Genesis 41:8
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.
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(8) Magicians.—The word used here probably means the “sacred scribes,” who were skilled in writing and reading hieroglyphics. But in ancient times the possession of real knowledge was generally accompanied by a claim to an occult and mysterious acquaintance with the secrets of the gods and of nature. And as the people regarded the knowledge which such scribes really possessed as more than human, the claim was easily maintained, or, rather, grew naturally out of the superstition of the multitude. So, too, the “wise men” were men educated and trained, but probably the profession of magic, of divination, and astrology was that which gained for them wealth and honour, and not the possession of whatever real science existed at that time in Egypt. We find, subsequently, even Joseph claiming the power of divination.

There was none that could interpret . . . —Probably many of the wise men made the attempt, but in such an imperfect manner as not to be able to satisfy Pharaoh’s mind, or allay the excitement of his spirit.

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.

41:1-8 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.The dreams are recited. "By the river." In the dream Pharaoh supposes himself on the banks of the Nile. "On rite green." The original word denotes the reed, or marsh grass, on the banks of the Nile. The cow is a very significant emblem of fruitful nature among the Egyptians, the hieroglyphic symbol of the earth and of agriculture; and the form in which Isis the goddess of the earth was adored. "Dreamed a second time." The repetition is designed to confirm the warning given, as Joseph afterward explains Genesis 41:32. Corn (grain) is the natural emblem of fertility and nurture. "Blasted with the east wind The east wind". The east wind is any wind coming from the east of the meridian, and may be a southeast or a northeast, as well as a direct east. The Hebrews were accustomed to speak only of the four winds, and, therefore, must have used the name of each with great latitude. The blasting wind in Egypt is said to be usually from the southeast. "And, behold, it was a dream." The impression was so distinct as to be taken for the reality, until he awoke and perceived that it was only a dream. "His spirit was troubled." Like the officers in the prison Genesis 40:6, he could not get rid of the feeling that the twofold dream portended some momentous event. "The scribes" - the hieroglyphs, who belonged to the priestly caste, and whose primary business was to make hieroglyphic and other inscriptions; while they were accustomed to consult the stars, interpret dreams, practise soothsaying, and pursue the other occult arts. The sages; whose chief business was the cultivation of the various arts above mentioned, while the engraving or inscribing department strictly belonged to the hieroglyphs or scribes. "His dream;" the twofold dream. "Interpreted them" - the two dreams.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. His spirit was troubled, because he understood not the meaning of it, and dreaded the consequences of it. Compare Genesis 40:6 Daniel 2:1,3 Mt 27:19.

The magicians, whose profession it was to discover secret and future things; which they did either by the observation of the stars, or by other superstitious practices, and the help of evil spirits. See Exodus 7:11 8:19 Daniel 2:2,10.

The wise men, who were conversant in the study of nature; and by reason of their great sagacity, did ofttimes make happy conjectures.

Pharoah calls them both one dream, either because they seemed to portend the same thing, or because they were the product of one night, and were divided only by a very little interruption.

And it came to pass in the morning, that his spirit was troubled,.... With the thoughts of his dreams; they were uppermost in his mind; he was continually thinking of them; it was as if he had always the same images before him now awake, as well as when asleep, and therefore could not be easy without getting knowledge of the meaning of them:

and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof; who pretended to have great skill in the things of nature, and in astrology and other sciences, by which they pretended to know future events, and to interpret dreams among other things; and show what they portended, and what things would happen for the accomplishment of them:

and Pharaoh told them his dream; both his dreams, which for the similarity of them, and there being so little interruption between them, are represented as one dream; for that both were told them appears by what follows:

but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh; they were nonplussed and confounded, and did not know what to say; the things were so strange and surprising that he related, that they could not offer any conjectures about them, or, if they did, they were very unsatisfactory to Pharaoh.

And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was {c} 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.

(c) This fear was enough to teach him that this vision was sent by God.

8–32. Joseph as Interpreter

8. his spirit was troubled] Compare the effect of the dreams in Genesis 40:6; Daniel 2:1-3.

all the magicians] or, as R.V. marg., sacred scribes. The Heb. ḥartummim used in this chapter and Exodus 7-9 probably designates the priestly class, which was credited with the knowledge of all sacred mysteries, cf. Genesis 41:24; Exodus 7:11, &c. LXX renders by ἐξηγηταί = “interpreters,” Lat. conjectores. The rendering “magicians” represents “possessors of occult knowledge or magic.” The same Heb. word is used in Daniel 2:2, probably in imitation of this passage; but it does not occur elsewhere. Possibly the word is derived from a root meaning “to cut” or “engrave,” from which came ḥeret, “stylus” or “pen.” Cf. Tacitus, Hist. iv. 83, Ptolemaeus … sacerdotibus Aegyptiorum, quibus mos talia intellegere, nocturnos visus aperit.

Verse 8. - And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; or, rather, his mind was agitated, ἐταράχθη ἡ χυχὴ αὐτοῦ (LXX.), pavore perterritus (Vulgate), the ruach being the seat of the senses, affections, and emotions of various kinds (cf. Daniel 2:1; Daniel 4:5, 19) - and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, - the חַרְטֻמִּים, from חָרַט (unused), to engrave, whence חֶרֶט, a stylus (Gesenius), or from חוּר, to see or explain, and טוּם, to conceal, i.e. he who explains hidden or mysterious things (Kalisch), were sacred scribes, ἱερογραμματεῖς, belonging to the priestly caste, who were skilled in making and deciphering the hieroglyphics. Besides figuring in the Court of Pharaoh (Exodus 7:11, 22; Exodus 8:3; Exodus 14:15) in the time of Moses, they recur again at a later period in that of the Babylonian monarch Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:20; Daniel 2:2) - and all the wise men thereof. The חֲכָמִים, from חָכַם, the primary idea of which is that of judging (Gesenius), were persons capable of judging, hence persons endowed with pre-eminent abilities for the prosecution of the ordinary business of life, the cultivation of the arts and sciences, the practice of divination, the interpreting of dreams, and other kindred occupations. They were the sages of the nation. And Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh. The magicians of Egypt were not so conceited as their Brethren in Babylon afterwards showed themselves to be, Daniel 2:4 (Lawson). That they could not explain the dream, though couched in the symbolical language of the time, was no doubt surprising; but "the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians 2:11), and they to whom the Spirit doth reveal them (1 Corinthians 2:10). Genesis 41:8Being troubled about this double dream, Pharaoh sent the next morning for all the scribes and wise men of Egypt, to have it interpreted. חרטתּים, from חרט a stylus (pencil), and the ίερογραμματεῖς, men of the priestly caste, who occupied themselves with the sacred arts and sciences of the Egyptians, the hieroglyphic writings, astrology, the interpretation of dreams, the foretelling of events, magic, and conjuring, and who were regarded as the possessors of secret arts (vid., Exodus 7:11) and the wise men of the nation. But not one of these could interpret it, although the clue to the interpretation was to be found in the religious symbols of Egypt. For the cow was the symbol of Isis, the goddess of the all-sustaining earth, and in the hieroglyphics it represented the earth, agriculture, and food; and the Nile, by its overflowing, was the source of the fertility of the land. But however simple the explanation of the fat and lean cows ascending out of the Nile appears to be, it is "the fate of the wisdom of this world, that where it suffices it is compelled to be silent. For it belongs to the government of God to close the lips of the eloquent, and take away the understanding of the aged (Job 12:20)." Baumgarten.
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