Genesis 41:37
Joseph had probably been three years in prison (cf. ver. 1 with Genesis 40:4). Sorely must his faith have been tried. His brothers, who had plotted his death, prosperous; himself a slave, spending the best years of his life in prison; and that because he had been faithful to God and to his master. We know the end, and therefore hardly realize his desolate condition when no sign of anything but that he should live and die uncared for and forgotten. But the trial comes more home to us when some one for whom we care, or perhaps ourselves, "endure grief, suffering wrongfully;" when unsuspecting frankness has been overreached, or trust betrayed, or feebleness oppressed. We feel not only that wrong has been done, but as if there had been a failure in God's care. It is one thing to acknowledge the doctrine of God's providence, and quite another to feel it under pressure of trouble. A frequent mistake to think of suffering as calling for immediate restitution. Since God beholds the wrong, should there not be some speedy token that he does so? The truth which faith has to grasp is that God is carrying out a plan, for which all these things are a preparation. We may not be able to trace it; but it is so. Thus it was with Joseph. All through these sad years God was guiding him. It was not merely that in time the cloud was removed; every step of the way had its purpose (John 16:20). In the prison he was learning lessons of the soul, - unlearning the spirit of censoriousness and of self-complacency (Genesis 37:2), - and, by obeying, learning how to rule. And the course of events bore him on to what was prepared for him. Had he remained at home, or returned thither, or had Potiphar not cast him into prison, he would not have been the head of a great work in Egypt, the helper of his family, the instrument of fulfilling God's promise. Not one step of his course was in vain; his sufferings were blessings.

I. IN SUFFERING WRONG WE ARE FOLLOWING CHRIST. He suffered for us, "leaving us an example" (1 Peter 2:21) of willingness to suffer for the good of others. This is the principle of self-sacrifice; not a self-willed sacrifice (Colossians 2:23), but the submission of the will to God (Luke 22:42; Hebrews 10:7). "This is acceptable with God" - to accept as from him what he sends, though we may-not see its use (Hebrews 12:5-7).

II. FOR EVERY CHRISTIAN THE DISCIPLINE OF SUFFERING IS NEEDFUL. If it was so in our Lord's sinless human nature (Hebrews 2:10), how much more in us, who must be taught to subdue the flesh to the spirit I Without trial Christian courage and fruit-bearing graces would fail (John 15:2), as without the winter's cold the forest tree would not form sound wood. And trial calls them into exercise (Romans 5:3), and through a sense of our weakness draws us nearer to God (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

III. NOT ONLY TRIAL IN GENERAL, BUT EVERY PART OF IT WORKS GOOD. To every part the promise applies (John 16:20). So it was with Joseph. God lays no stroke without cause (Hebrews 12:10). The conviction of this works practical patience. This particular suffering has its own loving message.

IV. WE OFTEN CANNOT FORESEE THE PURPOSE OF TRIALS. How different was the end to which God was leading Joseph from anything he could have expected or hoped for! Yet far better. We can see but a very little way along the path by which God is leading us. We walk by faith that his guidance is unerring, and that which he has provided is best (Ephesians 3:20). - M.

Pharaoh said unto his servants: Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?
In examining this narrative we find a most remarkable parallel in the relations of Joseph and Pharaoh to the relations of Christ and the sinner.

I. Following this line of thought, then, we notice PHARAOH AS REPRESENTING THE MAN OF THE WORLD DISCOVERING HIS NEED. Not one is there but sees that his resources are sure to vanish at some future day and leave him poverty-stricken and famine-pinched. What were the millions of Vanderbilt as he lay in the agonies of an apoplectic stroke? The day is coming when the man of largest wealth, of greatest intellect, of supremest power, shall be like a great steamer adrift in mid-ocean with its shaft broken, rolling in the trough of the sea and signalling for help.


1. Joseph was a man in whom was the Spirit of God. Joseph was remarkably free from selfishness: he was not plotting for his own advancement. He was pure, controlled by the Spirit.

2. Joseph was a man who was discreet and wise.

3. Now, to trace our parallel, the qualities which distinguished Joseph are pre-eminently those which make Christ the one above all others to whom men turn for help. His character is beyond reproach. The Spirit of God is in him. He impresses the world with his purity, his unselfishness, his sinlessness, his inspiration. He is manifestly the messenger of God to men. He knows just what to do in the awful emergency in which we are placed. He inspires confidence in his wisdom as never has another.

