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Genesis 41

Pharaoh’s Dreams

1 When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile,
2 when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds.
3 After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank.
4 And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.
5 He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk.
6 After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted—thin and scorched by the east wind.
7 The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.
8 In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.
9 Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings.
10 Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard.
11 Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.
12 Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream.
13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.”
14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.
15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”
16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile,
18 when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds.
19 After them, seven other cows came up—scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt.
20 The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first.
21 But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.
22 “In my dream I saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk.
23 After them, seven other heads sprouted—withered and thin and scorched by the east wind.
24 The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none of them could explain it to me.”
25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.
26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream.
27 The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.
28 “It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do.
29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt,
30 but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land.
31 The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe.
32 The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.
33 “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt.
34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance.
35 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food.
36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.”
37 The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials.
38 So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God[a] ?”
39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you.
40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”

Joseph in Charge of Egypt

41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.”
42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck.
43 He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command,[b] and people shouted before him, “Make way[c] !” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.
44 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.”
45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On,[d] to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.
46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt.
47 During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully.
48 Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it.
49 Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.
50 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.
51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh[e] and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”
52 The second son he named Ephraim[f] and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
53 The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end,
54 and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food.
55 When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.”
56 When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt.
57 And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.

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 85

  • 1. S Genesis 20:3
