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And it came to pass at the end of two full years (literally, two years of days, i.e. two complete years from the commencement of Joseph's incarceration, or more probably after the butler's liberation), that Pharaoh—on the import of the term vide Genesis 12:15. Under what particular monarch Joseph came to Egypt is a question of much perplexity, and has been variously resolved by modern Egyptologists in favor of—
1. Osirtasen I; the founder of the twelfth dynasty, a prosperous and successful sore-reign, whose name appears on a granite obelisk at Heliopolis.
2. Assa, or Assis, the fifth king of the fifteenth dynasty of Shepherd kings (Stuart Poole in Smith's 'Bible Dict.,' art. Egypt).
3. Apophis, a Shepherd king of the fifteenth dynasty, whom all the Greek authorities agree in mentioning as the patron of Joseph.
4. Thothmes III; a monarch of the eighteenth dynasty.
5. Rameses III; the king of Memphis, a ruler belonging to the twentieth dynasty. It may assist the student to arrive at a decision with respect to these contending aspirants for the throne of Pharaoh in the time of Joseph to know that Canon Cook, after an elaborate and careful as well as scholarly review of the entire question, regards it as at least "a very probable conjecture'' that the Pharaoh of Joseph was Amenemha III; "who is represented on the lately-discovered table of Abydos as the last great king of all Egypt in the ancient empire (the last of the twelfth dynasty), and as such receiving divine honors from his descendant Rameses"—dreamed. "For the third time are dreams employed as the agencies of Joseph's history: they first foreshadow his illustrious future; they then manifest that the Spirit of God had not abandoned him even in the abject condition of a slave and a prisoner; and lastly they are made the immediate forerunners of his greatness" (Kalisch.). And, behold, he stood by the river—i.e. upon the banks of the Nile, the term יֵאֹר (an Egyptian word signifying great river or canal, in the Memphitic dialect yaro, in the Sahidic yero) being used almost exclusively in Scripture for the Nile. This was the common name for the Nile among the Egyptians, the sacred being Hapi.
And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well-favored kine and fat-fleshed. According to Plutarch and Clement of Alexandria, the heifer was regarded by the ancient Egyptians as a symbol of the earth, agriculture, and the nourishment derived therefrom. It was therefore natural that the succession of seven prosperous years should be represented by seven thriving cows. That they appeared ascending from the river is explained by the circumstance that the Nile by its annual inundations is the cause of Egypt's fertility (cf. Havernick, 'Introd.,' 21). A hymn to the Nile, composed by Euna (according to the generality of Egyptologers a contemporary of Moses), and translated from a papyrus in the British Museum by Canon Cook (who ascribes to it an earlier date than the nineteenth dynasty), describes the Nile as "overflowing the gardens created by Ra giving life to all animals … watering the land without ceasing … Lover of food, bestower of corn … Bringer of food! Great Lord of provisions! Creator of all good things!"; And they fed in a meadow—בָּאָחוּ, ἐν τῷ Ἄχει, (LXX.), literally, in the Nile or reed grass. The word Ge appears to be an Egyptian term descriptive of any herbage growing in a stream. It occurs only here and in Genesis 41:18, and Job 8:11.
And, behold, seven other kind came up after them out of the river, ill. favored and lean-fleshed. The second seven cows, "evil to look upon," i.e. bad in appearance, and "thin (beaten small, dakoth, from dakak, to crush or beat small) of flesh," also proceeded from the river, since a failure in the periodical overflow of the Nile was the usual cause of scarcity and famine in Egypt. And stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river. The use of the term lip, שָׂפָה, for brink, common enough in Hebrew (Genesis 22:17; Exodus 14:30; 1 Kings 5:9), occurs also in a papyrus of the nineteenth dynasty, "I sat down by the lip of the river," which appears to suggest the impression that the verse in the text was written by one who was equally familiar with both languages.
And the ill-favored and lean fleshed kine did eat up the seven we favored and fat kine—without there being any effect to show that they had eaten them (Genesis 41:21). So (literally, and) Pharaoh awoke.
And he slept and dreamed the second time (that same night): and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank (i.e. fat) and good. This clearly pointed to the corn of the Nile valley, the triticum compositum, which Bears seven ears upon one stalk. The assertion of Herodotus, that the Egyptians counted it a disgrace to live on wheat and barley (2.36), Wilkinson regards as incorrect, since "both wheat and barley are noticed in Lower Egypt long before Herodotus' time (Exodus 9:31, Exodus 9:32), and the paintings of the Thebaid prove that they were grown extensively in that part of the country; they were among the offerings in the temples; and the king, at his coronation, cutting some ears of wheat, afterwards offered to the gods as the staple production of Egypt, shows how great a value was set on a grain which Herodotus would lead us to suppose was held in abhorrence".
And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them—literally, burnt up of the east, קָדִים being put poetically for the fuller רוּחַ קָדִים. It has been urged that this displays a gross ignorance of the nature, of the climate in Egypt (Bohlen), since a wind directly east is rare in Egypt, and when it does occur is not injurious to vegetation; but, on the other hand, it is open to reply
(1) that direct east winds may be rare in Egypt, but so are dearth and famine such as that described in the narrative equally exceptional (Kalisch);
(2) that the Hebrews having only names to describe the four principal winds, the kadirn might comprise any wind blowing from an easterly direction (Hengstenberg); and
(3) that the south-east wind, "blowing in the months of March and April, is one of the most injurious winds, and of longest continuance" (Havernick). Hengstenberg quotes Ukert as saying, "As long as the south-east wind continues, doors and windows are closed; but the fine dust penetrates everywhere; everything dries up; wooden vessels warp and crack. The thermometer rises suddenly from 16° 20°, up to 30° 36°, and even 38°, Reaumur. This wind works destruction upon everything. The grass withers so that it entirely perishes if this wind blows long".
And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank (i.e. fat) and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream—manifestly of the same import as that which had preceded. The dream was doubled because of its certainty and nearness (Genesis 41:32).