III. Following the parallel, notice THE SUPREME AUTHORITY WHICH PHARAOH GAVE TO JOSEPH. Our relation to Christ is not one of abject dependence; it is not slavish; it is more like that of Pharaoh to Joseph: one of dignity, of co-operation. We yield to Christ because He has a right to be supreme; because He can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We do not lose our individuals. We do not yield the dignity of the individual choice. Sometimes children travel by express. They are labelled with a suitable tag; are cared for, fed, and sent along as merchandize would be; have no care, or responsibility, or duty. Not so do we pass on through life to heaven. There are those, indeed, who think that, having been once properly labelled by church membership, they have nothing further to do, but that the church or the clergy will assume all responsibility and guarantee them heaven. But such is not the gospel scheme. With our own clear understanding and deliberate decision, we step on board the gospel train and trust our Conductor. He knows best. He tells us what to do, and we intelligently and gladly do it.

IV. Another parallel is found in THE EXALTATION OF JOSEPH.

(A. P. Foster, D. D.)


1. Natural ability.

2. The ability to bear up under troubles.

3. Inspired wisdom.


1. It was characterized by a wise economy.

2. It was characterized by a wise method.Frugality was to be enforced by lawful means. The amount received as taxes and purchased at a fair price, was not to be given away, but must be sold again. The nation must protect itself against the free expenditures of its citizens. The government, notwithstanding its despotism, was made the servant of the people. And Joseph and his officers, scattered over all the empire, outgeneraled all the ignorance of the realm. For this he was as truly inspired as ever was Isaiah.

(D. O. Mears.)

In which he shows —


1. In acting upon the best advice he had.

2. In choosing a fit man for the crisis.

3. In removing all social disabilities from this foreigner. New name. Marriage with daughter of priest of Ori.


(T. H. Leale.)


1. A true basis of merit (ver. 38; see Numbers 27:18; Daniel 4:18; Acts 6:5; Acts 11:24).

2. A natural fruit of godliness (ver. 39; see John 14:26; Acts 6:3; 1 John 2:20).

3. A grand field of usefulness (ver. 40; see 2 Samuel 23:3; Psalm 105:21; Matthew 25:21; Acts 7:10).

1. "Can we find such a one as this?"

(1)High qualifications needed;

(2)High qualifications found.

2. "God hath showed thee all this."

(1)A Divine Teacher;

(2)A Susceptible pupil;

(3)A blessed result.

3. "Only in the throne will I be greater than thou."

(1)Extensive jurisdiction allotted.

(2)Supreme jurisdiction reserved.
(a) Joseph's sway
(b) Pharaoh's reservation


1. The royal ring (ver. 42; see Esther 3:10; Esther 8:2; Luke 4:22).

2. The royal robe (ver. 42; see 1 Chronicles 15:27; Esther 8:15; Ezekiel 16:10; Revelation 19:14.

3. The royal rule (ver. 44).

1. "Ring,... vestures,... chain chariot."

(1)Symbols of royalty;

(2)Symbols of honour;

(3)Symbols of authority.

2. "He set him over all the land of Egypt."

(1)To rule it;

(2)To save it. —
(a) To gather in its plenty;
(b) To support it in its poverty.

3. "I am Pharaoh."

(1)Sovereignty recognized;

(2)Sovereignty asserted;

3. Sovereignty delegated.


1. Planning the work (ver. 45).

2. Gathering the food (ver. 48).

3. Providing for emergency.

(American Sunday School Times.)

I. Joseph's elevation is A CONCRETE INSTANCE OF THE GREAT DOCTRINE OF PROVIDENCE WHICH RUNS THROUGH THE WHOLE OLD TESTAMENT. We may almost take this history as a type of the ideal history of the good man as set forth there, and as a shadowy anticipation, therefore, at once of the fortunes of Israel as a nation, and of his course who is the realized ideal of the Old Testament righteous man, and of Israel. A late psalm (Psalm 105) gives the key-note when it says "Until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him." No man's freedom is interfered with, and yet all is carried out according to the plan in the mind of the great Architect. Thus God builds in silence, using even sins and follies. "I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me." Not less clearly do we learn the uses of adversity, and see the law working which leads men into the pit, that they may there learn lessons which shall serve them on the heights, and that their lives may be manifestly ordered by God. The steel out of which God forges His polished shafts has to be

"Heated hot with hopes and fears,

And plunged in baths of hissing tears,

And battered with the shocks of doom,"

before it is ready for His service. So, in the apparent remoteness and real presence of God's guiding hand in the moulding of the separate deeds into a whole, in the leading of His servant through suffering to authority, and making the sorrow, like emery-paper, the occasion of bringing out a finer polish, this history embodies God's law of dealing with men.

