Genesis 41 - Pharaoh Sends for Joseph to Interpret His Dreams
Genesis 41 – Pharaoh Sends for Joseph to Interpret His Dreams
Pharaoh had two dreams and his mind was troubled. Pharaoh then sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt but no one could interpret them for him.
When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up. Genesis 41:1-4
In Pharaoh’s dream, first seven sleek and fat cows emerged from the Nile and then seven ugly and gaunt cows emerged from the Nile. In Egypt, cattle often submerged themselves up to their necks in the Nile River in order to escape insects and the heat of the sun.
He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted—thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.
In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him. Genesis 41:5-8
After the seven healthy heads of grain grew on a single stalk, seven thin heads of grain sprouted which were scorched by the east wind. The Khamsin, from the Arabic word for “fifty,” are dry, sand-filled windstorms which often blow in from the desert sporadically over a period of fifty days. These sand storms usually arrive in April but occasionally occur between March to May and often wither vegetation. The The Biblical term for khamsin is ruah qadim or “east wind.”
Eleven years had passed since Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and then put in prison when Joseph interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer. Joseph had asked the cupbearer to remember him and mention him to Pharaoh so that he could be released. But Joseph would had his faith and patience tested even further as he languished in prison for two more years.
Although Pharaoh was an idolater and believed that he was the incarnation of the sun god RA, the LORD gave him two dreams. Pharaoh was troubled by his dreams but there wasn’t a wise man or magician in all of Egypt who could interpret them for him.
Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.” Genesis 41:9-13
Had the chief cupbearer not forgotten Joseph when he was restored to his position, Joseph would have been released from prison and most probably returned to Canaan. But the LORD had a much greater plan for Joseph than just his personal freedom.
So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh. Genesis 41:14
Isn’t it curious that the Bible records that Joseph shaved and changed his clothes, instead of Joseph bathed and changed his clothes? As a prisoner, Joseph would not have had access to a razor or knife and would have had a full beard. Hebrew men traditionally wore beards. The Hebrew word for beard is !qz (zaqan). It comes from the root word !qz (zaqen) meaning to become old. For a Hebrew a beard is a sign of age and maturity. Elders in the Hebrew community were revered for their experience and wisdom.
During the Dynastic Period in Egypt, hair became seen as a symbol of man’s animalistic tendencies. Thus to put off the primal man and become civilized, Egyptian men began removing all the hair from their heads, faces, and even bodies. Wealthy Egyptian men often hired full-time barbers to live with them in order to maintain their smooth look every day. Less affluent Egyptians would frequent the local barber to have their faces and heads shaved daily. To appear unshaven became a mark of low social status.
According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Egyptian priests in 6th century BC would shave their entire bodies every other day as part of a ritual cleansing. They even plucked out all of their eyebrows and even their eyelashes. Hair removal was so important to Ancient Egyptians that kings would have their barbers shave them with sanctified, jewel-encrusted razors. When a king died, he was often buried with a barber and his trusty razor, so he could continue to get his daily shaves in the afterlife.
Either in respect to the Pharaoh or because of having dwelled in Egypt over a decade, Joseph followed the Egyptian cultic custom of shaving.
Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”
“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” Genesis 41:15-16
Righteous Joseph understood that it is the one true God who both gives and can interpret dreams.
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows came up—scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.
“In my dream I saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads sprouted—withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none of them could explain it to me.” Genesis 41:17-24
The Pharaoh experienced two dreams on the same night. In Scripture when something is said or revealed twice, it often denotes importance, bears witness and confirms a matter.
Often when Jesus spoke, He would get the crowd’s attention by saying, “Verily, verily” or as found in the more modern translations, “Truly, truly.”
One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. Deuteronomy 19:15
But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' Matthew 18:16
Joseph had two prophetic dreams that bore witness and confirmed that he would rule over his family. These dreams obviously got his brothers’ attention, because they were so provoked by jealousy that they wanted to kill him.
While Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker were being held in prison they each had a dream the same night. Though the two dreams foretold different outcomes for these men, the fact that there were two dreams experienced on the same night bore witness that these two dreams were significant and would surely come to pass.
Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.
“It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon. Genesis 41:25-32
As Joseph explained, the good cows and heads of grain represented an abundance of herds and produce for seven years throughout the land of Egypt. While the lean cows and worthless heads of grain foretold of seven years of a severe famine that would follow the good years. The dream was given in two forms to establish and bear witness that the prophecy would definitely come to pass and reveal the importance and urgency of the warning.