And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; or, rather, his mind was agitated, ἐταράχθη ἡ χυχὴ αὐτοῦ (LXX.), pavore perterritus (Vulgate), the ruach being the seat of the senses, affections, and emotions of various kinds (cf. Daniel 2:1; Daniel 4:5, Daniel 4:19)—and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt,—the חַרְטֻמִּים, from חָרַט (unused), to engrave, whence חֶרֶט, a stylus (Gesenius), or from חוּר, to see or explain, and טוּם, to conceal, i.e. he who explains hidden or mysterious things (Kalisch), were sacred scribes, ἱερογραμματεῖς, belonging to the priestly caste, who were skilled in making and deciphering the hieroglyphics. Besides figuring in the Court of Pharaoh (Exodus 7:11, Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:3; Exodus 14:15) in the time of Moses, they recur again at a later period in that of the Babylonian monarch Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:20; Daniel 2:2)—and all the wise men thereof. The חֲכָמִים, from חָכַם, the primary idea of which is that of judging (Gesenius), were persons capable of judging, hence persons endowed with pre-eminent abilities for the prosecution of the ordinary business of life, the cultivation of the arts and sciences, the practice of divination, the interpreting of dreams, and other kindred occupations. They were the sages of the nation. And Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh. The magicians of Egypt were not so conceited as their Brethren in Babylon afterwards showed themselves to be, Daniel 2:4 (Lawson). That they could not explain the dream, though couched in the symbolical language of the time, was no doubt surprising; but "the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians 2:11), and they to whom the Spirit doth reveal them (1 Corinthians 2:10).
Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day:—literally, my faults (sc. am) remembering today; but whether he understood by his faults his ingratitude to Joseph or his offense against Pharaoh commentators are not agreed, though the latter seems the more probable—Pharaoh was wroth with his servants,—literally, broke out against them (vide Genesis 40:2)—and put me in ward in the captain of the guard's house,—literally, put me in custody of the house of the captain of the slaughterers (cf. Genesis 40:3)—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 (vide Genesis 40:5). And there was there with us a young man, a Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard (vide Genesis 37:36); and we told him (so. our dreams), and he interpreted to us our dreams (vide Genesis 40:12, Genesis 40:13, Genesis 40:18, Genesis 40:19); 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 (not Pharaoh, but Joseph) restored unto mine office, and him he hanged (vide Genesis 40:21, Genesis 40:22).
Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily (literally, caused him to run) out of the dungeon (vide Genesis 40:15): and he shaved himself,—this was exactly in accordance with Egyptian custom (Herod. 2.36). Wilkinson states that "the custom of shaving the head as well as beard was not confined to the priests in Egypt, but was general among all classes". That the verb is not more exactly defined by a terra Cellowing, such as the head (Numbers 6:9), the beard (2 Samuel 10:4), but stands alone (the only instance of its intransitive use), appears to suggest that the writer was familiar with the practice of shaving (vide Havernick, 'Introd.,'§ 21)—and changed his raiment,—as required by the customs of Egypt—and came (or went) in unto Pharaoh.
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it (literally, and interpreting it there is no one): and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it—literally, I have heard of thee, saying, thou hearest a dream to interpret it.
And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me (literally, not I): God—Elohim (of. Genesis 40:8)—shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace—literally, shall answer the peace of Pharaoh, i.e. what shall be for the welfare of Pharaoh. The rendering Ἄνευ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἀποκριθησεται τὸ σωτήριον Φαραιό (LXX.), though giving the sense, fails in accuracy of translation.
Pharaoh then relates his dreams in substantially the same terms as those in which they have already been recited, only adding concerning the lean kine that they were (Genesis 41:19) such as I never saw (literally, I never saw such as these) in all the land of Egypt for badness: and that (Genesis 41:21) when they had eaten them (i.e. the good kine) up, it could not be known they had eaten them;—literally, and they (i.e. the good kine) went into the interior parts, i.e. the stomach (of the bad kine), and it was not known that they had gone into the interior parts—but they (the bad kine) were still ill-favored, as at the beginning—literally, and their appearance was bad as in the beginning, i.e. previously; and concerning the thin and blasted ears, that they were also (Genesis 41:23) withered—צְנֻמוֹת, from צָנַם, to be hard, meaning either barren (Gesenius), dry (Furst), or sapless (Kalisch)—a word which the LXX. and the Vulgate both omit. Onkelos explains by כרת, flowering, but not fruiting; and Dathius renders by jejunae. After which he (i.e. Pharaoh) informs Joseph that the professional interpreters attached to the Court (the chartummim, or masters of the occult sciences) could give him no idea of its meaning.
And Joseph said unto Pharaoh (the inability of the magicians to read the dream of Pharaoh was the best proof that Joseph spoke from inspiration), The dream of Pharaoh is one (i.e. the two dreams have the same significance): God hath showed Pharaoh what he is about to do (literally, what the Elohim is doing, i.e. is about to do, he causeth to be seen by Pharaoh).
Proceeding with the interpretation of the dream, Joseph explains to Pharaoh that the seven good kine and the seven full ears point to a succession of seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt which were already coming (Genesis 41:29), after which there should arise seven years of famine, in which all the plenty should be forgotten in the land, and the famine should consume, or make an end of, the land (Genesis 41:30), and the plenty should not be known in the land by reason of (literally, from the face of, used of the efficient cause of anything, hence on account of) that famine following—literally, the famine, that one, after (things have happened) so; adding (Genesis 41:32), And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice (literally, and as for the doubling of the dream to Pharaoh twice); it is because the thing is established by God,—literally, the word(or thing spoken of) is firmly fixed, i.e. certainly decreed, by the Elohim—and God will shortly bring it to pass—literally, and hastening (is) the Elohim to do it.
Now therefore (adds Joseph, passing on to suggest measures suitable to meet the extraordinary emergency predicted) let Pharaoh look out a man discreet (נָבוֹן, niph. part. of בִּין, intelligent, discerning), and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers (literally, let him set overseers, פְקִדִים, from פָּקַד, to look after, in hiph. to cause to look after) over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt—literally, let him fifth the land, i.e. levy. a tax upon its produce to that extent (LXX; Vulgate), which was double the annual impost exacted from Egyptian farmers, but which the unprecedented fertility of the soil enabled them to bear without complaint, if, indeed, adequate compensation was not given for the second tenth (Rosenmüller)—in the Seven plenteous years. Diodorus mentions the payment of a fifth in productive years as a primitive custom. And let them (the officers) gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and lot them keep feed in the cities (or, food in the cities, and let them keep it). And that food shall be for store (literally, something deposited) 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—literally; and the land (i.e. the people of the land) shall not be cut off in, or by, the famine.
