Genesis 41
Benson Commentary
And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.
Genesis 41:1. At the end of two full years — After the butler’s restoration to his place. No doubt Joseph was some considerable time in prison before the keeper of the prison would so far trust him as to commit the other prisoners, especially the state prisoners, to his charge; and he was some time confined with them. Yet two years more pass away before his deliverance came. By this great and long-continued humiliation and trial, he was prepared for the extraordinary exaltation which God designed for him.

And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow.
Genesis 41:2. There came out of the river — A just and proper emblem this, because both the fruitfulness and barrenness of the land of Egypt depended, under God, on the increase or diminution of the waters of that river. Well-favoured kine, and fat-fleshed — Signifying plenty of grass, whereby they had been thus fed, and promising milk and flesh-meat in abundance.

And, 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.
And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.
And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good.
Genesis 41:5. Seven ears of corn on one stalk — These also were fit emblems of the thing intended, especially as the fertility of that country did chiefly consist in its producing abundance of corn.

And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them.
Genesis 41:6. Blasted by the east wind — Coming through the parched deserts of Arabia, and very pernicious in Egypt. Thevenot, in his Travels, part 1, Genesis 50:2, c. 34, says, that in the year 1658 two thousand men were destroyed in one night by one of these blasting winds.

And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.
And 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.
Genesis 41:8. His spirit was troubled — Because he was impressed with an idea that the dreams were supernatural, that something extraordinary was intended by them, and because he understood not their meaning, and dreaded the consequences. Compare Genesis 40:6; Daniel 2:1-3; and Matthew 27:19. He called for the magicians, who professed to discover secret and future things, either by consulting the stars, or by other superstitious practices; but if they ever did any thing of that kind, no doubt it was by the help of evil spirits. The wise men, distinguished from these, were employed, it seems, in the study of nature, and, by their great sagacity, often made happy conjectures respecting abstruse and future things. On what principles they interpreted dreams, does not appear. In this instance, however, they were puzzled, and the rules of their art failed them. But this was intended to render Joseph’s interpretation of these dreams, by the Spirit of God, the more wonderful.

Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day:
Genesis 41:9. I remember my faults this day — In forgetting Joseph; or rather, he means his faults against Pharaoh, for which he was imprisoned; and thus he would insinuate, that, though Pharaoh had forgiven him, he had not forgiven himself. God’s time for the enlargement of his people will appear, at last, to be the fittest time. If the chief butler had at first used his interest for Joseph’s enlargement, and had obtained it, it is probable he would have gone back to the land of the Hebrews, and then he had neither been so blessed himself, nor such a blessing to his family. But staying two years longer, and coming out upon this occasion to interpret the king’s dreams, a way was made for his preferment.

Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in ward in the captain of the guard's house, both me and the chief baker:
And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream.
And 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.
And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.
Genesis 41:13. Me he restored unto mine office — That is, Joseph foretold his restoration to his office, and the execution of the other. Thus Jeremiah is said to pull down and destroy those nations, whose downfall and destruction he only foretold, Jeremiah 1:10.

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.
Genesis 41:14. Brought him out of the dungeon — Or prison; for, as Joseph was now so much employed, and intrusted with all the affairs of the prison and prisoners, it is not probable that he should still be kept confined in the dungeon, properly so called. The king could scarce allow him time, but that decency required it, to shave himself, and to change his raiment. It is done with all possible expedition, and Joseph is brought in perhaps almost as much surprised as Peter was, Acts 12:9; so suddenly is his captivity brought back, that he is as one that dreams, <19C601>Psalm 126:1. Pharaoh immediately, without inquiring who or whence he was, tells him his business, that he expected he should interpret his dream.

And 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.
And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.
Genesis 41:16. It is not in me — I cannot do this by any virtue, or power, or art of my own; but only by the inspiration of the great God. 1st, Thus he gives the honour to God, to whom it was due, and leads Pharaoh to the knowledge of him. Great gifts then appear most graceful and illustrious, when those that have them use them humbly, and take not the praise of them to themselves, but give it to God. 2d, He shows respect to Pharaoh, and hearty goodwill to him, supposing that the interpretation would be an answer of peace. Those that consult God’s oracles may expect an answer of peace.

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river:
And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow:
And, 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:
And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine:
And 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.
And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good:
And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them:
And 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.
And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed 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.
And 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.
This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh.
Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt:
Genesis 41:29. Seven years of great plenty — See the goodness of God, in sending the seven years of plenty before those of famine, that provision might be made accordingly. How wonderful wisely has Providence that great house-keeper, ordered the affairs of his numerous family from the beginning! Great variety of seasons there have been, and the produce of the earth sometimes more, and sometimes less; yet, take one time with another, what was miraculous concerning the manna is ordinarily verified in the common course of Providence; “He that gathers much has nothing over, and he that gathers little has no lack,” Exodus 16:18.