II. This history points the lesson THAT THE BEST WAY TO BE FIT FOR, AND SO TO GET INTO, A WIDER SPHERE, IS TO FILL A NARROWER AS WELL AS WE CAN. Joseph served his apprenticeship to governing a nation in governing Potiphar's house and the prison. The capacities tested and strengthened on the lower level are promoted to the higher. With many exceptions, no doubt, where pretenders are taken to be adepts, and modest merit is overlooked, still, on the whole, this is the law by which position and influence are allotted. The tools do, on the average, come to the hand that can use them.

III. We may learn, too, THAT THE MEANING OF ELEVATION IS SERVICE. Foolish ambition looks up and covets the outside trappings; a true man thinks of duty, not of show, and finds that every crown is a crown of thorns, and that place and influence only mean heavy responsibility and endless work, mostly repaid with thanklessness.

IV. This story teaches us, too, THE PLACE OF RELIGION IN COMMON LIFE. It is possible to keep up unbroken communion with God amid the roar of the busy street, as in the inmost corner of his secret place. The communion which expresses itself in the continual reference of all common actions to his will, and is fed by constant realizing of his help; and by lowly dependence on him for strength to do the prosaic tasks of business or statesmanship, is as real as that which gazes in absorbed contemplation on his beauty. True, the former will never be realized unless there is much of the latter. Joseph would not have been able to hold by God, when he was busy in the storehouses, if he had not held much intercourse with him in the blessed quiet of the prison.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)








1. The trust now committed to Joseph was vast in its responsibility.

2. The manner in which he met the responsibility, and performed his official duty, proves him to have been as well qualified in mental ability as he was in moral character.(1) He gave personal attention to his duty.(2) He wisely prepared, during the years of plenty, for the years of want.

III. JOSEPH'S RECOGNITION OF GOD IN HIS HOME-LIFE. Seen in names of sons. Lessons:

1. If children of God, we should learn from Joseph's promotion not to be discouraged under any circumstances.

2. The personal attention of Joseph to his onerous and important duty, and his wisdom in organising his work, contain very wholesome and timely lessons for the young men of to-day.

3. Joseph's recognition of God in his home, in the very flush of abundant prosperity and honour, not only reveals the beautiful symmetry of his character, but proves that neither positions of honour, nor the accumulation of wealth, need dim the light of piety or interrupt our relations with God.

(D. G. Hughes, M. A.)



1. He informs Pharaoh that the dreams were(1) A warning;(2) A benevolent warning.

2. He advises the king(1)to choose a discreet man to undertake the special management of the measures which must be taken in view of the threatened period of "scarcity";(2) To make provision for one-fifth part o the land to be "taken up" (i.e., handed over to the king for "governmental" use);(3) To store up the produce of the plentiful years that it might be in readiness for the coming time of dearth.


1. Patience of hope.

2. Assurance of hope. We may always — we should always — look forward confidently to the fulfilment of God's promises which " exceed all that we can desire."

(W. S. Smith, B. D.)

I. THE FORGOTTEN PRISONER. Forgotten by man, but remembered by God. While the butler was forgetting, God was thinking about Joseph, and so ordering events that even the forgetful butler should be presently of use.

II. THE TROUBLED MONARCH. Even king's have their troubles. It is often true that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Joseph in prison, and Daniel in the lion's den, more to be envied than Pharaoh and Dairus. Pharaoh's visions. Both different in machinery, but evidently the same in meaning. The great magicians, &c., summoned. Their wisdom is perfect folly. They knew not the mind of God. Could not explain visions that came from a Deity they did not serve.

III. THE EXALTED CAPTIVE. Joseph's advice sounds wise and prudent in the ears of Pharaoh. Learn:

1. To remember those who have benefited us.

2. Jesus the great deliverer of the prisoner.

3. Let us prepare to enter the presence of the great King.

4. There is a palace in heaven for all who love, serve, and trust God.

(J. C. Gray.)

