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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 41

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

Verses 1-13

God Rules In the Kingdoms of Men

For two years, the butler forgot Joseph. Sold and abandoned by family. Imprisoned by a woman's lie after doing the right thing. Hope, which seemed so bright with the promise of the butler, shattered by days, weeks, months and even years of forgetfulness. Seemingly, forgotten by God. Had we been in that prison cell, discouragement might have reigned supreme.

However, God was using the forgetfulness of the butler. If the butler had remembered Joseph right after his own release from prison, Joseph might have left the land of Egypt. How would God have preserved Abraham's seed then? Men do not always appreciate the fact that God causes everything to happen in its season ( Eph_1:10 ; Eph_3:8-12 ). He really does work in the kingdoms of men, as this story will plainly show ( Daniel 4:25; 34-37 ).

Pharaoh's Dream Awakened the Butler

Two years after Joseph told the butler the meaning of his dream, Pharaoh had a dream. He saw seven fat cows come up out of the Nile River. Then, seven lean cows came up and stood beside them. The lean ate the fat, but grew no fatter. Pharaoh awoke. When he slept again, he dreamed about seven full heads of grain growing on one stalk. Then, seven withered heads sprang up. The withered heads ate the full heads, but grew no fuller.

The next morning, Pharaoh was troubled by what he had seen in his dreams. He called for the magicians and wise men of Egypt. He asked them to interpret his dreams, but none could. It was then that the butler remembered Joseph in prison. He briefly related the events of two years before. He told Pharaoh of the young Hebrew who had correctly interpreted his and the baker's dreams ( Gen_41:1-13 ).

Verses 14-36

Pharaoh Called For Joseph

Naturally, Pharaoh sent for the Hebrew who had interpreted the dreams of his servants in prison. Joseph cleaned up, shaved the hair of his head and put on fresh clothing and approached the ruler of Egypt. Joseph's answer when Pharaoh said he had heard Joseph could interpret dreams is most interesting. Just as he had told the butler and baker, "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace."

Pharaoh related the dreams to Joseph. God's messenger then began to explain that God had revealed coming events to Egypt's ruler. Actually, Joseph explained, the two dreams had one message. Seven years of plenty were to be followed by seven years of famine which would make everyone forget the plenty. "And the dream was repeated to Pharaoh twice because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass."

Joseph went on to suggest Pharaoh set a man over the land. This man would in turn select other officers to collect a tax of twenty percent during the time of plenty. Grain thus stored up would serve as a reserve during the years of severe famine to follow ( Gen_41:14-36 ).

Verses 37-46

Pharaoh Appoints Joseph

There was obvious wisdom seen in the interpretation and suggestions offered by Joseph. Pharaoh realized such wisdom could only come from God who was clearly with this Hebrew. So, he appointed him grand vizier, or prime minister, which made him the most powerful man in Egypt outside of Pharaoh himself. The king gave Joseph his signet ring which would give him authority to issue royal edicts. He also gave him fine clothing and placed a gold chain around his neck. He directed that Joseph was to be driven in the second chariot, which normally followed Pharaoh's in procession, and sent men before him commanding the people to bow their knees.

Joseph was, in the truest sense, made ruler in Egypt since no one was to lift hand or foot without his direction. The king gave Joseph an Egyptian name, Zaphnath-Paaneah. It meant, "sustainer of life." God, through his providence both miraculous and non-miraculous, had caused Joseph to be in a position to sustain the lives of the Egyptian people and, more especially, the Israelites. In addition to his new name, Joseph was given a wife. Her name was Asenath. She was the daughter of the priest of the sun god, which meant she was from the most important caste in the land. It had been thirteen years since Joseph's brothers had sold him into slavery, as Joseph was now thirty years old ( Gen_41:37-46 ).

Verses 47-57

When Joseph Ruled In Egypt

Joseph immediately caused storehouses to be built in the cities. A twenty percent tax was collected from the abundant harvest. The grain collected was so bountiful, they ceased to number the amount. During that time, Joseph's first son was born. He named him Manasseh, which means, "causing to forget." God had helped Joseph forget the years of painful service and the hurt inflicted on him by his brothers. A second son was named Ephraim, meaning, "double fruitfulness." Joseph said God had caused him to be fruitful in the land of his affliction.

At the end of seven years of plenty, the famine came just as God, through Joseph, had said it would. The famine encompassed all the surrounding lands as well, but only Egypt had bread. This was because Egypt was the only nation with grain. Pharaoh directed the complaining people to go to Joseph. Joseph then began to sell them the grain they had been storing up. When other people in other lands heard it, they naturally came to Egypt to buy from Joseph ( Gen_41:47-57 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Genesis 41". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/genesis-41.html. 2014.
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