Genesis 41
Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.
Pharaoh's Dreams and Their Interpretation. - Two full years afterwards (ימים accus. "in days," as in Genesis 29:14) Pharaoh had a dream. He was standing by the Nile, and saw seven fine fat cows ascend from the Nile and feed in the Nile-grass (אחוּ an Egyptian word); and behind them seven others, ugly (according to Genesis 41:19, unparalleled in their ugliness), lean (בּשׂר דּקּות "thin in flesh," for which we find in Genesis 41:19 דּלּות "fallen away," and בּשׂר רקּות withered in flesh, fleshless), which placed themselves beside those fat ones on the brink of the Nile and devoured them, without there being any effect to show that they had eaten them. He then awoke, but fell asleep again and had a second, similar dream: seven fat (Genesis 41:22, full) and fine ears grew upon one blade, and were swallowed up by seven thin (Genesis 41:23, "and hardened") ones, which were blasted by the east wind (קדים i.e., the S.E. wind, Chamsin, from the desert of Arabia).

And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow.
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.
And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them.
And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.
"Then Pharaoh awoke, and behold it was a dream." The dream was so like reality, that in was only when he woke that he perceived 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.
Being 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.

Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day:
In this dilemma the head cup-bearer thought of Joseph; and calling to mind his offence against the king (Genesis 40:1), and his ingratitude to Joseph (Genesis 40:23), he related to the king how Joseph had explained their dreams to him and the chief baker in the prison, and how entirely the interpretation had come true.

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.
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.
Pharaoh immediately sent for Joseph. As quickly as possible he was fetched from the prison; and after shaving the hair of his head and beard, and changing his clothes, as the customs of Egypt required (see Hengst. Egypt and the Books of Moses, p. 30), he went in to the king. On the king's saying to him, "I have heard of thee (עליך de te), thou hearest a dream to interpret it," - i.e., thou only needest to hear a dream, and thou canst at once interpret it - Joseph replied, "Not I((בּלעדי, lit., "not so far as me," this is not in my power, vid., Genesis 14:24), God will answer Pharaoh's good," i.e., what shall profit Pharaoh; just as in Genesis 40:8 he had pointed the two prisoners away from himself to God. Pharaoh then related his double dream (Genesis 41:17-24), and Joseph gave the interpretation (Genesis 41:25-32): "The dream of Pharaoh is one (i.e., the two dreams have the same meaning); God hath showed Pharaoh what He is about to do." The seven cows and seven ears of corn were seven years, the fat ones very fertile years of superabundance, the lean ones very barren years of famine; the latter would follow the former over the whole land of Egypt, so that the years of famine would leave no trace of the seven fruitful years; and, "for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice" (i.e., so far as this fact is concerned, it signifies) "that the thing is firmly resolved by God, and God will quickly carry it out." In the confidence of this interpretation which looked forward over fourteen years, the divinely enlightened seer's glance was clearly manifested, and could not fail to make an impression upon the king, when contrasted with the perplexity of the Egyptian augurs and wise men. Joseph followed up his interpretation by the advice (Genesis 41:33-36), that Pharaoh should "look out (ירא) a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt;" and cause יעשׂה) that in the seven years of superabundance he should raise fifths (חמּשׁ), i.e., the fifth part of the harvest, through overseers, and have the corn, or the stores of food (אכל), laid up in the cities "under the hand of the king," i.e., by royal authority and direction, as food for the land for the seven years of famine, that it might not perish through famine.

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.
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:
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;
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.
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.
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.
Joseph's Promotion. - This counsel pleased Pharaoh and all his servants, so that he said to them, "Shall we find a man like this one, in whom the Spirit of God is?" "The Spirit of Elohim," i.e., the spirit of supernatural insight and wisdom. He then placed Joseph over his house, and over all Egypt; in other words, he chose him as hid grand vizier, saying to him, "After God hath showed thee all this, there is none discreet and wise as thou." ישּׁק על־פּיך, "according to thy mouth (i.e., command, Genesis 45:21) shall my whole people arrange itself." נשׁק does not mean to kiss (Rabb., Ges., etc.), for על נשׁק is not Hebrew, and kissing the mouth was not customary as an act of homage, but "to dispose, arrange one's self" (ordine disposuit). "Only in the throne will I be greater than thou."

