Genesis 41
Matthew Poole's 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 two dreams, Genesis 41:1-7. He is troubled; sends for interpreters; their inability, Genesis 41:8. The chief butler, sensible of his fault, remembers Joseph, Genesis 41:9; commends him to Pharaoh, Genesis 41:10-13, who causes him to be brought before him, Genesis 41:14, expecting the interpretation from him, Genesis 41:15. Joseph ascribes all to God, Genesis 41:16. Pharaoh relates his dreams to Joseph, Genesis 41:17-24. He interprets them, Genesis 41:25-31. The reason of their being doubled, Genesis 41:32. His advice to Pharaoh against the dearth to come, Genesis 41:33-36, which he approves of, Genesis 41:37; appoints him governor, next himself, over the whole land, Genesis 41:38-41. The ensigns of dignity and stately presents conferred on him, Genesis 41:42-44; also a new name, Zaphnath-paaneah, and a wife, Genesis 41:45. Joseph, now thirty years of age, makes a progress over all the land, inspects the stores, lays up provisions, Genesis 41:45-49; has two children, Manasseh and Ephraim, Genesis 41:50-52. Bad years come on; he supplies the country, Genesis 41:53-57.

1715 Two full years, after the butler’s restitution to his place. Heb. Years of days, for full years, as 2 Samuel 14:28 Jeremiah 28:3; as a month of days is put for a full month, Genesis 29:14, which is complete to a day. Nilus is called the river simply, because of its eminency, as Homer or Virgil are called the poet.

And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow.
This suits well with the nature of the thing, for both the fruitfulness and the barrenness of Egypt depended, under God, upon the increase or diminution of the waters of that river.

Kine, when they appeared in dreams, did portend, in the opinion of the learned Egyptians, the years or times to come, and them either good or bad, according to their quality.

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.
Which shows how sparingly the river overflowed the lands.

And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good.
Ears of corn are fit and proper resemblances of the thing here intended, both because the fertility of a land doth mainly consist in the abundance and goodness of these; and because ears of corn appearing to any in a dream, did, in the judgment of the Egyptian wise men, signify years, as Josephus notes.

And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them.
A boisterous wind, and in those parts of the world very pernicious to the fruits of the earth, Ezekiel 17:10 19:12 Hosea 13:15.

And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.
Not a real thing, as Pharaoh in his sleep imagined it to be. Heb. Behold the dream, i.e. the dream did not vanish, as dreams commonly do, but was fixed in his mind, and he could not shake it off; by which he saw that it was no common or natural, but a Divine and significant 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.
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.

Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day:
Not against Joseph by ingratitude, but against the king; by which expression he both acknowledgeth the king’s justice in imprisoning him, and his clemency in pardoning him.

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:
No text from Poole on this verse.

And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream.
Of which phrase see Poole on "Genesis 40:5".

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.
Me he restored; either,

1. Pharaoh. But then he would have mentioned either his name or title, and not have spoken so slightly and indecently of him. Or rather,

2. Joseph, of whom he spake last, and who is here said to restore the one, and to hang the other, because he foretold those events, as Jeremiah is said to pull down and destroy those nations, Jeremiah 1:10, whose destruction he did only foretell.

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.
The dungeon, or prison, by a synecdoche of the part for the whole. For it is not probable that Joseph, who was now so much employed, and intrusted with all the affairs of the prison and prisoners, Genesis 39:21-23, should still be kept in the dungeon properly so called.

He shaved himself; for till then he suffered his hair to grow, as the manner was for persons in prison, or under great sorrow, 2 Samuel 19:24. But to appear in a mournful dress before the king was not convenient, nor usual. Compare Esther 4:4.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.
I cannot do this by any power, or virtue, or art of my own, for I am but a man, as your magicians are, but only by inspiration from the great God. Thus he gives the honour from himself unto God, and leads Pharaoh to the knowledge of the true God. For the phrase compare Matthew 10:20 1 Corinthians 15:10.

God shall give; or, may God give, & c. It is my desire that God would vouchsafe to Pharaoh a comfortable and happy answer.

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river:
No text from Poole on this verse.

And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow:
No text from Poole on this verse.

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:
No text from Poole on this verse.

And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine:
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
They seemed to be neither fatter in the flesh, nor fuller in their bodies. As many times in famine men eat much, but are not satisfied, because God withdraws his blessing from it, by which alone it is that meat nourisheth us.

And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good:
No text from Poole on this verse.

And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them:
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do.
The dream of Pharaoh is one, to wit, in its design and signification; both dreams portend the same thing.

The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt:
No text from Poole on this verse.

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;
There shall be no relics of it to keep it in men’s minds, which will be so taken up with the contemplation of their present misery and future danger, that they will have neither heart nor leisure to reflect upon their former plenty, the remembrance whereof will but aggravate the present calamity.

And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
Not by force or violence, for Joseph would never be the author of such unrighteous counsels; but by purchase at the common price, which was like to be very low in that case, and therefore might easily be compassed by that rich and mighty prince.

Quest. Why

the fifth part, and not half, seeing the years of famine were as many as the years of plenty?