The position given to Joseph in the Egyptian Empire was one seldom attained by foreigners, however distinguished. Still, an old papyrus relating to the story of Saneha tells of a similar exception. Joseph, as first officer under the king, was "Tare," chief of the entire administration. It is probable that he bore the title so often found on the Egyptian monuments, where the rank claimed by this dignitary is "the leader of the Lords of South and North; the second after the king in the vestibule of the palace." The position of tare was usually bestowed on a chief priest, hereditary prince, or even on one of the sons of the reigning monarch, and was eagerly sought after as long as it existed. The duties and powers of the office varied during different dynasties. In the so-called Old Empire (beginning about 2800 B.C.), as well as the Middle Empire (beginning about 2100 B.C.), and during the New Empire (beginning about 1530 B.C.), the tare-or governor, as we may call him — was also at the head of the department of justice, holding the office of supreme judge. Imitating their sublime pattern, Thor, the god of wisdom, who was believed to be the governor under the sun-god Ra, as they were under the Pharaoh, these earthly lords ruled "with wisdom and mild heart." "They gave laws, promoted subordinates, set up boundary stones, and settled the disputes of their officers They made all people walk in their light, satisfied the whole land, proved themselves men of probity in both countries, and witnesses as true as the god Thor." Indeed, the respect felt for these governors and supreme judges of the Pharaoh's was so great that the blessing, "life, health, and happiness," usually uttered by the Egyptians in connection with the royal and princely names, was often added to the name of the governor. No one was allowed to address the governor directly, but was permitted to speak or to lay a letter before him. During the middle Empire, the unity of the state was weakened, and a number of smaller states were organized under the control of independent monarchs. "The governor under the god Horus" took this opportunity to extend his authority, and frequently held what formally had but occasionally been allowed, the office of lord-high treasurer, and sometimes in addition, what became the rule under the New Empire, the office of commander of the royal chief town. As treasurer, the governor was often described on the monuments as "principal of the silver magazine," or "chief of the corn-houses" — titles which describe two most important positions From what we can learn from the record in Genesis, we may believe that Joseph united in himself the three offices of governor, supreme judge, and the lord-high treasurer. Soon after his investiture, Joseph rode publicly in the second royal chariot (Genesis 41:43), that the people might see him and show their respect. He doubtless wore all the insignia of his high position: rich garments, the golden chain, ring, and sceptre, and ostrich feather, so frequently represented on the monuments. How such a pageant appeared as that in which he was now the central figure, is well illustrated by an old Egyptian picture in the tomb of Mry-Ra at Tell el Amarna. This picture represents King Chueneten paying a visit to his god Ra. His majesty reclines in an elegant chariot drawn by richly comparisoned horses. Two heralds run before him swinging wands, to make a way through the curious crowds which press on to see the monarch. To the right and left, servants can be seen, scarcely able to keep up with the fiery stallions. The royal personage himself is attended on each side by his body-guard, with their standards, behind whom, in carriages, ride high officials, in richly coloured dresses. Directly behind the king's chariot rides the queen, and after her the little princesses, two together in one chariot. The elder governs the horses, which are decked with beautiful tufts of feathers, while the younger clings lovingly to her sister. Six court chariots filled with ladies, and as many more on each side occupied by chamberlains, close the procession. On the right and left of the entire party, servants swing their staffs.

(Prof. Hilprecht.)

