When Presented with Challenging Tasks

Explore the Bible Series

April 27, 2008


Background Passage: Genesis 41:1-57

Lesson Passage: Genesis 41:1, 12-13, 15-16, 28-30, 32-40



Joseph, to this point in his life, had a very difficult life.  As a teenager, the young boy received wonderful promises from God, but, from that time, Joseph’s life did not reflect the favored status that God had promised.  As we have seen in previous lessons, the patriarch experienced fraternal betrayal, slavery, false accusations, and unjust imprisonment.  Furthermore, the king’s cupbearer, who had received Joseph’s help and encouragement, forgot his debt to the young Hebrew prisoner.  More than a decade had passed between Joseph’s initial dreams and the story recorded in Genesis Forty-one.  At each step, the Lord had favored Joseph, even in the dismal circumstances of slavery and imprisonment.  This splendid young man demonstrated remarkable character with every new development in his life.  Even a cursory reading of the Joseph narrative reveals these outstanding qualities.


  1. Patience and longsuffering: The text of Genesis reveals no hint of impatience or frustration in Joseph.  I see no reason to assume that Joseph did not have some normal human emotions as he encountered one setback after another.  His brothers’ betrayal must have hurt and confused him.  The shamefulness of slavery, no doubt, perplexed the young man.  Furthermore, the sexual temptations in Potiphar’s household must have tested Joseph’s moral resolve, and, of course, the hardships of imprisonment must have puzzled him.  Nevertheless, Joseph waited on the Lord.
  2. Faithfulness: I marvel at Joseph’s ability to thrive in any circumstance.  As his personal situation deteriorated, he worked hard to honor God.  When the Ishmaelites sold him to Potiphar the young man quickly gained the respect and trust of his master.  After Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph, he rose to prominence in the Egyptian prison.  He may have disliked his circumstances, but he made the best of each situation, without complaint.
  3. Resolve: Joseph did not quit.  Many people, I suspect, might have spiraled into self-pity, bitterness, and depression.  Instead, Joseph continued to serve the Lord and prepare for the task God had promised.  The dreams of his youth inspired Joseph to do his best whatever the humbling circumstances he encountered.  I feel certain that Joseph, after he became prime minister of Egypt, must have rejoiced that God had graciously prepared him for this great responsibility.
  4. Compassion: Joseph had a tender heart.  When Mrs. Potiphar’s seduced the young servant, Joseph, out of respect for Potiphar, refused to yield to the woman’s allurements.  Also, when Joseph encountered the troubled inmates (the cupbearer and baker), he showed great sensitively and compassion to the two men. 


May these qualities grow in my life and in yours.


Lesson Outline:


I.                   Pharaoh’s Troubling Dreams (41:1-36)

A.    Pharaoh’s two dreams (vv. 1-8)

1.      dream of the cows (vv. 1-4): In the first dream, Pharaoh saw seven well-fed cows.  Then, seven lean cows emerged from the Nile River and devoured the sleek cows.

2.      dream of the ears of grain (vv. 5-8): Seven full ears of grain arose; then, seven blighted ears swallowed the good ears.  These dreams troubled Pharaoh, and the distressed monarch called the seers of Egypt to interpret his visions.  Of course, the magicians, for all their superstitious efforts, could not decipher the meaning of the dreams.

B.     Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams (vv. 9-32): After two years, the cupbearer finally remembered his imprisoned benefactor, and the king’s servant told Pharaoh about the remarkable wisdom of the young Hebrew.  After the monarch recounted the dreams, Joseph determined that both visions foreshadowed future events.  Egypt, according to Joseph, would experience seven prosperous years, followed by seven years of grave famine.  God was in control of the situation, and these things would certainly occur, just as the Lord had revealed.  Joseph impressed Pharaoh that the monarch had no control over these circumstances.  God had had determined the future, and Pharaoh must bow to Jehovah’s sovereign design. 

C.     Joseph’s counsel to Pharaoh (vv. 33-36): Joseph, prepared by the hard circumstances he had endured, possessed great wisdom, and he encouraged Pharaoh to appoint a prime minister to prepare for the severe famine that would, in seven years, plague the land.  The king sensed the divine hand on Joseph and followed the Hebrew’s counsel.  He appointed overseers to collect one-fifth of the nation’s grain production and save the excess for the lean years to come.


II.                Joseph’s Rise to Power (41:37-57)

A.    Pharaoh’s reward for Joseph (vv. 37-45): Pharaoh, though an idol worshiper, recognized the hand of God on Joseph, and, in gratitude for Joseph’s service, appointed him as prime minister over Egypt.  No honor would be withheld from the young Hebrew, and Pharaoh afforded Joseph all of the tokens of authority: a signet ring, fine linen garments, a gold chain, a chariot, and a marriage to a woman of high social standing.

B.     Joseph’s administration of Egypt (vv. 46-57): During the years of plenty, Joseph traveled throughout Egypt and collected grain.  The Lord blessed his labors, and the storehouses teemed with abundance.  God also blessed Joseph and his wife with two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.  In time, a terrible famine struck the region, and many people faced the possibility of starvation.  Joseph, however, arranged to sell grain to the Egyptian people.  Not only did Joseph sell grain to his adopted nation, but people from other lands, including Canaan, came to seek provisions from the wise prime minister of Egypt.