Genesis 41



1 “And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and,

behold, he stood by the river.”  And it came to pass at the end of two full years

(literally, two years of days, i.e. two complete years from the commencement of

Joseph's incarceration, or more probably after the butler's liberation), that Pharaoh

on the import of the term see ch. 12:15. Under what particular monarch Joseph came

to Egypt is a question of much perplexity, and has been variously resolved by

modern Egyptologists in favor of:


1. Osirtasen I., the founder of the twelfth dynasty, a prosperous and successful

    sovereign, whose name appears on a granite obelisk at Heliopolis (Wilkinson, '

    Ancient Egyptians,' 1:30, ed. 1878).


2. Assa, or Assis, the fifth king of the fifteenth dynasty of Shepherd kings

    (Stuart Peele in Smith's 'Bible Dict.,' art. Egypt).


3. Apophis, a Shepherd king of the fifteenth dynasty, whom all the Greek authorities

    agree in mentioning as the patron of Joseph (Osburn, 'Menu-mental History,' vol. 2.

    Genesis 2; Thornley Smith, 'Joseph and his Times,' p. 42).


4. Thothmes III., a monarch of the eighteenth dynasty (Stanley Leathes in Kitto s '

    Cyclopedia,' p. 744).


5. Rameses III., the king of Memphis, a ruler belonging to the twentieth dynasty

    (Bonomi in 'The Imperial Bible Dict.,' p. 488; Sharpe's ' History of Egypt,' vol. 1.

    p. 35).


It may assist the student to arrive at a decision with respect to these contending aspirants

for the throne of Pharaoh in the time of Joseph to know that Canon Cook ('Speaker's

Commentary,' vol. 1. p. 451), after an elaborate and careful as well as scholarly review

of the entire question, regards it as at least "a very probable conjecture" that the

Pharaoh of Joseph was Amenemha III., "who is represented on the lately-discovered

table of Abydos as the last great king of all Egypt in the ancient empire (the last of

the twelfth dynasty), and as such receiving divine honors from his descendant

Rameses" - dreamed. "For the third time are dreams employed as the agencies of

Joseph's history: they first foreshadow his illustrious future; they then manifest

that the Spirit of God had not abandoned him even in the abject condition of a

slave and a prisoner; and lastly they are made the immediate forerunners of his

greatness" (Kalisch.). And, behold, he stood by the river - i.e. upon the banks

of the Nile, the term יֵלֺאר (an Egyptian word signifying great river or canal, in

the Memphitic dialect yaro, in the Sahidic yero) being used almost exclusively

in Scripture for the Nile (Exodus 1:22;  2:3;  7:15; Gesenius, 'Lex., p. 326).

This was the common name for the Nile among the Egyptians, the sacred

being Hapi (Canon Cook in 'Speaker's Commentary,' p. 485).


2 “And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favored kine

and fat-fleshed; and they fed in a meadow.”  And, behold, there came up out

of the river seven well-favored kine and fat-fleshed. According to Plutarch and

Clement of Alexandria, the heifer was regarded by the ancient Egyptians as a

symbol of the earth, agriculture, and the nourishment derived therefrom. It was

therefore natural that the succession of seven prosperous years should be

represented by seven thriving cows. That they appeared ascending from the river

is explained by the circumstance that the Nile by its annual inundations is the

cause of Egypt's fertility (Havernick, 'Introd.,' 21). A hymn to the Nile, composed

by Euna (according to the generality of Egyptologers a contemporary of Moses),

and translated from a papyrus in the British Museum by Canon Cook (who ascribes

to it an earlier date than the nineteenth dynasty), describes the Nile as "overflowing

the gardens created by Ra giving life to all animals....watering the land without

ceasing... Lover of food, bestower of corn... Bringer of food! Great Lord of provisions!

Creator of all good things!" (see 'Records of the Past,' vol. 4. pp. 107, 108); And they

fed in a meadowבָּאָחוּ - ἐν τῷ Αχειen to Achei -  (Septuagint), literally, in the Nile

or reed grass. The word appears to be an Egyptian term descriptive of any herbage

growing in a stream. It occurs only here and in v. 18, and Job 8:11.


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.”

And, behold, seven other kind came up after them out of the river, ill. favored

 and lean-fleshed. The second seven cows, "evil to look upon," i.e. bad in appearance,

and "thin (beaten small, dakoth, from dakak, to crush or beat small) of flesh," also

proceeded from the river, since a failure in the periodical overflow of the Nile was

the usual cause of scarcity and famine in Egypt. And stood by the other kine upon

the brink of the river. The use of the term lip, שָׂפָה, for brink, common enough in

Hebrew (ch. 22:17; Exodus 14:30; I Kings 5:9), occurs also in a papyrus of the

nineteenth dynasty, "I sat down by the lip of the river," which appears to suggest

the impression that the verse in the text was written by one who was equally

familiar with both languages (Canon Cook in 'Speaker s Commentary,' p. 485).



4 “And the ill favored and lean-fleshed kine did eat up the seven well favored

and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.”  And the ill-favored and lean fleshed kine

did eat up the seven we favored and fat kine - without there being any effect

to show that they had eaten them (v. 21). So (literally, and) Pharaoh awoke.


5 “And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears

of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good.”  And he slept and dreamed

the second time (that same night): and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon

one stalk, rank (i.e. fat) and good. This clearly pointed to the corn of the Nile valley,

the triticum compositum, which bears seven ears upon one stalk. The assertion of

Herodotus, that the Egyptians counted it a disgrace to live on wheat and barley

(2:36), Wilkinson regards as incorrect, since "both wheat and barley are noticed

in Lower Egypt long before Herodotus' time (Exodus 9:31-32), and the paintings

of the Thebaid prove that they were grown extensively in that part of the country;

they were among the offerings in the temples; and the king, at his coronation,

cutting some ears of wheat, afterwards offered to the gods as the staple production

of Egypt, shows how great a value was set on a grain which Herodotus would lead

us to suppose was held in abhorrence" (Rawlinson's 'Hexodotus,' vol. 2. p. 49).


6 “And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after

them.”  Literally, burnt up of the east, קָדִים being put poetically for the fuller

רוּחַ קָדִים. It has been urged that this displays a gross ignorance of the nature, of the

climate in Egypt (Bohlen), since a wind directly east is rare in Egypt, and when it

does occur is not injurious to vegetation; but, on the other hand, it is open to reply:


(1) that direct east winds may be rare in Egypt, but so are dearth and famine such

     as that described in the narrative equally exceptional (Kalisch);


(2) that the Hebrews having only names to describe the four principal winds,

      the kadirn might comprise any wind blowing from an easterly direction

      (Hengstenberg); and


(3) that the south-east wind, "blowing in the months of March and April, is one of

     the most injurious winds, and of longest continuance" (Havernick). Hengstenberg

     quotes Ukert as saying, "As long as the south-east wind continues, doors and

     windows are closed; but the fine dust penetrates everywhere; everything dries up;

     wooden vessels warp and crack. The thermometer rises suddenly from 16° 20°,

     up to 30° 36°, and even 38°, Reaumur. This wind works destruction upon

     everything. The grass withers so that it entirely perishes if this wind blows

     long" ('Egypt and the Books of Moses,' p. 10).


8 “And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And

Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.”  Manifestly of the same import

as that which had preceded. The dream was doubled because of its certainty and

nearness (v. 32).


8 “And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent

and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and

Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them

unto Pharaoh.”  And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled;

or, rather, his mind was agitated, ἐταράχθηχυχὴ αὐτοῦ - etarachthae hae chuchae

autouhis spirit was troubled (LXX.), pavore perterritus (Vulgate), the ruach being

the seat of the senses, affections, and emotions of various kinds (compare Daniel 2:1;

4:5, 19) - and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, - the חַרְטֻמִּים, from

חָרַט (unused), to engrave, whence חֶרֶט, a stylus (Gesenius), or from חוּר, to see or

explain, and טוּם, to conceal, i.e. he who explains hidden or mysterious things

(Kalisch), were sacred scribes, ἱερογραμματεῖςhierogrammateis, belonging

to the priestly caste, who were skilled in making and deciphering the hieroglyphics.

