The First Interpreter

November 30, 2010 at 9:58 am | Posted in Genesis | 9 Comments
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In Genesis’s account of the adventures of Joseph, we see yet another Biblical “first.” In Genesis Chapter 40, Joseph, the “dream expert” (Genesis 37:19) is in prison. The Pharaoh’s chief butler and chief baker happen to be imprisoned with him. They have some very odd dreams, and Joseph, realizing that God can help him, agrees to interpret their dreams. Thereby he becomes the first “interpreter” in the Bible.

An interpreter is a person who translates messages between people among whom there is some barrier to communication.

And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.

Genesis 40:8

Of all the ways that Joseph reminds us of a type of Christ, here is one of the most poignant. For we, like the baker and the butler, were at one time separated from our King, and trapped in a prison of sin. We dreamed of ways to make peace with God. But our sinful condition kept Him from coming into forgiving fellowship with us. Then came a Man who could speak to both parties: King and prisoner; God and man. His name was similar to “Joseph,” but we know Him as Jesus. He was the only One Who could truly interpret our dreams of escaping prison. He brought the Good News from His King to us, and took our responsive message of repentance, and our cries for rescue, back to the King.

The word “interpreter” shows up again in the book of Job. Elihu is attempting to explain to Job the way God sometimes deals with those whose sins are bringing them into an eternal spiritual prison.

Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers. If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness: Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.

Job 33:22-24

What a beautiful picture of Christ the Interpreter! Among all the angels of Heaven, One greater than an angel comes forward, One Who is unlike all the rest (“one among a thousand”). By His grace He imputes righteousness to lost sinners bound for the pit, offering Himself as their ransom.

The Down Side of being the Favorite Son

September 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Posted in Genesis | 5 Comments
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Joseph didn’t create problems in Jacob’s home. Joseph’s presence revealed problems that were already there. Unlike his brothers, Joseph couldn’t stomach disobedience to his father. When Joseph brought back to Jacob a bad report of his other sons’ dealings with the flocks, Joseph’s way of handling the matter did not so much reveal him to be a snitch as it did to reveal that he was naïve.

As a father, I can sympathize a little with Jacob. It is a challenge to train one child, and an even bigger challenge to train siblings. Part of the challenge is training them to be loyal to their friends and siblings, while still maintaining their integrity in exposing right and wrong.

Jacob repeated the sin of Isaac in having a favorite son. The problem with Joseph’s coat wasn’t the colors so much as that it looked like the coat of a ruler. Reuben and Levi had fallen out of favor with Jacob (Reuben because of his affair with Bilhah, and Levi because of the incident at Shechem), and Jacob may have seen Joseph as the firstborn of his favorite wife.

And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:

Genesis 37:5-6

We can probably sympathize with the brothers’ annoyance for one who shares his dreams.

And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?

Genesis 37:10

Jacob’s reference to Joseph’s mother does not seem to make sense at this point since Rachel was dead, but Jacob is referring to Leah, even though she is not Joseph’s biological mother.

Dreams were one of the ways that God communicated with people in the Old Testament. The only recorded actual prophetic dreams in the New Testament are Joseph’s in Matthew 1 and 2, and Pilate’s wife in Matthew 27. Acts 2:17 says that in the last days “…your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:” We would do well to be cautious of dreams, but probably foolish to ignore them altogether. Jeremiah 23 is a good place to find out what God has to say about people who say, “God spoke to me in dream. I have a prophecy from the Lord for you. God told me this or that. God told me to tell you this or that.”

And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I.

Genesis 37:13

It did not make a lot of sense for Jacob to send Joseph, knowing how the brothers felt about him, but God’s hand was at work. Note that God calls Jacob “Israel” in this passage. Jospeh’s “here am I, send me” reminds us of Isaiah’s response to the Lord in Isaiah 6.

We are left to speculate as to what Jacob’s sons were doing near Shechem after all the trouble they had experienced there.

And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.