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.
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;
As an installation in this post of honour, the king handed him his signet-ring, the seal which the grand vizier or prime minister wore, to give authority to the royal edicts (Esther 3:10), clothed him in a byssus dress (שׁשׁ, fine muslin or white cotton fabric),

(Note: See my Bibl. Antiquities, 17, 5. The reference, no doubt, is to the ἐσθῆτα λινέην, worn by the Egyptian priests, which was not made of linen, but of the frutex quem aliqui gossipion vocant, plures xylon et ideo LINA inde facta xylina. Nec ulla sunt eis candore mollitiave praeferenda. - Vestes inde sacerdotibus Aegypti gratissimae. Plin. h.n. xix. 1.)

and put upon his neck the golden chain, which was usually worn in Egypt as a mark of distinction, as the Egyptian monuments show (Hgst. pp. 30, 31).

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.
He then had him driven in the second chariot, the chariot which followed immediately upon the king's state-carriage; that is to say, he directed a solemn procession to be made through the city, in which they (heralds) cried before him אברך (i.e., bow down), - an Egyptian word, which has been pointed by the Masorites according to the Hiphil or Aphel of בּרך. In Coptic it is abork, projicere, with the signs of the imperative and the second person. Thus he placed him over all Egypt. ונתון inf. absol. as a continuation of the finite verb (vid., Exodus 8:11; Leviticus 25:14, etc.).

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.
"I am Pharaoh," he said to him, "and without thee shall no man lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt;" i.e., I am the actual king, and thou, the next to me, shalt rule over all my people.

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.
But in order that Joseph might be perfectly naturalized, the king gave him an Egyptian name, Zaphnath-Paaneah, and married him to Asenath, the daughter of Potipherah, the priest at On. The name Zaphnath-Paaneah (a form adapted to the Hebrew, for Ψονθομφανήχ lxx; according to a Greek scholium, σωτὴρ κόσμον, "salvator mundi" (Jerome), answers to the Coptic P-sote-m-ph-eneh, - P the article, sote salvation, m the sign of the genitive, ph the article, and eneh the world (lit., aetas, seculum); or perhaps more correctly, according to Rosellini and more recent Egyptologists, to the Coptic P-sont-em-ph-anh, i.e., sustentator vitae, support or sustainer of life, with reference to the call entrusted to him by God.

(Note: Luther in his version, "privy councillor," follows the rabbinical explanation, which was already to be found in Josephus (Ant. ii. 6, 1): κρυπτῶν εὑρετής, from צפנת equals צפנות occulta, and פענח revelator.)

Asenath, Ἀσενέθ (lxx), possibly connected with the name Neith, the Egyptian Pallas. Poti-Phera, Πετεφρῆ (lxx), a Coptic name signifying ille qui solis est, consecrated to the sun (φρη with the aspirated article signifies the sun in Memphitic). On was the popular name for Heliopolis (Ἡλιούπολις, lxx), and according to Cyrill. Alex. and Hosea 5:8 signifies the sun; whilst the name upon the monuments is ta-R or pa-R, house of the sun (Brugsch, Reisebericht, p. 50). From a very early date there was a celebrated temple of the sun here, with a learned priesthood, which held the first place among the priests' colleges of Egypt (Herod. 2, 3; Hengst. pp. 32ff.). This promotion of Joseph, from the position of a Hebrew slave pining in prison to the highest post of honour in the Egyptian kingdom, is perfectly conceivable, on the one hand, from the great importance attached in ancient times to the interpretation of dreams and to all occult science, especially among the Egyptians, and on the other hand, from the despotic form of government in the East; but the miraculous power of God is to be seen in the fact, that God endowed Joseph with the gift of infallible interpretation, and so ordered the circumstances that this gift opened the way for him to occupy that position in which he became the preserver, not of Egypt alone, but of his own family also. And the same hand of God, by which he had been so highly exalted after deep degradation, preserved him in his lofty post of honour from sinking into the heathenism of Egypt; although, by his alliance with the daughter of a priest of the sun, the most distinguished caste in the land, he had fully entered into the national associations and customs of the land.

