Ge 41:1-24. Pharaoh's
1. at the end of two full years—It is
not certain whether these years are reckoned from the beginning of
Joseph's imprisonment, or from the events described in the preceding
chapter—most likely the latter. What a long time for Joseph to
experience the sickness of hope deferred! But the time of his
enlargement came when he had sufficiently learned the lessons of God
designed for him; and the plans of Providence were matured.
Pharaoh dreamed—"Pharaoh," from an
Egyptian word Phre, signifying the "sun," was the official title
of the kings of that country. The prince, who occupied the throne of
Egypt, was Aphophis, one of the Memphite kings, whose capital was On or
Heliopolis, and who is universally acknowledged to have been a patriot
king. Between the arrival of Abraham and the appearance of Joseph in
that country, somewhat more than two centuries had elapsed. Kings sleep
and dream, as well as their subjects. And this Pharaoh had two dreams
in one night so singular and so similar, so distinct and so apparently
significant, so coherent and vividly impressed on his memory, that his
spirit was troubled.
8. he called for all the magicians of
Egypt—It is not possible to define the exact distinction
between "magicians" and "wise men"; but they formed different branches
of a numerous body, who laid claim to supernatural skill in occult arts
and sciences, in revealing mysteries, explaining portents, and, above
all, interpreting dreams. Long practice had rendered them expert in
devising a plausible way of getting out of every difficulty and framing
an answer suitable to the occasion. But the dreams of Pharaoh baffled
their united skill. Unlike their Assyrian brethren (Da 2:4), they did not pretend to know the
meaning of the symbols contained in them, and the providence of God had
determined that they should all be nonplussed in the exercise of their
boasted powers, in order that the inspired wisdom of Joseph might
appear the more remarkable.
9-13. then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh,
saying, I do remember my faults—This public acknowledgment of
the merits of the young Hebrew would, tardy though it was, have
reflected credit on the butler had it not been obviously made to
ingratiate himself with his royal master. It is right to confess our
faults against God, and against our fellow men when that confession is
made in the spirit of godly sorrow and penitence. But this man was not
much impressed with a sense of the fault he had committed against
Joseph; he never thought of God, to whose goodness he was indebted for
the prophetic announcement of his release, and in acknowledging his
former fault against the king, he was practising the courtly art of
pleasing his master.
14. Then Pharaoh sent and called
Joseph—Now that God's set time had come (Ps 105:19), no human power nor policy could detain
Joseph in prison. During his protracted confinement, he might have
often been distressed with perplexing doubts; but the mystery of
Providence was about to be cleared up, and all his sorrows forgotten in
the course of honor and public usefulness in which his services were to
shaved himself—The Egyptians were the
only Oriental nation that liked a smooth chin. All slaves and
foreigners who were reduced to that condition, were obliged, on their
arrival in that country, to conform to the cleanly habits of the
natives, by shaving their beards and heads, the latter of which were
covered with a close cap. Thus prepared, Joseph was conducted to the
palace, where the king seemed to have been anxiously waiting his
15, 16. Pharaoh said, … I have dreamed a
dream—The king's brief statement of the service required
brought out the genuine piety of Joseph; disclaiming all merit, he
ascribed whatever gifts or sagacity he possessed to the divine source
of all wisdom, and he declared his own inability to penetrate futurity;
but, at the same time, he expressed his confident persuasion that God
would reveal what was necessary to be known.
17. Pharaoh said, In my dream, behold, I stood
upon the bank of the river—The dreams were purely Egyptian,
founded on the productions of that country and the experience of a
native. The fertility of Egypt being wholly dependent on the Nile, the
scene is laid on the banks of that river; and oxen being in the ancient
hieroglyphics symbolical of the earth and of food, animals of that
species were introduced in the first dream.
18. there came up out of the river seven
kine—Cows now, of the buffalo kind, are seen daily plunging
into the Nile; when their huge form is gradually emerging, they seem as
if rising "out of the river."
and they fed in a meadow—Nile grass,
the aquatic plants that grow on the marshy banks of that river,
particularly the lotus kind, on which cattle were usually fattened.
19. behold, seven other kine … poor and
ill-favoured—The cow being the emblem of fruitfulness, the
different years of plenty and of famine were aptly represented by the
different condition of those kine—the plenty, by the cattle
feeding on the richest fodder; and the dearth, by the lean and
famishing kine, which the pangs of hunger drove to act contrary to
22. I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven
ears—that is, of Egyptian wheat, which, when "full and good,"
is remarkable in size (a single seed sprouting into seven, ten, or
fourteen stalks) and each stalk bearing an ear.
23. blasted with the east
wind—destructive everywhere to grain, but particularly so in
Egypt; where, sweeping over the sandy deserts of Arabia, it comes in
the character of a hot, blighting wind, that quickly withers all
vegetation (compare Eze 19:12; Ho 13:15).
24. the thin ears devoured the seven good
ears—devoured is a different word from that used in
Ge 41:4 and conveys the idea of
destroying, by absorbing to themselves all the nutritious virtue of the
soil around them.
Ge 41:25-36. Joseph
Interprets Pharaoh's Dreams.