Genesis 41:37, Genesis 41:38
And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants. The advice tendered recommended itself to the-king and his ministers. And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? The Ruach Elohim, as understood by Pharaoh, meant the sagacity and intelligence of a deity (cf. Numbers 27:18; Job 32:8; Proverbs 2:6; Daniel 4:8, Daniel 4:18; Daniel 5:11, Daniel 5:14; Daniel 6:3).
Genesis 41:39, Genesis 41:40
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as (literally, after) God (Elohim) hath showed thee (literally, hath caused thee to know) 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—literally, according to thy mouth shall all my people dispose themselves, i.e. they shall render obedience to thy commands (LXX; Vulgate, Onkelos, Saadias, Pererius, Dathius, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Lange, Murphy, and others); though by many competent authorities (Calvin, Schultens, Knobel, Ainsworth, Gesenius, Furst, Wordsworth, et alii) the rendering is preferred, "upon thy mouth shall all my people kiss," against which, however, is the fact that not even then were governors accustomed to be kissed on the lips by their subjects in token of allegiance. The suggestion that the verb should be taken in the sense of "arm themselves," as in 2 Chronicles 17:17 (Aben Ezra), does not meet with general acceptance. Only in the throne (or, more accurately, only as to the throne) will I be greater than thou.
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph. See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. This was the royal edict constituting Joseph grand vizier or prime minister of the empire: the formal installation in office followed. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand,—the use of a signet-ring by the monarch, which Bohlen admits to be in accordance with the accounts of classic authors, has recently received a remarkable illustration by the discovery at Koujunjik, the site of the ancient Nineveh, of a seal impressed from the bezel of a metallic finger-ring, two inches long by one wide, and bearing the image, name, and titles of the Egyptian king Sabaco—and put it upon Joseph's hand (thus investing him with regal authority), and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen,—שֵׁשׁ, βυσσίνη (LXX), byssus, so called from its whiteness (probably a Hebrew imitation of an Egyptian word), was the fine linen of Egypt, the material of which the peculiar dress of the priestly caste was constructed: "vestes ex gossypio sacerdotibus AEgypti gratissimae" (Pliny, 'Nat. Hist.,' Genesis 19:1). Herodotus (2:81) agrees with Pliny in affirming the priestly costume to have been of linen, and not of wool—and put a—literally, the, the article showing that it was so done in accordance with a common custom—gold chain about his neck (cf. Daniel 5:7, Daniel 5:29). This was usually worn by persons of distinction, and appears in the monuments as a royal ornament; in the Benihassan sepulchral representations, a slave being exhibited as bearing one of them, with the inscription written over it, "Necklace of Gold". And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had;—"which is another genuine Egyptian custom, for on the monuments the king constantly appears in his war-chariot" (Havernick);—and they cried before him, Bow the knee:—אַבְרֵךְ, regarded by most ancient translators as a Hebrew word, an inf. abs. hiph. from בָּרַךְ, meaning bow the knee (Vulgate, Aquila, Origen, Kimchi), is most probably an Egyptian word either altered by the writer (Gesenius) or pointed by the Masorites (Keil) to resemble Hebrew, and signifying "bow the head ' (Gesenius), "bend the knee" (Furst), "Governor or Viceroy" (Kalisch), "rejoice thou" (Canon Cook in 'Speaker's Commentary'), "Pure Prince" (Osburn), "Robed by the king" (Forster)—and he made him ruler—literally, and he set Aim (by the foregoing acts)—over all the land of Egypt.
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. Joseph's authority was to be absolute and universal.
And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnath-paaneah;—an Egyptian word, of which the most accredited interpretations are χονθομφανήχ (LXX); Salvator Mundi (Vulgate); "the Salvation of the World," answering to the Coptic P-sote-m-ph-eneh—P the article, sots salvation, m the sign of the genitive, ph the article, and eneh the world (Furst, Jablonsky, Rosellini, and others); "the Rescuer of the World" (Gesenius); "the Prince of the Life of the World" (Brugsch); "the Food of Life," or "the Food of the Living" (Canon Cook in 'Speaker's Commentary')—and he gave him to wife—cf. the act of Rhampsinitus, who gave his daughter in marriage to the son of an architect on account of his cleverness (Herod; 2.121)—Asenath—another Egyptian term, rendered Ἁσενέθ (LXX.), and explained by Egyptologers to mean, "She who is of Neith, i.e. the Minerva of the Egyptians" (Gesenius, Furst), "the Worshipper of Neith" (Jablousky), "the Favorite of Neith" (Canon Cook in 'Speaker's Commentary'), though by some authorities regarded as Hebrew (Pools in Smith's ' Dictionary,' art. Joseph)—the daughter of Potipherah—Potipherah ("devoted to the sun")—Potiphar (vide Genesis 39:1). The name is very common on Egyptian monuments—priest—or prince (Onkelos.), as in 2 Samuel 8:18, where the word כֹּהֵן, as explained by 1 Chronicles 18:17, means a principal minister of State, though the probability is that Poti-pherah belonged to the priestly caste in Egypt—of On—or Heliopolis, Ἡλιούπολις (LXX.), the name on the monuments being ta-Ra or pa-Ra, house of the sun. "The site of Heliopolis is still marked by the massive walls that surround it, and by a granite obelisk bearing the name of Osirtasen I; of the twelfth dynasty, dating about 3900 years ago". The priests attached to the temple of the sun at Heliopolis enjoyed the reputation of being the most intelligent and cultured historians in Egypt (Herod; 2.3). That a priest's daughter should have married with a foreign shepherd may, have been distasteful to the prejudices of an intolerant priesthood (Bohlen), but in the case of Asenath and Joseph it was recommended by sundry powerful considerations.
1. Though a foreign shepherd, Joseph was a descendant of Abraham, whom a former Pharaoh had recognized and honored as a prince, and ' The Story of Saneha,' a hieratic papyrus belonging to the twelfth dynasty, shows that Eastern foreigners might even become sons-in-law to the most powerful potentates under the ancient empire.
2. Though a foreign shepherd, Joseph was at this time grand vizier of the realm, with absolute control of the lives and fortunes of its people (vide verse 44).
3. Though a foreign shepherd, he was obviously a favorite of Pharaoh, who, besides being monarch of the realm, was the recognized head of the priestly caste, over whom, therefore, he exercised more than a merely external authority.