“And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.” Genesis 41:33-36
During the years of plenty, the abundance of produce would be much greater than normal crops. Therefore during those seven good years, Joseph advises Pharaoh to store up a fifth of the grain harvest to be used during the years of famine that will follow.
The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” Genesis 41:37-38
Pharaoh had asked a rhetorical question and didn’t expect anyone in his court to reply. Besides, who would dare challenge the ruler of Egypt who could put them to death?
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” Genesis 41:39-40
As a slave in Potiphar’s house, his master had put Joseph in charge of his household. Potiphar knew that LORD was with him had entrusted to Joseph’s care everything he owned.
While Joseph was in prison, the LORD was with him. The LORD showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. The warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
Pharaoh recognized that the spirit of God resided in Joseph. He not only put Joseph in charge of his palace but made him the second highest official in all of Egypt.
So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.
Pharaoh elevated Joseph to the position of viceroy of Egypt. He also dressed Joseph with the fine garb of a dignitary. All who saw Joseph dressed in robes of fine linen and wearing a gold chain around his neck would recognize that he had a position of authority. Pharaoh’s ring was not only a token of high office, but as a signet ring it may have had Pharaoh’s seal by which Joseph could seal official documents. Pharaoh made a public proclamation to his subjects that Joseph was now officially second-in-command and introduced Joseph to them by having Joseph ride in a royal chariot.
and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come… Ephesians 1:19-21
Jacob was deceived by his other sons into believing that Joseph was mauled by a wild animal and had died. Joseph, who was sold into slavery and later falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned, has now been raised up, arrayed in glorious clothing and has been appointed to the right hand of the Pharaoh. Joseph’s experiences typify and foreshadow that of the suffering servant Messiah. Jesus was rejected by His own kinsman, falsely accused, unjustly punished but raised from the dead to be adorned in clouds of glory, seated at the right hand of God and given rule and authority over all of creation.
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.” Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt. Genesis 41:44-45
Joseph assumes the Egyptian name given to him by Pharaoh so that he would better fit in Pharaoh’s court and be better accepted by the Egyptian people. Joseph, who is clean shaven, dressed in Egyptian finery, having an Egyptian name and an Egyptian wife would certainly appear to be a native Egyptian to those who didn’t know that he was actually a Hebrew.
The meaning of Zaphenath-Paneah remains unclear and the certainty of its meaning has eluded scholars since the time of the Septuagint and rabbinic tradition. For example, some early exegetes think the name means, “revealer of secrets.” Some suggest that the name is a Hebrew transcription of an Egyptian name meaning “the god speaks and he lives.” Another possible rendering of the name is, “My provision is god, the living one.”
Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt. During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure. Genesis 41:46-49
In these preceding verses, we again see Joseph as a type of Yeshua.
Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli, Luke 3:23
“Do you not say, ‘Four more months and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35
Born-again believers in Christ are symbolized in Scripture as fruit of the wheat harvest, while those who reject Christ are referred to as chaff or weeds (Matthew 3:12; 13:24–30). Wheat is harvested and taken into a barn (believers gathered to Heaven) while chaff and weeds are tossed in a fire (eternal damnation for unbelievers).
Joseph was thirty when he entered into Pharaoh’s service. Jesus was about thirty when he began his ministry. One of the primary grains produced in Egypt was wheat. Joseph gathered up natural wheat after the harvest in storehouses, while Jesus will return to harvest spiritual wheat (the body of Christ) at the rapture.
Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” Genesis 41:50-52
Joseph recognized that the LORD not only sustained him during his thirteen years of slavery and imprisonment, but declared that God had made him forget his trouble and his father’s household. God made him fruitful in the land of his suffering. Joseph was not only made wealthy but was blessed by the fruit of his wife’s womb.
The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.” Genesis 41:53-55
When the last year of abundant crops came to an end, the Egyptian farmers had a surplus of grain. But that surplus eventually ran out and they began to feel the famine.
When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere. Genesis 41:56-57
Potiphar has prospered because the LORD was with Joseph and Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his household. In much the same manner Pharaoh prospered by putting Joseph in charge of his kingdom.. During the bountiful years, the abundance of the harvest kept grain prices at a minimum. Joseph was able to buy the grain he stored for very low prices. But during the famine, grain prices soared. When people are starving, they are desperate. The grain was not only sold to foreigners but even to Pharaoh’s own subjects. The king of Egypt became vastly wealthy because the LORD was with Joseph. During the Exodus, the Hebrews would plunder the land of Egypt.
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous. Proverbs 13: 22.