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Genesis 41:51

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 1-57

- Joseph Was Exalted

1. יאר ye'or “river, canal,” mostly applied to the Nile. Some suppose the word to be Coptic.

2. אחוּ 'āchû “sedge, reed-grass, marsh-grass.” This word is probably Coptic.

8. חרטמים charṭumı̂ym ἐξηγηταὶ exēgētai ἱερογραμματεῖς hierogrammateis “sacred scribes, hieroglyphs.” חרט chereṭ “stylus,” a graving tool.

43. אברך 'abrēk “bend the knee.” In this sense it is put for הברך habrēk imperative hiphil of ברך bārak Those who take the word to be Coptic render it variously - “bow all, bow the head, cast thyself down.”

45. פענח צפנת tsāpenat -pa‛nēach Tsaphenath-pa‹neach, in the Septuagint ψονθομ-φανήχ Psonthom -Fanēch “Revelator occulti,” Kimchi. This is founded on an attempted Hebrew derivation. Σωτήρ κόσμου Sōtēr kosmou in Oxford MS., “servator mundi,” Jerome. These point to a Coptic origin. Recent Egyptologists give P-sont-em-ph-anh, “the-salvation-of-the-life or world.” This is a high-flowing title, in keeping with Eastern phraseology. אסנת 'âsnath Asenath, perhaps belonging to Neith, or worshipper of Neith, a goddess corresponding to Athene of the Greeks. פוטי פרע pôṭı̂y -pera‛ Potiphera‹, seems to be a variation of פוטיפר Pôṭı̂yphar Potiphar Genesis 37:36. אן 'ôn or און 'ôn On =Oein, “light, sun;” on the monuments TA-RA, “house of the sun.” ביתשׁמשׁ bêyth shemesh Jeremiah 43:13, Heliopolis, north of Memphis, on the east bank of the Nile.

51. מנשׁה menasheh Menasheh, “causing to forget.”

52. אפרים 'eprâyı̂m Ephraim, “double fruit.”

Here we have the double dream of Pharaoh interpreted by Joseph, in consequence of which he is elevated over all the land of Egypt.

Genesis 41:1-8

The dreams are recited. “By the river.” In the dream Pharaoh supposes himself on the banks of the Nile. “On rite green.” The original word denotes the reed, or marsh grass, on the banks of the Nile. The cow is a very significant emblem of fruitful nature among the Egyptians, the hieroglyphic symbol of the earth and of agriculture; and the form in which Isis the goddess of the earth was adored. “Dreamed a second time.” The repetition is designed to confirm the warning given, as Joseph afterward explains Genesis 41:32. Corn (grain) is the natural emblem of fertility and nurture. “Blasted with the east wind The east wind”. The east wind is any wind coming from the east of the meridian, and may be a southeast or a northeast, as well as a direct east. The Hebrews were accustomed to speak only of the four winds, and, therefore, must have used the name of each with great latitude. The blasting wind in Egypt is said to be usually from the southeast. “And, behold, it was a dream.” The impression was so distinct as to be taken for the reality, until he awoke and perceived that it was only a dream. “His spirit was troubled.” Like the officers in the prison Genesis 40:6, he could not get rid of the feeling that the twofold dream portended some momentous event. “The scribes” - the hieroglyphs, who belonged to the priestly caste, and whose primary business was to make hieroglyphic and other inscriptions; while they were accustomed to consult the stars, interpret dreams, practise soothsaying, and pursue the other occult arts. The sages; whose chief business was the cultivation of the various arts above mentioned, while the engraving or inscribing department strictly belonged to the hieroglyphs or scribes. “His dream;” the twofold dream. “Interpreted them” - the two dreams.

Genesis 41:9-13

The chief butler now calls Joseph to mind, and mentions his gift to Pharaoh. “My sins.” His offence against Pharaoh. His ingratitude in forgetting Joseph for two years does not perhaps occur to him as a sin. “A Hebrew lad.” The Egyptians were evidently well acquainted with the Hebrew race, at a time when Israel had only a family. “Him he hanged.” The phrase is worthy of note, as a specimen of pithy brevioquence. Him he declared that the dream foreboded that Pharaoh would hang.