4. Though a foreign shepherd Joseph had become a naturalized Egyptian, as may be gathered from Genesis 43:32. And,
5. Though a foreign shepherd, he was circumcised, which, if this rite was already observed in Egypt, and did not originate with Joseph, would certainly not prove a bar to the contemplated alliance. As to the probability of Joseph consenting to become son-in-law to a heathen priest, it may suffice to remember that though marriage with idolaters was expressly forbidden by patriarchal commandment (Genesis 24:3; Genesis 28:1), and afterwards by Mosaic statute (Genesis 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3), it was sometimes contracted for what seemed a perfectly adequate reason, viz; the furtherance of the Divine purposes concerning Israel, and apparently too with the Divine sanction (cf. the cases of Moses, Exodus 2:21, and Esther, Genesis 2:16); that Joseph may have deemed the religion of Egypt, especially in its early symbolical forms, as perfectly compatible with a pure monotheistic worship, or, if he judged it idolatrous, he may both have secured for himself complete toleration and have felt himself strong enough to resist its seductions; that Asenath may have adopted her husband's faith, though on this, of course, nothing can be affirmed; and lastly, that the narrator of this history pronounces no judgment on the moral quality of Joseph's conduct in consenting to this alliance, which, though overruled for good, may have been, considered in itself, a sin. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt in the discharge of his vice-regal duties.
Joseph before Pharaoh, or from the prison to the throne.
I. THE DREAMS OF THE MONARCH.
1. His midnight visions. Two full years have expired since the memorable birthday of Pharaoh which sent the baker to ignominious execution, but restored the butler to the favor of his royal master. Slumbering upon his bed, the king of Egypt seems to stand among the tall grass upon the banks of the Nile. First seven well-formed and full-fleshed heifers appear to climb up one after the other among the reeds from the river's edge, where they have probably been drinking, followed by seven lean and haggard animals, walking up in the same mysterious procession, till they stand side by side with their thriving predecessors, when they suddenly fall upon these predecessors and eat them up. Startled by the strangeness of the scene, the royal sleeper wakes only to discover it a dream. Then composing himself a second time to slumber, he finds himself still standing in the Nile valley, but now looking out towards its luxuriant corn-fields. Again a strange phenomenon occurs. Growing from the soil he sees a tall, massive stalk of corn, with seven fat ears depending from its top; but scarcely has this arrested his attention, when he notices another by its side, spare and feeble, with its seven ears parched and empty, as if they had been burnt up by the hot south-east winds blowing up from the sandy wastes of Arabia. To his astonishment, as before, the fat ears are devoured by the thin. Awaking, he a second time discovers that he has been dreaming.
2. His morning agitations. The spirit of the king of Egypt was troubled first because of the dreams, which he obviously regarded as conveying to his royal mind some supernatural communication, which, however, he failed to understand; and secondly because the interpretation of them appeared equally to baffle the penetration of all the wise men and magicians of his empire, whom he had summoned to assist him in deciphering their import.
II. THE INTERJECTION OF THE BUTLER.
1. The recollection of his faults. If this referred to his ingratitude to Joseph (which is scarcely likely), that was a shortcoming which should have been remembered at least two years before, though it was better he should recall it then than never. But it is more than probable the offence spoken of was the crime for which he had been previously imprisoned by Pharaoh, and of which he now confessed himself to be guilty, as without acknowledging the justness of his royal master's anger he could scarcely hope to experience the mildness of his royal master's favor. That he only remembers Joseph when he deems it possible by doing so to gratify his master and serve himself indicates a disposition as hypocritical and time-serving as ungrateful and unfeeling.
2. The recital of his mercies. Narrating the story of his imprisonment, he informs the anxious monarch that he and his late companion, the chief baker, while suffering the righteous penalty of their misdeeds in the round house or State prison, had each dream on one and the self-same night; that a young man, then an inmate of the cells, a Hebrew, and a servant of the provost marshal, to whom they severally related their extraordinary dreams, volunteered to deliver their interpretation; and that the event, in the case of both himself and his companion, had turned out exactly as had been predicted—the chief baker had been hanged, while himself, the chief butler, through the royal clemency of Pharaoh, had been restored to his office.
III. THE APPEARANCE OF THE PRISONER.
1. The opening of the interview. In obedience to a royal summons, Joseph, after shaving and exchanging his prison garb for a costume suited to the high occasion, is hastily presented to the king. Regarding him with mingled feelings of respect and awe, the mighty potentate declares his dilemma,—he has dreamed a dream which has baffled the ingenuity of all the Court magicians,—and explains how he has heard of Joseph's Are skill as an interpreter of dreams, upon which Joseph, disclaiming all ability in himself, and pointing Pharaoh to the true Interpreter of dreams, assures him, speaking in the exercise of prophetic faith, that God would vouchsafe to him an answer that should tend at once to the happiness of his own person and the prosperity of his realm.
2. The interpretation of the dreams. Listening to the monarch's recitation of the singular phenomena of his nocturnal visions, Joseph
(1) declares their import to be the coming of seven years of plenty to the land, to be followed by seven years of famine, which should consume the land by reason of its severity;
(2) affirms the certainty of this prediction as involved in the repetition of the dream; and
(3) concludes by recommending as a precautionary measure that a fifth part of the produce of the seven years of plenty should be taken up and stored in granaries in the chief cities of the empire, to be distributed among the people during the seven years of famine—a measure which would necessitate the appointment of one competent officer with a requisite staff of assistants, and with supreme authority to enforce the tax or compel the sale, according as the king might determine to uplift the grain.
3. The reward of the interpreter. As became one who had proved of such incomparable service to the monarch and the State, Joseph was immediately and generously recompensed.
(1) His counsel was accepted. "The thing," or advice tendered, "was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants." It is ever a grief to God's prophets and Christ's ministers when their Divinely-sent communications are rejected, as the acceptance of their heavenly messages never fails to afford them occasion of rejoicing.
(2) His person was exalted.
(a) He was constituted grand vizier of the empire, in the historian's account of which may be noticed the monarch's resolution and the reason of it—"Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, thou shaft be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled," or dispose themselves; the royal edict and the public attestation of it—"See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring," &c.; the extent of his authority and the limitation of it—his power was to be absolute over all the realm—"without thee shall no man lift up hand or foot"—only as to the throne was he to be subordinate to Pharaoh.
(b) He was naturalized as an Egyptian prince by the assignment of a new name, Zaphnath-paaneah, for the import of which the Exposition may be consulted.
(c) He was married to a daughter of the priestly caste, who formed the highest dignitaries in the State.
1. The marvelous facility with which God can accomplish his designs. God can make Pharaoh dream and the butler recollect his faults when it is time to bring Joseph out of prison.
