Chapter 41

  1. Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams

    • Two years later Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing beside the Nile River. As he was standing there, he saw 7 fat and healthy cows come up out of the Nile and begin to graze by the riverbank.

    • Then he saw 7 thin, sickly cows come up out of the Nile and stand beside the fat, healthy cows. Then the 7 thin, sickly cows ate the 7 fat, healthy cows.

    • The dream woke Pharaoh up, but when he fell back to sleep, he had another dream.

    • In his second dream he saw 7 heads of healthy, plump grain growing on a single stalk. Then he saw 7 heads of thin, shriveled, wind scorched grain sprout up. The 7 thin heads of grain swallowed up the 7 healthy heads of grain.

    • Pharaoh awoke a second time.

    • When Pharaoh woke up the next morning, he was very worried about what he had dreamed. He called together all the magicians and wise men of Egypt and told them about his dreams, but none of them could tell Pharaoh what the dreams meant.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The magicians and wise men belonged to a guild of supposed experts in spiritual matters, including dreams and visions (Exodus 8:18-19; Daniel 2:10-11), but they could not interpret these dreams.”

      • HCSB commentary has this to say, “Pharaoh’s dreams were dominated by the number seven and were full of common agricultural imagery of Egypt. It was surprising that none of the “magicians” (who relied on occult knowledge), or so called “wise men”, a group of advisors found in many ancient royal courts (e.g. Daniel 2:2,10), ventured an interpretation. Perhaps the down-to-earth imagery in the dreams suggested it would be obvious if their interpretation proved false, and that Pharaoh’s distress concerning the dreams might lead to their being treated somewhat like the baker.”

    • Then the cupbearer spoke to Pharaoh, “I remember now, back when you were angry with some of your servants, you put me and the chief baker in prison at the palace of the captain of the guard. One night, both of us had dreams. A young Hebrew slave was there that listened to our dreams and gave us each an interpretation for our dream. Everything happened just as he had predicted- I was restored to my position and the baker was hanged.”

    • Pharaoh sent for Joseph immediately.

      • It’s all about the timing! Guzik points out, “When it was in the timing of God to get Joseph out of prison, it all happened quickly. Often, we feel there are long periods of time when God doesn’t do anything, but when His timing is right everything can come together in an instant.”

    • When Joseph was shaved and cleaned up, he came before Pharaoh. Pharaoh said, “I had a dream that no one here can interpret, but I have been told that you have the ability to interpret dreams.”

    • Joseph responded, “It is beyond my power to do this, but God can tell you what your dreams mean.”

      • “Pharaoh gave Joseph a golden opportunity to glorify himself, but Joseph refused. He did not use this as an opportunity to glorify himself before Pharaoh, but only to glorify God.” (Guzik)

    • Pharaoh proceeded to tell Joseph about his dreams, “I was standing on the bank of the Nile when I saw 7 fat, healthy cows come up out of the river and they started to graze by the riverbank. Then 7 thin, sickly cows came up out of the river. They were the worst looking cows I’ve ever seen in Egypt. The 7 thin cows ate the 7 fat cows, but afterward they looked just as thin as they had before they had eaten the fat cows.

    • Then I dreamed that I saw 7 heads of healthy, plump grain all on one stalk. Then I saw 7 heads of thin, shriveled, and wind scorched grain sprout up and they swallowed the plump grains. I have told these dreams to the magicians, but none of them can tell me what they mean.

    • Joseph told Pharaoh that both of his dreams meant the same thing; God is telling Pharaoh what He is about to do: “The seven good cows and seven good heads of grain both represent seven years of abundance and prosperity in Egypt. The seven thin cows and the seven worthless heads of grain also represent seven years of famine. The famine will be so terribly devastating that no one will even remember the seven years of plenty. The fact that you had the dream twice means that God has decreed that his will happen and that it will happen soon.”

    • Then Joseph continued saying, “Find a discerning, intelligent man and put him in charge of Egypt. Appoint overseers over the land to collect 1/5th of the harvest in each of the seven years of prosperity. Gather up all of the extra food, preserve it, store it in your storehouses, and guard it so that when the famine comes people will still have food to eat.