And 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;
Genesis 41:30. Seven years of famine — See the perishing nature of our worldly enjoyments. The great increase of the years of plenty was quite lost and swallowed up in the years of famine; and the over-plus of it, which seemed very much, yet did but just serve to keep men alive.

And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.
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.
Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.
Genesis 41:33. Let Pharaoh look out a man — It was not presumption in Joseph to offer this advice to Pharaoh, considering that God, by him, had given Pharaoh the fore-knowledge of what was about to come to pass, and what greatly concerned both him and his whole kingdom. Indeed, the advice was only that he should make a practical and proper use of the revelation now made to him. Joseph, in giving this counsel, could have no view to his own advancement to this office; as any thing of that kind, at that time, when he was just brought out of prison, and did not know but he must be sent back thither, must have appeared highly improbable.

Let 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.
Genesis 41:34. Let him appoint officers to take up a fifth part — Not by force or violence, but by purchase at the common price, which would probably be very low during these years of plenty. But why only a fifth part, seeing the years of famine were to be as many as the years of plenty? 1st, Because people would live more sparingly in the time of the famine. 2d, It is likely that many persons, in all parts of the country, besides the king, would lay up great quantities of corn, both because they could not easily consume it all, and in expectation of a time of greater scarcity and dearness, when they might either use it themselves, or sell it to their advantage. Add to this, 3d, That even the fifth part of the produce of those years of plenty might be more than the half, yea, equal to the whole crop of ordinary years.

And 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.
And 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.
And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.
And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:
Thou 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.
Genesis 41:40. According to thy word — Thy direction and command, the word mouth, as the Hebrew is, being often put for command; shall all my people be ruled — Or be fed. They shall receive their provisions from thy hand, and according to thy disposal. But the Hebrew is, at thy mouth shall my people kiss, which may be understood literally; for inferiors used sometimes to kiss their superiors in token of their homage; or rather metaphorically, as the same phrase is used, Psalm 2:12, and Proverbs 24:26, they shall receive all thy commands with reverence and submission.

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.
And 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;
Genesis 41:42-43. Pharaoh took off his ring — Which was both a token of the highest dignity, and an instrument of the greatest power; and put it on Joseph’s hand — Thereby giving him authority to make and sign what decrees he thought fit in the king’s name. He made him ride in the second chariot — That he might be known to be next to the king in dignity and power.

And 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.
And 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.
Genesis 41:44. Without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot — A hyperbolical phrase, signifying that all the affairs of the kingdom should pass through his hands. Only in the throne will I be greater than thou — It is probable there were those about court that opposed Joseph’s preferment, which occasioned Pharaoh so oft to repeat the grant, and with that solemn sanction, I am Pharaoh. Hence, besides the honours just mentioned, he also gave him a new name, and such a name as spoke the value he had for him, Zaphnath-paaneah, a revealer of secrets; and he married him honourably to a priest’s, or rather, as the word also signifies, a prince’s daughter. Thus where God had been liberal in giving wisdom and other merits, Pharaoh was not sparing in conferring honours. Now this preferment of Joseph was, 1st, an abundant recompense for his innocent and patient suffering, a lasting instance of the equity and goodness of Providence, and an encouragement to all to trust in a good God; 2d, it was typical of the exaltation of Christ, with great revealer of secrets, (John 1:18,) or, as some translate Joseph’s new name, the Saviour of the world. The brightest glories of the upper world are upon him, the highest trusts lodged in his hand, and all power given him both in heaven and earth. He is gatherer, keeper, and disposer of all the stores of divine grace, and chief ruler of the kingdom of God among men. The work of ministers is to cry before him, Bow the knee; kiss the Son.

And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.
And 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.
Genesis 41:46. Joseph was thirty years old — So that his life had been a life of humiliation and suffering for about thirteen years. But the season of peculiar and great affliction, whereby his faith and patience, and all his graces, had been tried to the uttermost, had prepared him for his subsequent exaltation, which was of much longer duration, even for the space of eighty years. His age may also, perhaps, be mentioned here, to signify that his great wisdom, when he stood before Pharaoh, was not the fruit of long and large experience, but was the singular gift of God.

And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls.
And 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.
And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number.
And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him.
Genesis 41:50. Two sons — In the names he gave them, he owned the divine providence giving this happy turn to his affairs. He was made to forget his misery, but could he be so unnatural as to forget all his father’s house? And he was made fruitful in the land of his affliction. It had been the land of his affliction, and, in some sense, it was still so, for his distance from his father was still his affliction. Ephraim signifies fruitfulness, and Manasseh, forgetfulness.

And 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.
And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.
And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.
And 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.
Genesis 41:54. The seven years of death began to come — Not only in Egypt, but in other lands, that is, all the neighbouring countries.

And 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.
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.
And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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