Grades 3-6 Lesson 46 for Sunday School:
Joseph: Part 4
The Dreams, the Drama, and the Deliverer
Author’s Notes: Last week, we saw Joseph finally being released from prison after two years of waiting for the butler to remember that he was there. This week we’re going to take a closer look at the events that led to his release. And we’ll see Joseph go from the one being delivered from prison to the one delivering the entire nation of Egypt from certain doom.
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What is a coincidence? Are there such things? Or does God plan everything out for us? If you think it’s just a coincidence that you are here for this lesson today, then you might need to think, again. God has a plan for your life and mine, and for today, that includes being right here for this very lesson!
There were many things that happened in Joseph’s life that some might look at as coincidences. But let’s look carefully at them, and we’ll see God’s master-plan in action. God needed Joseph in Egypt, for a very special task. We’ll find out what that is in today’s lesson. But Joseph was quite content living with his family in Canaan. So…
Each of these events, if looked at separately, might seem like mere coincidences. But when we have the Bible to study, and can see his story from the beginning to the end, we can see that God’s hand was at work in each and every situation, moving Joseph on toward God’s ultimate goal of having Joseph just where he needed him, to save Egypt, and even his own family.
But that’s getting ahead of today’s lesson. So let’s look at today’s memory verse, then do some backtracking, to see what all the excitement was about that finally brought Joseph out of prison, and before Pharaoh.
Today’s memory verse is something Joseph, himself, said to his brothers at the end of the book of Genesis, after their father died. This verse is Joseph’s acknowledgment that all those things that had seemed like terrible coincidences in his life had all been God’s plan, for his good.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good…” Genesis 50:20
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for our study on the life of Joseph. Help us to learn, today, that whatever happens in our lives is part of Your wise and loving plan. Give us ears to hear Your Word today, in Jesus name. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: The Dreams, the Drama, and the Deliverer (Genesis 41)
Last week we met a pair of chief workers from the palace: the chief butler, and the chief baker. The baker was hanged for his offense that landed him in prison. The butler was given his job back. Does anyone remember Joseph’s parting request as the butler went back to work? He asked the butler to remember him, and present his case to Pharaoh, since he had been wrongfully imprisoned.
But for two years, what Joseph had done for him in prison had slipped the butler’s mind. Then, Pharaoh had some dreams, and everything changed for Joseph.
1And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.
2And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow.
3And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and leanfleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river.
4And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.
Can anyone guess what “kine” are? “Kine” is another word for cows. So what happened in Pharaoh’s dream? (Allow the students to describe the dream.) Seven fat and healthy cows came up out of the river and were eating in a meadow. Then seven more cows came up out of the river. But these were sickly and skinny cows. And the seven skinny cows ate up the seven fat cows. Then Pharaoh fell back asleep.
5And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good.
6And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them.
7And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.
So Pharaoh had another dream. What was different about this dream? This time he dreamed about ears of corn. And what was the same as the first dream? The number seven was there, again. And the bad ears of corn devoured the good ones, like the cows had.
How many of you usually remember your dreams when you wake up? There are some people who never seem to remember theirs. Then there are others who always do. Pharaoh certainly remembered these dreams, and they left him feeling very unsettled. So in the morning, he went looking for someone to help him figure out what his dreams had been about.
8And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh.
There would have been quite a commotion the morning after Pharaoh’s dreams. The entire palace staff knew that if the Pharaoh wasn’t happy, then nobody was going to be happy. They would have wanted nothing more than to be able to tell Pharaoh what his dreams meant. But there was no one, not even the wisest men in the land, that could help Pharaoh; at least not until one member of the palace staff remembered that there was, indeed, someone who might be able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. He had, after all, done the same thing for him. Can anyone guess who did the remembering, and what it was he remembered? (Allow the students to answer before reading the passage.)
9Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day:
10Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in ward in the captain of the guard's house, both me and the chief baker:
11And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream.
12And there was there with us a young man, an Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he did interpret.
