
41:57. “And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn, because that the famine was so sore in all lands.”
It is not that everyone came personally to Joseph, but rather that in coming to those who administered the distribution of the corn under his authority, it was the same as coming to him. It is the same today as it will be also in the Tribulation: to come to Christ’s servants for the spiritual life represented by the corn, is in reality, to come to Him. “All countries came.” In the Tribulation men “out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Re 5:9) will be saved.