Besides figuring in the Court of Pharaoh (Exodus 7:11, 22; 8:3; 14:15) in the time

of Moses, they recur again at a later period in that of the Babylonian monarch

Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:20; 2:2) - and all the wise men thereof. The חֲכָמִים,

from חָכַם, the primary idea of which is that of judging (Gesenius), were persons

capable of judging, hence persons endowed with preeminent abilities for the

prosecution of the ordinary business of life, the cultivation of the arts and sciences,

the practice of divination, the interpreting of dreams, and other kindred occupations.

They were the sages of the nation. And Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was

none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh. The magicians of Egypt were not so

conceited as their Brethren in Babylon afterwards showed themselves to be,

Daniel 2:4 (Lawson). That they could not explain the dream, though couched in

the symbolical language of the time, was no doubt surprising; but "the things of

God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 2:11), and they to

whom the Spirit doth reveal them (ibid. v. 10).


9 “Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults

this day:  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:  11 And we dreamed

a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the

interpretation of his dream.  12  And there was there with us a young man, an

Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted

to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he did interpret. 13  And it

came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office,

and him he hanged.” Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do

remember my faults this day: - literally, my faults I am remembering today; but

whether he understood by his faults his ingratitude to Joseph or his offense against

Pharaoh commentators are not agreed, though the latter seems the more probable –

Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, - literally, broke out against them (see ch. 40:2)

- and put me in ward in the captain of the guard's house, - literally, put me in custody

of the house of the captain of the slaughterers (compare ch. 40:3) - both me and the

chief baker: and we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each

 man according to the interpretation of his dream (see ibid. v. 5). And there was

there with us a young man, a Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard (see

ch. 37:36); and we told him (our dreams), and he interpreted to us our dreams

(see ch. 40:12-13, 18-19); to each man according to his dream he did interpret.

And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he (not Pharaoh, but

Joseph) restored unto mine office, and him he hanged (ibid. vs. 21-22).



Pharaoh’s Forgetful Butler

    (ch. 40:23; here v. 9)


“Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgot him.” “I do

remember my faults this day.” Good men have sometimes had to bear

painful imprisonments. Think of Bunyan and Baxter shivering behind the

bars of a narrow cell, where light and air were almost excluded, and where

disease and death held sway. How much brightness, however, has broken

at times from behind prison bars! We might not have had the ‘Pilgrim’s

Progress,’ unless Bunyan had been incarcerated on the banks of the Ouse.

Nor might the patience and kindness of Joseph’s disposition have shone

out so brilliantly but for his prison life. In a work entitled ‘ Five Years’

Penal Servitude’ a most vivid description is given of how the criminals of

the clever and cultured class have to mingle and work with those of

ignorant and most sensual type. Defaulting cashiers have to undergo the

same treatment as cowardly garrotters and desperate burglars. Breaking

the law brings any under its rigorous clutches, and levels all distinctions of

class or education. Thus Joseph, a Hebrew slave, although not a criminal,

would be despised by the chief butler of Pharaoh, but the butler had to

associate with him. Indeed the former became his superior in prison, and

was in a position to render to a State official certain kindness.


  • THE FORGETFUL INGRATE. This man was a courtier, a permitted

adviser of the Pharaoh of Egypt, but he is sent to the common prison.

Joseph gives him much cheer, attention, and kindness. He seeks in every

way to relieve the monotony of prison life, and becomes a prophet and

religious helper. He sees the butler one day sad of countenance, and learns

the reason. Readily he, by Divine help, interpreted the perplexing dream.

His words are verified. The chief butler was doubtless profuse in his thanks

and promises, but we see how he kept them. Perhaps the forgetfulness was

convenient. He did not wish, after his restoration, to remind his monarch

— even by making a request — of his having been formerly in disfavor. He

possibly never intended to make any effort, unless it should be a gain to

himself. He is a very different man in prison and out. This is the way of

men in life. Favors slip from the memory like floods from a smoothly-worn

rock. We might here possibly find out certain things in our own conduct

which would indicate a similar forgetfulness of favors. For example, CHRIST

CAME as the good Joseph to share our captive state. Think of what love He

showed in bearing so much suffering for us. Do not put aside the thought

of it as not being DEFINITELY FOR YOU!   It was for each one, as if there

were none other for whom to suffer. Some have not believed, have not come

out from prison, but have preferred the darkness to light, have thought that

THE ATONEMENT was all unnecessary. They cannot understand how evil

is their state until brought out of it. A beggar would not be troubled about his

patches and rags in the common lodging-house; but let him be taken into a

room of decently-arrayed people, and he then feels the difference, and

shudders at his degraded appearance. When once brought into Christ’s

light we see from what we have been saved, and SHOULD BE GRATEFUL

TO HIM!  Some have been brought into union with him, and afterwards have

declined from His way. Dangerous state. We should blame others who were

ungrateful; what if we have been! The longer action is postponed, the

deeper the ingratitude, and the less likelihood is there that the favor will he

felt. The longer postponed, the harder to acknowledge. Thus the butler

may have hesitated to speak of Joseph because he would have to reveal his

own ingratitude. Possibly he hoped Joseph was dead. Not so; Joseph lives.

Forgotten by man, he is not forgotten by God. God will yet bring the

forgetful one and his benefactor face to face.


  • AROUSED MEMORIES. Wonderful is that faculty of the mind

whereby we can imagine ourselves to exist in the past. Some have weak

memories, others strong. Some have memories for places and thoughts,

others for dates, figures, and words. Whether memory be strong or weak,

the power of association is such that at times facts long past will be

brought back most vividly. Revisiting places of interest, traversing certain

countries, will bring to memory past friendships, and perhaps even subjects

of conversation formerly held there. A house in which one has been born or

trained becomes a complete history in time. Certain seasons arouse

memories of the past, as birthdays, wedding days, Christmas time, or

Easter. Certain circumstances also arouse memory. Pharaoh’s perplexity

concerning his dream forcibly reminded the butler of his morning of

sadness in the prison. “I do remember.”  The butler implied that he

repented of his sins and of his forgetfulness. He may not have been very

sincere, but as a courtier he introduces a subject in that way. Let us

remember our faults, our inconsistencies as Christians, our hesitation to

confess Christ, our excusing ourselves on the ground of the doings of

others. Let us be plain with ourselves. Let us not see the motes in the eyes

of others, and forget the beams in our own. (Matthew 7:1-5)  Let us remember

them that we may be humbled, may gain experience of how to avoid them in

the future, may gain strength to resist, may gain pardon for past faults, and


GOD who is so willing to blot out our transgressions, and even the memory

of our sins. (God forgives and forgets - Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12; 10:17 –

not us – we remember, but thank God, sin “......once purged should have

no more conscience of sins.”  Hebrews 10:2 – we do not forget but

remember them, but the proof of forgiveness is we have no more bad

conscience of them, there is a sense of shame involved since all sin

really is foolishness! I consider the memory good because it makes me

not want to do the same sin again.  CY – 2018)


14 “Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of

the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in

unto Pharaoh.”  Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily

(literally, caused him to run) out of the dungeon and he shaved himself, - this was

exactly in accordance with Egyptian custom (Herod. 2:36). Wilkinson states that

"the custom of shaving the head as well as beard was not confined to the priests in

Egypt, but was general among all classes" (Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,' vol. 2. p. 49;

compare 'Ancient Egyptians,' vol. 2. pp. 330-332. ed. 1878). That the verb is not

more exactly defined by a term following, such as the head (Numbers 6:9), the beard

(II Samuel 10:4), but stands alone (the only instance of its intransitive use), appears

to suggest that the writer was familiar with the practice of shaving (vide Havernick,

'Introd.,'§ 21) - and changed his raiment, - as required by the customs of Egypt

(see Hengstenberg's 'Egypt,' p. 30; cf. Genesis 35:2) - and came (or went) in unto




The Blessing of Suffering Wrongfully (v. 14)


Joseph had probably been three years in prison (compare v. 1 with ch. 40:4).