The way of preferment is never permanently closed against any man. If one does not — as the phrase is — get on in life, it is not his circumstances but himself that is to blame. Occasionally, indeed, there may come reverses of fortune for which he cannot be held responsible, but the man who is always out at elbows and unfortunate must have something amiss in himself. Either he has not fitted himself to take advantage of his opportunities, or there is a leak somewhere in his character, through which his energies and abilities are drained off into useless or expensive directions. In the England of to-day, and especially in these United States, no man needs be for ever a hewer of wood era drawer of water; and though sudden elevations like this of Joseph are not common in these days, yet there are men continually appearing among us who have come up from obscurity as great of Joseph's to a position just as exalted as that which he ultimately reached. Both of our martyr-presidents may be referred to as cases in point. Let young men, therefore, be encouraged. Do not sink into despair; do not imagine that the world is in league against you; but " learn to labour and to wait." Two things especially you ought to bear in mind: first, that the true way to rise to a higher position is to fill well the lower which you already occupy. To borrow here from Thomas Binney: "Remember that to do as well as ever you can what happens to be the only thing within your power to do, is the best and surest preparation for higher service. Should things go against you, never give way to debilitating depression, but be hopeful, brave, courageous, careful not to waste in vain and unavailing regret the power you will need for endurance and endeavour. Learn well your business, whatever it be; make the best of every opportunity for acquiring any sort of knowledge that may enlarge your acquaintance with the business in general, and enable you to take advantage of any offer or opening that may come." Then, again, take note that piety is no hindrance to the right sort of success. Joseph did not hide his allegiance to God or his faith in God, and these even commended him to Pharaoh. So there are many heads of great establishments or corporations in the world who, though they care nothing for religion themselves, would prefer that their trusted servants should be godly men. Sometimes, no doubt, inflexible adherence to the right and the true may cost a man his place, even as here resistance to temptation sent Joseph for awhile to prison; but in the end I do not think that any man ever lost by his religion, provided his religion was the real thing, and not a make-believe. It may lengthen the road a little; it may add to the difficulties of the journey; it may take him through some very dark passages, but it will lead him generally at last to honour and influence; for "godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come." But there is a success higher and better than that of outward position and wealth, and even when riches are not gained that is always attainable. You cannot all become millionaires, or merchant princes, or political leaders, or governors of states, or presidents of the Republic — that is an impossibility; but you can all be good and noble men, if you will.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Joseph was inspired in the highest and truest sense. Not only was he spiritually gifted to rule the nation, but he had also that higher gift which enabled him to refer the lower gift to God. Now there are three things required to fit a man to rule: intellectual power, a sense of dependence upon God, and unselfishness. All these were combined in Joseph; we are told that there " was none so discreet and wise as he." In the interpretation that he gave to Pharaoh's dreams we see how he referred all to God; his unselfishness we see in his forgiveness of his brethren. Without these qualities there can be no real rule; for it is these which make up saintliness, and saintliness alone fits a man to rule perfectly. But saintliness in the sense we use it must take in intellectual power. For mere spiritual goodness alone does not make a good ruler. Eli was a good man, he had the two latter qualities which go to make up a ruler; but he was wanting in the first, he was a weak man, and this it was which caused such troubles to his country. But it is a mistake still greater to suppose that intellectual power alone qualifies for rule. There must also be moral goodness and unselfishness. These are the qualities which clarify the intellect and purify the character.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Does any man appear plainly to have the Spirit of Cod enlightening his mind and sanctifying his heart? He is entitled to our warm regard as a member of that body of which Christ is the Head. Is a man furnished by the Spirit of God with endowments that eminently qualify him for service to his fellow-men, whether in the Church or State? He is entitled to a degree of respect proportioned to the gifts which he hath received. Office-bearers in the Church are to be chosen out of those whom the Spirit of God hath qualified for public usefulness. No man is called to fill any office in the house of God for which he is not fitted by the Divine Spirit. And none are fit to serve their generation by public offices in the state, unless the Spirit of God has adorned them with endowments suited to the stations which they are called to occupy. Although Cyrus was a heathen, he received from the Spirit of God those extraordinary qualifications by which he was enabled to accomplish the subversion of Babylon, that he might let go God's captives and build His temple. That great prince was the Lord's anointed at a time when he did not know the Lord (Isaiah 45:1, 5). "Can we find such a man as this, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?" What had Joseph that he had not received? There was none like him in the land, because the Spirit of God had communicated to him an uncommon measure of wisdom.

(G. Lawson, D. D.)

One Thousand New lllustrations.
In 1831 there was a musical society in Milan which was preparing to bring out Haydn's "Creation," when all of a sudden the maestro in charge took fright at the difficulty of his task, and laid down his baton. One Massini, a singing teacher, who was to direct the choral part, said to the committee, "I know but one man here who can help us out of our plight." "Who is he?" said Count Borromeo, the president. "His name is Verdi, and he reads the most puzzling scores at sight," was Massini's answer. "Well," said the count, "send for him." Massini obeyed, and Verdi soon made his appearance. He was handed the score of "The Creation," and he undertook to direct the performance. Rehearsals commenced, and the final rendering of the oratorio was set down as most creditable to all concerned. From that time Verdi's reputation was assured.

(One Thousand New lllustrations.)

The greatest part of men live by faith in powerful men. A small number of individuals lead the human race.


It is generally supposed that the " fine linen" of Scripture must have been very coarse in comparison with that now produced from our looms. There is, however, no sufficient ground for such a supposition. Sir Gardener Wilkinson says: "The fine texture of the Egyptian linen is fully proved by its transparency, as represented in the paintings (where the lines of the body are often seen through the drapery), and by the statements of ancient writers, sacred as well as profane; and by the wonderful texture of a piece found near Memphis, part of which is in my possession. In general quality it is equal to the finest now made; and, for the evenness of the threads, without knot or break, it is far superior to any modern manufacture. It has in the inch 540 threads, or 270 double threads in the warp, and 110 in the woof. Pliny mentions four kinds of linen particularly noted in Egypt — the Tanitic, the Pelusiac, the Butiric, and the Tentyritic; and the same fineness of texture was extended to the nets of Egypt, which were so delicate that they could pass through a man's ring, and a single person could carry a sufficient number of them to surround a whole wood.

(Things Not Generally Known.)

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