GENESIS CHAPTER 41.
Pharaoh’s Dreams and the Exaltation of Joseph.
THE TWO DREAMS OF PHARAOH. - V.1. And it came to pass at the end of two full years that Pharaoh dreamed; and, behold, he stood by the river, on the banks of the Nile. This was after the imprisonment of Joseph had lasted two more whole years. V.2. And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well-favored kine and fat-fleshed, cows in the best of condition, both as to appearance and flesh; and they fed in a meadow, in the luscious grass on the banks of the Nile. V.3. And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill-favored and lean-fleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river. The cows in the second set were in an extremely poor condition, very lean as to flesh, but they followed hard upon the first set. V.4. And the ill-favored and lean-fleshed kine did eat up the seven well-favored and fat kine. The lean cows devoured the fat cows, without, however, deriving any benefit therefrom, v.21. So Pharaoh awoke, the vividness of the dream bringing him to his senses with a start. V.5. And he slept and dreamed the second time; and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good, long, full, heavy ears, indicating great fertility. V.6. And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them. This was not a single stalk, as before, but seven individual thin stalks, scorched by the southeast wind from the Arabian desert, the so-called Chamsim. V.7. And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream. The picture had been so vivid in his mind’s eye that Pharaoh was surprised to find it a mere dream. Yet he felt that facts of unusual importance were being brought to his attention by means of these dreams. V.8. And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled, with the full awakening came the full consciousness of important events pending; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof, men belonging to the priestly order who devoted themselves to astrology, dreams, fortune-telling, and magic, commonly considered the wise men of the nation. And Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh. With all the wisdom of the kingdom at their disposal, they failed miserably, for, as one interpreter has it, “It is the doom of this world’s wisdom to be dumb where its knowledge might avail, or dependence is placed upon it.” Interpretation that may be depended upon belongs to God.
THE CHIEF BUTLER REMEMBERS JOSEPH. - V.9. Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day, his offense against the king and its subsequent punishment were still strong in his memory. He did not belong to the class of the wise men of the kingdom, but, as a high officer, had the privilege of speaking to Pharaoh. V.10. Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in ward in the captain of the, guard’s house, both me and the chief baker, chap. 40, 2. 3. V.11. And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream. There were significant incidents in either dream which were brought out in the interpretation and emphasized by the events that followed. V.12. And there was there with us a young man, an Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard, for it was Potiphar who had made the arrangement that Joseph was to be the attendant of the butler and the baker. And we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he did interpret. V.13. And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he, that is, Joseph, in his interpretation, restored unto mine office, and him he hanged. He indicates his belief that Joseph’s interpretation had shaped events. Thus the chief butler’s gratitude, although late, came at a time when it was of most value to Joseph.
PHARAOH TELLS JOSEPH HIS DREAMS. - V.14. Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, he gave orders that he should be fetched, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon, the word being used here again to designate the unpleasantness of the prison, The description shows how quickly the fortunes of Joseph turned. And he shaved himself, the Egyptian custom permitting long hair and a beard only in case of mourning, and changed his raiment, as one fully sensible of the great honor conferred upon him, and came in unto Pharaoh. V.15. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it; and I have heard say of thee that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it. In his anxiety Pharaoh overstated the facts, intimating that it was but necessary for Joseph to hear a dream, and the interpretation would follow as a matter of course. V.16. And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me, literally, By no means I; Joseph was far from arrogating to himself this ability; - God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace. It was both a prayer and a promise. V.17. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river; v.18. and, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fat-fleshed and well-favored; and they fed in a meadow; v.19. and, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill-favored and lean-fleshed, such as in ever saw in all the land of Egypt for badness. As Pharaoh remembers the scene in his dream, the extreme ugliness of the lean cows stood out very prominently. V.20. And the lean and the ill-favored kine did eat up the first seven fat kine; v.21. and when they had eaten them up, when in their greed they had swallowed them whole, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they were still ill-favored, as at the beginning. Pharaoh added also this item for the sake of emphasis. So I awoke. But immediately after falling asleep again, Pharaoh dreamed once more. V.22. And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good; v.23. and, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them; v.24. and the thin ears devoured the seven good ears. Cp. vv. 5-7. And I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me, v.8.