Genesis 41:14-24

Pharaoh sends for Joseph, who is hastily brought from the prison. “He shaved.” The Egyptians were accustomed to shave the head and beard, except in times of mourning (Herod. 2:32). “Canst hear a dream to interpret it” - needest only to hear in order to interpret it. “Not I God shall answer.” According to his uniform habit Joseph ascribes the gift that is in him to God. “To the peace of Pharaoh” - so that Pharaoh may reap the advantage. In form. This takes the place of “in look,” in the former account. Other slight variations in the terms occur. “And they went into them” - into their stomachs.

Genesis 41:25-36

Joseph now proceeds to interpret the dream, and offer counsel suitable to the emergency. “What the God is about to do.” The God, the one true, living, eternal God, in opposition to all false gods. “And because the dream was repeated.” This is explained to denote the certainty and immediateness of the event. The beautiful elucidation of the dream needs no comment. Joseph now naturally passes from the interpreter to the adviser. He is all himself on this critical occasion. His presence of mind never forsakes him. The openness of heart and readiness of speech, for which he was early distinguished, now stand him in good stead. His thorough self-command arises from spontaneously throwing himself, with all his heart, into the great national emergency which is before his mind. And his native simplicity of heart, practical good sense, anti force of character break forth into unasked, but not unaccepted counsel. “A man discreet” - intelligent, capable of understanding the occasion; wise, prudent, capable of acting accordingly. “Let Pharaoh proceed” - take the following steps: “Take the fifth” of the produce of the land. “Under the hand of Pharaoh.” Under his supreme control.

The measures here suggested to Pharaoh were, we must suppose in conformity with the civil institutions of the country. Thee exaction of a fifth, or two tithes, during the period of plenty, may have been an extraordinary measure, which the absolute power of the monarch enabled him to enforce for the public safety. The sovereign was probably dependent for his revenues on the produce of the crown lands, certain taxes on exports or imports, and occasional gifts or forced contributions from his subjects. This extraordinary fifth was, probably, of the last description, and was fully warranted by the coming emergency. The “gathering up of all the food” may imply that, in addition to the fifth, large purchases of corn were made by the government out of the surplus produce of the country.

Genesis 41:37-46

Pharaoh approves of his counsel, and selects him as “the discreet and wise man” for carrying it into effect. “In whom is the Spirit of God.” He acknowledges the gift that is in Joseph to be from God. “All my people behave” - dispose or order their conduct, a special meaning of this word, which usually signifies to kiss. “His ring.” His signet-ring gave Joseph the delegated power of the sovereign, and constituted him his prime minister or grand vizier. “Vestures of fine linen.” Egypt was celebrated for its flax, and for the fineness of its textures. The priests were arrayed in official robes of linen, and no man was allowed to enter a temple in a woolen garment (Herodotus ii. 37,81). “A gold chain about his neck.” This was a badge of office worn in Egypt by the judge and the prime minister. It had a similar use in Persia and Babylonia Daniel 5:7. “The second chariot.” Egypt was noted for chariots, both for peaceful and for warlike purposes (Herodotus ii. 108). The second in the public procession was assigned to Joseph. “Bow the knee.” The various explications of this proclamation agree in denoting a form of obeisance, with which Joseph was to be honored. I am Pharaoh, the king Genesis 12:15. “Without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot.” Thou art next to me, and without thee no man shall act or move. “Zaphenath-paneah.” Pharaoh designates him the preserver of life, as the interpreter of the dream and the proposer of the plan by which the country was saved from famine. He thus naturalizes him so far as to render his civil status compatible with his official rank. “Asenath.” The priests were the highest and most privileged class in Egypt. Intermarriage with this caste at once determined the social position of the wonderous foreigner. His father-in-law was priest of On, a city dedicated to the worship of the sun.

