33 “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. 36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.”
37 The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”
39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders.Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”
41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.
44 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.” 45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.
46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt. 47 During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. 48 Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. 49 Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.
50 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
53 The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food.55 When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.”
56 When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. 57 And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.
(Genesis 41:33-57 NIV)
At the beginning of Chapter 41, Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, had two very disturbing dreams, and none of the wise men of Egypt could provide an interpretation of those dreams. The king’s cupbearer, whom had been imprisoned briefly, remembered Joseph and mentioned him to the king. Joseph stood before the king, acknowledged that only God could provide the interpretation of dreams, then told the king what God had shown him about seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine so severe it would wipe out the memory of the years of plenty.
In today’s passage, Joseph does not just finish his interpretation, then walk away. Rather, Joseph now offers the king his recommendation on how to survive the famine. The Lord was giving Egypt seven bountiful years prior to seven years of famine, so they had to plan for the future and not live for the moment.
Pharaoh liked Joseph’s plan, and recognized that the plan as well as the interpretation of the dream was from God. So Pharaoh made Joseph the number two person in all the land of Egypt, in charge of administering the famine plan and everything else in the kingdom.
Pharaoh also gave Joseph a new name, Zaphenath-Paneah. The exact meaning of this name is not certain, but roughly translated, it means “God speaks, giving life to the world”. This new name reflected God’s presence in Joseph’s life as well as trust that the king put in God and Joseph to see Egypt through this famine. The Pharaoh also gave Joseph a wife, and they had two sons prior to the start of the famine years.
Verse 46 notes that Joseph was 30 years old when Pharaoh put him in charge of Egypt. From our previous study of Joseph’s life, Genesis 37:2 tells us that Joseph was 17 years old when his brothers sold him into slavery. God had been preparing Joseph through many years of trial and tribulation in order to fulfill this crucial role of seeing an entire country through years of plenty followed by years of famine.
The high rank the Pharaoh gave Joseph did not go to Joseph’s head; he kept his ego in check and faithfully led Egypt through the years of plenty, storing up grain in each community in preparation for the impending famine.
When the seven years of plenty ended, and the famine began, Pharaoh reinforced his earlier decree and pointed all the people to Joseph to meet their needs.
Verse 56 tells us that the famine was across all of Egypt, while verse 57 tells us that that famine was across the entire known world, not just Egypt. Because Joseph had planned well and the Lord had prospered Joseph and Egypt, Joseph was able to provide food for others beyond the borders of Egypt.
May we be faithful in what God has called us to do, and may we see God’s love and abundance in everything He does in and through us.
May we share with others out of the abundance that God gives us.