Genesis 41 Inductive Sermon – Bible Study – Part 1

Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams

Text: Gen 41:1-40


As a Christian, one of the most common questions I receive goes something like this: Why does God allow/cause such terrible things in the world like war, poverty, famine, epidemics, terrorism, earthquakes, flooding and the like. This question when asked on a personal level would be, “why do bad things happen to good people?”

The question about why God causes/allows bad things to happen is really two questions.

1.      Is God truly good?

2.      Is God really in total control of everything?

The implication is that if God is truly good and if He’s in complete control, then only “good” things happen!

This morning we’re going to examine this hypothesis as we see how God elevated Joseph from the prisoner in the dungeon to the prime minister of Egypt.

After the message, I think you’ll be better equipped to answer this age old question of why bad things happen in the world.

Pharaoh’s Dreams

1 Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing by the Nile.

·         The background for this event is that Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and Joseph had been cellmates in prison. The cup-bearer had had a dream that troubled him and he didn’t know its meaning. Joseph interpreted his dream favorably for him and said it meant that in three days he would be restored to his position of cup-bearer by the side of Pharaoh. Joseph requested only that the cup-bearer would mention him to Pharaoh to get him out of prison. The two years refer to how long Joseph had been forgotten in prison after he had helped the cup-bearer.

2 And lo, from the Nile there came up seven cows, sleek and fat; and they grazed in the marsh grass.

3 Then behold, seven other cows came up after them from the Nile, ugly and gaunt, and they stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile.

4 The ugly and gaunt cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. Then Pharaoh awoke.

5 He fell asleep and dreamed a second time; and behold, seven ears of grain came up on a single stalk, plump and good.

6 Then behold, seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind, sprouted up after them.

7 The thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears. Then Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream.

8 Now in the morning his spirit was troubled, so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh.

·         Man attempts by his own wisdom and effort to address problems only to meet with failure which sets the stage for the Lord to show that He alone is able to deal with it successfully.

o Rev 5:2-4 Only Jesus can open the book with seven seals.

o This is actually one of the important themes of the Bible. Man’s inability, foolishness, and errors are contrasted with God’s power, wisdom and perfection.

o Men’s civilizations all crumble and fail – Christ, the perfect King rules over His enduring kingdom during the millennium.

o Men’s efforts at righteousness all fail – Christ perfect righteousness is imputed to all believers

·         The Bible often contrasts man’s foolishness, weakness and defeat with God’s wisdom, power and victory!

·         When no one is able to interpret the dreams, the cup-bearer remembers someone who may be able to help.

Joseph was Remembered

9 Then the chief cup-bearer spoke to Pharaoh, saying, “I would make mention today of my own offenses.

10 “Pharaoh was furious with his servants, and he put me in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, both me and the chief baker.

11 ” We had a dream on the same night, he and I; each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream.

12 “Now a Hebrew youth was with us there, a servant of the captain of the bodyguard, and we related them to him, and he interpreted our dreams for us. To each one he interpreted according to his own dream.

13 “And just as he interpreted for us, so it happened; he restored me in my office, but he hanged him.”

·        Finally, the cup-bearer mentions Joseph to Pharaoh. Joseph certainly wanted the cup-bearer to bring his case before Pharaoh as soon as he was back in his old position, but God’s timetable was very different from Joseph’s. God’s training program for Joseph was now complete, so He orchestrated the events to bring him before Pharaoh.

Joseph before Pharaoh

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.

·         When we have been hoping and praying for something for a long time and it seems that our prayer has at last been answered, it is easy to be hastyand not to prepare well for the task He sets before us.

·         There is a saying that Satan rushes men, but God leads them. I don’t think there is a single instance in Scripture where Jesus is ever described as “hurried” or “rushed”. Notice how Pharaoh’s men hurriedly came to get Joseph to take him to Pharaoh. Though Joseph was extremely eager to have an audience with Pharaoh, he nonetheless was very wise and wanted to present a good initial impression, so he takes the time to shave and change his clothes.

·         1 Sa 16:7

7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Joseph only had one chance to make a good first impression with Pharaoh and he wanted to make the most of it.

·         So, whenever you feel like you are being rushed into a decision or action, that’s a good time to ask yourself, “Is this something Satan is rushing me to do or is it something God is leading me to do?”

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.”

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

·         Pharaoh gives Joseph a huge opportunity to brag a little and make himself look good. But surprisingly, even though he desires favorable treatmentfrom Pharaoh, Joseph takes none of the credit for himself. In fact, quite the opposite. He says that he is not capable of interpreting the dreams – it was not in him to do it. It may not “save face” but it is still entirely appropriate for us to acknowledge our weaknesses and inabilities. What happens when we do that? God gets all the glory! Our purpose for existing is to glorify God, so it is only right for us to give Him all the glory and not try to take any of it for ourselves.

Pharaoh Relates his Dreams

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

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

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;

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

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.

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

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

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.”

Pharaoh related the dreams to Joseph and awaits the interpretation.

Joseph’s Interpretation

25 Now Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the sameGod has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do.

·         Many people would readily admit that God knows everything that is going to happen, but far fewer people acknowledge that God is in control of everything that happens. What does verse 25 say?. It does not simply say that “God has told Pharaoh what will happen in the future.” It says that “God has told Pharaoh what He is about to do.”

·         The difference between these two statements is significant.

God has told Pharaoh what will happen in the future.

 God knows the future

 God makes the future known to men


1.      God is omniscient

2.      God communicates his knowledge of the future to man.

3.      No conclusion can be drawn about His plans or His power.

God has told Pharaoh what He is about to do.

 God knows the future

 God makes the future known to men

 God has made His plan for the course of History

 God is carrying out His plans


1.     God is omniscient

2.     God communicates His knowledge of the future to man.

3.     God’s plan for human history is called our future.

4.     God is carrying out His plan. i.e. He is omnipotent and sovereign!

·         God is not merely an impotent casual spectator of human history.  See what Isaiah says about His involvement in world events.

·         Isa 46:10-11

10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘ My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;

11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to passI have planned itsurely I will do it.

·         Friends, our God is a lot more than just a really good reporter of future events. He is the sole planner of human history and by His omnipotent power He is carrying out His perfect plan perfectly!

Click Here for Part 2 of this Sermon on Joseph and Pharaoh’s Dream

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