Genesis 37:19

This verse in Hebrew gives the connotation that when Joseph’s brothers referred to him as “this dreamer” they were sarcastically calling him “the dream expert.” And, as it turned out, Joseph’s skill as a dream expert would serve him better than any shepherd’s skill. Warren Wiersbe likes to say that an “expert” is a regular “spurt” under pressure.

When it came time to decide what to do with Joseph, Reuben did not get his way even though he was the first born. It is probable that Simeon and Levi were feared after the Shechem incident. In any case, it is clear that this was a family that walked disorderly.

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

II Thessalonians 3:6

“Disorderly” means “out of rank.” It is important that we establish order in church and in our homes.

The outcome of the brothers’ discussion was Joseph being thrown into the pit, only to be raised up, sold into slavery, and ultimately to rule.

Look at how Jacob’s sons “comforted” Jacob:

And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no. And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters [*] rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.

Genesis 37:32-35

Proverbs 12:10 says the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

* The “daughters” in Genesis 37:35 are “daughters-in-law.”

Stand Up for Jesus

May 17, 2010 at 10:23 am | Posted in Daniel | 17 Comments
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The events in the beginning of the Book of Daniel took place in 605 B.C. – after Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel would have been approximately 15 years old at that time.

Daniel was a real historical person. He actually existed. He is referred to in Ezekiel Chapter 14, along with Noah and Job for their righteousness. The context there is that the righteousness of these men could only save themselves, not others.

Daniel is also mentioned as a real person by the Lord Jesus.

But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:

Mark 13:14

He is also mentioned in Matthew 24:15.

Daniel and his friends were the “best and brightest” of the young men of Jerusalem. They were also royalty.

And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.

Daniel 1:3-4

The Babylonians changed their names:
– Daniel meant “God is my judge;” Belteshazzar meant “Bel protect his life.”
– Hananiah meant “the Lord shows grace;” Shadrach meant “command of Aku” (the moon-god).
– Mishael meant “who is like God?” Meshach meant “who like Aku?”
– Azariah meant “the Lord is my help;” Abednego meant “servant of Nego.”

As Jews, Daniel and his friends were not supposed to eat defiled food, according to the Old Testament covenant. Compare the New Covenant application:

As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.

Acts 21:25

Daniel and his friends chose the Word of God over the king’s food, even while being gracious toward authority. They were trained for three years in Babylonian beliefs and science and languages. They were examined and scored higher than anyone else.

Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.

Daniel 1:18-20

Between Chapters 1 and 2, Daniel was given some authority in the kingdom, reminding us of Joseph’s favor in Egypt, found in the Book of Genesis. Daniel was in a position of relative security, but Nebuchadnezzar was crazy and temperamental. He was having bad dreams.

[Caution: Be careful about your own dreams. Before Christians take their dreams as some sort of a vision from God, and decide to act in accordance, we must make sure our actions line up with Scripture. If you have a dream that makes you feel rebellious, it may be from your own subconscious, rather than from God.]

Nebuchadnezzar tested his counselors by pretending to forget his dream. This was somewhat of a double test: Could they tell him what the dream had been, and could they then tell him a believable interpretation of it? If we suppose that Satan was behind this scheme, then it is important to note that he was willing to kill all his false prophets just to get rid of four righteous servants of God.

Daniel was in trouble and needed to comfort himself.

Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his:

Daniel 2:17-20

He sought the Word of God first; then he began to praise and worship Him. That’s our order when Satan comes against us – when we’re in trouble.

The dream depicted the time of the Gentiles described by the Lord Jesus in Luke 21:24. The head of gold symbolized Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon. The chest and arms of silver symbolized the Medes and the Persians. The legs of iron with feet of iron and clay symbolized the Roman empire. Christ the Solid Rock is the only firm foundation this world has ever known. All other ground is sinking sand.

Note all the references to “standing” and “stood:” Daniel 1:4; 1:5 1:19; 2:2; 2:31. “Stand” carries the connotation of “standing” for something. If we don’t stand for something, we’re going to fall for anything.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Ephesians 6:10-14, emphasis added

When you feel like your can’t serve the Lord – when you’re like Daniel and you have to serve someone else – remember: You can still “stand” before them, and “stand” for the Lord.


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