Genesis 41: Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams; Joseph Saves Egypt; Joseph’s Two Sons

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Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Pharaoh has two disturbing dreams that initially defy interpretation. The cupbearer tells Pharaoh about Joseph, who interprets the dreams as foretelling seven plentiful years followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh appoints Joseph his second-in-command and Joseph collects grain that helps during the years of famine. Joseph and an Egyptian named Asenath have two children named Manasseh and Ephraim.

II. Photo

Pharaoh dreams of seven cows: “Then came up out of the Nile seven beautiful and fat cows, and they grazed in the reed grass.” (v. 2)

III. Outline

1-7. Pharaoh’s two dreams

1a. Two years pass

1b-4. The first dream: 7 emaciated cows eat 7 healthy ones at the Nile

5-7. The second dream: 7 emaciated ears of grain eat 7 healthy ones

8-36. Joseph’s interpretation and suggestion

8. Egypt’s wise men and magicians could not explain the dream

9-13. The cupbearer recounts his experience with Joseph to Pharaoh

15-16. Joseph tells Pharaoh that God, not Joseph, is the true interpreter

17-24. Pharaoh recounts his two dreams

25-33. Joseph’s interpretation: 7 years of bounty followed by 7 years of famine

34-36. Joseph’s suggestion: appoint someone to collect 1/5 of the bounty for the years of famine

37-45. Pharaoh appoints Joseph his second-in-command

37-41. Pharaoh chooses Joseph to be his second-in-command

42-43. Pharaoh gives Joseph his signet ring, dresses him in fine clothes, and has him ride as a ruler

44. Pharaoh gives Joseph full control of Egypt

45. Pharaoh names Joseph Zaphenath-paneah and gives him Asenath daughter of the priest Poti Phera as a wife

46-53. The seven good years, including Joseph’s two sons

46a. Joseph was 30 years old when he began to serve Pharaoh

46b-49. Joseph stores up grain beyond measure during the 7 plentiful years

50-52. Joseph has two children with Asenath: Manasseh (“forgetting”) because he has forgotten his troubles, and Ephraim (“fruitful”) because he has been fruitful

53-57. The seven bad years

53-54. The famine spread to every country, but there was bread in Egypt

55. Pharaoh sends his people to Joseph

56. Joseph gives (sells?) grain to the Egyptians

57. Foreigners came for grain too

IV. Select Verses

1-7: After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile,  and there came up out of the Nile seven sleek and fat cows, and they grazed in the reed grass. Then seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. The ugly and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. And Pharaoh awoke. Then he fell asleep and dreamed a second time; seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk.  Then seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them. The thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears. Pharaoh awoke, and it was a dream.

15-16: And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

42-43:  Removing his signet ring from his hand, Pharaoh put it on Joseph’s hand; he arrayed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in the chariot of his second-in-command; and they cried out in front of him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt.

45:  Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, as his wife. Thus Joseph gained authority over the land of Egypt.

49: So Joseph stored up grain in such abundance—like the sand of the sea—that he stopped measuring it; it was beyond measure.

50-52: Before the years of famine came, Joseph had two sons, whom Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The second he named Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes.”

54b: There was famine in every country, but throughout the land of Egypt there was bread.

V. Comment

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VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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