My intention for the next week of devotions is to provide a few of the thoughts and questions that arise when I read the section for the day. This insight into my mind will, by definition, be insightful, but I also hope that it provokes thought and encourages you to think of these passages in a new way. A novel approach to a passage may be novel, but it is up to the reader to determine whether such a perspective is beneficial. After all, the conventional wisdom regarding these passages is conventional for a reason (Jeremiah 6:16). This wisdom has been cultivated for centuries and even millennia in many cases. We should respect the paths that have been laid down for us by our predecessors but also inquire as to the motivation for the creation of these existing structures.
Let’s begin by looking at verse 32 of chapter 41. “The matter has been firmly decided by God.” This implies that God decides matters, sometimes firmly, sometimes softly. When is a time that God has decided a matter, but not firmly? The situation that probably comes to mind for most people is when God had promised to destroy all of Israel as punishment for creating the golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 32:14). Even though God had stated what he would do, he “relented.” Are there other times in the Bible or in present when God has decided to do something and is yet willing to change course? Are there times when he won’t relent?
In a single day, Joseph is elevated from a foreign slave in prison to the second in command in all of Egypt, probably the most powerful and advanced civilization of the time. The way in which Joseph is promoted in the story is rather abrupt. It feels almost as though a portion of the story is missing. What transpired between Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dream and his promotion? The interpretation of the dream had not yet come true, but the Pharaoh still trusted the word of Joseph. The credibility with which Joseph spoke came from the previous times when he interpreted dreams. If Joseph had never been accused of impropriety with the wife of Potiphar, then he never would have been in a position to interpret the dreams of the cupbearer and the chief baker. If he had never interpreted these dreams, then he never would have been promoted to his position over Egypt. This chain of events shows the foresight of God and how we need to trust that even in the bad times, the times that some may have intended for evil (ie Potiphar’s wife), God intends to use for good. The other thing of note in this short section is in Joseph’s reaction to the interpretation. He presented the problem to Pharaoh, but he also presented the solution and was ready to take action. If God provides special insight to you, you must be willing and able to take that insight and turn it into action. If you were incapable of action, would God have given you the insight? Take action.
Now that Joseph is in charge of storing food for the coming famine, he takes to accounting. This is an incredible feat that many of us don’t even bat an eye at. These events took place 3500-4000 years ago. Some historians claim that the Pharaoh of this time was Amenemhet, who reigned at the beginning of the twelfth dynasty. The twelfth dynasty is also the period when the oldest mathematical documents that have ever been uncovered were initially created. The Egyptians invented math. They were using fractions and solving geometry problems well before Socrates and Plato. In fact, they were about as far removed from the ancient Greeks in time as we are. That thought alone is mind boggling. This is all to setup my final point and to draw attention to what Joseph said of the amount of grain that he had stored up. He said that it was “beyond measure.” This phrase actually had meaning to Joseph and the Egyptians. They had been counting for centuries and had a hieroglyph for every number up to one million (𓁨 this is the unicode character for it). This glyph was used to represent the actual numeral one million or to signify “many.” It is a picture of a god with his hands raised to the sky. We take this kind of math and accounting for granted, but it was a fairly new development for the people of this time. I’ve included some links down below to articles that will get you started with further research for those of you who are interested in ancient Egyptian mathematics. Who knew Joseph would take us down this rabbit hole?
To read or listen to today’s Bible passage – check out https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+41-42&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Genesis 43-45 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan