The Parasha for this week’s Sabbath is entitled Miketz which means “At the end” it covers Genesis chapters 41:1-44:17. Today we will focus on why Joseph was forgotten and how it led him from the prison to the palace as well as how God used Pharaoh to elevate him to be the prime minister of all of Egypt.
Joseph was the beloved of his father, Jacob, hated by his ten older brothers, thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused, and put in a prison. In prison, Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and chief baker – each had a troubling dream the same night. God would give Joseph the interpretations of their dreams. The interpretation of the baker was not favorable. Pharaoh would hang him three days later. As for the chief cupbearer, he would have a pleasing interpretation; he would be released and restored to his position. Joseph said to him, “When you are free, remember me. Be good to me and help me. Tell Pharaoh about me so that I can get out of this prison.” As the last verse of the last chapter states, the chief cupbearer, did not remember Joseph; he forgot all about him.
In chapter 41, two years later, Pharaoh has two dreams. He sees seven thin cows devouring seven fat cows. In his second dream, he sees seven thin heads of grain devouring seven healthy ones. After no one could interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, the cup-bearer suddenly remembers that Joseph was able to interpret his and the baker’s dreams. Pharaoh is told of Joseph and he is then brought from prison to hear Pharaoh and decipher his two mysterious dreams. “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” Then Joseph explained the dreams: there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.
Then he gave wise counsel: Joseph suggests that some wise man be appointed to store up food supplies during the good years to prepare for the bad ones. Pharaoh not only appointed Joseph to oversee the storage of grain, but also elevated him to the second highest position in all of Egypt. Pharaoh removed his signet ring, which contained the royal seal, and put it on Joseph’s hand; he then clothed Joseph in fine linen clothing, a gold chain was put around his neck and Pharaoh gave him a new name meaning, “He has the godlike power of life and death!” Joseph stores up massive amounts of grain in nearby cities. So, when the famine comes, “people from surrounding lands also would come to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph.”
In chapter 42, Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt and he said to his sons, “Why are you sitting here doing nothing?” Some scholars believe the mention of ‘Egypt’ brought back the memory of their sin, and they were afraid to go to Egypt for that reason. Conscience never forgets, although intellect does. Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy grain. However, Jacob would not permit Benjamin, his youngest son, to make the trip because Benjamin was his only son of his beloved Rachel, since he believed that Joseph was dead. When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy grain, they bowed down before the prime minister with their faces to the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them.
I believe Joseph repeated exactly the scene at the pit’s mouth, and indeed, we may perhaps see what really happened there, reflected in this scene. It is not unlikely that when the brother’s saw Joseph coming towards them in his coat of many colors, that they rushed at him, accusing him of having come to spy out their corrupt behavior and take back an evil report to their father, as he had done before. If so, this will explain why Joseph now suddenly accused them of being spies. No doubt Joseph at the pit protested that he was no spy—that he had only come to inquire after their welfare, but they had met his insistence with rude violence in much the same way as the rough-speaking prime minister now treated them. It may be that they had even thrust the young Joseph into the pit with the threat to keep him there until his statements could be verified, in much the same way as Joseph now dealt with them; If this were the case—and it seems most credible—it is obvious that it was a powerful appeal to their conscience and memory.
Joseph’s actions of roughness in the treatment of his brothers were not done capriciously but were done with wisdom to mirror their sin to him some twenty years earlier. Their reaction to this mirroring of their sin would really reveal the true character of the brothers. Joseph demands that his brothers return home and bring back Benjamin, the youngest brother. Simeon is kept as a guarantee that they will return. The guilt-stricken brothers conclude among themselves that God is punishing them for selling Joseph into slavery. Upon, over hearing this, Joseph leaves the room so that he does not reveal his identity as he weeps.
The nine brothers arrive back in Canaan with their food. As they unpack, they are astounded to discover in their bags the money they had used to buy the food! Jacob’s sons tell him all about their first trip, including how “the man” (Joseph) had requested that Benjamin accompany them on their return journey. Jacob refuses.
In chapter 43, after Judah guarantees Benjamin’s safety, a reluctant Jacob finally agrees to let Benjamin go. Upon arriving in Egypt, Joseph sends the brothers to his home, where food is being prepared for them. The manager of Joseph’s household reassures the frightened brothers that his master means them no harm. Simeon is now released and joins them. Joseph arrives and is “introduced” to Benjamin. Joseph seats them at the banquet table in the order of their ages. In the meantime, Joseph orders that his own silver cup be secretly placed in Benjamin’s sack. After the banquet and shortly after leaving the city, the brothers are stopped and searched. To the brothers’ horror, the cup is found in Benjamin’s sack, and he is arrested. This parasha concludes with Judah begging Joseph to release Benjamin and offering to be imprisoned in his place.
In closing, Joseph, like Yeshua, was highly exalted, but we should never forget at what cost. it would serve us well, to remember that there is no crown without the cross. Joseph’s response was obedience and faithfulness so that God’s salvation could save a nation. Yeshua’s response was obedience even unto death so that God’s salvation could save the world. What should our response be?