25. Joseph said, … The dream … is
one—They both pointed to the same event—a remarkable
dispensation of seven years of unexampled abundance, to be followed by
a similar period of unparalleled dearth. The repetition of the dream in
two different forms was designed to show the absolute certainty and
speedy arrival of this public crisis; the interpretation was
accompanied by several suggestions of practical wisdom for meeting so
great an emergency as was impending.
33. Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a
man—The explanation given, when the key to the dreams was
supplied, appears to have been satisfactory to the king and his
courtiers; and we may suppose that much and anxious conversation arose,
in the course of which Joseph might have been asked whether he had
anything further to say. No doubt the providence of God provided the
opportunity of his suggesting what was necessary.
34. and let him appoint officers over the
land—overseers, equivalent to the beys of modern Egypt.
take up the fifth part of the
land—that is, of the land's produce, to be purchased and
stored by the government, instead of being sold to foreign corn
Ge 41:37-57. Joseph Made
Ruler of Egypt.
38. Pharaoh said unto his servants—The
kings of ancient Egypt were assisted in the management of state affairs
by the advice of the most distinguished members of the priestly order;
and, accordingly, before admitting Joseph to the new and extraordinary
office that was to be created, those ministers were consulted as to the
expediency and propriety of the appointment.
a man in whom the Spirit of God is—An
acknowledgment of the being and power of the true God, though faint and
feeble, continued to linger amongst the higher classes long after
idolatry had come to prevail.
40. Thou shalt be over my house—This
sudden change in the condition of a man who had just been taken out of
prison could take place nowhere, except in Egypt. In ancient as well as
modern times, slaves have often risen to be its rulers. But the special
providence of God had determined to make Joseph governor of Egypt; and
the way was paved for it by the deep and universal conviction produced
in the minds both of the king and his councillors, that a divine spirit
animated his mind and had given him such extraordinary knowledge.
according unto thy word shall all my people be
ruled—literally, "kiss." This refers to the edict granting
official power to Joseph, to be issued in the form of a firman, as in
all Oriental countries; and all who should receive that order would
kiss it, according to the usual Eastern mode of acknowledging obedience
and respect for the sovereign [Wilkinson].
41. Pharaoh said, … See, I have set thee
over all the land—These words were preliminary to investiture
with the insignia of office, which were these: the signet-ring, used
for signing public documents, and its impression was more valid than
the sign-manual of the king; the khelaat or dress of honor, a
coat of finely wrought linen, or rather cotton, worn only by the
highest personages; the gold necklace, a badge of rank, the plain or
ornamental form of it indicating the degree of rank and dignity;
the privilege of riding in a state carriage, the second chariot; and
43. they cried before him, Bow the
knee—abrech, an Egyptian term, not referring to
prostration, but signifying, according to some, "father" (compare Ge 45:8); according to others, "native
prince"—that is, proclaimed him naturalized, in order to remove
all popular dislike to him as a foreigner.
44. These ceremonies of investiture were
closed in usual form by the king in council solemnly ratifying the
I am Pharaoh, and without thee,
&c.—a proverbial mode of expression for great power.
interpreted, "revealer of secrets"; "saviour of the land"; and from the
hieroglyphics, "a wise man fleeing from pollution"—that is,
gave him to wife Asenath, the daughter
of—His naturalization was completed by this alliance with a
family of high distinction. On being founded by an Arab colony,
Poti-pherah, like Jethro, priest of Midian, might be a worshipper of
the true God; and thus Joseph, a pious man, will be freed from the
charge of marrying an idolatress for worldly ends.
On—called Aven (Eze 30:17) and also Beth-shemesh (Jer 43:13). In looking at this profusion of honors
heaped suddenly upon Joseph, it cannot be doubted that he would humbly
yet thankfully acknowledge the hand of a special Providence in
conducting him through all his checkered course to almost royal power;
and we, who know more than Joseph did, cannot only see that his
advancement was subservient to the most important purposes relative to
the Church of God, but learn the great lesson that a Providence directs
the minutest events of human life.
46. Joseph was thirty years old when he stood
before Pharaoh—seventeen when brought into Egypt, probably
three in prison, and thirteen in the service of Potiphar.
went out … all the land—made an
immediate survey to determine the site and size of the storehouses
required for the different quarters of the country.
47. the earth brought forth by
handfuls—a singular expression, alluding not only to the
luxuriance of the crop, but the practice of the reapers grasping the
ears, which alone were cut.
48. he gathered up all the food of the seven
years—It gives a striking idea of the exuberant fertility of
this land, that, from the superabundance of the seven plenteous years,
corn enough was laid up for the subsistence, not only of its home
population, but of the neighboring countries, during the seven years of
50-52. unto Joseph were born two
sons—These domestic events, which increased his temporal
happiness, develop the piety of his character in the names conferred
upon his children.
53-56. The seven years of plenteousness …
ended—Over and above the proportion purchased for the
government during the years of plenty, the people could still have
husbanded much for future use. But improvident as men commonly are in
the time of prosperity, they found themselves in want, and would have
starved by thousands had not Joseph anticipated and provided for the
57. The famine was sore in all
lands—that is, the lands contiguous to Egypt—Canaan,
Syria, and Arabia.