In his biography of Douglas MacArthur, William Manchester describes him in this way: “His belief in . . . God was genuine, yet he seemed to worship only at the altar of himself. He never went to church, but regarded himself as one of the world’s two great defenders of Christendom (the other was the pope).” Powerful leaders often succumb to the temptations of pride.
If anyone in the ancient world had reason to be proud or think they were self-sufficient, it was Pharaoh. He ruled a vast empire and was thought to be divine. Yet in this passage we see that he is needy and desperate for answers.
Like most ancient monarchs, Pharaoh had many advisers in his court, but it would have been unusual for him to ask them to interpret a dream. Since Pharaoh himself was thought to be divine, most Egyptians assumed that he could easily understand dreams from the gods. But now Pharaoh has had a disturbing dream that he cannot understand, and he calls for all the experts (v. 8). This was like the senior cabinet, the board of executives, the leading scientists, and the greatest theologians, all consulted together.
The most intelligent and informed counselors in the most powerful empire of the day were unable to help. The chief cupbearer, perhaps sensing the desperation of Pharaoh, took the drastic step of recommending his former prison inmate as a potential source of help. (v. 11). We should not miss how strange it is that Pharaoh actually listens to this advice. Without hesitation, Pharaoh sends for Joseph (v. 14). He was desperate for an answer, and all the wisdom of Egypt had proved inadequate. Why not take a chance on a foreign slave in prison?
Like Pharaoh, we might think that we have it all together. We have savings accounts and extended family and job security. We have access to the best doctors and military and schools. But we are dependent on God. Confess your reliance on Him, knowing that the strongest and wisest resources of the world are nothing compared to Him (Ps. 20:7).