2. The amazing incompetence of human wisdom to understand God's riddles. The world by wisdom knows not God, any more than Pharaoh's magicians could interpret his dreams.
3. The extraordinary insight which those have-who receive their teaching from God. Joseph can interpret the dreams of the monarch and the dreams of his officers with a like promptitude and accuracy, and God's people have an unction from the Holy One that enables them to know all things.
4. The incomparable greatness to which Christ's followers will eventually be raised. Joseph stepped from the prison to the palace, from the tower to the throne, from the wearing of iron fetters to the wielding of regal power; and such honor will have all the saints in the day of the manifestation of the sons of God. Even now God "raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill, that he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people;" but then "to him that overcometh will I grant," saith the King, "to sit with me on my throne, even as I overcame, and am set down with my Father on his throne."
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
The tried man is now made ready by long experience for his position of responsibility and honor. He is thirty years old. He can commence his public ministry for the people of God and the world. Pharaoh's dreams, the kine and the ears of corn, like those of the butler and baker, have their natural element in them; but apart from the Spirit of God Joseph would not have dared to give them such an interpretation. Even had his intelligence penetrated the secret, he would not have ventured on a prophecy without God. Pharaoh himself acknowledged that the Spirit of God was manifestly in Joseph. We may be sure there was evidence of Divine authority in his words and manner. As a testimony to the existence of a spirit of reverence for Divine teaching, and a reference of all great and good things to God as their source, even in the minds of the Egyptians, such facts show that God had not left the world without light. The farther we go back in human history, the more simple and unsophisticated we find the minds of men, pointing to a primitive revelation, to the religious beginning of the human race, and to their corruption being the result of a fall, and not a mere negative state, the state of undeveloped reason. Joseph is lifted up out of the dungeon and made to sit among princes. He submits to the providential appointment, doubtless, under the guidance of the same Spirit which had given him his superiority. Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter because at that time to be so was to be separated from his people. Joseph the slave, already far from his home, is willing to be Pharaoh's prime minister that he may be the forerunner of his people's exaltation. The opportunity was not to be lost. "God," he said, "hath made me forget all my toil and all my father's house." "God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction." The very names given to Manasseh and Ephraim were a testimony to his faith. His forgetting was only to a better remembering. We must sometimes hide power for the sake of its manifestation. "All countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn." "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." As a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Hebrew slave exalted to the rule of the world and the saving of the world, from the cross to the throne. The whole story is full of analogies. He that distributes the bread of life to a perishing race was himself taken from prison, was treated as a malefactor, was declared the Ruler and Savior because the Spirit of God was upon him, was King of kings and Lord of lords. His benefits and blessings distributed to the world are immediately identified with his kingdom. He gathers in that he may give out. He is first the all-wise and all-powerful ruler of the seven years of plenty, and then the all-merciful helper and redeemer in the seven years of famine. "Joseph is a fruitful bough."—R.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
The blessing of suffering wrongfully.
Joseph had probably been three years in prison (cf. Genesis 41:1 with Genesis 40:4). Sorely must his faith have been tried. His brothers, who had plotted his death, prosperous; himself a slave, spending the best years of his life in prison; and that because he had been faithful to God and to his master. We know the end, and therefore hardly realize his desolate condition when no sign of anything but that he should live and die uncared for and forgotten. But the trial comes more home to us when some one for whom we care, or perhaps ourselves, "endure grief, suffering wrongfully;" when unsuspecting frankness has been overreached, or trust betrayed, or feebleness oppressed. We feel not only that wrong has been done, but as if there had been a failure in God's care. It is one thing to acknowledge the doctrine of God's providence, and quite another to feel it under pressure of trouble. A frequent mistake to think of suffering as calling for immediate restitution. Since God beholds the wrong, should there not be some speedy token that he does so? The truth which faith has to grasp is that God is carrying out a plan, for which all these things are a preparation. We may not be able to trace it; but it is so. Thus it was with Joseph. All through these sad years God was guiding him. It was not merely that in time the cloud was removed; every step of the way had its purpose (John 16:20). In the prison he was learning lessons of the soul,—unlearning the spirit of censoriousness and of self-complacency (Genesis 37:2),—and, by obeying, learning how to rule. And the course of events bore him on to what was prepared for him. Had he remained at home, or returned thither, or had Potiphar not cast him into prison, he would not have been the head of a great work in Egypt, the helper of his family, the instrument of fulfilling God's promise. Not one step of his course was in vain; his sufferings were blessings.
I. IN SUFFERING WRONG WE ARE FOLLOWING CHRIST. He suffered for us, "leaving us an example" (1 Peter 2:21) of willingness to suffer for the good of others. This is the principle of self-sacrifice; not a self-willed sacrifice (Colossians 2:23), but the submission of the will to God (Luke 22:42; Hebrews 10:7). "This is acceptable with God"—to accept as from him what he sends, though we may-not see its use (Hebrews 12:5-7).
II. FOR EVERY CHRISTIAN THE DISCIPLINE OF SUFFERING IS NEEDFUL. If it was so in our Lord's sinless human nature (Hebrews 2:10), how much more in us, who must be taught to subdue the flesh to the spirit I Without trial Christian courage and fruit-bearing graces would fail (John 15:2), as without the winter's cold the forest tree would not form sound wood. And trial calls them into exercise (Romans 5:3), and through a sense of our weakness draws us nearer to God (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
III. NOT ONLY TRIAL IN GENERAL, BUT EVERY PART OF IT WORKS GOOD. To every part the promise applies (John 16:20). So it was with Joseph. God lays no stroke without cause (Hebrews 12:10). The conviction of this works practical patience. This particular suffering has its own loving message.
IV. WE OFTEN CANNOT FORESEE THE PURPOSE OF TRIALS. How different was the end to which God was leading Joseph from anything he could have expected or hoped for! Yet far better. We can see but a very little way along the path by which God is leading us. We walk by faith that his guidance is unerring, and that which he has provided is best (Ephesians 3:20).—M.
HOMILIES BY F. HASTINGS
Joseph as prime minister.
"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." Sudden elevations are often the precursors of sudden falls. It was not so with Joseph. He filled satisfactorily his position, retaining it to the end of life. He made himself indispensable to Pharaoh and to the country. He was a man of decision. Seeing what had to be done, he hesitated not in commencing it. Going from the presence of Pharaoh, he passed throughout the land, arranging for granaries and appointing officers to grapple with the seven years of famine which were imminent. Doubtless he felt the weight of responsibility resting upon him, and would have many restless nights in calculating how by means of the money then in the treasury and by forced loans to meet the expenditure for granaries, grain, and official salaries. He superintended everything. By method he mastered detail.