13And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.
At last there was a glimmer of hope for Pharaoh. There was someone in his kingdom who had experience at interpreting dreams. So Pharaoh wasted no time in calling for Joseph. Of course, Joseph couldn’t immediately go to stand before Pharaoh. He’d been in prison for more than two years. He probably had a long, scruffy beard. And who knows how long it had been since his last bath. But as soon as he had a few moments to make himself presentable, he was brought in to see Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Do you think he had ever, in his whole life, expected to meet the king of Egypt face to face? How do you think he was feeling as he was cleaning himself up?
Have you ever met someone very important? How do you think you might feel if the king or president of your country had a problem, and asked you to come and help him solve it? Would you feel proud and honored? Would you be nervous?
What do you think could happen if Pharaoh wasn’t happy with Joseph’s answer? If he became angry, he could throw Joseph right back into prison, or worse…could kill him on the spot! Do you think Joseph might have thought about that on his way into Pharaoh’s throne room? Let’s read on in our passage, to find out how the conversation went between Joseph and Pharaoh.
14Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.
15And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it.
We don’t know whether Joseph had been told, before this moment, why he was being brought in before Pharaoh. But there’s a good chance he’d heard people talking about it as he moved from the prison to the place where he prepared to see Pharaoh. Maybe the butler even came in to let Joseph know what was going on.
But now the moment had come. And an anxious Pharaoh was waiting for a response from this Hebrew servant. He knew that Joseph was his last chance at learning what his troubling dreams meant.
But Joseph wanted to set one thing straight before he gave any answer to Pharaoh. There is a verse that says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15) Joseph had lived his whole life this way. He had made it clear to Potiphar that the Lord was with him. And when tempted by Potiphar’s wife, it was having a holy God set apart in his heart that kept him from sinning. Joseph had sanctified the Lord, or set Him apart as holy, in his heart. So he was always ready to do the right thing. And as he did with the butler and baker in prison, Joseph was also always ready to share with others that it was the Lord, in his life, that helped him do great things.
So it was perfectly natural for him, even when standing before one of the most powerful men in the world, at that time, to share with him that what he was about to say could only come from the one, true God.
16And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.
Once Joseph had made that clear, he was ready to hear what Pharaoh had to say. And Pharaoh was more than ready to tell Joseph about his dreams.
17And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river:
18And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow:
19And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed, such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness:
20And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine:
21And when they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they were still ill favoured, as at the beginning. So I awoke.
22And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good:
23And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them:
24And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears: and I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me.
Pharaoh added one little detail to his dream that he hadn’t mentioned before. Did anyone notice what it was? It was in the dream about the cows. He said that after the skinny cows ate the fat cows, that the skinny cows were still so skinny that no one could tell they’d eaten the fat ones. That would be strange! Wouldn’t you think that if a really skinny cow ate a fat cow, that the skinny cow wouldn’t be skinny any more? But that’s not what happened. And Joseph is going to explain why. Let’s take a look at Joseph’s interpretation (from God) of Pharaoh’s dreams.
25And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do.
26The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one.
27And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine.
28This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh.
29Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt:
30And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land;
31And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.
32And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.
So Joseph had really good news, and really bad news for Pharaoh. What was the good news that the fat cows and good ears of corn represented? The seven fat cows and seven good ears of corn represented seven years of “great plenty” that were coming for the land of Egypt. In those seven years, Egypt would be blessed with an abundance of crops at harvest time. That would have been exciting news for Pharaoh, if it hadn’t been for the fact that his dreams didn’t end there. Because the seven fat cows and good ears of corn were followed by seven skinny cows and bad ears of corn. And there was probably no joy in Joseph’s face as he prepared to give Pharaoh the bad news.
What did the seven skinny cows and seven bad ears of corn represent? The skinny cows and bad ears predicted seven years of terrible famine that would follow the seven years of plenty. What is a famine? A famine is a time when crops do not grow, and is often accompanied by drought, or lack of rain. If the crops don’t grow or are damaged, then there’s nothing for the people to eat. And many starve to death. Verse 30 said the famine would be so bad that it would “consume the land,” just like the skinny cows had consumed the fat ones, and the bad ears of corn had consumed the good ones.
And do you remember the detail Pharaoh had added when he told his dreams to Joseph? He said the skinny cows didn’t get any fatter when they consumed the fat cows. Joseph said that was a prediction that the famine would be so severe that the people wouldn’t even remember their seven earlier years, when God had blessed them with bountiful harvests.
Joseph added that God had intentionally given the dream to Pharaoh twice, so he would be sure to know that this was what God had determined to do. There would be no changing that fact. And that it would all happen shortly.
What terrible news that would have been for the ruler of a thriving country! He had now been given a glimpse of the future of his kingdom, and it was not pretty. They were going to have to do some serious planning to get through this disaster.
Fortunately for Pharaoh, and all of Egypt, God had not only given Joseph the interpretation of the dreams, he had also given him the wisdom to know what they needed to do to handle the situation.
34Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years.
35And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities.
36And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.
37And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.
Joseph’s suggestion was kind of like our government taxes. He recommended that officers of the king collect from the people of Egypt one fifth of all that was harvested in the seven good years. He suggested that they store that extra food in the cities so it would be available to the people during the years of famine.
What did Pharaoh and his advisors think of Joseph’s idea? They thought it was great! And as a result, Pharaoh had a great idea of his own. Who better to manage this very important operation than the one who had come up with the idea?
38And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?
39And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:
40Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.
41And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.
Once again, what did those around Joseph notice about him? Pharaoh pointed out that the Spirit of God was in Joseph. He recognized that everything Joseph said had come from God. And who better to put in charge of the country than someone who was a messenger of God, Himself.
And that’s just the position Joseph had put himself in, by making God such an important part of his life. It meant he was available for God to use him any way He wished. And God had brought Joseph through the pit, through life as a servant, and through prison so he would be ready for this moment in his life.
Maybe Joseph’s brothers had meant selling him as a slave for evil. They didn’t do it because they thought it would be the best thing for him. They sold him because they hated him, and it seemed like the best thing for them. But the evil thing that Joseph’s brothers had done was the same thing God was working for Joseph’s good. And not only for Joseph’s good, but for all the land of Egypt as well. In fact, we’re going to find in next week’s lesson that the famine was not confined just to Egypt. It would even affect Joseph’s homeland, too. And that included Joseph’s own family. But that’s next week’s lesson.
So as you go through this next week, if it starts to look like everything around you is just falling apart, and that nothing good could possibly come from the disaster around you, remember Joseph. Keep God sanctified in your heart, like Joseph did. And trust that the God who worked everything for Joseph’s good is the same God living and working in you.
But you can only be certain that God is working things out for your good if you are His child. Have you invited Him into your heart and life? And if you have, do you daily remember to put Him first, as Joseph did? When God is in charge of your life, He is able to use you to do great things for Him.
Joseph wasn’t necessarily an extraordinary person. He was an ordinary person who made God the most important thing in his life. So God was able to use him to do extraordinary things.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the story of Joseph. And for the reminder that we can do great things for You, if we will put You first in our lives. Thank You, too, for the reminder that when things look like they’re going against us, that You are always at work in our lives, working things out for our good. Help us to keep trusting You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. When Pharaoh wanted someone to interpret his dreams, the butler finally remembered Joseph. (true)
2. Pharaoh dreamed about five cows and five ears of corn. (false – seven)
3. When the skinny cows ate the fat cows, they became fat, too. (false – they stayed skinny)
4. Joseph went right from his prison cell to stand before Pharaoh. (false – he got cleaned up first)
5. Joseph said Pharaoh’s dreams predicted seven good years followed by seven very bad years. (true)
What another means for evil
God can use for good,
If we’re serving Him completely,
Living as we should.
Lisa DeVinney, February 2015