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Bible Commentaries

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Genesis 41

Verses 1-4

Pharaoh’s Dream - In this ancient world of agriculture and husbandry, cows would often wander into the Nile River in order to cool off from the heat and to ward off flies. Thus, the idea of cows coming up out of the river was a common sight. I have been on the Nile River as a missionary in Uganda and seen elephants cooling off and playing in this river.

Genesis 41:6 Comments - Keil-Delitzsch note that the east wind would be the scorching wind that comes off of the Arabian desert to the east of Egypt. [249]

[249] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Pentateuch, vol. 1, in Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, trans. James Martin, in P.C. Study Bible, v. 3.1 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc., 1993-2000), comments on Genesis 41:1-6.

Verses 1-32

Pharaoh’s Dream The story of Pharaoh’s dream and the interpretation by Joseph is found in Genesis 41:1-32. In this dream the Lord revealed to Pharaoh future events. We find a similar story in the book of Daniel when the Lord revealed to King Nebuchadnezzar by a dream the future periods of the Gentile nations.

Verses 1-57

The Genealogy of Jacob The genealogies of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have a common structure in that they open with God speaking to a patriarch and giving him a commission and a promise in which to believe. In each of these genealogies, the patriarch’s calling is to believe God’s promise, while this passage of Scripture serves as a witness to God’s faithfulness in fulfilling each promise. Only then does the genealogy come to a close.

Genesis 37:1 to Genesis 50:26 gives the account of the genealogy of Jacob, Isaac’s son. Hebrews 11:21-22 reveals the central message in this genealogy that stirs our faith in God when Jacob and Joseph gave redemptive prophecies, saying, “By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.” As Abraham’s genealogy begins with a divine commission when God told him to leave Ur and to go Canaan (Genesis 12:1), and Isaac’s genealogy begin with a divine commission predicting him as the father of two nations (Genesis 25:23), so does Jacob’s genealogy begin with a divine encounter in the form of his son Joseph’s two dreams. These dreams make it clear that Jacob’s divine commission was to bring his clan of seventy souls into Egypt through Joseph for four hundred years while the people multiply into the nation of Israel. This genealogy closes with the fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, which means “prince of God,” because his destiny was to father a multitude of godly seed. He fathered the twelve sons, or “princes,” who multiplied into the twelve tribes of Israel. His ability to father twelve righteous seeds earned him his name as a prince of God, as a man who ruled over a multitude of godly seed. The Scriptures testify to Jacob’s faith in God’s promise that Joseph would rule over his brethren by the fact that he followed his son into Egypt (Genesis 49:22-26), and he blessed the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh (Hebrews 11:21-22). The fact that Jacob died in a ripe old age testifies that he fulfilled his destiny as did his fathers, Abraham and Isaac.

The Story of Joseph The last story in the origin of the nation of Israel that is recorded in the book of Genesis is the story of Joseph. Perhaps there is no other Old Testament story so moving as when he reveals himself to his brothers. There are many truths that are taught to us in this great Bible story. We learn that if we will serve the Lord amidst persecutions, God will always bring someone into our lives to bless us. Joseph had the favour and blessings of his father as a young man in the midst of his brothers’ persecutions. He then had the blessings of Potipher as a young man in Egypt. He found the favour of Pharaoh as an adult.

God gave Jeremiah some friends who stood by him and blessed him during the most difficult times in his ministry. God gave Daniel three friends in his Babylonian captivity. God gave to Paul men like Timothy and Luke to stand by him during times of persecution and even imprisonment. But for Joseph, he often stood alone, totally trusting in God.

The Chronology of the Life of Joseph - Jacob was one hundred thirty (130) years old when he went to Egypt.

Genesis 47:9, “And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.”

Jacob died at the age of 147.

Genesis 47:28, “And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years.”

Joseph became ruler in Egypt at the age of 30.

Genesis 41:46, “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 had two sons by the age of 37.

Genesis 41:50, “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.”

Joseph was 39 when his family comes to Egypt.

Genesis 45:11, “And there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty.”

Therefore, Jacob was 91 when Joseph was born.

Also, Joseph died at the age of 110 (Genesis 50:22; Genesis 50:26)

Genesis 50:22, “And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father's house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years.”

Genesis 50:26, “So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.”

Joseph as a Type and Figure of Christ Jesus In many ways we can see Joseph as a type and figure of the Lord Jesus Christ. Note some comparisons:

1. Joseph was Jacob’s beloved son, just as Jesus was the Heavenly Father’s beloved son.

Matthew 3:17, “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

2. Joseph was given a coat of many colours, which was similar to the seamless robe worn by Jesus Christ, of which the Roman soldiers cast lots (John 19:23-24).

John 19:23-24, “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.”