I. CONSIDER THE POLICY OF THIS EGYPTIAN PRIME MINISTER. Many things we admire in Joseph, but we must not be blind to the fact that he thought more of binding the people to the throne than of benefiting the people themselves. He was the first statesman of that day. His policy determined in great measure what should be the standard of internal prosperity, and what position the country should hold in the eyes of other nations. He sought to make Pharaoh's rule absolute. He gave no benefit without payment, no supplies without sacrifice. He took all the money first (Genesis 47:14), then the cattle (Genesis 47:16), then the lands and their persons (Genesis 47:23). He thus reduced the people of Egypt to the position of slaves. He made all the land crown lands. Thus the monarch was pleased, and the priests, being exempt, were flattered. It is possible that in this Joseph laid the foundation of that system of mismanagement, which has made the most flourishing spot in the world the basest of kingdoms. He seems also to have striven to give some sort of preeminence to his brethren, and to advance them. Exempt from the burdens pressing on others, they gained power, and would have become eventually the dominant race in Egypt, but that another Pharaoh arose who knew not Joseph, i.e. who, although he knew of his having lived and served the nation, yet recognized not his policy. The state to which Joseph reduced the Egyptians was that to which afterwards his own descendants were reduced. Thus our plans are overthrown. Time tries success, and by removing dimness from our vision enables us to test it better.
II. CONSIDER THE PRIVATE LIFE OF THIS EGYPTIAN PRIME MINISTER, He was soon led to conform to the spirit and practice of an ungodly nation. He used a divining cup (Genesis 44:15, Genesis 44:16), took his meals apart (Genesis 43:32), recognizing and sustaining class distinctions. He learned the mode of speech common among the Egyptians, swore by the life of Pharaoh (Genesis 42:15), and was affianced to an idolatress, probably a priestess (Genesis 41:45). He made no effort to return to his own land, or to the pastoral life of his fathers. It was in his power also for nine years to have sent to make search for his father, who was sorrowing for him as dead, but he sent not. Not until trouble, by an apparent chance, drove his brethren to him did he appear to think of them, or of home and Jacob. When they came he was very slow to make known himself, as though he feared it might compromise him in the eyes of the Egyptians to be known to have relatives who were shepherds, an occupation which was abominable to the Egyptians (Genesis 46:34). When he revealed himself to them, it was without the knowledge or presence of the Egyptians. He removed his brethren also to a distant part of Egypt: that they might not constantly, by their presence, remind him and others of his origin. We fancy that Joseph had weaknesses and imperfections such as other men had. He had dwelt in Egypt and caught its spirit. In the names he gave to his children there seems some indication of regret at his forgetfulness and wonder at his fruitfulness. Amid views that might depress there is some brightness. His forgiveness of his brethren was noble. His affection for his father returned. His faith in God was pure at last. Dying, he "gave commandment concerning his bones." He showed that though outwardly an Egyptian, he was inwardly an Israelite.—H.
And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt—literally, a son of thirty years in his standing before Pharaoh. If, therefore, he had been three years in prison (Genesis 40:4; Genesis 41:1), he must have served for ten years in the house of Potiphar. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh (in the performance of his official duties), and went throughout all the land of Egypt—super-intending the district overseers.
Genesis 41:47, Genesis 41:48
And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls (i.e. abundantly). And he (Joseph, through his subordinates) gathered up all the food (i.e. all the portions levied) of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities:—men bringing corn into granaries appear upon the monuments at Beni-hassan—the food of the field, which was round about every city (literally, the food of the field of the city, which was in its environs), laid he up in the same (literally, in the midst of it).
And Joseph gathered (or heaped up) corn as the sand of the sea,—an image of great abundance (cf. Genesis 32:12)—very much, until he left numbering (i.e. writing, or keeping a record of the number of bushels); for it was without number. "In a tomb at Eilethya a man is represented whose business it evidently was to take account of the number of bushels. Which another man, acting under him, measures. The inscription is as follows "The writer or registrar of bushels—Thutnofre,".
Genesis 41:50, Genesis 41:51
And unto Joseph wore born two sons before the years of famine came, (literally, before the coming of the gears of famine), which Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On bare unto him. And Joseph called, the name of the firstborn Manasseh ("Forgetting," from nashah, to forget): For God (Elohim; Joseph not at the moment thinking of his son's birth in its relations to the theocratic kingdom, but simply in its connection with the overruling providence of God which had been so signally illustrated in his elevation, from a position of obscurity in Canaan to such conspicuous honor in the land of the Pharaohs), said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house. Not absolutely (Calvin, who censures Joseph on this account, vix tamen in totem potest excusari oblivio paternae domus), as events subsequently proved, but relatively, the pressure of his former affliction being relieved by his present happiness, and the loss of his father's house in some degree compensated by the building of a house for himself.
And the name of the second called he Ephraim:—"Double Fruitfulness" (Keil), "Double Land" (Gesenius), "Fruit." (Furst)—For God (Elohim) hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction. This language shows that Joseph had not quite forgotten "all his toil."
Genesis 41:53, Genesis 41:54
And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended. And the seven years of dearth began to come,—the most complete parallel to Joseph's famine was that which occurred in A.D. 1064-1071, in the reign of Fatimee Khaleefeh, El-Mustansir-bilh, when the people ate corpses and animals that died of themselves; when a dog was sold for five, a cat for three, and a bushel of wheat for twenty, deenars (vide Smith's 'Bib. Dict.,' art. Famine)—according as Joseph had said (thus confirming Joseph's character as a prophet): and the dearth was in all lands;—i.e. in all the adjoining countries, and notably in Palestine (vide Genesis 42:1, Genesis 42:2)—but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.
And when (literally, and) all the land of Egypt was famished (literally, and), the people cried to Pharaoh for bread:—cf. the famine in Samaria (2 Kings 6:26)—and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith So you, do.
