Genesis Chapter Forty-One


Read Genesis 41:1-8 – Pharaoh Dreams


v.1And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.”


            God is now ready to intervene in the lives of the king of Egypt and of Joseph.  So he sends Pharaoh dreams; warnings of trouble that was to come for his country but in a form that he does not understand.  Dreams were very important to most cultures in this time, their meanings were sought and God used them to communicate with mankind.


v.2And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow.”


            In Pharaoh’s dream he standing by the river, in Egypt, the river is understood to be the Nile, the source of much of their wellbeing.  Up out of the river come seven kine (cows), nice and fat and well fed and grazed in a meadow.


v.3-4And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and leanfleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river. 4And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.”


            In his dream after the fat cows appear, seven very lean, poor animals appear as well.  Then to his consternation and inability to understand the seven lean cows ate the seven fat cows.  This occurrence is so out of harmony with nature and the normal course of events that it causes Pharaoh to wake up.


v.5-7And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good. 6And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them. 7And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.”


            As soon as Pharaoh has gone back to sleep he dreams again.  This time the same general theme is repeated but it is ears of corn or heads of grain, since maize or corn as we know it was unknown in the Middle East before the discovery of America and unknown to the translators as well.  Seven fat ears of corn are devoured by the seven lean, thin ears that appear.


v.8And 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.”


            The next morning after having these dreams Pharaoh is still troubled by them and seeks to learn their significance.  Though we are not told how or why this was so, or why this was allowed the magicians and sorcerers of Egypt had powers that we do not understand.  In the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh they were able to duplicate the signs given to Aaron:


Exodus 7:10-11And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. 11Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments.”


But they were unable to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams.  Again we have God working to bring about events that He needs for his purpose, in this case to bring Joseph back to the forefront of scriptural history.


Read Genesis 41:9-24 – Joseph’s Ability is Remembered


v.9-10Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day: 10Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in ward in the captain of the guard’s house, both me and the chief baker:”


            The chief butler now remembers the young man in prison who could interpret dreams that no one else understood.  Since none of the wisest of the kingdom or the magicians could not ease Pharaoh’s mind concerning these dreams he tells Pharaoh his experience.  First he brings to Pharaoh’s memory the situation concerning his imprisonment.


v.11-13And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream. 12And 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. 13And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.”


            As the occurrence is related by Pharaoh’s chief butler or cupbearer, when Pharaoh had sent him and the chief baker to prison there was a young man there who could interpret dreams.  When the butler and baker dreamed dreams that they could not understand he was able to tell them what they meant and the came to pass just as Joseph said.  The chief butler was restored to his position and the chief baker was hanged.


v.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.”


            When Pharaoh called for Joseph to be brought before him, his servants hasten to do as they are instructed, just as the servant of Nebuchadnezzar did with Daniel:


Daniel 2:25Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation.”


However, Joseph, knowing the importance of his appearance before the king, takes the time to prepare himself by changing his garments and shaving.


v.15-16And 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. 16And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”


            When Joseph is brought before the king, Pharaoh immediately tells him his purpose.  Word has come to him that Joseph can interpret dreams.  But what is Joseph’s reply?  it is NOT IN ME: GOD SHALL GIVE PHARAOH AN ANSWER…”  Joseph understands the source of his ability just as others in scripture do and we today should as well.  The holy spirit tells us through the apostle Paul:


II Corinthians 3:5Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;


Our sufficiency, our abilities, our talents, all come from God.  If Joseph can tell Pharaoh the meaning of his dreams it will be because the God of heaven has revealed it to him, not because of any special ability he has.  Just as Zerubbabel was told by Zechariah:


Zechariah 4:6Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”


And very similar to what Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar:


Daniel 2:30But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.”


v.17-21And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river: 18And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow: 19And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed, such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness: 20And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine: 21And when they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they were still ill favoured, as at the beginning. So I awoke.”


            So Pharaoh describes his first dream.  The seven lean cows that came up after the seven fat cows were so bad that they were worse that he had ever seen in the entire country of Egypt.  Then after they had devoured the seven fat cows the seven lean and ill-favored animals were not any fatter or any better looking than they were before.


v.22-24And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good: 23And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them: 24And 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 relates the second dream.  Seven full and good ears of grain come up on one stalk, then seven thin, withered ears of grain.  The seven thin ears devour the seven full and are still just as thin, withered and blasted as they were before.  It does them no good, does not eliminate their deficiency.  He has told these dreams to his magicians but they didn’t understand them and could not explain them.  Of course, this is God’s purpose.


Read Genesis 41:25-36 – Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams


v.25-26And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath showed Pharaoh what he is about to do.  The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one.”


            Joseph’s reply to Pharaoh is that his two dreams are really just one.  They both refer to the same situation or sequence of events.  God is showing Pharaoh what he is about to do.  In both of the dreams the seven ears and the seven cows refer to a span of seven years.


v.27-28And the seven thin and ill favoured 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. 28This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he showeth unto Pharaoh.”


            Likewise the seven thin, withered ears and the seven poor, lean-fleshed cows were seven years, years that would bring deep famine just as was recorded in Samaria later.


II Kings 8:1Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the LORD hath called for a famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years.”


Again Joseph tells Pharaoh that God is showing him what He will bring about in the time that is yet to come.


v.29Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt:”


            The first thing that would happen would be seven years of plenty in Egypt.  Seven years represented by the seven fat cows and the seven full ears of corn.


v.30-31And 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; 31And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.”


