By grace, the Lord chose Jacob’s fourth son, Judah, for the lineage of Jesus Christ and the kings of Judah, but God selected younger brother Joseph to have a critical role in preserving that lineage and the emerging nation of Israel. The fascinating story of Joseph, his godly interpretation of dreams, and his critical rise to power under Pharaoh, King of Egypt, begins in Genesis 37.
To use railroad terminology, Judah was on the “main line” of the regal lineage of Christ, but his younger brother Joseph comprised a very important “siding” for the survival of the line. Joseph here is not the same Joseph who was the stepfather of Jesus, born many hundreds of years later. This Joseph is the 11th of the twelve sons of Jacob. Many people are familiar with his story because he and his multi-color coat were the subject of a popular Broadway musical show.
Joseph would be sold into slavery by his older brothers because they were jealous of the favoritism their father Jacob showed him. In addition, they resented that God had given Joseph dreams indicating that his brothers would one day bow down to him in subservience. Although there were many twists and turns to Joseph’s story, his divine dreams played out in real life – that is exactly what would happen, but it was to his brothers’ and the nation’s benefit.
After Joseph was sold off by his brothers, he was carried down to Egypt by slave traders.
1 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. Genesis 39:1-4 (ESV)
Joseph rebounded from being sold off as a slave by his jealous brothers because of the gracious care and loving favor of God. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, the Lord will never leave us nor forsake us. He will provide for our needs, and we may even find greater well-being than before due to His generous hand, even in the midst of hardship and injustice dealt by others. Such was the case with Joseph. Unfortunately, he would later fall victim to another evil heart, this time that of his master Potiphar’s wife. She made a false accusation against Joseph, which resulted in him being wrongly locked up for a crime that she knew he did not commit.
20 And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23 The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed. Genesis 39:20-23 (ESV)
Once again, the innocent Joseph had been wrongly punished and was solely dependent upon the hand of God to keep him alive. He thrived and enjoyed great success despite his unjust captivity. In a sense, God was holding Joseph in “protective custody”, because when the time was right, Joseph was in exactly the right place to save and bless all of the descendants of Abraham, as well as the entire Egyptian nation under King Pharaoh.
The big turn of events began when two prisoners under Joseph’s care each had dreams one night, disturbing them greatly. They then shared their dreams with prisonmate Joseph.
8 They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.” Genesis 40:8 (ESV)
Joseph had been given the gift of interpreting dreams by God. The prisoners’ dreams and Josephs interpretations can be found in Genesis 40. Subsequent events proved that both the dreams and their interpretations were prophetic, and that Joseph’s gift of dream interpretation was indeed valid and true.
Two years later, King Pharaoh had his own disturbing dreams and he searched desperately for help in interpreting them. One of the prisoners who had earlier shared his dream with Joseph was now free and back in Pharaoh’s court – he remembered Joseph’s gift and mentioned it to Pharaoh. Joseph was then ordered to be cleaned up and brought from the prison into Pharaoh’s presence to interpret his dreams. He immediately recognized them as prophecy from God and shared their interpretation.
28 It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, 30 but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will consume the land, 31 and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe. 32 And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. Genesis 41:28-32 (ESV)
Pharaoh recognized the divine inspiration behind the dreams’ interpretation, so Joseph was placed in a position of great authority to oversee all preparations for the coming famine. Just as God had prophesied to Abraham hundreds of years earlier, his descendants would become strangers in a land they did not know, moving down into the safety of Egypt. There they would survive the brutal seven-year famine, growing and prospering under God’s blessing. Afterwards, a new Pharaoh would come along who feared the thriving Israelites, and would put them under a yoke of slavery. God will hear their cries and deliver His people from bondage under the leadership of Moses, as recorded in the book of Exodus.
Other examples where God spoke through dreams or night visions in the Bible:
Genesis 15:12-16 The Lord warned Abraham that his descendants would one day be slaves in a strange land but that they would eventually be freed to return to their Promised Land of Israel.
Genesis 28:10-22 During a dream, the Lord showed Jacob a ladder that reached to heaven. He tells him that Jacob’s descendants will prosper and that all people on earth will be blessed through them.
Daniel 2 God gave the king of Babylon a dream that foretold of all the global kingdoms to come on the earth, and the kingdom of heaven which would follow.
Matthew 1:18-25, Matthew 2 God used dreams to confirm to Joseph that Mary’s child, Jesus, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and to warn both the visiting magi and Joseph of the dangers presented by King Herod.
Has God ever spoken to you or to someone you know in a dream? How can we know these are truly from God? God will use confirmation to verify that He is the source.
Jacob’s son Joseph thrived in the midst of injustice. Have you experienced the loving favor of God in your life despite unfair circumstances? Which hardships have you gone through in life that you are now thankful for? What ongoing challenges are you seeking God’s help for?
Thank You, Lord, for protecting and guiding us through the storms of life. We are grateful for Your unfailing care and love even in the midst of trials and hardship. Grant us the faith, strength, and hope we need to see Your light in the darkness. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.