Genesis 41:56, Genesis 41:57
And the famine was over all the face of the earth (vide supra, Genesis 41:54): And Joseph opened all the storehouses,—literally, all wherein was, i.e. all the magazines that had grain in them. The granaries of Egypt are represented on the monuments. "In the tomb of Amenemha at Beni-hassan there is the painting of a great storehouse, before whose door lies a great heap of grain already winnowed. Near by stands the bushel with which it is measured, and the registrar who takes the account"—and sold unto the Egyptians (cf. Proverbs 2:1-26);—and the famine waxed sore (literally, became strong) in the land of Egypt. A remarkable inscription from the tomb at Eileythia of Barn, which Brugsch assigns to the latter part of the seventeenth dynasty, mentions a dearth of several years in Egypt ("A famine having broken out during many years, I gave corn to the town during each famine"), which that distinguished Egyptologer identifies with the famine of Joseph under Apophis, the shepherd king (vide ' Encyclopedia Britannica,' ninth edition, art. Egypt); but, this, according to Bunsen ('Egypt's Place, 3:334), is rather to be detected in a dearth of several years which occurred in the time of Osirtasen I; and which is mentioned in an inscription at Beni-hassan, recording the fact that during its prevalence food was supplied by Amenee, the governor of a district of Upper Egypt (Smith's' Dict.,' art. Joseph). The character of Chnumhotep (a near relative and favorite of Osirtasen I; and his immediate successor), and the recorded events of his government, as described in the Beni-hassan monuments, also remind one of Joseph:—"he (i.e. Chnumhotep) injured no little child; he oppressed no widow; he detained for his own purpose no fisherman; took from his work no shepherd; no overseer's men were taken. There was no beggar in his days; no one starved in his time. When years of famine occurred he ploughed all the lands of the district, producing abundant food; no one starved in it; he treated the widow as a woman with a husband to protect her". And all countries (i.e. people from all the adjoining lands) came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because the famine was so sore in all lands.
Joseph on the second throne in Egypt.
I. DURING THE SEVEN YEARS OF PLENTY.
1. His mature manhood (Genesis 41:46). Thirteen years had elapsed since his brethren had sold him at Dothan, and during the interval what a checkered life had be experienced! Carried into Egypt by the spice caravan of the Midianitish traders, he had been sold a second time as a slave. Ten years had he served as a bondman, first as a valet to the provost marshal of the slaughterers, and then as overseer of the great man's household. Three years more he had spent in prison, having been incarcerated on a charge of which he was entirely innocent. And now, at the age of thirty, he is the wisest and the greatest man in Egypt. God has strange ways of developing the talents, maturing the experience, and advancing the honor of his sons. The case of Joseph is a signal illustration of the beneficial uses of adversity, and shows that the true road to success in life, to the acquisition of wisdom, or of power, or of wealth, or of fame, or of all combined, often lies through early hardships and trials, disasters and defeats.
2. His political activity (Genesis 41:46-49). As grand vizier of the empire, Joseph's labors during this period must have been many and laborious: surveying the corn-producing land of the country, and dividing it for purposes of taxation into districts, appointing overseers in every district, erecting granaries or government stores in every city of any size or importance, and generally superintending in every corner of the empire the work of uplifting the fifth part of the superabundant harvests of those precious years when the earth brought forth by handfuls. The result was, that by the close of this period the Egyptian government had collected corn as the sand of the sea, very much, and without number.
3. His domestic prosperity (Genesis 41:50). On the name of Joseph's wife, and the questions connected with the subject of her marriage with Joseph, the Exposition under Genesis 41:45 may be consulted. That the marriage itself was approved by God there is no sufficient reason to doubt, and that it was a marriage of affection may be inferred from the sentiments expressed by Joseph on the occasion of his sons' births. The birth of his children also was interpreted by him to be a mark of Divine favor. What a signal reward for the fidelity and purity of Joseph's behavior in the house of Potiphar three years before! Had Joseph at that time left the straight path of virtue, where had been his advancement and felicity now? Even in this life God puts a premium in the long run on a life of purity.
4. His personal piety (Genesis 41:51, Genesis 41:52). To some indeed Joseph's language on the birth of Manasseh appears somewhat hard to reconcile at least with true filial piety. Why did not Joseph, on reaching his exalted station in Egypt, at once communicate with his father? Was this a just or generous reward for what he had experienced of the old man's parental affection, and, what he must have still felt assured of, the old man's sorrow for his imagined death? Yet Joseph talks as if he had forgotten his father's house, as well as all his toil, in the splendor of his fame and the exuberance of his happiness in Egypt. But that these words are not to be interpreted literally becomes apparent, not alone from the pathetic meeting with his brethren and his father, soon to be described, but also from the statement which he makes upon the birth of Ephraim, in which he still characterizes Egypt as the land of his affliction. That Joseph did not at once declare his parentage and send a message home to Hebron may be explained by many reasons without resorting to the hypothesis that "Joseph was still unable to attain perfect calm and cherish sentiments of love and forgiveness" towards his brethren (Kurtz): as, e.g; the comparative insecurity that must have attended his position in Egypt until the years of famine came, an unwillingness prematurely to reveal to his father the full depth of wickedness of which his brethren had been guilty, a secret impression made upon his mind by God that the time of disclosure was not yet, At all events Joseph's conduct in this matter discovers nothing essentially inconsistent with a piety which shines out conspicuously in the grateful recognition of the hand of God in turning for him the shadow of death into the morning.
II. DURING THE SEVEN YEARS OF DEARTH.
1. His reputation as a prophet fully confirmed (verses 53, 54). God is always careful to maintain the honor of his own prophets. Whatever message he transmits to the world or the Church through a messenger of his sending, he will in due time see to its fulfillment. No true ambassador of heaven need entertain the slightest apprehensions as to the failure of the words which God provides for him to speak. If he is not always, like Samuel, established as a prophet of the Lord at the beginning of his ministry (1 Samuel 3:20), his claim to that distinction will in due course be made good by the exact accomplishment of what God has through his lips foretold.
2. His sagacity as at, administrator clearly established (verse 55). If Pharaoh had any doubts as to the wisdom of Joseph's proposal during the seven years of plenty, assuredly he had tone now. With a famishing population all around him, what could Pharaoh have done, how averted the destruction of his people, and possibly the overthrow of his own dynasty, if it had not been for the prudent forethought of Joseph? Happy are the kings who have wise men in their kingdoms, and who, when they have them, can trust them.
3. His work as a savior hopefully begun (verse 56). If it be asked why Joseph did not gratuitously distribute Pharaoh's corn among the perishing multitudes, the reply is obvious.
(1) In all probability the grain had been previously purchased from the people.
(2) The people had been warned of the impending calamity, and might have exercised a little of the forethought of Joseph, and by care and economy provided for the day of want.
