Genesis 40: This is where we first learn that Joseph has the ability to interpret dreams. He correctly interprets the dreams of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker for the Pharaoh, who are both in prison because they offended him. The chief cupbearer will be elevated back to his post while the chief baker will be executed. Joseph requests for the cupbearer to remember him when he is back in the Pharaoh’s favor. Joseph’s interpretations end up being correct, but the cupbearer forgets about Joseph, so he stays in prison. Again, at times it seems like Joseph has a lot of bad luck.
Genesis 41: Now we see Joseph is released from prison, a full two years later. This is because the Pharaoh has a dream and the cupbearer remembers Joseph. So, Joseph is asked to interpret the dream: “And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ ¹⁶ Joseph answered Pharaoh, ‘It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.’ (Gen. 41.15-16). I like Joseph’s response here.
Now this is where it gets even more interesting. After Joseph interprets the dream, Pharaoh says this: “So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has shown you all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. ⁴⁰ You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only with regard to the throne will I be greater than you.’” (Gen. 41.39-41). In a short time Joseph is elevated from a prisoner to pretty much the second most powerful person in the kingdom. Not bad for a 30 year old.
As I read this I definitely wondered if Joseph would take revenge on those who wronged him during his time in Egypt. But he didn’t. Instead he focused on helping the people prepare for the 7 year famine. He had two sons during the 7 years of surplus with an Egyptian woman after he is given an Egyptian name. Once the famine hit the people reached out to the Pharaoh but he told them to do as Joseph said. Again, Joseph did not abuse this power. Pretty impressive guy. He sets a high bar for all.
As I read the notes I am reminded that I like having access to those. Prior to Joseph interpreting the dreams, none of the magicians or wise men in Egypt could interpret the dream. The notes point out that “The narrator intends to demonstrate the superiority of Israel’s God over Egyptian magic and wisdom (cf. Ex 8.18–19; 9.11; Dan 2.2–19; 5.8,15–28)” (p. 67-68). Pretty interesting. Definitely seems like this is a precursor of what’s to come when Moses appears.
Genesis 42: This is where things start to get more interesting. Jacob, Joseph’s dad, hears of the surplus in Egypt and sends his sons to Egypt to buy grain for their survival. Now Joseph faces his brothers for the first time since they sold him into slavery. His brothers don’t recognize him. Part of what makes this interesting is that their actions towards Joseph confirm his dreams that were shared in Gen. 37. They first bow to him like he saw in his first dream.
The way Joseph initially treats his brothers surprised me a bit. He spoke harshly to them and accused them of spying. These actions made me think that he was starting to take advantage of his power, but the text emphasizes that Joseph treats them like strangers, hence the accusation.
What happens next surprised me a little bit: “Here is how you shall be tested: as Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here! ¹⁶ Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, in order that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else, as Pharaoh lives, surely you are spies.” ¹⁷ And he put them all together in prison for three days.” (Gen. 42.15-17) He then frees all but one of his brothers and seems to test them even more, again stating that the youngest brother must be brought to Egypt. Looking back at the family tree, the youngest brother is actually Joseph’s full brother whereas the other brothers are technically half brothers. After this test the brothers realize this treatment is because they wronged Joseph. Joseph hears them and weeps. Joseph orders their bags to be filled with grain and to return their money (without their knowledge). They didn’t realize what happened until after they returned to Jacob. The brothers are afraid after seeing this. Jacob says he doesn’t want them to take Benjamin since he believes that Joseph is dead. They promise their father no harm would come to him if they did take him.
Luke 12: This is an interesting chapter. After reading this my first thought was following Jesus when he was alive must have been tough. It took a lot of faith for his disciples and others to follow him willingly. A few things stood out to me. First, Jesus warns his disciples to “beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy” (Luke 12.1). He tells them that their secrets will not remain secret. I’m assuming this is because the Pharisees will reveal these things. He reminds them to be careful with respect to all greed: “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12.15). To me this means that greed is more than just monetary wealth. He follows this statement with a story of a rich man who stored excess goods and how this is an example of greed.
A statement that made me think that following Jesus must’ve been touch is the following: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. ²³ For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. ²⁴ Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” (Luke 12.22-24). Now that would be challenging to follow for anyone. You have to trust that this person is not misleading you. There are examples of this happening throughout history.
A statement he makes near the end confuses me:
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! ⁵⁰ I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! ⁵¹Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! ⁵² From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; ⁵³ they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12.49-53)
I understand that Jesus was there to shake things up. But why does he want to create so much division, even within a single family? That doesn’t make sense to me. I’ll need to explore this further.