This is the third lesson in a series of 5 about Joseph’s life and the incredible way that God used him to bless his people.
Title: Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams
Scripture: Genesis 40-41
Target Age Group: 3rd-5th grade
Supplies: Story sequence strips (download here)
Optional Story Illustrations: The Story of Joseph Coloring Pages
Lesson Opening: Crazy Dreams
Ask: What is the craziest dream you’ve ever had? (Give each child a chance to answer.)
Ask: Do you always know what your dreams mean?
Explain that today we’re going to hear about some very interesting dreams. We’ll hear more of Joseph’s story and how God used him in an exciting way to save the nation of Egypt.
Say: There were many people in Joseph’s life who wanted to cause him harm, either by killing him or putting him in prison. But God never left Joseph and God used what people planned for evil for good!
Pray that the kids’ hearts and minds would be open to hearing the story today and getting to know God better by what they hear. Pray that the grace of God and the gospel would be more beautiful through us because of what we learn today.
Tell the Bible Story about Joseph
Last week we learned that Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. The Ishmaelite traders brought him to Egypt where he was sold to a man named Potiphar. Potiphar was one of Pharaoh’s officials. The Lord blessed Joseph so that Potiphar’s household prospered. God’s blessing did not escape Potiphar’s notice and he decided to put Joseph in charge of everything he owned.
Things seemed to be going well for Joseph, but there was trouble brewing. You see Potiphar’s wife didn’t like Joseph so she schemed a way to get him in trouble. She made up a lie that Joseph had disrespected her. She reported this lie to her husband, and Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison!
It might seem at first like nothing was going right for Joseph, but God was still with him. God blessed Joseph even in prison so that he was put in charge of the other prisoners. Joseph was not alone in prison. Two of Pharaoh’s workers, his cupbearer and baker, were also being held there. Let’s read in God’s Word to hear what happens next.
Read: “When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why do you look so sad today?” “We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” (Gen 40:6-8)
The cupbearer explained his strange dream first. In his dream he saw three branches full of ripe, juicy grapes. In his hand he held Pharaoh’s cup, and he filled the cup with juice from those delicious grapes. Then he put the cup in Pharaoh’s own hand. With God’s help Joseph gave the cupbearer the interpretation saying that in three days’ time he would be restored to his job as Pharaoh’s cupbearer. Joseph asked the cupbearer to remember him when he got out of prison so that he could help Joseph be released as well.
The baker then shared his dream with Joseph, explaining that in his dream he was carrying three baskets of bread for Pharaoh on his head. On his way to deliver the food, birds ate up the bread from the baskets. This time Joseph’s interpretation was not so nice. Joseph told the baker that in three day’s time Pharaoh would have the baker executed.
Just as Joseph had said, within three days both interpretations came true. The cupbearer was restored to his job and the baker was put to death. Unfortunately the cupbearer forgot all about Joseph until two whole years later! Pharaoh himself had two strange dreams. He asked all the magicians, sorcerers, and wise men of Egypt to interpret it for him but none of them could. The news of the dreams reached the cupbearer and suddenly he remembered the young Hebrew man in prison who had interpreted his own strange dream two years earlier. He went to Pharaoh and told him about Joseph, who was then brought before Pharaoh to hear the dream.
Read: (Genesis 42:15-16) “Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I had a dream and no one can interpret it. But I have heard if said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ ‘I cannot do it, Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.’”
Joseph gave God all the credit for helping him interpret dreams! Pharaoh described his dreams to Joseph. In his dream Pharaoh was standing on the bank of the Nile River when suddenly seven fat, healthy cows came out of the water. After them came seven sickly, thin cows that ate up the healthy ones. In his second dream Pharaoh saw a stalk of wheat with seven healthy heads of grain sprouting. Suddenly seven shriveled heads of grain sprouted and swallowed up the healthy ones.
Ask: If you were Joseph do you think you would be able to interpret these dreams?
With God’s help, Joseph interpreted the dreams for Pharaoh explaining that the seven healthy cows meant there would be seven years of abundant food in Egypt, followed by seven years of famine.
Ask: Does anyone know what a famine is? (When there is little or no food because the crops didn’t grow the way they were supposed to.)
Not only did Joseph interpret the dreams correctly, but he also had an idea to save the nation of Egypt! He suggested to Pharaoh that during the seven years of abundance, some of the food should be stored away in cities throughout Egypt. That way, during the famine there would be food to keep the people from starvation. Pharaoh liked this idea so well that he put Joseph in a high government position in Egypt. Remember, God was always with Joseph even during his suffering. God used what people planned for evil and brought good things from it!
Learning Activity 1: Putting the Story in Order
Supplies: Story Sequence slips (download here)(2-3 sets), glue, construction paper
- Divide the class into groups of 4-5 and pass out the story slips. The groups will arrange the slips in order that they occurred in the story, and glue them to the piece of construction paper. Go around the room and have one person from each group say an event in Joseph’s story in order.
- Use this activity to segue into the lesson review.
- What country was Joseph in when he was in prison? (Egypt)
- How did Joseph wind up in Egypt? (His brothers had sold him into slavery.)
- How did God use what was meant for evil for good in this story? (Joseph’s brothers wanted to get rid of Joseph, but God saved his life. Potiphar’s wife had him thrown in prison but God gave him favor with the guards. God blessed Joseph by allowing him to interpret the dreams and being put in charge of all of Egypt.)
- How was Joseph’s response to the dreams different here than with his own dreams years earlier? (Earlier, Joseph was proud and arrogant about his dreams, but now he gives credit to God for enabling him to interpret the dreams he heard.)
- What can we learn about God’s character in this story? (God is faithful and He cares for his people. He protects us even in our suffering and blesses our obedience to him. God is powerful to bring about His promises. God reveals things to His people that they would have no way of knowing on their own.)
- In what way does this story remind you of Jesus? (Like Joseph, Jesus was punished even though he didn’t do anything wrong. People who should have cared for him and loved him betrayed Jesus. He suffered because other people did evil things. God used terrible evil (the death of His Son) to bring about our salvation!
Learning Activity 2: Finding God in our Suffering
Supplies: Paper and pencils
- Ask: How do you think Joseph felt when he was in prison? Do you think he trusted that God was with him? What evidence do we have from the story that tells us Joseph’s faith in God never waivered?
- Encourage the kids to think about a time they experienced something hard or walked through a season of suffering.
- Ask: Do you think God was with you during that time? How did you experience God’s presence in your difficult circumstances?
- Pass out paper and pencils to the kids and have them spend a few minutes journaling their thoughts.
- When you come back together as a class allow time for kids to share what they wrote if they are comfortable.
- Spend a few minutes praying together as a class that God would reveal himself to us even through our suffering and difficulties.