by Robert Brow    (

Brow Publications, Kingston, Ontario (e-mail: 2004

Introduction | Genesis 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11| 12| 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30

31 | 32 | 33| 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41| 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50| PostScriptTable Of Contents:

Genesis 41:1-8
Genesis 41:9-13
Genesis 41:14-36
Genesis 41:38-45
Genesis 41:46-57


GENESIS  41:1-8     (Pharaoh’s dreams about cows and ears of grain)

 41:1   Two years after Joseph had interpreted the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the River Nile.  The Blue Nile, originating in Ethiopia, and the White Nile, originating in Uganda,  join in what is now Khartoum, the capital of the Sudan.  Together their waters provide the very life-blood of Egypt.  If ever those two watersheds should dry up, the annual flooding of the river that covers the whole land with rich alluvium would cease and famine ensues (as happened in Joseph’s time).  .

 41:2-4   So Pharaoh knew that the dream of the seven beautiful healthy cows coming out of the river Nile and the seven ugly scrawny cows must be of great significance.   But what did it mean?  To his horror Pharaoh saw the half-starved cows devouring the fat healthy cows (see 41:19-21).

 41:5‑ 7   Pharaoh fell asleep and dreamed again.  Egypt’s wealth was based on exports of wheat and barley (as in Paul’s day, see ship in Acts 28:11).   In this dream he saw seven blighted ears of grain growing up and devouring seven plump and full ears of grain on the same stalk.

 41:8   Next morning he sent for all the recognized magicians and wise men of Egypt, and demanded the meaning of the two dreams.   But none of them was able to give a plausible explanation.  

 Note:  Dreams and visions could be means of receiving a prophetic message.  Another way was for a message to come in tongues, and it then had to be interpreted into understandable language.   The hearers were required to “weigh what is said” (1 Corinthians 14:26-29).   This suggests that dreams which seem to have important significance should also be interpreted by God’s wisdom and the explanation carefully weighed (as happened in Genesis 41:37).


GENESIS  41:9-13      (The cupbearer is reminded of Joseph’s interpretation of his dream)

 41:9-13  When the magicians and wise men of Egypt had failed to interpret Pharaoh’s two dreams, the cupbearer remembered his failure to help Joseph out of prison (40:14).   He recounted how two years previously (41:1) Joseph had correctly interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker.


GENESIS 41:14-36    (Joseph interprets the two dreams of Pharaoh’s and offers a plan)

41:14-16    Joseph was sent for and hurriedly had to shave and change his prison clothes.   Pharaoh said he had heard Joseph could interpret a dream    Joseph was careful to explain that it was only God who could give an interpretation.  But he was sure God would do that in this case.  As in his interpretation of the dreams of the cupbearer and baker, Joseph refused to accept the credit for himself (40:8).   Similarly Daniel said “This mystery has not been revealed to me because of any wisdom that I have more than other any human being, but in order that the interpretation may be known to the king and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind” (Daniel 2:30).

 41:17-21   As Pharaoh recounted the dream he had about the cows (41:1-4) he added two details which must have remained vivid in his mind.  He had never seen such ugly cows in the land of Egypt.    And after devouring the fat healthy cows the scrawny cows were still as thin and ugly as before.   

 41:22-24    The second dream about the ears of wheat on a stalk was exactly as previously described (41:5-7).   Pharaoh then admitted that he had consulted the court magicians, and none of them could give an explanation.

 41:25-31  Joseph immediately knew that the two dreams referred to events which would soon occur in the land of Egypt.  The seven good cows and the seven good ears of wheat pointed to a period of seven years of extremely abundant harvests.   These would be followed by seven years of terrible famine.  As a God-fearing Jew Joseph did not hesitate to acknowledge God the Creator before the ruler of a land that served many gods (41:16, 2, 28, 32, compare Exodus 12:12)

 41:32   Joseph explained that the pair of dreams not only proved that things would happen as predicted, but that the period of abundant harvests would begin immediately.

 41:33   Joseph then had the boldness to advise Pharaoh about the policy he should follow.   First there should be one wise discerning person with complete authority under Pharaoh to prepare the country for the imminent period of famine.

 41:34-37   Tax collectors should be appointed to collect one fifth of the grain that was produced in the seven good years.   The grain must be carefully stored in royal granaries set up in each of the cities of Egypt.   The food stores would then be used during the famine years to save people from starvation.   This proposal immediately gained unanimous support in the royal council. 


GENESIS  41:38-45    (Joseph was appointed to supervise the vast plan)

 41:38-39    Pharaoh’s counselors agreed that no one else had the wisdom of the Spirit of God (see 39:2-3, 23) that would be required  for such a vast undertaking.  Even before the predicted events had begun to unfold Pharaoh concluded that since God had shown Joseph what would happen, he was the one God had in mind for the task (compare Daniel 2:47-49). 

41:40-41   Pharaoh appointed Joseph to be in charge of the palace, made him second in command to himself in all affairs of state, and gave him total control of the agriculture in the land.    Presumably the crisis that Egypt would face within seven years would be so great that one person with divine wisdom would be needed to be in overall control of all the preparations.   

 41:42-43    Immediately Joseph was given the signet ring for signing all documents of state.   He was also given the appropriate clothes for the office, a gold chain to indicate his supreme authority under Pharaoh, and a chariot before which every person would have to bow (as in Esther 6:7-9).  . 

 41:44   Pharaoh also assured Joseph that he was now in complete charge of everything that would happen in Egypt.

 41:45   Joseph’s name was changed to zaphenathpaneah (ancient Egyptian which may mean “God speaks and the bearer of this name lives”).    He was also given the daughter of one of the powerful priests in the land as his wife, and this would have given him huge authority among the Egyptian clergy.

 Note :    Nelson Mandela is a modern example of one who was suddenly released from long imprisonment (1964 - 1990) and given vast responsibility for a nation.   Others who were prepared for a life work in prison were John Bunyan (1628-88),  Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), and Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) in India,  and Vaclav Havel (born 1936) President of the Czech Republic (1989).


GENESIS 41:46-57    (Joseph sets about his immense task)

 41:46-49    At the age of thirty (after 13 years as a slave in Egypt, 37:2) Joseph began his work.   He traveled all over the land, and set up a system for collecting one fifth (41:34) of all that was produced by the farmers.   This was no great exaction because for seven years there were huge harvests.   He organized the storage of this grain in collection centers in each city.   The amount stored was so huge that his assistants were no longer able to keep a record of it.

 41:50-52   Within the seven years of plenty Joseph had two children.   The first was named Manasseh (from the verb naashaah meaning to forget)  to indicate that in his important position he was slowly forgetting his thirteen years of slavery and unjust imprisonment.   The second was named Ephraim (from the verb paarah meaning to bear fruit, be fruitful) to indicate his gratitude to God for being given a family in the land where he had suffered so much.

 41:53-54    When the seven good years ended and the seven years of drought began bread was available in Egypt, while there was famine in the surrounding countries.

 41:55-56 When the people cried out to Pharaoh for food, he told them to go to Joseph’s storehouses and he would sell them grain for cash (see 47:13-14).   Joseph was conscious that God had given him this task to preserve life (45:7).   But we will note that this would be at the cost of dispossessing all the Egyptian farmers of their land and animals and making the whole nation into totally dependent slaves (47:20-21).

41:57   As the famine took hold, people from the surrounding countries also came to buy food.   So we can imagine the immense wealth that came in to Pharaoh’s coffers.


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