JOSEPH INTERPRETS THE DREAMS. - V.25. And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one, the two dream-pictures have the same meaning; God hath showed Pharaoh what He is about to do; He is revealing His intentions of the near future. V.26. The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years; the dream is one. They indicate seven years of great fruitfulness and plenty. V.27. And the seven thin and ill-favored kine that came up after them are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine. The very clearness and simplicity of Joseph’s explanation sets it aside from the heathen oracles. V.28. This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do He showeth unto Pharaoh. He refers to the statement which he made even before Pharaoh had related his dreams, always directing the attention of the king to the Lord. V.29. Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt; v.30. and there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land; v.31. and the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous. V.32. And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice, it is because the thing is established, fully determined upon, by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass. Joseph purposely emphasized the grievousness of the years of famine, that they would be so had as to make people forget the unusually fertile years that had gone before, just as we are inclined to feel any distress very severely and to forget the great blessings of goodness that are ours continually. Joseph’s entire manner of speaking, particularly when compared with the helplessness of the Egyptian magicians, was bound to make a deep impression upon the king. V.33. Now, therefore, let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt, one who has great wisdom and executive ability, combined with a good understanding of the situation and the necessary tact. V.34. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, the chief overseer was to be given assistants, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt, of the yield of the land, in the seven plenteous years, in the years of great fertility. V.35. And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. His advice is that royal store-houses, or granaries, be erected in all the chief cities, to be kept for provision against the lean years. V.36. And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt, to tide the inhabitants over the critical period; that the land perish not through the famine. This counsel was not an act of presumption on the part of Joseph, but a bit of advice which the Lord gave to Pharaoh by his mouth. God blesses, protects, and keeps a whole country for the sake of the believers that may be living in it.
JOSEPH MADE RULER OVER ALL EGYPT. - V.37. And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants. They were highly pleased both with the interpretation of the dreams and with the advice which Joseph added. V.38. And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? He acknowledged the divine illumination, the supernatural understanding and wisdom of Joseph. V.39. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art, Joseph did not have his equal in the entire kingdom. V.40. Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled, the entire nation would be subject to his command; only in the throne will I be greater than thou. So Joseph was elevated to a much higher position than that of chief overseer or tax-collector, being nominated Pharaoh’s grand vizier. V.41. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. Formally and solemnly the dignity was conferred upon him. V.42. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck. These were the insignia of his exalted office, the seal-ring to affix to the royal decrees, the fine white byssus robe, which placed him on a level with the highest priests in the land, the gold chain as a special mark of royal favor. V.43. And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee, an Egyptian word being here taken up into the Hebrew text; and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. V.44. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt. By virtue of the authority which Pharaoh, as the supreme ruler, vested in Joseph, the actions of the entire nation should be subject to Joseph’s command. V.45. And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnathpaaneah (preserver of life, or: revealer of secrets); and he gave him to wife Asenath, the daughter of Potipherah, priest of On. On, or Heliopolis (throne of the sun), was the leading city in Egypt in learning, the priests of the sun goddess having a college of their own, which ranked with the best of the ancient universities. Thus it was a great honor which was conferred upon Joseph. But the hand of God, who lifted him out of the depths of his disgrace, kept him from being engulfed by the Egyptian heathendom. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt, thus becoming acquainted with the country, its people, and its institutions, all of which stood him in good stead as ruler.
THE SEVEN YEARS OF PLENTY. - V.46. And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. He had thus been in the country for thirteen years, a number of which he had spent in disgrace in prison. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt. He made a formal tour of inspection in order to perfect his plans, especially for the storing of the grain which would be demanded as a tax extraordinary. V.47. And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls, the fields yielded crops in big bundles, enormous harvests being gathered every year. V.48. And he gathered up all the food of the seven years which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities; the food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same. The fifth part of every year’s crop Joseph gathered in such a manner that the grain from every district was brought to the store-house, or granary, in the chief city of that district. V.49. And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number. He gave orders to the officers in the various store-houses to discontinue entering the amounts delivered in special lists, since the supply was beyond figures. V.50. And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath, the daughter of Potipherah, priest of On, bare unto him. V.51. And Joseph called the name of the first-born Manasseh (forgetting, or: one that causes to forget): for God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house. His grief and sorrow had probably often been excessive, and his longing for his father’s house had amounted to a passion, but now the Lord, as Luther remarks, had taught him to place all his confidence in God alone. Joseph must gradually hare gained the impression that Jehovah had permitted his slavery in Egypt for a definite purpose, and he yielded to the will of God in simple humility. V.52. And the name of the second called he Ephraim (double fruitfulness); for God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction. In spite of his exaltation Egypt remained to Joseph the land of his affliction, and he longed for the Land of Promise. Thus do the believers, no matter how richly they are blessed by the Lord with the riches and honors of this world, ever long for the home above.
THE BEGINNING OF THE FAMINE. - V.53. And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended. Everything was fulfilled just as the Lord had revealed through the mouth of Joseph. V.54. And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said; and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. All the surrounding countries were stricken with the famine, just as they all had probably partaken of the rich and plentiful years, for the winds from the Mediterranean which deposit their moisture in the highlands of Abyssinia and thus produce the annual overflow of the Nile do the same for the mountains of Palestine. V.55. And when all the land of Egypt was famished, when the inhabitants had eaten their supply and were beginning to feel the effects of the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you do. Joseph had charge of the matter, and therefore he would supply their wants. V.56. And the famine was over all the face of the earth, over all the countries far and wide which ordinarily depended upon Egypt for grain. And Joseph opened all the storehouses, all the places where he had stored grain, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt, it made its effects felt throughout the country. V.57. And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn because that the famine was so sore in all lands. Joseph’s example in this story is one of true prudence and foresight. God is well able to keep His children in the midst of want, but He also wants us to be careful stewards over that which He has given us, that we do not suffer needlessly.