Pharaoh gave Joseph a position of power in Egypt because Joseph had correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams. God gave Joseph the ability to interpret the king’s dreams and the wisdom to recommend a course of action. Joseph’s proposal “seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. So Pharaoh asked them, ‘Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you’” (Genesis 41:37–40).
Pharaoh believed that Joseph had a spiritual power that would benefit his country. Spiritual powers were taken very seriously in Egypt during this time, and Pharaoh promptly promoted Joseph to be his second-in-command. Interestingly, this is the third time in the Genesis account that Joseph’s spiritual life is appealing to non-believers.
The first occasion happened while Joseph served in Potiphar’s house. “When [Potiphar] saw that the Lord was with [Joseph] and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field” (Genesis 39:3–5).
The second occasion took place during Joseph’s time in prison. “The Lord was with [Joseph]; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did” (Genesis 39:21–23).
In all three cases—with Potiphar, with the warden, and with Pharaoh—the Lord was with Joseph and caused him to prosper. The emphasis in Genesis is not on how great Joseph was, but on how God blessed him. Joseph was used by God to preserve the descendants of Abraham, through whom God would bless the entire world (Genesis 12:3).
In contrast to the favor shown to Joseph by the Egyptians, Joseph’s older brothers despised him on three occasions and then sold him into slavery. The first time, they resented Joseph’s coat of many colors, which represented authority (Genesis 37:4). The second time, the brothers took issue with a dream of Joseph’s that indicated his family would someday bow before him—a dream that eventually came true (Genesis 37:8). The third time, the brothers were “jealous” after Joseph shared a similar dream (Genesis 37:11). Soon after, they threw Joseph into a pit, sold him into slavery, and led their father to believe Joseph had been killed by wild animals.
The shameful actions of Joseph’s family stand in stark contrast to God’s work in Joseph’s life in Egypt. In his family, Joseph was despised three times then rejected. In Egypt, Joseph interpreted dreams on three occasions and was accepted as a leader by a pagan ruler. God took an unlikely person from the lowest of positions to the highest levels of influence. Joseph’s political power was a gift of God’s ultimate power in the fulfillment of His plan (see Daniel 2:21).