(3) To have given the corn gratuitously would have resulted in a too lavish distribution, and for the most part to the greedy and the prodigal rather than to the really necessitous.
(4) By affixing to it a price the people were encouraged as long as possible to practice frugality and preserve independence. Wise governors will be slow in making paupers of their subjects. This is one of the dangers connected with the Poor Law Administration in our own land.
(5) It enabled Joseph by a judicious husbanding of resources to extend the circle of relief to the starving populations of other countries who came to him to purchase corn.
1. The sin of national wastefulness.
2. The value of a wise statesman.
3. The compatibility of piety with both personal greatness and political activity.
4. The propriety of setting mercies over against misfortunes.
5. The proper end of all government and legislation—the happiness and safety of the people.
6. The true duty of a monarch—to sympathize with and direct his subjects.
7. The legitimate ambition for a nation—to be an object of attraction for good to surrounding countries.
HOMILIES BY F. HASTINGS
Destitution and abundance.
"And the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread." The time of harvest is, of all periods of the year, the most important. It is the point to which all previous operations of the cultivator have tended. He knows how much depends on the weather and God's mercy. Having done all he can, he has to wait, and the harvest-time determines results. Those who are not engaged in agriculture are concerned in a harvest. Suppose there were none; non-producers must starve, Dwelling in great towns and cities, many who are engaged in traffic or manufacture may easily overlook harvest-time, and forget their dependence on God for daily bread. They see not the sown fields, they watch not the springing blade, they seize not the sharp sickle, they join not in piling up the pointed stacks, and are therefore likely to forget dependence on God. It is well that God forgets us not. He has ever kept his promise—"So long as the earth remaineth," &c. No year has passed without harvest-time being stinted in some land. Think over the contrast given in the text.
I. GENERAL DISTRESS. "The dearth was in all lands," i.e. all the lands then known to be peopled by the descendants of Noah. Their harvests had failed. Rain excessive, or drought prolonged, had ruined their crops. For several years there seems to have been disappointment. Not only did the husbandmen suffer, but those who could not toil. Dearth engenders disease, despair, death. See 2Ki 6:24 -40, to what straits famine will reduce people. Even mothers consent together to eat their own offspring. In the lamentations of Jeremiah there is a description of the fearful consequences of famine, leading men to say, "Then was our skin black like an oven, because of the terrible famine." How painful must it be to have scanty platters and empty barns; for parents to have children clinging to the skirts of their garments, crying, "Give, oh, give bread," and to have none wherewith to satisfy them I We see the effect of famine on one family in the East. Jacob's sons "looked on one another, and were sad." Their looks were despairing. They had money, flocks, and herds, but no bread. They could not eat their money, and to have lived on their starving flocks alone would engender disease of frightful character. Many had not even flocks to fall back upon, and the dearth was in all lands. How men at such a time must have looked longingly at the heavens, and prayed that God would send them bread I Sometimes such seasons of trial are sent that men may be reminded of the dependence on God. To have a moral and spiritual dearth is worse than to have outward destitution. The spiritual is more important than the physical. A more terrible death than all is that where there is a lack of a knowledge of God and his love, and of hearing the word of the Lord.
II. EXCEPTIONAL ABUNDANCE. But for this plentifulness in Egypt the whole race might have perished. There were several reasons for the abundance in Egypt.
1. God arranged it by that wondrous overflowing of the Nile. A difference in the rising a few feet makes all the difference as to the crops. Even at this date, so do the crops of Egypt affect the markets of the world, that the rising of the Nile is watched, and the height attained telegraphed to all parts. God, at the period referred to, had given seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of dearth; but such had been the previous abundance, owing to the overflow of the river, that in the terrible time of dearth there was abundance of bread in Egypt.
2. The foresight and energy of one man had led to the husbanding of resources and storing of excessive crops.
3. Divine revelation caused Joseph to act. He could not have known of the impending danger unless it had been revealed. He had faith in God when in prison, and main-rained it when he became the governor of Egypt. Indeed that faith shone as brightly when he was the approved of Pharaoh as when he was the slave of Potiphar and the object of passion's hate. His faith was rewarded when he was able to save multitudes from starving. What a contrast is presented in the text! Dearth of many lands, abundance in one. Such contrasts are often seen. On one side of the ocean there may have been an abundant harvest, on the other side but scanty crops. The world is full of contrasts. Here is a wedding; there is a funeral. In one family is love, thoughtfulness, harmony, and in that—perhaps separated only by the thin partition of hasty builders—bickering, jealousy, and hastiness of temper. Here sobriety, providence, and religion reign; there nothing but indigence, drunkenness, and utter neglect of the claims of God. In one country is peace, activity in all its branches of industry, commercial confidence, progress-in education and art, thoughtfulness for the untaught and criminal classes, and higher appreciation of the sacredness of life; in another depression, mistrust, plotting of adventurers, rule of the conscienceless, national faithlessness, and the spreading pall of desolation. Forceful is the contrast presented by nations under the influence of a simple Christianity and those enslaved by superstition, as Spain or Austria; or paralyzed by fatalism, as Turkey and Asia Minor; or darkened by idolatry, as India, China, Africa, and some of the islands of the seas. And such contrasts are seen in individuals. There walks one whose soul has no light, no hope, no peace; here one who knows he is pardoned, and is sure of acceptance by Christ. At death what a contrast! See one dying shrinking, doubting, fearing, grasping at any straw of comfort; another rejoicing that he is soon to enter and tread the streets of the New Jerusalem. Let all be prepared for such a change. Seek Christ, who is the "Bread of life," the Savior of our souls. Lack of appetite and numbness may come from excessive exhaustion. Hunger and thirst after righteousness, and be not like a lady who once said, "Sir, I have been so long without religion that I have, I fear, now no desire for it." If we come to Christ he will receive us readily. Joseph was glad to receive and help his brethren. So will Christ supply all our need out of the treasures of his rich grace. Remember, that if the need of other nations tested the charity of Egypt, so the need of souls is to test our earnestness. If we have found the riches in Christ, we are to seek to bless others. If little time remains to some of us in which to do much for Christ, let us act as those who, having much to write and little space, crowd the letters and words the closer. Let us be earnest as the husbandman, who, seeing winter coming apace, hastens in the few fine days remaining to garner his crops. Alas, many of our doings will have to stand useless, like earless, rotten sheaves, blackening dreary fields.—H.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 41". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany