We are studying Genesis 41:14-57 for Sunday, September 13 – the continuation of the story of Joseph, with Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s revelatory dreams, and Joseph’s rise to power and authority in Egypt. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are some questions we might want to consider as we reflect on and discuss this text:
The main event of the chapter involves Pharaoh’s pair of dreams, which are understood to be messages from God about the future of Egypt. Within the narrative itself, this understanding of dreams is both natural, and necessary for the sake of the plot. From a contemporary reader’s perspective, however, it might be worth asking: how readily do we accept the idea of divine communication through dreams? What thoughts or feelings does it raise? Why might that be?
Have we, ourselves, ever had a dream/dreams that felt or seemed or turned out to be predictive in this way? What difference does that experience make to our reading of this text?
What does this aspect of the story seem to tell us about God? Why do we say this?
The episode with the chief cupbearer isn’t part of our “select text,” but we might want to give some thought to this character and this episode, anyway. The chief cupbearer hasn’t given Joseph another thought for two years (Genesis 41:1), but he’s reminded of Joseph when the matter of uninterpretable dreams becomes urgent in Pharaoh’s court. Comments?
Considering that the urgency of the situation secures Joseph an immediate hearing before Pharaoh, and also considering that Joseph has had to be in prison for two years to get it, what would we say about the chief cupbearer’s timing? Or should we consider this God’s timing? Or both? Why?
How would we describe Joseph’s character at this point in the narrative? Why?
Has Joseph changed? How? What makes us say this? If we think he’s changed – why is that, do we think?
Are there any implications for us readers in that? What are they, and how do we feel about them? Why?
Joseph seems to accept Pharaoh’s “job offer” without much deliberation, although it’s possible the text doesn’t tell us everything. Either way – assuming Joseph has some other options – what makes this one attractive, do we think?
Would we say Joseph is “doing the will of God” here? Is he doing anything else, do we think? Does this give us any insight into what it means to “do the will of God”? What insight is that?
In this part of the story, God/YHWH is mentioned specifically as being involved in at least some of the events. What do we seem to learn about God from this part of the story? Does it help us understand the way God is related to events? Again, any implications for us in this? What are our thoughts or feelings about those?
A thought: The story of Joseph portrays God as being profoundly activist, doing a lot to influence and shape the specific events of the narrative. God sends dreams, dictates the weather, seems to schedule Joseph’s appointment with Pharaoh, and so on. This may not be the only way to think about God, but it is one way, and it seems to be encouraged by this story. So that could get us to thinking about God’s involvement in specific details of human life in an abstract way, or it could get us to thinking about God’s involvement in specific details of particular human lives, such as our own. Depending on what some of the specific events of our lives have been, this line of thought might feel like “no problem,” or it could lead us into some deeply painful and challenging territory. I think we will want to be alert and sensitive to these possibilities.