Sorely must his faith have been tried. His brothers, who had plotted his

death, prosperous; himself a slave, spending the best years of his life in

prison; and that because he had been faithful to God and to his master. We

know the end, and therefore hardly realize his desolate condition when no

sign of anything but that he should live and die uncared for and forgotten.

But the trial comes more home to us when some one for whom we care, or

perhaps ourselves, “endure grief, suffering wrongfully” (I Peter 2:19);

when unsuspecting frankness has been overreached, or trust betrayed, or

feebleness oppressed.  We feel not only that wrong has been done, but as if

there had been a failure in God’s care. It is one thing to acknowledge the

doctrine of God’s providence, and quite another to feel it under pressure of

trouble. A frequent mistake to think of suffering as calling for immediate

restitution. Since God beholds the wrong, should there not be some speedy

token that he does so? The truth which faith has to grasp is that GOD IS

CARRYING A PLAN for which all these things are a preparation. We may

not be able to trace it; but it is so. Thus it was with Joseph. All through these sad

years GOD WAS GUIDING HIM.  It was not merely that in time the cloud was

removed; every step of the way had its purpose (John 16:20). In the

prison he was learning lessons of the soul, — unlearning the spirit of

censoriousness and of self-complacency (ch. 37:2), — and, by

obeying, learning how to rule. And the course of events bore him on to

what was prepared for him. Had he remained at home, or returned thither,

or had Potiphar not cast him into prison, he would not have been the head

of a great work in Egypt, the helper of his family, the instrument of

fulfilling God’s promise. Not one step of his course was in vain; his

sufferings were blessings.



suffered for us, “leaving us an example” (I Peter 2:21) of willingness to

suffer for the good of others. This is the principle of self-sacrifice; not a

self-willed sacrifice (Colossians 2:23), but the submission of the will to

God (Luke 22:42; Hebrews 10:7). “This is acceptable with God”

to accept as from Him what He sends, though we may not see its use

(Hebrews 12:5-7).



NEEDFUL. If it was so in our Lord’s sinless human nature (Hebrews 2:10),

how much more in us, who must be taught to subdue the flesh to the

spirit! Without trial Christian courage and fruit-bearing graces would fail

(John 15:2), as without the winter’s cold the forest tree would not form

sound wood. And trial calls them into exercise (Romans 5:3), and through

a sense of our weakness draws us nearer to God (II Corinthians 12:7-9).



WORKS GOOD. To every part the promise applies (John 16:20). So it

was with Joseph. God lays no stroke without cause (Hebrews 12:10).

The conviction of this works practical patience. This particular suffering

has its own loving message.



How different was the end to which God was leading Joseph from anything

he could have expected or hoped for! Yet far better. We can see but a very

little way along the path by which God is leading us. We walk by faith that

HIS GUIDANCE IS UNERRING, and that which he has provided is best

(Ephesians 3:20).


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.”  And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream,

and there is none that can interpret it (literally, and interpreting it there is no one):

and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it

literally, I have heard of thee, saying, thou hearest a dream to interpret it.


16 “And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give

Pharaoh an answer of peace.”  And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in

me (literally, not I): God - Elohim (compare ch. 40:8) - shall give Pharaoh an

answer of peace - literally, shall answer the peace of Pharaoh, i.e. what shall be

for the welfare of Pharaoh. The rendering Ανευ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἀποκριθησεται τὸ

σωτήριον Φαραιό - Aneu tou Theou ouk apokrithaesetai to sotaerikon Pharaio

It isn’t in me. God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace. (Septuagint), though

giving the sense, fails in accuracy of translation.


17 “And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank

of the river:  18  And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fat-

fleshed  and well-favored; and they fed in a meadow:  19 And, behold, seven

other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favored and lean-fleshed,

such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness: 20 And the lean and

the ill favored kine did eat up the first seven fat kine:  21 And when they had

eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they were

still ill favored, as at the beginning. So I awoke. 22 And I saw in my dream,

and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good: 23 And, behold,

seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them: 

24 And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears: and I told this unto the

magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me.” Pharaoh then relates

his dreams in substantially the same terms as those in which they have already been

recited, only adding concerning the lean kine that they were (v. 19) such as I never

saw (literally, I never saw such as these) in all the land of Egypt for badness: and that

(v. 21) when they had eaten them (i.e. the good kine) up, it could not be known they

had eaten them; - literally, and they (i.e. the good kine) went into the interior parts,

i.e. the stomach (of the bad kine), and it was not known that they had gone into the

 interior parts - but they (the bad kine) were still ill-favored, as at the beginning

literally, and their appearance was bad as in the beginning, i.e. previously; and

concerning the thin and blasted ears, that they were also (v. 23) withered - צְנֻמות,

from צָנַם, to be hard, meaning either barren (Gesenius), dry (Furst), or sapless

(Kalisch) - a word which the Septuagint and the Vulgate both omit. Onkelos explains

by flowering, but not fruiting; and Dathius renders by jejunae. After which he

(i.e. Pharaoh) informs Joseph that the professional interpreters attached to the Court

(the chartummim, or masters of the occult sciences) could give him no idea of its



25 “And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath

shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do.” And Joseph said unto Pharaoh (the

inability of the magicians to read the dream of Pharaoh was the best proof that

Joseph spoke from inspiration), The dream of Pharaoh is one (i.e. the two dreams

have the same significance): God hath showed Pharaoh what he is about to do

(literally, what the Elohim is doing, i.e. is about to do, he causeth to be seen by



26  “The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven

years: the dream is one.  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.  28 This is the thing which I have spoken

unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh. 29 Behold,

there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt: 

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; 

31 And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine

following; for it shall be very grievous.  32 And for that the dream was doubled

unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will

shortly bring it to pass.”  Proceeding with the interpretation of the dream, Joseph

explains to Pharaoh that the seven good kine and the seven full ears point to a

succession of seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt which

were already coming (v. 29), after which there should arise seven years of famine,

in which all the plenty should be forgotten in the land, and the famine should

consume, or make an end of, the land (v. 30), and the plenty should not be known

in the land by reason of (literally, from the face of, used of the efficient cause of

anything, hence on account of) that famine following - literally, the famine, that

one, after (things have happened) so; adding (v. 32), And for that the dream was

doubled unto Pharaoh twice (literally, and as for the doubling of the dream to

Pharaoh twice); it is because the thing is established by God, - literally, the word

(or thing spoken of) is firmly fixed, i.e. certainly decreed, by the Elohim  and God

will shortly bring it to pass - literally, and hastening (is) the Elohim to do it.


33 “Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him

over the land of Egypt.  34  Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over

the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous

years. 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.

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; that the land perish not through the famine.”

Now therefore (adds Joseph, passing on to suggest measures suitable to meet the

extraordinary emergency predicted) let Pharaoh look out a man discreet (נָבון, niph.

part. of בִּין, intelligent, discerning), and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.

Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers (literally, let him set overseers,

פְקִדִים, from פָּקַד, to look after, in hiph. to cause to look after) over the land, and

take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt - literally, let him fifth the land, i.e. levy

a tax upon its produce to that extent (Septuagint, Vulgate), which was double the

annual impost exacted from Egyptian farmers, but which the unprecedented fertility

of the soil enabled them to bear without complaint, if, indeed, adequate compensation

was not given for the second tenth (Rosenmüller) - in the seven plenteous years.

Diodorus mentions the payment of a fifth in productive years as a primitive custom

(vide Havernick, p. 219). And let them (the officers) 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 (or, food in the cities, and let them keep it). And that food

shall be for store (literally, something deposited) to the land against the seven

years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not

through the famine - literally; and the land (i.e. the people of the land) shall not

be cut off in, or by, the famine.


37 “And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his

servants.  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?”  And the thing was good in the

eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants. The advice tendered

recommended itself to the king and his ministers. And Pharaoh said unto his

servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?

The Ruach Elohim, as understood by Pharaoh, meant the sagacity and intelligence

of a deity (compare Numbers 27:18; Job 32:8; Proverbs 2:6; Daniel 4:8, 18;

5:11, 14; 6:3).


