Joseph Stands Before Pharaoh (Genesis 41:14)

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There are a few occasions in life where you’re expected to dress up a little bit: weddings, state dinners, the beginning of hunting season.

When Joseph hears that he’s been called to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, he likewise takes similar measures to look presentable. It’s easy to miss, but Genesis 41:14 states that Joseph “shaved himself and changes his clothes.”

The reason for this is somewhat obvious: Prison clothes aren’t really that suitable for an audience with royalty. But the Bible doesn’t ever waste words, and I’m convinced there’s something more here than meets the eye.

In ancient Egypt (depending on the era), it was common for members of the upper class to shave their bodies. Most likely, this was for practical reasons. Less hair meant fewer opportunities for lice to nest, and kept the individual cooler in the heat.

One group of people that made shaving a regimented practice was the Egyptian priesthood. It’s unlikely that Joseph thought he was entering this group when he was summoned to Pharaoh, but he was an “interpreter of dreams” after all, so it might have been expected.

Regardless, what this verse really shows is Joseph’s full transition from Israelite to Egyptian. No longer was he an exile in a foreign land; now, he had fully integrated into the land of Egypt.

A similar story happens when Daniel is taken prisoner by Nebuchadnezzar. In Daniel 1, he and his friends are given new names: Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-Nego. The rest of his book only refers to them as these “Babli-cized” names.

One thing remains constant in both Joseph and Daniel’s lives though, which is their devotion to God. No matter where they went or what they did — even though they both lived in close proximity to royalty — they always remained true to God. Their example shows what Jesus meant in John 17 to be a part of the world, but not “of the world.”