3. Joseph took bread to his brothers, just like Jesus was sent as the bread of life to His people.

Matthew 15:24-26, “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.”

4. Joseph was rejected by his brothers like Jesus was rejected by His people, the Jews.

5. Joseph was thrown in the pit in Genesis 37:24. This is like Jesus’ death on the cross (Psalms 16:10)

Genesis 37:24, “And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.”

Psalms 16:10, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”

6. When Joseph was betrayed by his brethren and sold as a servant. Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot for thirty pieces of sliver.

7. Joseph became a servant in the house of Potiphar, just like Jesus Christ took form of a servant (Philippians 2:7) and (Psalms 105:17).

Genesis 37:36, “And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard.”

Genesis 39:1, “And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.”

Psalms 105:17, “He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:”

Philippians 2:7, “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:”

8. Joseph was sent to Egypt to deliver the house of Jacob (Israel) (Genesis 45:7-8) like Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel to deliver them.

Genesis 45:7-8, “And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.”

Matthew 15:24, “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

9. Joseph was lifted up by Potiphar, then brought down into prison, then raised up by Pharaoh at his right hand. This is like Jesus being brought down to the grave, and then being raised to the right hand of the Father.

10. Joseph was exalted as ruler under Pharaoh, like Christians at the right hand of the Father in heaven today.

11. Some scholars suggest that Joseph’s marriage to the Egyptian is a type of Christ’s marriage to the church (especially to the Gentile church). He had two sons, which symbolizes the salvation of the Gentiles as well as the Jews.

12. Joseph’s brothers bowed down to Joseph during the famine (Genesis 42:6) like Israel will bow down to Jesus one day (Romans 11:26). Israel shall be saved through the Deliverer.

Genesis 42:6, “And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.”

Romans 11:26, “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:”

13. Joseph revealed himself to his brothers on their third trip to Egypt. The ten brothers finally coming to Joseph and recognising him and receiving an inheritance is like Israel turning to and recognising Jesus and all being saved.

Romans 11:26, “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:”

Jesus will reveal Himself to the Jews after the Church is raptured at His Second Return, thus, a third return.

14. All nations came and bowed down to Joseph, as all nations will someday come and bow down at the throne of the Lord Jesus.

15. Joseph was ruler over Egypt and the whole world, just as Jesus will reign in Zion as king of kings over the earth.

Verses 8-14

Joseph is Summoned from Prison In Genesis 41:8-14 we have the story of Joseph being summoned out of prison and into Pharaoh’s court.

Verses 15-24

Pharaoh Describes His Dream to Joseph In Genesis 41:15-24 we have the account of Pharaoh describing his dream to Joseph.

Verses 25-36

Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dream In Genesis 41:25-36 we have the account of Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dream. Note that the gifts of the Spirit, that is, the gifts of revelation, are operate in Joseph’s life in order to give this interpretation (see 1 Corinthians 12:1-11). Joseph operated in the gift of prophecy as he interpreted the dream. Then he operated in the gift of wisdom to explain what needed to be done as a result of the interpretation. Daniel operated in these same gifts in interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. In addition, Daniel also operated in the gift of a word of knowledge by recalling the details of the dream.

The Ancient Symbol of the Cow - Keil-Delitzsch note that in the interpretation of Joseph, the symbol of the Egyptian goddess Isis was the cow. Isis was the goddess of the earth, which sustained life. In Egyptian hieroglyphics, the symbol of the cow “represented the earth, agriculture, and food; and the Nile, by its overflowing, was the source of the fertility of the land.” [250]

[250] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Pentateuch, vol. 1, in Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, trans. James Martin, in P.C. Study Bible, v. 3.1 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc., 1993-2000), comments on Genesis 41:1-36.

Genesis 41:30 Comments - A seven year famine was also revealed to Elisha in 2 Kings 8:1. The ancient world understood the number seven as a sacred number; therefore, seven years of famine were a divine act of judgment.

2 Kings 8:1, “Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the LORD hath called for a famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years.”

Genesis 41:32 Comments - A matter is confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses. When I was called to Africa, as a missionary, I received four similar dreams within a few weeks time, which were given to me to confirm this calling to the mission field. Note:

2 Corinthians 13:1, “This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”

Verses 37-45

Pharaoh Rewards Joseph Genesis 41:37-45 gives us the account of Pharaoh rewarding Joseph for his interpretation of the dream and his wisdom in counselling the king. Thomas Constable tells us that it was not unknown for Pharaohs in Egypt to set unlikely individuals over governmental positions. [251] He quotes Henri Frankfort as saying:

[251] Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Genesis (Garland, Texas: Sonic Light, 2000) [on-line]; accessed 28 December 2008; available from http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes.htm; Internet, 226.

“At any time the king would and did appoint outsiders. In fact, the noteworthy careers, as preserved for us in tomb inscriptions, broke through all departmental limitations. Men of humble origin could rise to the top once their gifts were recognized; and we find that they were called to a succession of posts which would seem to us to have required entirely different preparatory training.” [252]

[252] Henri Frankfort, Ancient Egyptian Religion: An Interpretation (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 2000), 35.

Illustration - In the African culture that I live in as a missionary, I see high-ranking members of the Presidential cabinet placed in these posts because an individual fought with the President in a war, or for other various reasons, while educational training for these particular posts was not a requirement. Promotions seems to be based more on relationships than on education and skills in such cultures.

Genesis 41:40 Comments - Did Pharaoh not remember Joseph’s former position or did Joseph just not mention this?

Genesis 41:42 Comments - The garments of Joseph will play an important role in the life of this servant. He will remove the garments of a youth and put on a coat of many colors, which symbolizes a prince. When this garment is taken from him by his brothers, he will put on the garments of a slave. Then these garments will be taken from him by Potiphar’s wife and he will put on the garments of a prisoner. Finally, he will be clothed with the garments of the Prime Minister of Egypt. Each time his garments were taken he had to forgive and forget. He did not long for the past, but looked to God to make a way for him in the future. Eventually, he realized that each time it was divine providence that caused his garments to be changed, and he became content wearing the garments and the ministry that God had placed him into.

Genesis 41:45 Word Study on “Zaphnathpaaneah” Gesenius says the name “Zaphnathpaaneah” ( צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ ) (H6847) is of Egyptian origin, and believed to have the meaning, “salvation,” or “savior of the age.” John Gill says the Hebrews interpreted it to mean, “a revealer of secrets” (Jonathan), or “one to whom hidden things are revealed” (Onkelos). He tells us that the ancient Jewish rabbi Aben Ezra was not completely certain of this word’s origin, whether it is Egyptian or Hebrew in origin. He says that some scholars suggest that the first part of this name is a reference to the Egyptian god Baal Zephon, referred to in Exodus 14:2. [253] Adam Clarke suggests that this was an “Egyptian epiteth” that designated Joseph’s office rather than being a proper name of a person. He says that the word was used in a similar way to our compound terms such as “Prime-Minister, Lord Chancellor, High-Treasurer or Chief Justice.” [254]

[253] John Gill, Genesis, in John Gill’s Expositor, in e-Sword, v. 7.7.7 [CD-ROM] (Franklin, Tennessee: e-Sword, 2000-2005), comments on Genesis 41:45.

[254] Adam Clarke, Genesis, in Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 1996), comments on Genesis 41:45

Exodus 14:2, “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon : before it shall ye encamp by the sea.”

Genesis 41:45 “he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On” Comments - Joseph is a type and figure of the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as Joseph was rejected by his brethren and took as his bride a Gentile, so did Christ Jesus receive the Gentiles as His bride when He was rejected and crucified by His people.

Verses 46-57

Joseph Ministers to the Egyptians During the Famine In Genesis 41:46-57 we have the account of Joseph serving in his office as he faithfully ministered to the Egyptians.

Genesis 41:51 Word Study on “Manasseh” - This name ( מְנַשֶּׁה ) (H4519) means, “causing to forget.”

Illustration - When Menchu and I had our first child, it helped her to forget the sorrow that she had constantly dealt with from not having seen her family for several years.

Genesis 41:51 Word Study on “toil” Strong says the Hebrew word “toil” ( עָמָל ) (H5999) means, “toil, weary effort,” thus, “ worry, whether of body or mind.” It is translated as “grievance (-vousness), iniquity, labour, mischief, miserable (-sery), pain (-ful), perverseness, sorrow, toil, travail, trouble, wearisome, wickedness.” This word is used in Job 5:7. The verb form is used in Psalms 127:1.

Job 5:7, “Yet man is born unto trouble , as the sparks fly upward.”

Psalms 127:1, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”

Comments - Joseph had felt all of these emotions in his life, yet never forsook his hope in the Lord.

Genesis 41:52 Word Study on “Ephraim” Strong says the Hebrew name “Ephraim” ( אֶפְרַיִם ) (H669) means, “double fruit.”

Genesis 41:54 Comments - Genesis 41:45 tells us that this famine was called by God to fulfil God's purpose and plan for the people of Israel. This plan was for the nation of Israel to inherit the promised land of Canaan. Note Psalms 105:16.

Psalms 105:16, “Moreover he called for a famine upon the land: he brake the whole staff of bread.”

Genesis 41:57 Comments - Joseph was sent ahead of his family to prepare the way for the Hebrews to safely settle in Egypt (Psalms 105:17).

Psalms 105:17, “He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:”

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Genesis 41". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/genesis-41.html. 2013.