Answ. Because,

1. Men would and should live more sparingly in times of famine.

2. It was likely that very many men would lay up great quantities of corn in those years, partly because they could not spend it all, and partly in expectation of a scarcer and dearer time, when they might either use it themselves, or sell it to their advantage.

3. The fifth part of those years of great 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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?
Or, of the gods, in his heathen language. One whom God hath endowed with such admirable knowledge and wisdom.

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:
God hath showed thee all this, i.e. hath given thee this extraordinary gift of foreseeing and foretelling things to come, and of giving such sage advice for the future.

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.
According unto thy word, i.e. direction and command, Heb. mouth, which is oft put for command, {as Exodus 17:1 38:21 Numbers 3:16,39, &c.,} shall all my poeple be ruled, or, be fed; they shall receive their provisions from thy hand, and according to thy disposal. Others, shall kiss, viz. the hand, as inferiors used to do, upon their address to or conference with great persons. See Job 31:27 Hosea 13:2. But it was frivolous for Joseph to command them to do that which by the custom of the place they were obliged and wont to do. Some render the word thus, and that agreeable to the Hebrew, at thy mouth shall the people kiss; which may be understood either properly, as inferiors did sometimes kiss their superiors in token of their homage; see 1 Samuel 10:1; or rather metaphorically, as the same phrase is used Psalm 2:12 Proverbs 24:26, receive all thy commands with reverence and submission.

In the throne, i.e. in sovereign power and dignity.

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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;
His ring was both a token of highest dignity, and an instrument of greatest power, by which he had authority to make and sign what decrees he thought fit in the king’s name. See Esther 3:10 8:2. With

fine linen the greatest potentates were arrayed. See Proverbs 31:22,24 Eze 16:10 Luke 16:19 Revelation 19:8.

A gold chain was another badge of great honour. See Proverbs 1:9 Ezekiel 16:11 Daniel 5:7,16,29.

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.
In the second chariot; in the king’s second chariot, that he might be known and owned to be the next person to the king in power and dignity. Compare 2 Chronicles 35:24 Esther 6:8 10:3 Daniel 5:29.

Bow the knee: they commanded all that passed by him, or came to him, to show their reverent respect to him in this manner: compare Esther 3:2. Others, tender father, to signify that he was to be owned as the father of the country, because by his prudence and care he had provided for them all, and saved them from utter ruin.

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, i.e. I only am the king, I reserve to myself the sovereign power over thee, and over all. As the name of Caesar among the Romans was commonly used for the emperor, so the name of Pharaoh for the king. Or thus, I have the supreme power, and therefore as I have authority to give thee the following power, so I will make it good to thee, and oblige all my people to observe and obey thee. No man shall do any thing in the public affairs of the kingdom concerning matters of war or peace without thy commission or licence.

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.
Zaphnath-paaneah, i.e. The revealer of secrets, as the Hebrews generally understand it, and with them most others.

Poti-pherah, not that Potiphar, Genesis 39:1; both because he had another title, and dwelt in another place; and because it is not probable Joseph would have married the daughter of so unchaste a mother; but another and a greater person. It is the observation of a late ingenious and learned writer, that among the Egyptians there were three words, or endings of words, near akin, but differing in signification, and in the degree of dignity and authority, to which those names were annexed: Phar, which belonged to inferior officers; and Pherah, which was given to those of greater dignity and power; and Pharaoh, which was appropriated to the king.

Priest, or prince, as the word signifies, Exodus 18:1 2 Samuel 8:18 20:26, and elsewhere. This sense is the more probable, both from Joseph’s high quality, and from his holy disposition, whereby he hated idolatry, and would never have married the daughter of an idolatrous priest.

On was a famous city of Egypt, called also Aven, Ezekiel 30:17, and afterwards, as some think, Heliopolis, now Damiata. See Jeremiah 43:13.

Joseph went out over all the land, upon his employment, and to execute the king’s command, and his own counsel.

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’s age is here noted to teach us,

1. That Joseph’s short affliction was recompensed with a much longer prosperity, even for eighty years.

2. That Joseph’s excellent wisdom did not proceed from his large and long experience, but from the singular gift of God.

He stood before Pharaoh, as his chief minister: to stand before another is the posture and designation of a servant, as 1 Samuel 16:21 Daniel 1:19.

Went throughout all the land, to provide places for his stores, and to constitute officers for the management of them.

And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls.
Or, unto handfuls, to wit, growing upon one stalk; or, unto heaps; or, as the ancients render it, for the barns or storehouses; i.e. in such plenty, that all their storehouses were filled with heaps of corn.

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.
All the food; that is, either all sorts of grain which was proper for food; or all which he intended to gather, to wit, the fifth part, Genesis 41:34.

And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
i.e. Hath expelled all sorrowful remembrance of it by my present comfort and glory.

All my toil, and all my father’s house, i.e. the toil of my father’s house, or the toil and misery which for many years I have endured by means of my father’s family, and my own brethren, who sold me hither; a figure called hendyadis.

And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.
1711 In the land which hitherto hath been to me a land of affliction.

And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.
1708 No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
In all lands; in all the neighbouring countries, appears by comparing this with Genesis 42:1.

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.
The people cried to Pharaoh, as to their king and common father. Compare 2 Kings 6:26.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bible Hub
Genesis 40
Top of Page
Top of Page