39 “And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this,

there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:  40 Thou shalt be over my house,

and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne

will I be greater than thou.”  And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as

(literally, after) God (Elohim) hath showed thee (literally, hath caused thee to know)

all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: thou shalt be over my house,

and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled - literally, according to

thy mouth shall all my people dispose themselves, i.e. they shall render obedience

to thy commands (Septuagint, Vulgate, Onkelos, Saadias, Pererius, Dathius,

Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Lange, Murphy, and others); though by many

competent authorities (Calvin, Schultens, Knobel, Ainsworth, Gesenius, Furst,

Wordsworth, et alii) the rendering is preferred, "upon thy mouth shall all my

people kiss," against which, however, is the fact that not even then were governors

accustomed to be kissed on the lips by their subjects in token of allegiance. The

suggestion that the verb should be taken in the sense of "arm themselves," as in

II Chronicles 17:17 (Aben Ezra), does not meet with general acceptance. Only

in the throne (or, more accurately, only as to the throne) will I be greater than thou.




Joseph as Prime Minister (v. 40)


“Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my

people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.” Sudden

elevations are often the precursors of sudden falls. It was not so with

Joseph. He filled satisfactorily his position, retaining it to the end of life. He

made himself indispensable to Pharaoh and to the country. He was a man

of decision. Seeing what had to be done, he hesitated not in commencing it.

Going from the presence of Pharaoh, he passed throughout the land,

arranging for granaries and appointing officers to grapple with the seven

years of famine which were imminent. Doubtless he felt the weight of

responsibility resting upon him, and would have many restless nights in

calculating how by means of the money then in the treasury and by forced

loans to meet the expenditure for granaries, grain, and official salaries. He

superintended everything. By method he mastered detail.



MINISTER. Many things we admire in Joseph, but we must not be blind to

the fact that he thought more of binding the people to the throne than of

benefiting the people themselves. He was the first statesman of that day.

His policy determined in great measure what should be the standard of

internal prosperity, and what position the country should hold in the eyes

of other nations. He sought to make Pharaoh’s rule absolute. He gave no

benefit without payment, no supplies without sacrifice. He took all the

money first (ch. 47:14), then the cattle (ibid. v. 16), then the

lands and their persons (ibid. v. 23). He thus reduced the people of

Egypt to the position of slaves. He made all the land crown lands. Thus the

monarch was pleased, and the priests, being exempt, were flattered. It is

possible that in this Joseph laid the foundation of that system of

mismanagement, which has made the most flourishing spot in the world the

basest of kingdoms. He seems also to have striven to give some sort of

preeminence to his brethren, and to advance them. Exempt from the

burdens pressing on others, they gained power, and would have become

eventually the dominant race in Egypt, but that another Pharaoh arose who

knew not Joseph, i.e. who, although he knew of his having lived and

served the nation, yet recognized not his policy. The state to which Joseph

reduced the Egyptians was that to which afterwards his own descendants

were reduced. Thus our plans are overthrown. Time tries success, and by

removing dimness from our vision enables us to test it better.



MINISTER, He was soon led to conform to the spirit and practice of an

ungodly nation. He used a divining cup (ch. 44:15-16), took his meals apart

(ch. 43:32), recognizing and sustaining class distinctions. He learned the mode

of speech common among the Egyptians, swore by the life of Pharaoh

(ch. 42:15), and was affianced to an idolatress, probably a priestess (here, v. 45).

He made no effort to return to his own land, or to the pastoral life of his fathers.

It was in his power also for nine years to have sent to make search for his father,

who was sorrowing for him as dead, but he sent not. Not until trouble, by an

apparent chance, drove his brethren to him did he appear to think of them,

or of home and Jacob. When they came he was very slow to make known

himself, as though he feared it might compromise him in the eyes of the

Egyptians to be known to have relatives who were shepherds, an

occupation which was abominable to the Egyptians (ch. 46:34).

When he revealed himself to them, it was without the knowledge or

presence of the Egyptians. He removed his brethren also to a distant part

of Egypt: that they might not constantly, by their presence, remind him and

others of his origin. We fancy that Joseph had weaknesses and

imperfections such as other men had. He had dwelt in Egypt and caught its

spirit. In the names he gave to his children there seems some indication of

regret at his forgetfulness and wonder at his fruitfulness. (???  - CY – 2018)

Amid views that might depress there is some brightness. His forgiveness of

his brethren was noble. His affection for his father returned. His faith in

God was pure at last. (??? CY – 2018)  Dying, he “gave commandment

concerning his bones.” (ch. 50:25; Hebrews 11:22)  He showed

that though outwardly an Egyptian, he was inwardly an Israelite.


41 “And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.

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;

43  And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried

before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt.”

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph. See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.

This was the royal edict constituting Joseph grand vizier or prime minister of the

empire: the formal installation in office followed. And Pharaoh took off his ring

from his hand, - the use of a signet-ring by the monarch, which Bohlen admits to

be in accordance with the accounts of classic authors ('Introd.,' p. 60), has recently

received a remarkable illustration by the discovery at Koujunjik, the site of the

ancient Nineveh, of a seal impressed from the bezel of a metallic finger-ring,

two inches long by one wide, and bearing the image, name, and titles of the

Egyptian king Sabaco (see Layard, 'Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 156) - and put it

upon Joseph's hand (thus investing him with regal authority), and arrayed him

in vestures of fine linen, - שֵׁשׁ, βυσσίνηbussinaefine linenv (Septuagint),

byssus, so called from its whiteness (probably a Hebrew imitation of an Egyptian

word), was the fine linen of Egypt, the material of which the peculiar dress of the

priestly caste was constructed: "vestes ex gossypio sacerdotibus AEgypti gratissimae"

(Pliny, 'Nat. Hist.,' 19:1). Herodotus (2:81) agrees with Pliny in affirming the priestly

costume to have been of linen, and not of wool - and put a - literally, the, the article

showing that it was so done in accordance with a common custom (Hengstenberg,

'Egypt and the Books of Moses,' p. 30) - gold chain about his neck (compare

Daniel 5:7, 29). This was usually worn by persons of distinction, and appears in

the monuments as a royal ornament; in the Benihassan sepulchral representations,

a slave being exhibited as bearing one of them, with the inscription written over it,

"Necklace of Gold" (see Wilkinson, 'Ancient Egyptians,' 2:343, ed. 1878;

Hengstenberg, 'Egypt,' p. 30). And he made him to ride in the second chariot which

he had; - "which is another genuine Egyptian custom, for on the monuments the king

constantly appears in his war-chariot" (Havernick); - and they cried before him,

Bow the knee: - אַבְרֵך, regarded by most ancient translators as a Hebrew word,

an inf. abs. hiph. from בָּרַך, meaning bow the knee (Vulgate, Aquila, Origen, Kimchi),

is most probably an Egyptian word either altered by the writer (Gesenius) or pointed

by the Masorites (Keil) to resemble Hebrew, and signifying "bow the head ' (Gesenius),

"bend the knee" (Furst), "Governor or Viceroy" (Kalisch), "rejoice thou" (Canon Cook

in 'Speaker's Commentary'), "Pure Prince" (Osburn), "Robed by the king" (Forster) –

and he made him ruler - literally, and he set him (by the foregoing acts) - over all

the land of Egypt.


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.”  Joseph's authority was

to be absolute and universal.