  • 2. ver 17; S Genesis 2:14; Exodus 1:22; Exodus 2:5; Exodus 7:15
  • 3. ver 26; Jeremiah 5:28
  • 4. ver 18; Exodus 2:3; Job 40:21; Isaiah 19:6
  • 5. ver 7
  • 6. Joshua 13:3; 2 Kings 4:42; 1 Chronicles 13:5; Isaiah 23:3; Jeremiah 2:18
  • 7. Exodus 10:13; Exodus 14:21; Job 6:26; Job 11:2; Job 15:2; Psalms 11:6; Psalms 48:7; Isaiah 11:15; Isaiah 27:8; Jeremiah 4:11; Jeremiah 18:17; Ezekiel 19:12; Ezekiel 27:26; Hosea 12:1; Hosea 13:15; John 4:8
  • 8. ver 4
  • 9. Job 7:14; Daniel 2:1,3; Daniel 4:5,19
  • 10. Exodus 7:11,22; Daniel 1:20; Daniel 2:2,27; Daniel 4:7; Daniel 5:7
  • 11. ver 24; S Genesis 40:8; Daniel 4:18
  • 12. S Genesis 40:14
  • 13. S Genesis 40:2
  • 14. S Genesis 37:36; S Genesis 39:20
  • 15. Genesis 40:5
  • 16. S Genesis 14:13; Genesis 39:17
  • 17. S Genesis 37:36; Genesis 40:4
  • 18. S Genesis 40:12
  • 19. S Genesis 40:22
  • 20. Psalms 105:20; Daniel 2:25
  • 21. Isaiah 18:2,7
  • 22. S Genesis 35:2; Genesis 45:22; Ruth 3:3; 2 Samuel 12:20
  • 23. S Genesis 40:8
  • 24. S Genesis 40:12; Daniel 4:18; Daniel 5:16
  • 25. S Genesis 40:8; Daniel 2:30; Acts 3:12; 2 Corinthians 3:5
  • 26. S ver 1
  • 27. S ver 2
  • 28. S ver 8
  • 29. S Genesis 40:12
  • 30. S Genesis 40:8; Isaiah 46:11; Daniel 2:45
  • 31. S ver 2
  • 32. S Genesis 12:10; 2 Kings 8:1
  • 33. S Genesis 40:8
  • 34. ver 47
  • 35. ver 54; Genesis 45:6,11; Genesis 47:13; Psalms 105:16
  • 36. ver 56; S Genesis 12:10
  • 37. Daniel 2:5; Numbers 23:19; Isaiah 46:10-11
  • 38. S Genesis 40:8
  • 39. ver 39
  • 40. S Genesis 39:9
  • 41. Esther 2:3
  • 42. Genesis 47:24,26; 1 Samuel 8:15
  • 43. ver 48; Genesis 47:14
  • 44. ver 48
  • 45. ver 56; Genesis 42:6; Genesis 47:14
  • 46. Genesis 45:16; Esther 2:4; Isaiah 19:11
  • 47. Numbers 27:18; Deuteronomy 34:9; Job 32:8; Daniel 2:11; Daniel 4:8-9,18; Daniel 5:11,14
  • 48. Daniel 2:11; Daniel 5:11
  • 49. ver 33
  • 50. 1 Kings 4:6; 2 Kings 15:5; Isaiah 22:15; Isaiah 36:3
  • 51. S Genesis 39:9; Psalms 105:21-22; Acts 7:10
  • 52. Esther 10:3
  • 53. ver 43,55; Genesis 42:6; Genesis 45:8,13,26; Esther 8:2; Jeremiah 40:7; Daniel 6:3
  • 54. S Genesis 24:22; Esther 3:10; Esther 8:2,8
  • 55. 1 Samuel 17:38; 1 Samuel 18:4; 1 Kings 19:19; Esther 6:8,11; Daniel 5:29; Zechariah 3:4
  • 56. Exodus 25:4; Esther 8:15; Daniel 5:29
  • 57. Psalms 73:6; Song of Songs 4:9; Isaiah 3:18; Ezekiel 16:11; Da 5:7,16,29
  • 58. Genesis 46:29; Genesis 50:9; Isaiah 2:7; Isaiah 22:18
  • 59. Esther 10:3
  • 60. Esther 6:9
  • 61. S ver 41
  • 62. S Genesis 37:8; Esther 10:2; Psalms 105:22
  • 63. Esther 2:7
  • 64. Exodus 2:16
  • 65. Ezekiel 30:17
  • 66. ver 50; Genesis 46:20,27
  • 67. S Genesis 37:2
  • 68. 1 Samuel 8:11; 1 Samuel 16:21; Proverbs 22:29; Daniel 1:19
  • 69. ver 29
  • 70. S ver 34
  • 71. S Genesis 12:2
  • 72. S ver 45; Genesis 46:20; Genesis 48:5
  • 73. Ge 48:14,18,20; Genesis 49:3
  • 74. Genesis 46:20; Genesis 48:1; Genesis 50:23; Numbers 1:34; Deuteronomy 33:17; Joshua 4:12; Joshua 17:1; 1 Chronicles 7:14
  • 75. Genesis 46:20; Genesis 48:1,5; Genesis 50:23; Numbers 1:32; Numbers 26:28; Deuteronomy 33:17; Joshua 14:4; Judges 5:14; 1 Chronicles 7:20; 2 Chronicles 30:1; Psalms 60:7; Jeremiah 7:15; Obadiah 1:19
  • 76. S Genesis 17:6; Genesis 28:3; Genesis 49:22
  • 77. S Genesis 12:10
  • 78. ver 30; Psalms 105:11; Acts 7:11
  • 79. Deuteronomy 32:24; 2 Chronicles 20:9; Isaiah 51:19; Jeremiah 5:12; Jeremiah 27:8; Jeremiah 42:16; Jeremiah 44:27
  • 80. S ver 41; John 2:5
  • 81. S ver 36
  • 82. S Genesis 12:10
  • 83. S ver 30
  • 84. Genesis 42:5; Genesis 47:15
  • 85. S Genesis 12:10

Footnotes 6

  • [a]. Or "of the gods"
  • [b]. Or "in the chariot of his second-in-command" ; or "in his second chariot"
  • [c]. Or "Bow down"
  • [d]. That is, Heliopolis; also in verse 50
  • [e]. "Manasseh" sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for "forget."
  • [f]. "Ephraim" sounds like the Hebrew for "twice fruitful."

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

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