      • “Joseph showed both his boldness and his gift of administration. No responsible administrator would present such news without also suggesting a plan to meet the coming crisis.” (Guzik)

      • “God always works through men performing tasks on the earth.” (Barnhouse)

  1. Joseph Exalted

    • Pharaoh and his officials were pleased with Joseph’s advice. Pharaoh said, “Could we find anyone else so obviously filled with the spirit of God? God chose to reveal the meaning of these dreams to you, so clearly there isn’t anyone as wise or intelligent as you. You are to be in charge of my household and everyone will obey your commands. I will be the only person who outranks you.”

    • Pharaoh continued, “I hereby place you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.” Pharaoh took off his signet ring and placed it on Joseph’s finger , dressed him in fine linen and gave him a gold chain to wear around his neck. Joseph rode in the chariot that was reserved for the second-in-command and wherever he went the people were commanded to “Kneel down!”.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible explains, “Pharaoh’s signet ring had a seal used for signing documents. The seal was impressed in soft clay, which hardened and left a permanent impression of the ruler’s signature, which carried his authority. Numerous seals of this type have been found in archaeological digs. The linen clothing and gold chain signified Joseph’s new status as ruler.”

      • HCSB notes, “…the king’s signet ring was virtually a blank check for anything Joseph decided to do anywhere in Egypt.”

7th -5th century Egyptian Signet Ring
    • Pharaoh said that even though he was king, no one would do anything without first getting Joseph’s approval.

    • Pharaoh gave Joseph the Egyptian name “Zaphenath-paneah” (God speaks and lives).

    • Pharaoh also gave Joseph Asenath to be his wife. Asenath was the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of On (which is called Heliopolis in Greek).

  1. Joseph’s Administration

    • Joseph was 30 years old when he entered the Pharaoh’s service and he inspected the entire land of Egypt.

    • Just as Joseph had said, the land of Egypt produced a bumper crop for 7 years in a row. During this time Joseph directed the gathering of the crops and stored grain in each of the cities. So much grain was stored that they stopped trying to measure it, it was impossible to keep track.

    • Joseph and Asenath had two sons before the famine arrived. He named the first, Manasseh, saying “God has made me forget all about my family troubles.” He named his second son, Ephraim, saying “God has made me fruitful in this land where I have been grieved”.

      • Joseph’s heart is contrasted here with many others in his lineage who had married outside of their heritage.

        • HCSB points out, “Within Joseph’s family his brother, Judah, had chosen to marry a Canaanite and had largely lowered his moral and spiritual standards to the surrounding culture (Genesis 38). Joseph’s arranged Egyptian marriage (41:45), by contrast, produced two children whose names honored the one true God (v. 50-52)

      • NLT makes the same observation, “In spite of his position and authority, Joseph never abandoned his heritage; he gave Hebrew names to his two sons.”

    • The seven years of prosperity came to an end and the famine came just as Joseph had predicted.

    • The famine was widespread even extending all over the world, but Egypt had food.

    • When the starving people came to Pharaoh for food, he told them to go to Joseph.

    • Joseph opened the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians as well as other people who traveled to Egypt to buy food.

      • Guzik lists these amazing parallels between Joseph at this point in Genesis and Jesus Christ:

1. Was a shepherd.

2. Loved by his father.

3. Sent unto his brethren.

4. Hated by his brothers.

5. Prophesied his coming glory.

6. Rejected by his brothers.

7. Endured unjust punishment from his brothers.

8. Sentenced to the pit.

9. Delivered to the pit, though a leader knew he should go free.

10. Sold for pieces of silver.

11. Handed over to the Gentiles.

12. Regarded as dead, but raised out of the pit.

13. Went to Egypt.

14. Made a servant.

15. Tempted severely, but did not sin.

16. Falsely accused.

17. Made no defense.

18. Cast into prison, and numbered with sinners and criminals.

19. Endured unjust punishment from Gentiles.

20. Associated with two other criminals; one is pardoned and one is not.

a. Some associate the butler, with his wine, and the baker with the elements of communion. Along the same lines, some associate the three- day period before their case is resolved with the three days before the resurrection of Jesus.

21. Showed compassion.

22. Brought a message of deliverance in prison.

23. Wanted to be remembered.

24. Shown to have divine wisdom.

25. Recognized as having the Spirit of God.

26. Betrayed by friends.

27. Glorified after his humility.

28. Honored among Gentiles while still despised or forgotten by his brethren.

29. Given a Gentile bride.

30. Was 30 years old when he began his life’s work.

31. Blessed the world with bread.

32. Became the only source of bread for the world.

33. The world was instructed to go to him and do whatever he said to do.

34. Was given the name “God Speaks and He Lives.”