45 “And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to

wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out

over all the land of Egypt.”  And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnath-paaneah;

an Egyptian word, of which the most accredited interpretations are χονθομφανήχ

Chonthomphanaech - (Septuagint); Salvator Mundi (Vulgate); "the Salvation of the

World," answering to the Coptic P-sote-m-ph-eneh - P the article, sots salvation,

m the sign of the genitive, ph the article, and eneh the world (Furst, Jablonsky,

Rosellini, and others); "the Rescuer of the World" (Gesenius); "the Prince of the

Life of the World" (Brugsch); "the Food of Life," or "the Food of the Living"

(Canon Cook in 'Speaker's Commentary') - and he gave him to wife – compare

the act of Rhamp-sinitus, who gave his daughter in marriage to the son of an

architect on account of his cleverness (Herod., 2:121) - Asenath - another Egyptian

term, rendered ἉσενέθAseneth  (Septuagint), and explained by Egyptologers to

mean, "She who is of Neith, i.e. the Minerva of the Egyptians" (Gesenius, Furst),

"the Worshipper of Neith" (Jablousky), "the Favorite of Neith" (Canon Cook in

'Speaker's Commentary'), though by some authorities regarded as Hebrew

(Pools in Smith's ' Dictionary,' art. Joseph) - the daughter of Potipherah

Potipherah ("devoted to the sun") - Potiphar (see ch. 39:1). The name is

very common on Egyptian monuments (Hengstenberg's 'Egypt and the Books of

Moses,' p. 32) - priest - or prince (Onkelos.), as in II Samuel 8:18, where the word

כֹּהֵן, as explained by I Chronicles 18:17, means a principal minister of State, though

the probability is that Poti-pherah belonged to the priestly caste in Egypt - of On

or Heliopolis, ἩλιούπολιςHaelioupolis (Septuagint), the name on the monuments

being ta-Ra or pa-Ra, house of the sun. "The site of Heliopolis is still marked by

the massive walls that surround it, and by a granite obelisk bearing the name of

Osirtasen I., of the twelfth dynasty, dating about 3900 years ago" (Wilkinson in

Rawlinson's 'Herod.,' 2. p. 8). The priests attached to the temple of the sun at

Heliopolis enjoyed the reputation of being the most intelligent and cultured

historians in Egypt (Herod., 2:3). That a priest's daughter should have married

with a foreign shepherd may, have been distasteful to the prejudices of an intolerant

priesthood (Bohlen), but in the case of Asenath and Joseph it was recommended

by sundry powerful considerations.


1. Though a foreign shepherd, Joseph was a descendant of Abraham, whom a

former Pharaoh had recognized and honored as a prince, and ' The Story of Saneha,'

a hieratic papyrus belonging to the twelfth dynasty, shows that Eastern foreigners

might even become sons-in-law to the most powerful potentates under the ancient

empire (see 'Records of the Past,' vol. 6. pp. 135-150).


2. Though a foreign shepherd, Joseph was at this time grand vizier of the realm,

with absolute control of the lives and fortunes of its people (see v. 44).


3. Though a foreign shepherd, he was obviously a favorite of Pharaoh, who,

besides being monarch of the realm, was the recognized head of the priestly caste,

over whom, therefore, he exercised more than a merely external authority.


4. Though a foreign shepherd Joseph had become a naturalized Egyptian, as

may be gathered from ch. 43:32. And,


5. Though a foreign shepherd, he was circumcised, which, if this rite was already

observed in Egypt, and did not originate with Joseph, would certainly not prove

a bar to the contemplated alliance (vide Canon Cook in 'Speaker's Commentary,'

vol. 1. p. 480; Kurst, 'Hist. of Old Covenant,' § 88; Hengstenberg, 'Egypt and the

Books of Moses,' pp. 32-35).


As to the probability of Joseph consenting to become son-in-law to a heathen priest,

it may suffice to remember that though marriage with idolaters was expressly

forbidden by patriarchal commandment (ch. 24:3; 28:1), and afterwards by Mosaic

statute (ch. 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3), it was sometimes contracted for what seemed

a perfectly adequate reason, viz., the furtherance of the Divine purposes concerning

Israel, and apparently too with the Divine sanction (compare the cases of Moses,

Exodus 2:21, and Esther, Esther 2:16); that Joseph may have deemed the religion

of Egypt, especially in its early symbolical forms, as perfectly compatible with

a pure monotheistic worship, or, if he judged it idolatrous, he may both have

secured for himself complete toleration and have felt himself strong enough to

resist its seductions; that Asenath may have adopted her husband's faith, though

on this, of course, nothing can be affirmed; and lastly, that the narrator of this

history pronounces no judgment on the moral quality of Joseph's conduct in

consenting to this alliance, which, though overruled for good, may have been,

considered in itself, a sin. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt in

the discharge of his vice-regal duties.



The Tried Man (vs. 1-45)


The tried man is now made ready by long experience for

his position of responsibility and honor. He is thirty years old. He can

commence his public ministry for the people of God and the world.

Pharaoh’s dreams, the kine and the ears of corn, like those of the butler

and baker, have their natural element in them; but apart from the Spirit of

God Joseph would not have dared to give them such an interpretation.

Even had his intelligence penetrated the secret, he would not have ventured

on a prophecy without God. Pharaoh himself acknowledged that the Spirit

of God was manifestly in Joseph. We may be sure there was evidence of

Divine authority in his words and manner. As a testimony to the existence

of a spirit of reverence for Divine teaching, and a reference of all great and

good things to God as their source, even in the minds of the Egyptians,

such facts show that God had not left the world without light. The farther

we go back in human history, the more simple and unsophisticated we find

the minds of men, pointing to a primitive revelation, to the religious

beginning of the human race, and to their corruption being the result of a

fall, and not a mere negative state, the state of undeveloped reason. Joseph

is lifted up out of the dungeon and made to sit among princes. He submits

to the providential appointment, doubtless, under the guidance of the same

Spirit which had given him his superiority. Moses refused to be called the

son of Pharaoh’s daughter because at that time to be so was to be separated

from his people. (Hebrews 11:24-27)  Joseph the slave, already far from his

home, is willing to be Pharaoh’s prime minister that he may be the forerunner

of his people’s exaltation. The opportunity was not to be lost. “God,” he said,

hath made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house.” “God hath

caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” The very names given

to Manasseh and Ephraim were a testimony to his faith. His forgetting was

only to a better remembering. We must sometimes hide power for the sake

of its manifestation. “All countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy

corn.”  Jesus said, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)

As a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Hebrew slave exalted to the rule of the

world and the saving of the world, from the cross to the throne. The whole

story is full of analogies. He that distributes the bread of life to a perishing race

was Himself taken from prison, was treated as a malefactor, was declared

the Ruler and Savior because the Spirit of God was upon Him, was King of

kings and Lord of lords. His benefits and blessings distributed to the world

are immediately identified with his kingdom. He gathers in that he may give

out. He is first the all-wise and all-powerful ruler of the seven years of

plenty, and then the all-merciful helper and redeemer in the seven years of

famine. “Joseph is a fruitful bough.”  (ch. 49:22)




Joseph before Pharaoh,


From the Prison to the Throne (vs. 1-45)




Ø      His midnight visions. Two full years have expired since the memorable

birthday of Pharaoh which sent the baker to ignominious execution, but

restored the butler to the favor of his royal master. Slumbering upon his

bed, the king of Egypt seems to stand among the tall grass upon the banks

of the Nile. First seven well-formed and full-fleshed heifers appear to climb

up one after the other among the reeds from the river’s edge, where they

have probably been drinking, followed by seven lean and haggard animals,

walking up in the same mysterious procession, till they stand side by side

with their thriving predecessors, when they suddenly fall upon these

predecessors and eat them up. Startled by the strangeness of the scene, the

royal sleeper wakes only to discover it a dream. Then composing himself a

second time to slumber, he finds himself still standing in the Nile valley, but

now looking out towards its luxuriant corn-fields. Again a strange

phenomenon occurs. Growing from the soil he sees a tall, massive stalk of

corn, with seven fat ears depending from its top; but scarcely has this

arrested his attention, when he notices another by its side, spare and feeble,

with its seven ears parched and empty, as if they had been burnt up by the

hot south-east winds blowing up from the sandy wastes of Arabia. To his

astonishment, as before, the fat ears are devoured by the thin. Awaking, he

a second time discovers that he has been dreaming.


Ø      His morning agitations. The spirit of the king of Egypt was troubled

first because of the dreams, which he obviously regarded as conveying to

his royal mind some supernatural communication, which, however, he

failed to understand; and secondly because the interpretation of them

appeared equally to baffle the penetration of all the wise men and

magicians of his empire, whom he had summoned to assist him in

deciphering their import.




Ø      The recollection of his faults. If this referred to his ingratitude to Joseph

(which is scarcely likely), that was a shortcoming which should have been

remembered at least two years before, though it was better he should recall

it then than never. But it is more than probable the offence spoken of was

the crime for which he had been previously imprisoned by Pharaoh, and of

which he now confessed himself to be guilty, as without acknowledging the

justness of his royal master’s anger he could scarcely hope to experience

the mildness of his royal master’s favor. That he only remembers Joseph

when he deems it possible by doing so to gratify his master and serve

himself indicates a disposition as hypocritical and time-serving as

ungrateful and unfeeling.


Ø      The recital of his mercies. Narrating the story of his imprisonment, he

informs the anxious monarch that he and his late companion, the chief

baker, while suffering the righteous penalty of their misdeeds in the round

house or State prison, had each dream on one and the self-same night; that

a young man, then an inmate of the cells, a Hebrew, and a servant of the

provost marshal, to whom they severally related their extraordinary

dreams, volunteered to deliver their interpretation; and that the event, in

the case of both himself and his companion, had turned out exactly as had

been predicted — the chief baker had been hanged, while himself, the chief

butler, through the royal clemency of Pharaoh, had been restored to his





Ø      The opening of the interview. In obedience to a royal summons, Joseph,

after shaving and exchanging his prison garb for a costume suited to the

high occasion, is hastily presented to the king. Regarding him with mingled

feelings of respect and awe, the mighty potentate declares his dilemma, —

he has dreamed a dream which has baffled the ingenuity of all the Court

magicians, — and explains how he has heard of Joseph’s rare skill as an

interpreter of dreams, upon which Joseph, disclaiming all ability in himself,

and pointing Pharaoh to the true Interpreter of dreams, assures him,

speaking in the exercise of prophetic faith, that God would vouchsafe to

him an answer that should tend at once to the happiness of his own person

and the prosperity of his realm.


Ø      The interpretation of the dreams. Listening to the monarch’s recitation

of the singular phenomena of his nocturnal visions, Joseph:


o        declares their import to be the coming of seven years of plenty to

the land, to be followed by seven years of famine, which should

consume the land by reason of its severity;


o        affirms the certainty of this prediction as involved in the repetition of

the dream; and


o        concludes by recommending as a precautionary measure that a fifth

part of the produce of the seven years of plenty should be taken up

and stored in granaries in the chief cities of the empire, to be

distributed among the people during the seven years of famine —

a measure which would necessitate the appointment of one

competent officer with a requisite staff of assistants, and with

supreme authority to enforce the tax or compel the

sale, according as the king might determine to uplift the grain.


Ø      The reward of the interpreter. As became one who had proved of such

incomparable service to the monarch and the State, Joseph was

immediately and generously recompensed.


o        His counsel was accepted. “The thing,” or advice tendered, “was good

in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.” It is ever

a grief to God’s prophets and Christ’s ministers when their Divinely-

sent communications are rejected, as the acceptance of their heavenly

messages never fails to afford them occasion of rejoicing.


o        His person was exalted.


§         He was constituted grand vizier of the empire, in the

historian’s account of which may be noticed the monarch’s

resolution and the reason of it — “Forasmuch as God hath

showed thee all this, thou shaft be over my house, and

according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled,” or

dispose themselves; the royal edict and the public attestation

of it — “See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.

And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put

it on Joseph’s hand” &c.; the extent of his authority and

the limitation of it — his power was to be absolute over

all the realm — “without thee shall no man lift up hand or

foot” — only as to the throne was he to be subordinate to


§         He was naturalized as an Egyptian prince by the assignment

of a new name, Zaphnath-paaneah, for the import of which

the Exposition may be consulted.

§         He was married to a daughter of the priestly caste, who

formed the highest dignitaries in the State.


  • LEARN:


1.      The marvelous facility with which God can accomplish His designs.

God can make Pharaoh dream and the butler recollect his faults when

it is time to bring Joseph out of prison.


2. The amazing incompetence of human wisdom to understand God’s

    riddles. The world by wisdom knows not God, any more than Pharaoh’s

    magicians could interpret his dreams.  (I Corinthians 1:21, 25)


3. The extraordinary insight which those have-who receive their teaching

    from God (John 16:13-14).  Joseph can interpret the dreams of the monarch

    and the dreams of his officers with a like promptitude and accuracy, and

    God’s people have an unction from the Holy One that enables them

    to know all things.  (I John 2:20)


4. The incomparable greatness to which Christ’s followers will eventually

    be raised. Joseph stepped from the prison to the palace, from the tower to

    the throne, from the wearing of iron fetters to the wielding of regal power;

    and such honor will have all the saints in the day of the manifestation of

    the sons of God. Even now God raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and

    lifteth the needy out of the dunghill, that he may set him with princes,

    even with the princes of his people.” (I Samuel 2:8; Psalm 113:7-8)

    but then “to him that overcometh will I grant,” saith the King,

   “to sit with me on my throne, even as I overcame, and am set

    down with my Father on His throne.”  (Revelation 3:21)


46 “And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of

Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went

throughout all the land of Egypt.”  And Joseph was thirty years old when he

stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt - literally, a son of thirty years in his

standing before Pharaoh. If, therefore, he had been three years in prison

(ch. 40:4; 41:1), he must have served for ten years in the house of Potiphar.

And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh (in the performance of

his official duties), and went throughout all the land of Egypt - superintending

the district overseers.


47 “And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls.

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.”  And in the seven plenteous

years the earth brought forth by handfuls (i.e. abundantly). And he (Joseph,

through his subordinates) gathered up all the food (i.e. all the portions levied)

of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the

cities: - men bringing corn into granaries appear upon the monuments at Beni-hassan

(Wilkinson, 'Ancient Egyptians,' vol. 1. p. 371, ed. 1878) - the food of the field,

which was round about every city (literally, the food of the field of the city, which

was in its environs), laid he up in the same (literally, in the midst of it).


49 “And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he

left numbering; for it was without number.” And Joseph gathered (or heaped up)

corn as the sand of the sea, - an image of great abundance (compare ch. 32:12) –

very much, until he left numbering (i.e. writing, or keeping a record of the number

of bushels); for it was without number. "In a tomb at Eilethya a man is represented

whose business it evidently was to take account of the number of bushels. Which

another man, acting under him, measures. The inscription is as follows "The writer

or registrar of bushels - Thutnofre," (Hengstenberg, 'Egypt and the Books of Moses,'

p. 36).


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. 

51 And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he,

hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house.”  And unto Joseph

wore born two sons before the years of famine came, (literally, before the coming

of the years of famine), which Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On

bare unto him. And Joseph called, the name of the firstborn Manasseh ("Forgetting,"

from nashah, to forget): For God (Elohim; Joseph not at the moment thinking of

his son's birth in its relations to the theocratic kingdom, but simply in its connection

with the overruling providence of God which had been so signally illustrated in

his elevation, from a position of obscurity in Canaan to such conspicuous honor

in the land of the Pharaohs), said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all

my father's house. Not absolutely (Calvin, who censures Joseph on this account,

vix tamen in totem potest excusari oblivio paternae domus), as events subsequently

proved, but relatively, the pressure of his former affliction being relieved by his

present happiness, and the loss of his father's house in some degree compensated

by the building of a house for himself.


52 “And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me

to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”  And the name of the second called

he Ephraim: - "Double Fruitfulness" (Keil), "Double Land" (Gesenius), "Fruit."

(Furst) - For God (Elohim) hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my

affliction. This language shows that Joseph had not quite forgotten "all his toil."


53 “And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were

ended.  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.”  And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt,

were ended. And the seven years of dearth began to come, - the most complete

parallel to Joseph's famine was that which occurred in A.D. -1071, in the reign

of Fatimee Khaleefeh, El-Mustansir-bilh (see below):



In the whole of Syria and Arabia, the fruits of the earth must ever be dependent on rain;

the watersheds having few large springs, and the small rivers not being sufficient for

the irrigation of even the level lands. If therefore the heavy rains of November and

December fail, the sustenance of the people is cut off in the parching drought of

harvest-time, when the country is almost devoid of moisture. Egypt, again, owes

all its fertility to its mighty river, whose annual rise inundates nearly the whole land.