            After the seven years of plenty there would arise a famine so severe that the excess gathered and stored when it was available would be totally consumed.  The famine would so great that the amount and extent of the plenty would even be forgotten.


v.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.”


            The reason that Pharaoh dreamed the same dream twice was because God wanted to get his attention.  This time of plenty and time of extreme famine is about to begin and God wants Egypt to be prepared.


v.33-34Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34Let 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.”


            Now Joseph proceeds to give Pharaoh advice regarding how he should handle the time of plenty and the time of famine that would follow.  He should first of all place a man that is both wise and discreet, someone who can be totally trusted over the land of Egypt who would store one-fifth of the plenty.  Under him he should place other officers to help him accomplish that which is required.


v.35-36And 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. 36And 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.”


            During the years of plenty these officers would gather the excess grain and food into storage in the cities and put it under the control of Pharaoh the king.  It would be saved to be available during the seven lean years when famine would reign and food would become more and more scarce as each day went by.  The land of Egypt and it’s people would then be protected against this famine and would not perish in it.


Read Genesis 41:37-45 – Pharaoh chooses Joseph


v.37-38And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants. 38And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?”


            The advice that Joseph provides meets with the approval, not only of Pharaoh, but also his servants.  The men labeled servants here are most likely the advisors to his court, those whom he depended upon to provide for assistance in the daily administration of his kingdom.  After having a discussion they decide that they can find no man better suited to the task at hand than Joseph.


v.39-40And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: 40Thou 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.”


When Pharaoh accepts the counsel of Joseph he also accepts Joseph as the man most able to implement the things needed to prevent the famine that was coming from destroying his kingdom.  Of course, we know that God has provided this opportunity and at this time directing both the actions of Pharaoh and Joseph.  The Holy Spirit confirms this through the words given Stephen in his sermon before the Sanhedrin council:


Acts 7:10 And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.”


v.41-42And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. 42And 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;”


            So Pharaoh makes Joseph ruler over Egypt, second only to himself.  In doing so he gives Joseph the signs and symbols of his office, the symbols that he would need to act with the authority of the king.  This was a common practice:


Esther 3:10And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy.”


Daniel 5:29Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.”


In the case of Joseph and Haman the ring was probably the king’s signet ring, the ring used to seal decrees, commandments and proclamations.  This ring served as the king’s signature as we studied in the chapter concerning Judah and Tamar.


v.43-44And 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. 44And 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.”


            Just to make sure that all of his subjects understood the authority of Joseph, Pharaoh goes one step further.  He assigns him to the number two chariot, sort of like our Air Force Two when the vice president is aboard, and brings him before the people declaring his authority.  The Psalmist reminds us that all the princes of Egypt were subject to him:




v.45  And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaph-nath-pa-a-ne-ah; and he gave him to wife As-e-nath the daughter of Pot-i-phe-rah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.”


            In addition Pharaoh arranges Joseph a marriage; a marriage that also appears to be political in nature as many were among kings and rulers because he makes him the son-in-law of the man who was probably the high priest of Egypt.  On was a city north of Memphis, was called Heliopolis by the Greeks and was the seat of worship of the Egyptian principle god, the sun, whom they called Ra.


Read Genesis 41:46-52 – The Sons of Joseph


v.46-47And 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. 47And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls.”


            Joseph proceeds to do the tasks provided by God and assigned by the king going throughout the land of Egypt, performing his duties.  During this seven years the land produced bountifully just as God had promised.


v.48-49And 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. 49And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number.”


            As he had advised Pharaoh, Joseph gathered up all of the excess food that was produced and stored it for the seven lean years that was to come.  The scripture tells us that God’s blessings were so great that eventually Joseph quit keeping record of the amount of grain in storage because it was more than could be numbered.  As we will see later in our study this famine was not isolated to Egypt and people from many other nations suffered as well.  They did not have God’s warning, were not prepared and will be coming to Egypt to buy grain.


v.50-52And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him. 51And 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. 52And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”


            In the course of time, Joseph and Asenath have two sons.  The first he names Manasseh which means “forgetting”.  This is because his new work, marriage and the birth of a son makes him forget the trouble that he has had; the rejection and treatment by his brothers and his imprisonment.  The second son he names Ephraim, which means fruitful, because God has made him fruitful, even in the land where he was sold as a slave and suffered affliction.


Read Genesis 41:53-57 – The Lean Years Come


v.53-54And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended. 54And 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.”


            Precisely as God had showed Pharaoh in his dreams; the years of plenty end and a very severe famine falls upon all lands.  But due to God’s intervention Egypt has the means to feed her people; there was bread in Egypt.  In Stephen’s sermon we find direct confirmation that this famine effected Jacob and his family in Canaan as well.


Acts 7:11Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.”


v.55And 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.”


            As is common to man during the time of trouble and trial; the Egyptians turn to their king for relief.  Thanks to an almighty and benevolent God the kingdom is prepared and Pharaoh sends them to Joseph, who has established the means of meeting their needs.


v.56-57 “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. 57And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.”


            The famine spreads throughout all of Egypt and even throughout the earth.  Joseph opens the storehouses of the king and sells the grain that he had bought during the years of plenty so that the people of Egypt may be sustained.

            The word of grain in Egypt spreads to other countries and they came to Egypt to purchase grain as well and share in God’s bounty.