LESSON 26 – Dreams and Drought – Genesis 40-41


  • Gen. 40:1-25.  Who is sent to the same prison as Joseph? (vs. 1 – Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker) These men are high government officials – not mere servants. For some reason we are not told why the Pharaoh became angry with them and threw them into jail. In an absolute monarchy anyone can be imprisoned or killed at the whim of the head of state.  [We should be thankful for our state and federal constitutions that outlaw such behavior on the part of anyone in power!] Why are the two prisoners sad in verse 6-8? (They each had had a dream the night before. They knew they meant something, but not what. And in prison they figured there was no one to tell them the interpretation.) Does Joseph tell them he can interpret them? (vs. 8 – No. He tells them that interpretations of dreams belong to God.)  Describe the cupbearer’s dream (vs. 9-11.)  What was the interpretation? (vs. 12-13. That the three branches on the vine were days. In three days the Pharaoh would have the cupbearer released and restored to his old position.) What did Joseph ask the cupbearer to do when he was released? ( Remember him and when he got his position back, try and get Pharaoh to release him from prison) The baker saw the favorable interpretation of the cupbearer’s dream and decided to let Joseph tell the meaning of his. What was the baker’s dream and what did it mean? (vs. 16-19. The baker had three baskets of bread on his head full of baked goods for the Pharaoh. However, birds were eating the bread out of the basket. Joseph said his dream meant that in three days Pharaoh would behead him, impale his body on a pole and let the birds eat his flesh.)  It happened that three days from the dreams was Pharaoh’s birthday and he gave a feast for all of his officials.  The cupbearer was brought back to his position and the baker was beheaded just like Joseph had predicted.  What is the last sentence of this chapter? (The chief cupbearer forgot all about Joseph.)
  • Gen. 41: 1-39 – How many years have passed since the end of chapter 40? (vs. 1 – 2 years) Pharaoh had a disturbing dream. What was it? (vs. 2-4) What was his 2nd dream?  (vs. 5-7) What did Pharaoh do when he woke up? (vs. 8- He gathered all of his wise men together, told them the dream and asked for an interpretation.  No one had a clue.) All of a sudden a light goes off in the cupbearer’s head! Joseph!  He tells the Pharaoh about the time he and the baker had been in prison, the dreams that they had had and how Joseph had accurately interpreted their dreams.  What does Pharaoh do? (vs. 14 – He had Joseph brought up from the prison and Joseph was shaved and given clean clothes before he came before the Pharaoh.) What does Joseph tell Pharaoh when Pharaoh asks Joseph to interpret the dream? (vs. Joseph says that he can’t interpret it, but that God can.) The Pharaoh then relates the two dreams to Joseph – the 7 fat and lean cows and the 7 full and thin heads of grain.  What is the interpretation of the dreams? (vs. 25-31 – Joseph says that God had chosen to reveal the future to the Pharaoh.  The dreams are one and the same: for 7 years there will rain and crops will grow; then for 7 more years there will be drought and famine. The famine will ravage the land and the good years will be forgotten.) What advice does Joseph give the Pharaoh? (vs. 33-36 – Joseph says that a wise and discerning man should be put in charge of the land. The country should be divided into 5 regions and a 1/5 of the harvest should be stored for each of the 7 good years to come. The food would be in reserve for the coming years of famine so Egypt would not be wiped out.) What amazing suggestion does the Pharaoh make? (vs. 37-40. That since God had revealed His plan to Joseph it was reasonable to suggest that no one else in the land was as wise and discerning as Joseph. So he put Joseph in charge of the harvest project and told him that no one besides the Pharaoh himself would have as much power as he.)
  • Gen. 41: 40-57 – List all of the honors that the Pharaoh gives Joseph. (vs. 41-45. Put in charge of all Egypt, given Pharaoh’s signet ring – a sign of authority, robes of fine linen, a gold chain, a chariot, someone to go before him to yell, “Make way!”, a new name – Zaphenath-Paneah [meaning “the one who furnishes the sustenance of the land”], a wife named Asenath, daughter of the priests of On [On was center of the worship of Ra, the sun god, the priests were the upper class of Egypt. Joseph became part of this upper class when he married Asenath] What happened during the 7 good years? (vs. 47-52. Joseph collected the grain and stored it in the cities of Egypt. The harvests were so great that the collected amount was too much to calculate and Joseph stopped keeping records. Two sons were also born to Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim.) What do Joseph’s sons’ names mean and why did Joseph give them these names? (51-52. – Manasseh means “forgetful” – because God had helped him forget all of the trouble he had had. Ephraim means “fruitful” – because God had made him fruitful in the land where he had suffered) What happened at the end of the 7 plentiful years? (vs. 53-57 – The famine began and the people started to go hungry. Pharaoh told the people to go to Joseph for help. Joseph opened the store houses and sold the stored grain to the people. Eventually people from all over came to Egypt to buy food, because the famine was world-wide.)


We see in 41:46 that Joseph is 30 when he is elevated to 2nd in command of Egypt.  He was sold into slavery at the age of 17.

  • How long has Joseph waited for God’s deliverance? (13 years)
  • How have Joseph’s experiences prepared him for the great responsibilities given to him by Pharaoh? (His time at Potiphar’s helped him learn how to run a household and oversee a large estate. He learned how to deal with difficult people and lead during his time in prison. His trials have prepared to be a success at the job he was given.)
  • What character qualities have been shown and developed over these 13 years? (humility – he always gave God the credit for whatever he did; patience – he has learned to wait on the Lord, even when treated unfairly; diligence and dependability – the work at Potiphar’s and in prison taught him to be responsible and to work hard) Joseph probably wondered why God had allowed all of the trials into his life, yet he did not despair or give up. He continued to do what was right and trust in God.  If he had been rescued at any other point before the day that Pharaoh had his dreams, Joseph would not have been at the right place at the right time so he could fulfill the job that God had for him – the preservation of his people, Israel.
  • What trials or difficulties are you experiencing now? What can you learn from Joseph’s example? (be patient, do the best you can in the circumstances you have – don’t wish to escape – realize God has a plan for your good and God is teaching you things that you will need to know for the future; be humble – accept your difficulties, give God glory and trust in Him!)
  • What do you think God is trying to teach you right now? What steps of obedience do you need to take to be pleasing to God and learn from the trial you are up against?

Digging Deeper

    1. Write two journal entries from the viewpoint of Joseph. The first one is to be on the first night of his imprisonment after Potiphar’s wife denounced him (Gen 39). The next is to be the night after he was put in charge of all Egypt (Gen 41). Write his emotions and perspective at these two times in his life. Be sure to include his relationship with the Lord and how he views God’s purposes.
    2. What character qualities need to be developed in you? Write how you think the trials you are facing can help develop these in your life. Name at least three qualities and give Bible verses for each.  Give specific steps as to how you are working on becoming more mature and more pleasing to the Lord.