The causes of dearth and famine in Egypt are defective inundation, preceded,

 accompanied and followed by prevalent easterly and southerly winds. Famine

is likewise a natural result in the East when caterpillars, locusts or other insects

destroy the products of the earth. The first famine recorded in the Bible is that of

Abraham after he had pitched his tent on the east of Bethel, ( Genesis 12:10 )

the second in the days of Isaac, ( Genesis 26:1 ) seq. We hear no more of times

of scarcity until the great famine of Egypt, which "was over all the face of the earth."

( Genesis 41:53-57 ) The modern history of Egypt throws some curious light on these

ancient records of famines; and instances of their recurrence may be cited to assist us

in understanding their course and extent. The most remarkable famine was that of the

reign of the Fatimee Khaleefeh, El-Mustansir billah, which is the only instance on

record of one of seven years duration in Egypt since the time of Joseph (A.H. 457-464,

A.D. 1064-1071). Vehement drought and pestilence continued for seven consecutive

years, so that the people ate corpses, and animals that died of themselves. The famine

 of Samaria resembled it in many particulars; and that very briefly recorded in ( II Kings

8:1 2 Kings 8:2 ) affords another instance of one of seven years. In Arabia famines are

of frequent occurrence.

                                                                                (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)


according as Joseph had said (thus confirming Joseph's character as a prophet):

and the dearth was in all lands; - i.e. in all the adjoining countries, and notably

in Palestine (see the first two verses of the next chapter) - but in all the land of

Egypt there was bread.




Destitution and Abundance (v. 54)


“And the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was

bread.” The time of harvest is, of all periods of the year, the most

important. It is the point to which all previous operations of the cultivator

have tended. He knows how much depends on the weather and God’s

mercy. Having done all he can, he has to wait, and the harvest-time

determines results. Those who are not engaged in agriculture are

concerned in a harvest. Suppose there were none; non-producers must

starve, Dwelling in great towns and cities, many who are engaged in traffic

or manufacture may easily overlook harvest-time, and forget their

dependence on God for daily bread. They see not the sown fields, they

watch not the springing blade, they seize not the sharp sickle, they join not

in piling up the pointed stacks, and are therefore likely to forget

dependence on God. It is well that God forgets us not. He has ever kept His

promise“So long as the earth remaineth, seedtime and   harvest, and

cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not

cease.”  (ch. 8:22)  No year has passed without harvest-time being stinted

in some land. Think over the contrast given in the text.


  • GENERAL DISTRESS. “The dearth was in all lands,” i.e. all the lands

then known to be peopled by the descendants of Noah. Their harvests had

failed. Rain excessive, or drought prolonged, had ruined their crops. For

several years there seems to have been disappointment. Not only did the

husbandmen suffer, but those who could not toil. Dearth engenders

disease, despair, death. See II Kings 6:24-40, to what straits famine will

reduce people. Even mothers consent together to eat their own offspring.

In the lamentations of Jeremiah there is a description of the fearful

consequences of famine, leading men to say, “Then was our skin black like

an oven, because of the terrible famine.” (Lamentations 5:10)  How painful

must it be to have scanty platters and empty barns; for parents to have children

clinging to the skirts of their garments, crying, “Give, oh, give bread,” and

to have none wherewith to satisfy them! We see the effect of famine on

one family in the East. Jacob’s sons “looked on one another, and were sad.”

Their looks were despairing. They had money, flocks, and herds, but no bread.

They could not eat their money, and to have lived on their starving flocks

alone would engender disease of frightful character. Many had not even

flocks to fall back upon, and the dearth was in all lands. How men at such

a time must have looked longingly at the heavens, and prayed that God

would send them bread! Sometimes such seasons of trial are sent that men

may be reminded of their dependence on God. To have A MORAL AND 

SPIRITUAL DEARTH is worse than to have outward destitution. The

spiritual is more important than the physical. (Our eternal destinies are

at stake!  CY – 2018)  A more terrible death than all is that where

there is a lack of a knowledge of God and his love, and of hearing the word

of the Lord.  (“Behold. the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send

a famine, not a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for

water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.”  - Amos 8:11 – CY – 2018)


  • EXCEPTIONAL ABUNDANCE. But for this plentifulness in Egypt

the whole race might have perished. There were several reasons for the

abundance in Egypt.


Ø      God arranged it by that wondrous overflowing of the Nile. A difference

in the rising a few feet makes all the difference as to the crops. Even at this

date, so do the crops of Egypt affect the markets of the world, that the

rising of the Nile is watched, and the height attained telegraphed to all

parts. God, at the period referred to, had given seven years of plenty,

followed by seven years of dearth; but such had been the previous

abundance, owing to the overflow of the river, that in the terrible time of

dearth there was abundance of bread in Egypt.


Ø      The foresight and energy of one man had led to the husbanding of

resources and storing of excessive crops.


Ø      Divine revelation caused Joseph to act. He could not have known of the

impending danger unless it had been revealed. He had faith in God when in

prison, and maintained it when he became the governor of Egypt. Indeed

that faith shone as brightly when he was the approved of Pharaoh as when

he was the slave of Potiphar and the object of passion’s hate. His faith was

rewarded when he was able to save multitudes from starving. What a

contrast is presented in the text! Dearth of many lands, abundance in one.

Such contrasts are often seen. On one side of the ocean there may have

been an abundant harvest, on the other side but scanty crops. The world is

full of contrasts. Here is a wedding; there is a funeral. In one family is love,

thoughtfulness, harmony, and in that — perhaps separated only by the thin

partition of hasty builders — bickering, jealousy, and hastiness of temper.

Here sobriety, providence, and religion reign; there nothing but indigence,

drunkenness, and utter neglect of the claims of God. In one country is

peace, activity in all its branches of industry, commercial confidence,

progress in education and art, thoughtfulness for the untaught and criminal

classes, and higher appreciation of the sacredness of life; in another

depression, mistrust, plotting of adventurers, rule of the conscienceless,

national faithlessness, and the spreading pall of desolation. Forceful is the

contrast presented by nations under the influence of a simple Christianity

and those enslaved by superstition, as Spain or Austria; or paralyzed by

fatalism, as Turkey and Asia Minor; or darkened by idolatry, as India,

China, Africa, and some of the islands of the seas. And such contrasts are

seen in individuals. There walks one whose soul has no light, no hope, no

peace; here one who knows he is pardoned, and is sure of acceptance by

Christ. At death what a contrast! See one dying shrinking, doubting,

fearing, grasping at any straw of comfort; another rejoicing that he is soon

to enter and tread the streets of the New Jerusalem. Let all be prepared for

such a change. Seek Christ, who is the “Bread of life,” the Savior of our

souls. Lack of appetite and numbness may come from excessive

exhaustion. Hunger and thirst after righteousness, and be not like a lady

who once said, “Sir, I have been so long without religion that I have, I fear,

now no desire for it.” If we come to Christ He will receive us readily.

Joseph was glad to receive and help his brethren. So will Christ supply all

our need out of the treasures of His rich grace. Remember, that if the need

of other nations tested the charity of Egypt, so the need of souls is to test

our earnestness. If we have found the riches in Christ, we are to seek to

bless others. If little time remains to some of us in which to do much for

Christ, let us act as those who, having much to write and little space,

crowd the letters and words the closer. Let us be earnest as the

husbandman, who, seeing winter coming apace, hastens in the few fine

days remaining to garner his crops. Alas, many of our doings will have to

stand useless, like earless, rotten sheaves, blackening dreary fields.


55 “And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to

Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto

Joseph; what he saith to you, do.”  Compare the famine in Samaria

(II Kings 6:25-29)


56 “And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all

the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in

the land of Egypt.  57 And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy

corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.” And the famine was

over all the face of the earth (v. 54): And Joseph opened all the storehouses, -

literally, all wherein was, i.e. all the magazines that had grain in them. The

granaries of Egypt are represented on the monuments. "In the tomb of Amenemha

at Beni-hassan there is the painting of a great storehouse, before whose door lies

a great heap of grain already winnowed. Near by stands the bushel with which

it is measured, and the registrar who takes the account" (Hengstenberg's 'Egypt

and the Books of Moses,' p. 36) - and sold unto the Egyptians (compare Proverbs

2:26); - and the famine waxed sore (literally, became strong) in the land of Egypt.