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.
Joseph was 30 years old when he stood before Pharaoh, and went out from him and passed through all the land of Egypt, i.e., when he took possession of his office; consequently he had been in Egypt for 13 years as a slave, and at least three years in prison.

And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls.
For the seven years of superabundance the land bore לקמצים, in full hands or bundles; and Joseph gathered all the provisional store of these years (i.e., the fifth part of the produce, which was levied) into the cities. "The food of the field of the city, which was round about it, he brought into the midst of it;" i.e., he provided granaries in the towns, in which the corn of the whole surrounding country was stored. In this manner he collected as much corn "as the sand of the sea," until he left off reckoning the quantity, or calculating the number of bushels, which the monuments prove to have been the usual mode adopted (vid., Hengst. p. 36).

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.
During the fruitful years two sons were born to Joseph. The first-born he named Manasseh, i.e., causing to forget; "for, he said, God hath made me forget all my toil and all my father's house (נשּׁני, an Aram. Piel form, for נשּׁני, on account of the resemblance in sound to מנשּׁה)." Haec pia est, ac sancta gratiarum actio, quod Deus oblivisci eum fecit pristinas omnes areumnas: sed nullus honor tanti esse debuit, ut desiderium et memoriam paternae domus ex animo deponeret (Calvin). But the true answer to that question, whether it was a Christian boast for him to make, that he had forgotten father and mother, is given by Luther: "I see that God would take away the reliance which I placed upon my father; for God is a jealous God, and will not suffer the heart to have any other foundation to rely upon, but Him alone." This also meets the objection raised by Theodoret, why Joseph did not inform his father of his life and promotion, but allowed so may years to pass away, until he was led to do so at last in consequence of the arrival of his brothers. The reason of this forgetfulness and silence can only be found in the fact, that through the wondrous alteration in his condition he had been led to see, that he was brought to Egypt according to the counsel of God, and was redeemed by God from slavery and prison, and had been exalted by Him to be lord over Egypt; so that, knowing he was in the hand of God, the firmness of his faith led him to renounce all wilful interference with the purposes of God, which pointed to a still broader and more glorious goal (Baumgarten, Delitzsch).

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.
The second son he named Ephraim, i.e., double-fruitfulness; "for God hath made me fruitful in the land of my affliction." Even after his elevation Egypt still continued the land of affliction, so that in this word we may see one trace of a longing for the promised land.

And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.
When the years of scarcity commenced, at the close of the years of plenty, the famine spread over all (the neighbouring) lands; only in Egypt was there bread. As the famine increased in the land, and the people cried to Pharaoh for bread, he directed them to Joseph, who "opened all in which was" (bread), i.e., all the granaries, and sold corn (שׁבר, denom. from שׁבר, signifies to trade in corn, to buy and sell corn) to the Egyptians, and (as the writer adds, with a view to what follows) to all the world (כּל־הארץ, Genesis 41:57), that came thither to buy corn, because the famine was great on every hand. - Years of famine have frequently fallen, like this one, upon Egypt, and the neighbouring countries to the north. The cause of this is to be seen in the fact, that the overflowing of the Nile, to which Egypt is indebted for its fertility, is produced by torrents of rain falling in the alpine regions of Abyssinia, which proceed from clouds formed in the Mediterranean and carried thither by the wind; consequently it has a common origin with the rains of Palestine (see the proofs in Hengst. pp. 37ff.).

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.
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.
Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch [1857-78].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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