Genesis 40-41

Good morning! Today we continue the saga of Joseph and see the reversal of his fortunes from prisoner to near-Pharaoh. Whereas false accusation sent him to prison, Joseph’s righteousness (with a healthy dose of magical storytelling) makes a way out of no way.

Genesis 40 recalls the facility that Joseph has with dreams, evident even when he was a child. Here he correctly interprets the meaning of two dreams by fellow prisoners. As fate (and the divine Worker understood to be behind these events) would have it, the prisoner who survives and is restored to his palace position forgets to mention Joseph’s false accusation to Pharaoh. But this misfortune turns out to be for the best in chapter 41, because when Pharaoh has puzzling dreams two years later, Joseph is still there in the dungeon, ready to be of use. His marvelous skill at interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams makes Joseph appealing to Pharaoh, who even sees in him “the spirit of God” (remarkable since Pharaoh was supposed to be a god also). The king immediately makes Joseph second-in-command throughout Egypt, and Joseph’s prudence makes sure that the Egyptians don’t starve during seven years of famine. Fortunes reversed in this way, Joseph marries and has two children. The meaning of the names implies that Joseph is now satisfied with his lot, and yet the fact that he references “my father’s house” and the “land of my misfortunes” in the first place suggests otherwise.

This portion of Joseph’s story brings Cinderella to mind. Both tales describe a magical reversal of fortune, where the dirty and imprisoned protagonist is suddenly thrust into the presence of royalty. Noteworthy acts in that company lead with bewildering swiftness to a new status as part of the royal family. Readers of both stories are to recognize (and imitate) the good character of the hero/ine. Cinderella’s industrious work even when she was unhappy attracted the sympathetic aid of the fairy godmother. Likewise, we are led to commend Joseph’s trust in God and his willingness to interpret equally the dreams of prisoner and Pharaoh alike. The moral-example elements of these stories are similar, which is perhaps why both are taught to children. Yet there is one key difference between them: Cinderella’s hurtful family is swiftly dispensed with at the end of the fairy tale, but “fate” reunites Joseph with the brothers who wronged him. We’ll pick up that story tomorrow, in Genesis 42-43. Happy reading!

Read Genesis 40-41.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. Thanks for reading!

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