Genesis 41:37–57: Fruitfulness through Affliction
When Pharaoh’s dream troubled his spirit, and when but none of his magicians or wise men could give him a satisfactory answer to interpret the dream (Gen. 41:8), Pharaoh took the desperate step of seeking wisdom from a Hebrew slave who had been imprisoned with the captain of the guard. Now that Pharaoh has informed Joseph of his dream, and Joseph has given Pharaoh the interpretation, we left the story at a critical moment. How will Pharaoh respond? Will his troubled soul find satisfaction in Joseph’s answer? After getting the answer he has sought out of Joseph, will he discard Joseph by sending him back to prison? In this story, we see Joseph’s exaltation out of his long course of suffering. Here, we see that God gives fruitfulness through our affliction.
1) What is the significance of Pharaoh’s describing Joseph as a man “in whom is the Spirit of God” (v. 38)? How much do we learn about the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament (cf. Gen. 1:2; Ex. 31:3; 35:31; Judg. 6:34; 14:6; 1 Sam. 10:6; 16:13; Isa 11:2; Dan. 5:14)? How does the idea that the Spirit gives wisdom expand in the New Testament (e.g., 1 Cor. 2:10–16)? How much meditation and worship do you give to the Holy Spirit, as one of the three Persons of our one God?
2) How does Joseph’s exaltation in this passage contrast against the humiliation he has endured and suffered through during these last thirteen years? Does Joseph’s eventual exaltation negate the severity of his suffering, or make the actions of those who have caused his suffering less evil? How, then, do we nevertheless see God working in and through Joseph’s suffering for good? How does God still work all things together for our good (Rom. 8:28)?
3) What do the seven years of plenty teach us about God’s goodness and generosity, not only to his people, but to the whole world? What do the names that Joseph gives to his children teach us about his faith in God’s goodness and generosity in the midst of his affliction (vv. 51–52). What can we learn from Joseph about retaining our faith through times of suffering? What can we learn from Joseph about retaining our faith through times of success (“suffering…success”; Allen Ross)?
4) What can we learn from how Joseph uses the seven good years of plenty to prepare for the seven evil years of famine? How can we make preparations when we typically do not know when times of difficulty are coming, or the nature and extent of suffering that those times will bring? What kinds of preparations are most important for Christians as we think about shoring up our faith for the future? Where in the Bible do we see God encouraging us to do this, by his grace?