Genesis 41

Listen to Genesis 41

Joseph Interprets Pharaoh's Dreams

1 After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile,
2 and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass.
3 And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile.
4 And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke.
5 And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk.
6 And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and 1blighted by the east wind.
7 And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream.
8 So in the morning 2his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the 3magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh.
9 Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, "I remember my offenses today.
10 When Pharaoh was 4angry with his servants 5and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard,
11 6we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own interpretation.
12 A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, 7he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream.
13 And 8as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged."
14 9Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they 10quickly brought him 11out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh.
15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. 12I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it."
16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, 13"It is not in me; 14God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer."[a]
17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Behold, 15in my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile.
18 Seven cows, plump and attractive, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass.
19 Seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and thin, such as I had never seen in all the land of Egypt.
20 And the thin, ugly cows ate up the first seven plump cows,
21 but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had eaten them, for they were still as ugly as at the beginning. Then I awoke.
22 I also saw in my dream seven ears growing on one stalk, full and good.
23 Seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them,
24 and the thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. And 16I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me."
25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, "The dreams of Pharaoh are one; 17God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.
26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one.
27 The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also 18seven years of famine.
28 It is as I told Pharaoh; 19God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do.
29 There will come 20seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt,
30 but after them there will arise 21seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. 22The famine will consume the land,
31 and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe.
32 And the doubling of Pharaoh's dream means that the 23thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about.
33 Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt.
34 Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land[b] of Egypt during the seven plentiful years.
35 And 24let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it.
36 That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine."

Joseph Rises to Power

37 This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants.
38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, "Can we find a man like this, 25in whom is the Spirit of God?"[c]
39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are.
40 26You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command.[d] Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you."
41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "See, 27I have set you over all the land of Egypt."
42 Then Pharaoh 28took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph's hand, and 29clothed him in garments of fine linen 30and put a gold chain about his neck.
43 And he made him ride in his second chariot. 31And they called out before him, "Bow the knee!"[e] Thus he set him 32over all the land of Egypt.
44 Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I am Pharaoh, and 33without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt."
45 And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphenath-paneah. And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.
46 Joseph was thirty years old when he 34entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt.
47 During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly,
48 and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it.
49 And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, 35like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.
50 Before the year of famine came, 36two sons were born to Joseph. Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him.
51 Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. "For," he said, "God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father's house."[f]
52 The name of the second he called Ephraim, "For God has 37made me fruitful in the land of my affliction."[g]
53 The seven years of plenty that occurred in the land of Egypt came to an end,
54 and 38the seven years of famine began to come, 39as Joseph had said. There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.
55 When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do."
56 So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses[h] and 40sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt.
57 Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe 41over all the earth.

Genesis 41 Commentary

Chapter 41

Pharaoh's dreams. (1-8) Joseph interprets Pharaoh's dreams. (9-32) Joseph's counsel, He is highly advanced. (33-45) Joseph's children, The beginning of the famine. (46-57)

Verses 1-8 The means of Joseph's being freed from prison were Pharaoh's dreams, as here related. Now that God no longer speaks to us in that way, it is no matter how little we either heed dreams, or tell them. The telling of foolish dreams can make no better than foolish talk. But these dreams showed that they were sent of God; when he awoke, Pharaoh's spirit was troubled.

Verses 9-32 God's time for the enlargement of his people is the fittest time. If the chief butler had got Joseph to be released from prison, it is probable he would have gone back to the land of the Hebrews. Then he had neither been so blessed himself, nor such a blessing to his family, as afterwards he proved. Joseph, when introduced to Pharaoh, gives honour to God. Pharaoh had dreamed that he stood upon the bank of the river Nile, and saw the kine, both the fat ones, and the lean ones, come out of the river. Egypt has no rain, but the plenty of the year depends upon the overflowing of the river Nile. See how many ways Providence has of dispensing its gifts; yet our dependence is still the same upon the First Cause, who makes every creature what it is to us, be it rain or river. See to what changes the comforts of this life are subject. We cannot be sure that to-morrow shall be as this day, or next year as this. We must learn how to want, as well as how to abound. Mark the goodness of God in sending the seven years of plenty before those of famine, that provision might be made. The produce of the earth is sometimes more, and sometimes less; yet, take one with another, he that gathers much, has nothing over; and he that gathers little, has no lack, ( Exodus 16:18 ) . And see the perishing nature of our worldly enjoyments. The great harvests of the years of plenty were quite lost, and swallowed up in the years of famine; and that which seemed very much, yet did but just serve to keep the people alive. There is bread which lasts to eternal life, which it is worth while to labour for. They that make the things of this world their good things, will find little pleasure in remembering that they have received them.

Verses 33-45 Joseph gave good advice to Pharaoh. Fair warning should always be followed by good counsel. God has in his word told us of a day of trial before us, when we shall need all the grace we can have. Now, therefore, provide accordingly. Pharaoh gave Joseph an honourable testimony. He is a man in whom the spirit of God is; and such men ought to be valued. Pharaoh puts upon Joseph marks of honour. He gave him such a name as spoke the value he had for him, Zaphnath-paaneah, "a revealer of secrets." This preferment of Joseph encourages all to trust in God. Some translate Joseph's new name, "the saviour of the world." The brightest glories, even of the upper world, are put upon Christ, the highest trust lodged in his hand, and all power given him, both in heaven and earth.

Verses 46-57 In the names of his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, Joseph owned the Divine providence. 1. He was made to forget his misery. 2. He was made fruitful in the land of his affliction. The seven plenteous years came, and were ended. We ought to look forward to the end of the days, both of our prosperity and of our opportunity. We must not be secure in prosperity, nor slothful in making good use of opportunity. Years of plenty will end; what thy hand finds to do, do it; and gather in gathering time. The dearth came, and the famine was not only in Egypt, but in other lands. Joseph was diligent in laying up, while the plenty lasted. He was prudent and careful in giving out, when the famine came. Joseph was engaged in useful and important labours. Yet it was in the midst of this his activity that his father Jacob said, Joseph is not! What a large portion of our troubles would be done away if we knew the whole truth! Let these events lead us to Jesus. There is a famine of the bread of life throughout the whole earth. Go to Jesus, and what he bids you, do. Attend to His voice, apply to him; he will open his treasures, and satisfy with goodness the hungry soul of every age and nation, without money and without price. But those who slight this provision must starve, and his enemies will be destroyed.

Cross References 41

  • 1. [Ezekiel 17:10; Ezekiel 19:12]; Hosea 13:15
  • 2. Psalms 77:4; Daniel 2:1, 3
  • 3. ver. 24; Exodus 7:11, 22; [Daniel 1:20; Daniel 2:2; Daniel 4:7; Matthew 2:1]
  • 4. Genesis 40:2, 3
  • 5. [Genesis 39:20]
  • 6. Genesis 40:5
  • 7. See Genesis 40:12-19
  • 8. Genesis 40:21, 22
  • 9. Psalms 105:20
  • 10. [Daniel 2:25]
  • 11. [1 Samuel 2:8; Psalms 113:7, 8]
  • 12. ver. 12; Daniel 5:16
  • 13. Daniel 2:30
  • 14. Genesis 40:8; Dan. 2:22, 28, 47
  • 15. See ver. 1-7
  • 16. ver. 8; [Daniel 4:7]
  • 17. [Dan. 2:28, 29, 45; Revelation 4:1]
  • 18. [2 Kings 8:1]
  • 19. ver. 25
  • 20. ver. 47
  • 21. ver. 54; Genesis 45:6
  • 22. Genesis 47:13
  • 23. Numbers 23:19; Isaiah 14:24; Isaiah 46:10, 11
  • 24. ver. 48
  • 25. Numbers 27:18; Daniel 4:8, 18; Daniel 5:11, 14
  • 26. Psalms 105:21; Acts 7:10
  • 27. Genesis 42:6
  • 28. Esther 3:10; Esther 8:2, 8, 10
  • 29. [Esther 8:15]
  • 30. Ezekiel 16:11; [Daniel 5:7, 29]
  • 31. [Esther 6:9]
  • 32. ver. 40; Genesis 42:6; Genesis 45:8, 9, 26
  • 33. [Psalms 105:21, 22]
  • 34. 1 Samuel 16:21; 1 Kings 12:6, 8; Daniel 1:19
  • 35. Genesis 22:17; Judges 7:12; 1 Samuel 13:5; Psalms 78:27
  • 36. Genesis 46:20; Genesis 48:5
  • 37. [Genesis 49:22; Hosea 13:15]
  • 38. Psalms 105:16; Acts 7:11
  • 39. ver. 30
  • 40. Genesis 42:6; [Genesis 47:14, 20, 24]
  • 41. ver. 54, 56

Footnotes 8

  • [a]. Or (compare Samaritan, Septuagint) Without God it is not possible to give Pharaoh an answer about his welfare
  • [b]. Or over the land and organize the land
  • [c]. Or of the gods
  • [d]. Hebrew and according to your command all my people shall kiss the ground
  • [e]. Abrek, probably an Egyptian word, similar in sound to the Hebrew word meaning to kneel
  • [f]. Manasseh sounds like the Hebrew for making to forget
  • [g]. Ephraim sounds like the Hebrew for making fruitful
  • [h]. Hebrew all that was in them

Chapter Summary


In this chapter are related Pharaoh's dreams, which his magicians could not interpret, Ge 41:1-9, upon which the chief butler now remembering Joseph, recommended him to Pharaoh as an interpreter, having had an happy experience of him as such himself, Ge 41:10-13, when Joseph was sent for out of prison; and Pharaoh having related his dreams, he interpreted them of seven years of plenty, and seven years of famine, that should be in the land of Egypt, Ge 41:14-32; and having done, he gave his advice to provide in the years of plenty against the years of famine, and proposed a scheme for doing it, which was approved of by Pharaoh and his ministers, Ge 41:33-37; and Joseph himself was pitched upon as the most proper person to execute it, and was appointed chief over the kingdom next to Pharaoh, who gave him a new name and a wife upon this occasion, Ge 41:38-45; accordingly, in the years of plenty he took a tour throughout the whole land, and gathered and laid up food in vast quantities in every city, Ge 41:46-49; an account is given of two sons born to Joseph, and of their names, Ge 41:50-52; and of the seven years of famine, beginning to come on at the end of the seven years of plenty, which brought great distress on the land of Egypt, and the countries round about, who all came to Joseph to buy corn, Ge 41:53-57.

Genesis 41 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.