Do you believe better days are ahead?

Are you discouraged with life? Are you discouraged about your future? Do you still have hope? Joseph spent many years in slavery and in prison. At one point he did a favor for Pharaoh’s cupbearer and thought that the cupbearer could help him, but the cupbearer forgot about him. Joseph certainly had reason to be discouraged about life, but eventually his life got better. His path from slavery to success is a lesson for us about why we should always have hope no matter how bad life gets. Let’s start reading at Genesis 41:14.

Gen. 41:14 ¶ Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh.

Gen. 41:15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

Gen. 41:16 Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

This passage starts with Joseph being imprisoned in the dungeon. He was brought before Pharaoh because Pharaoh wanted someone to interpret his dream. Joseph correctly gave God the credit for his ability to interpret dreams.

Gen. 41:17 So Pharaoh spoke to Joseph, “In my dream, behold, I was standing on the bank of the Nile;

Gen. 41:18 and behold, seven cows, fat and sleek came up out of the Nile, and they grazed in the marsh grass.

Gen. 41:19 “Lo, seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and gaunt, such as I had never seen for ugliness in all the land of Egypt;

Gen. 41:20 and the lean and ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows.

Gen. 41:21 “Yet when they had devoured them, it could not be detected that they had devoured them, for they were just as ugly as before. Then I awoke.

The number seven is repeated three times, and there is a contrast between the fat/sleek cows which were followed by the ugly/gaunt cows.

Gen. 41:22 “I saw also in my dream, and behold, seven ears, full and good, came up on a single stalk;

Gen. 41:23 and lo, seven ears, withered, thin, and scorched by the east wind, sprouted up after them;

Gen. 41:24 and the thin ears swallowed the seven good ears. Then I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me.”

Again, the number seven is repeated three times, and there is a contrast between the full/good ears which were followed by thin/scorched ears. Also, Pharaoh wanted someone to explain the meaning of his dream.

Gen. 41:25 ¶ Now Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do.

Gen. 41:26 “The seven good cows are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one and the same.

Gen. 41:27 “The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven thin ears scorched by the east wind will be seven years of famine.

Gen. 41:28 “It is as I have spoken to Pharaoh: God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do.

Now we see that the number seven referred to seven years.

Gen. 41:29 “Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt;

Gen. 41:30 and after them seven years of famine will come, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will ravage the land.

Gen. 41:31 “So the abundance will be unknown in the land because of that subsequent famine; for it will be very severe.

Gen. 41:32 “Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about.

The words “abundance” and “famine” are both repeated three times. The contrast between the good and the bad that Pharaoh saw in his dream was an indication that Egypt was about to have seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine.

Gen. 41:33 “Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.

Gen. 41:34 “Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance.

Gen. 41:35 “Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it.

Gen. 41:36 “Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.”

Joseph’s recommendation was very simple: store up food during the years of abundance so that they would have food during the years of famine. Notice that Joseph recommended finding someone “discerning and wise” to oversee the effort.

Gen. 41:37 ¶ Now the proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants.

Gen. 41:38 Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?”

Gen. 41:39 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are.

Gen. 41:40 “You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.”

Gen. 41:41 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”

Pharaoh attributed a divine spirit to Joseph and gave God the credit for informing Joseph of the future famine. Notice again the phrase “discerning and wise”.

Gen. 41:42 Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put the gold necklace around his neck.

Gen. 41:43 He had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, “Bow the knee!” And he set him over all the land of Egypt.

Gen. 41:44 Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Though I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.”

Gen. 41:45 Then Pharaoh named Joseph Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, as his wife. And Joseph went forth over the land of Egypt.

Notice the symbols of authority: the signet ring, the garments, the necklace, the second chariot, and the heralds who instructed people to bow the knee. Joseph was made second in command of Egypt and had the power to prepare for the coming famine.

Gen. 41:46 ¶ Now Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt.

Gen. 41:47 During the seven years of plenty the land brought forth abundantly.

Gen. 41:48 So he gathered all the food of these seven years which occurred in the land of Egypt and placed the food in the cities; he placed in every city the food from its own surrounding fields.

Gen. 41:49 Thus Joseph stored up grain in great abundance like the sand of the sea, until he stopped measuring it, for it was beyond measure.

Here we see that Joseph’s prediction came true. Egypt enjoyed seven years of abundance; in fact, the land produced so abundantly that the surplus could not be counted.

Gen. 41:50 ¶ Now before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore to him.

Gen. 41:51 Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”

Gen. 41:52 He named the second Ephraim, “For,” he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

The statements about Joseph’s two sons seem almost like an interruption to the story; however, the names of Joseph’s sons communicate some very important truths. The Hebrew word Manasseh means “one that makes to forget”. Now that Joseph was second in command of Egypt, he was able to move beyond the pain of having been torn from his family, sold as a slave, and imprisoned. The fact that he had been given a wife and now had a son was proof that God had helped him survive his troubles.

The Hebrew word “Ephraim” means doubly fruitful. Ephraim was Joseph’s second son. Joseph named his second son “doubly fruitful” because having two sons was double proof that Joseph was fruitful in the land of Egypt.

Gen. 41:53 ¶ When the seven years of plenty which had been in the land of Egypt came to an end,

Gen. 41:54 and the seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said, then there was famine in all the lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.

Gen. 41:55 So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, you shall do.”

Gen. 41:56 When the famine was spread over all the face of the earth, then Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold to the Egyptians; and the famine was severe in the land of Egypt.

Gen. 41:57 The people of all the earth came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the earth.

Just as Joseph had predicted, the years of abundance were followed by years of famine. Not only did the Egyptians need the food that Joseph had stored during the years of abundance, but people from all over the earth came to buy food from Egypt because of the famine.

Let’s look again at verse 51.

Gen. 41:51 Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”

Joseph grew up as the favored son of a wealthy man, but then he was sold by his brothers into slavery and had to endure many years of slavery and imprisonment. When he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, he suddenly found himself second in command of Egypt. Joseph’s rise from slavery to ruler came about because God elevated him, and Joseph used the name of his first born son to acknowledge that truth.

This should give us hope. Sometimes we go through periods in our lives when our future seems very bleak and it seems impossible that we will ever rise above our troubles; however, just as God elevated Joseph out of slavery, so too God can elevate us out of our troubles. During the dark times of our lives, let’s remember that God is in control and better days are ahead.


Further Reading

What would you do if someone ruined the rest of your life?

Why does God allow us to hit bottom?


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“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”