- “And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 41:45)
Last time, we looked at how the chief butler of Pharaoh seemed to have missed what God was doing around him and even in his own life. What a stark contrast between his response to Joseph’s interpretation of his dream and Pharaoh’s response to his own dreams being expounded. The butler may have forgotten what God did for him through Joseph (Gen. 40:23), but Pharaoh sure did not! On the contrary, Pharaoh promptly elevated Joseph to a position of leadership second only to his own. “See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt“, Pharaoh declares to Joseph (Gen. 41:41).
Whatever sense of pride, whatever fear or insecurity that prevented the butler from immediately telling the King of Egypt about what Joseph had done was certainly not a trait in Pharaoh himself. Ironically, the very man who might have felt the most threatened by the Spirit of God working through Joseph had no problem yielding great authority to the man. Pharaoh recognized the power of God working through Joseph and, consequently, responded with wisdom by putting Joseph in a position where the blessings of God would pour down on his nation. “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?”, he asks his advisors (Gen. 41:38).
Unlike Herod, who would attempt to snuff out the life of the young Lord Jesus rather than willingly allow any other King to reign in Judea, Pharaoh makes no hesitation in permitting the man through whom God is working to take control of the affairs of his kingdom. He even hands over his signet ring, giving Joseph the power-of-attorney to act completely on his behalf (Gen. 41:42). What remarkable trust Pharaoh placed in this Hebrew slave who had just now been plucked from prison. We should not miss the risk that Pharaoh was really taking: he was giving Joseph enough authority that potential mismanagement could have easily run the entire nation into the ground! Yet he did not wince at giving Joseph this authority based solely on the fact that the Spirit of God was working through him. How unfortunate that we are so reluctant to freely turn over all the affairs of our lives, to hand over our own signet rings and yield authority over our own kingdoms to the Spirit of God Himself. Were it that we might be so filled with faith as this pagan monarch!
Joseph is then given a new name (Zaphnath-paaneah), arrayed in fine clothing — a gold chain placed around his neck, and presented with a bride. With a shaven face (and most likely a shaved head, as scholars tell us was the fashion in those times), an Egyptian name, Egyptian clothes and jewelry, an Egyptian wife, and speaking the language fluently now after some 13 years in the land, Joseph looks a lot like an Egyptian. A new life has now begun for him. And herein we begin to see parallels again between his life and that of the Lord Jesus. As the Lord’s own ministry began at about the age of thirty (Luke 3:23), so begins Joseph’s active ministry (Gen. 41:46). As the Church is the Gentile bride, called out of the world: Asenath is the called-out, Gentile bride of Joseph (Gen 41:45). As the Lord Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35), Joseph is the holder of all of the bread in the land of Egypt (Gen. 41:57). As the wedding guests in Cana sought after wine and were told by Mary to do whatsoever Jesus said to them (John 2:5), so were the Egyptians who cried to Pharaoh for food told to do whatsoever Joseph told them to do (Gen. 41:55).
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14)
Two sons are born to Joseph during the 7 years of plenty: Manasseh (forgetting), and Ephraim (fruitful). Joseph declares that God has caused him to forget his toil and his home and has made him fruitful in this new land (Gen. 41:51). These are two qualities which God desires for all who belong to Him. To forget what lies behind us, to forget those things in our past and to be fruitful in the service to which He has called us. Regret and bitterness over a lifetime of abuse and mistreatment could have plagued Joseph, but God caused him to forget those things. What a blessing it is when God causes the pains and hurts of our past to be washed away by His grace and mercy! If we will only let go of these things and turn them over to the Lord Jesus Christ, He will make us the fruitful servants he intends us to be.