A remarkable inscription from the tomb at Eileythia of Barn, which Brugsch

('Histoire d'Egypte,' second ed., p. 174, seqq.) assigns to the latter part of the

seventeenth dynasty, mentions a dearth of several years in Egypt ("A famine

having broken out during many years, I gave corn to the town during each

famine"), which that distinguished Egyptologer identifies with the famine of

Joseph under Apophis, the shepherd king (vide ' Encyclopedia Britannica,'

ninth edition, art. Egypt); but, this, according to Bunsen ('Egypt's Place, 3:334),

is rather to be detected in a dearth of several years which occurred in the time

of Osirtasen I., and which is mentioned in an inscription at Beni-hassan, recording

the fact that during its prevalence food was supplied by Amenee, the governor of

a district of Upper Egypt (Smith's' Dict.,' art. Joseph). The character of Chnumhotep

(a near relative and favorite of Osirtasen I., and his immediate successor), and the

recorded events of his government, as described in the Beni-hassan monuments,

also remind one of Joseph: - "he (i.e. Chnumhotep) injured no little child; he

oppressed no widow; he detained for his own purpose no fisherman; took from

his work no shepherd; no overseer's men were taken. There was no beggar in his

days; no one starved in his time. When years of famine occurred he ploughed all

the lands of the district, producing abundant food; no one starved in it; he treated

the widow as a woman with a husband to protect her" (vide 'Speaker's Commentary,'

vol. 1. p. 450). And all countries (i.e. people from all the adjoining lands) came

into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because the famine was so sore in all lands.




Joseph on the second throne in Egypt (vs. 46-57)




Ø      His mature manhood (v. 46). Thirteen years had elapsed since his

brethren had sold him at Dothan, and during the interval what a checkered

life had he experienced! Carried into Egypt by the spice caravan of the

Midianitish traders, he had been sold a second time as a slave. Ten years

had he served as a bondman, first as a valet to the provost marshal of the

slaughterers, and then as overseer of the great man’s household. Three

years more he had spent in prison, having been incarcerated on a charge of

which he was entirely innocent. And now, at the age of thirty, he is the

wisest and the greatest man in Egypt. God has strange ways of developing

the talents, maturing the experience, and advancing the honor of his sons.

The case of Joseph is a signal illustration of the beneficial uses of adversity,

(former Joe B. Hall, basketball coach at the University of Kentucky on one

of his team calendars had this statement:  “adversity will either make you

bitter or better.”  CY – 2018)  and shows that the true road to success in

life, to the acquisition of wisdom, or of power, or of wealth, or of fame,

or of all combined, often lies through early hardships and trials, disasters

and defeats.


Ø      His political activity (vs. 46-49). As grand vizier of the empire,

Joseph’s labors during this period must have been many and laborious:

surveying the corn-producing land of the country, and dividing it for

purposes of taxation into districts, appointing overseers in every district,

erecting granaries or government stores in every city of any size or

importance, and generally superintending in every corner of the empire the

work of uplifting the fifth part of the superabundant harvests of those

precious years when the earth brought forth by handfuls. The result was,

that by the close of this period the Egyptian government had collected corn

as the sand of the sea, very much, and without number.


Ø      His domestic prosperity (v. 50). On the name of Joseph’s wife, and the

questions connected with the subject of her marriage with Joseph, the

Exposition under v. 45 may be consulted. That the marriage itself was

approved by God there is no sufficient reason to doubt, and that it was a

marriage of affection may be inferred from the sentiments expressed by

Joseph on the occasion of his sons’ births. The birth of his children also

was interpreted by him to be a mark of Divine favor. What a signal reward

for the fidelity and purity of Joseph’s behavior in the house of Potiphar

three years before! Had Joseph at that time left the straight path of virtue,

where had been his advancement and felicity now? Even in this life God

puts a premium in the long run on a life of purity.


Ø      His personal piety (vs; 51-52). To some indeed Joseph’s language on

the birth of Manasseh appears somewhat hard to reconcile at least with

true filial piety. Why did not Joseph, on reaching his exalted station in

Egypt, at once communicate with his father? Was this a just or generous

reward for what he had experienced of the old man’s parental affection,

and, what he must have still felt assured of, the old man’s sorrow for his

imagined death? Yet Joseph talks as if he had forgotten his father’s house,

as well as all his toil, in the splendor of his fame and the exuberance of his

happiness in Egypt. But that these words are not to be interpreted literally

becomes apparent, not alone from the pathetic meeting with his brethren

and his father, soon to be described, but also from the statement which he

makes upon the birth of Ephraim, in which he still characterizes Egypt as

the land of his affliction. That Joseph did not at once declare his parentage

and send a message home to Hebron may be explained by many reasons

without resorting to the hypothesis that “Joseph was still unable to attain

perfect calm and cherish sentiments of love and forgiveness” towards his

brethren (Kurtz): as, e.g., the comparative insecurity that must have

attended his position in Egypt until the years of famine came, an

unwillingness prematurely to reveal to his father the full depth of

wickedness of which his brethren had been guilty, a secret impression made

upon his mind by God that the time of disclosure was not yet, At all events

Joseph’s conduct in this matter discovers nothing essentially inconsistent

with a piety which shines out conspicuously in the grateful recognition of

the hand of God in turning for him the shadow of death into the morning.




Ø      His reputation as a prophet fully confirmed (vs. 53-54). God is

always careful to maintain the honor of His own prophets. Whatever

message He transmits to the world or the Church through a messenger of

His sending, He will in due time see to its fulfillment. No true ambassador

of heaven need entertain the slightest apprehensions as to the failure of the

words which God provides for him to speak. If he is not always, like

Samuel, established as a prophet of the Lord at the beginning of his

ministry (I Samuel 3:20), his claim to that distinction will in due course

be made good by the exact accomplishment of what God has through his

lips foretold.


Ø      His sagacity as at, administrator clearly established (v. 55). If

Pharaoh had any doubts as to the wisdom of Joseph’s proposal during the

seven years of plenty, assuredly he had none now. With a famishing

population all around him, what could Pharaoh have done, how averted the

destruction of his people, and possibly the overthrow of his own dynasty, if

it had not been for the prudent forethought of Joseph? Happy are the kings

who have wise men in their kingdoms, and who, when they have them, can

trust them.


Ø      His work as a savior hopefully begun (v. 56). If it be asked why

Joseph did not gratuitously distribute Pharaoh’s corn among the perishing

multitudes, the reply is obvious.


o        In all probability the grain had been previously purchased from the



o        The people had been warned of the impending calamity, and might have

exercised a little of the forethought of Joseph, and by care and economy

provided for the day of want.


o        To have given the corn gratuitously would have resulted in a too lavish

distribution, and for the most part to the greedy and the prodigal rather

than to the really necessitous.


o        By affixing to it a price the people were encouraged as long as possible

to practice frugality and preserve independence. Wise governors will be

slow in making paupers of their subjects. This is one of the dangers

connected with the Poor Law Administration in our own land. (England

two hundred years ago; today it is the welfare system of the United

States of America – CY – 2018)


o        It enabled Joseph by a judicious husbanding of resources to extend the

circle of relief to the starving populations of other countries who came

to him to purchase corn.


  • LEARN:


1. The sin of national wastefulness.

2. The value of a wise statesman.

3. The compatibility of piety with both personal greatness and political


4. The propriety of setting mercies over against misfortunes.

5. The proper end of all government and legislation — the happiness and

    safety of the people.  (Like in the United States of America’s Constitution:

    to promote the general welfare”  - somewhere we have lost our way

    with presidents, legislators and judges condoning many things that

    history and eternity will prove damaging not only to the welfare of

    the country but to their souls as well:  “abortion on demand” for starters

    CY – 2018)  

6. The true duty of a monarch — to sympathize with and direct his


7. The legitimate ambition for a nation — to be an object of attraction for

    good to surrounding countries.



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