With our Western and modern habit we may at the first glance be surprised to find a stranger of a despised race suddenly elevated to the second place in the kingdom. But in ancient and Eastern governments, which were of a despotic character, such changes, depending on the will of the sovereign, were by no means unusual. Secondly, the conviction that “the Spirit of God was in” the mysterious stranger, was sufficient to overbear all opposing feelings or customs. And, lastly, it was assumed and acted on, as a self-evident fact, that the illustrious stranger could have no possible objection to be incorporated into the most ancient of nations, and allied with its noblest families. We may imagine that Joseph would find an insuperable difficulty in becoming a citizen of Egypt or a son-in-law of the priest of the sun. But we should not forget that the world was yet too young to have arrived at the rigid and sharplydefined systems of polytheism or allotheism to which we are accustomed. Some gray streaks of a pure monotheism, of the knowledge of the one true God, still gleamed across the sky of human memory. Some faint traces of one common brotherhood among mankind still lingered in the recollections of the past. The Pharaoh of Abraham‘s day feels the power of him whose name is Yahweh Genesis 12:17. Abimelek acknowledges the God of Abraham and Isaac Genesis 20:3-7; Genesis 21:22-23; Genesis 26:28-29. And while Joseph is frank and faithful in acknowledging the true God before the king of Egypt, Pharaoh himself is not slow to recognize the man in whom the Spirit of God is. Having experienced the omniscience and omnipotence of Joseph‘s God, he was prepared, no doubt, not only himself to offer him such adoration as he was accustomed to pay to his national gods, but also to allow Joseph full liberty to worship the God of his fathers, and to bring up his family in that faith.

Joseph was now in his thirtieth year, and had consequently been thirteen years in Egypt, most part of which interval he had probably spent in prison. This was the age for manly service Numbers 4:3. He immediately enters upon his office.

Genesis 41:47-49

The fulfillment of the dream here commences. “By handfuls.” Not in single stalks or grains, but in handfuls compared with the former yield. It is probable that a fifth of the present unprecedented yield was sufficient for the sustenance of the inhabitants. Another fifth was rendered to the government, and the remaining three fifths were stored up or sold to the state or the foreign broker at a low price. “He left numbering because there was no number.” This denotes that the store was immense, and not perhaps that modes of expressing the number failed.

Genesis 41:50-52

Two sons were born to Joseph during the seven years of plenty. “Menasseh.” God made him forget his toil and his father‘s house. Neither absolutely. He remembered his toils in the very utterance of this sentence. And he tenderly and intensely remembered his father‘s house. But he is grateful to God, who builds him a home, with all its soothing joys, even in the land of his exile. His heart again responds to long untasted joys. “Fruitful in the land of my affliction.” It is still, we perceive, the land of his affliction. But why does no message go from Joseph to his mourning father? For many reasons. First, he does not know the state of things at home. Secondly, he may not wish to open up the dark and bloody treachery of his brothers to his aged parent. But, thirdly, he bears in mind those early dreams of his childhood. All his subsequent experience has confirmed him in the belief that they will one day be fulfilled. But that fulfillment implies the submission not only of his brothers, but of his father. This is too delicate a matter for him to interfere in. He will leave it entirely to the all-wise providence of his God to bring about that strange issue. Joseph, therefore, is true to his life-long character. He leaves all in the hand of God, and awaits in anxious, but silent hope, the days when he will see his father and his brethren.

Genesis 41:53-57

The commencement and the extent of the famine are now noted. “As Joseph had said.” The fulfillment is as perfect in the one part as in the other. “In all the lands” - all the lands adjacent to Egypt; such as Arabia and Palestine. The word all in popular discourse is taken in a relative sense, to be ascertained by the context. We are not aware that this famine was felt beyond the distance of Hebron. “Go unto Joseph” Pharaoh has had reason to trust Joseph more and more, and now he adheres to his purpose of sending his people to him. “All the face of the land of Egypt.” “And Joseph opened all places in which there was food” - all the stores in every city. “And sold unto Mizaim.” The stores under Pharaoh‘s hand were public property, obtained either by lawful taxation or by purchase. It was a great public benefit to sell this grain, that had been providently kept in store, at a moderate price, and thus preserve the lives of a nation during a seven years‘ famine. “All the land.” This is to be understood of the countries in the neighborhood of Egypt. Famines in these countries were not unusual. We have read already of two famines in Palestine that did not extend to Egypt Genesis 12:10; Genesis 26:1.

The fertility of Egypt depends on the rise of the waters of the Nile to a certain point, at which they will reach all the country. If it fall short of that point, there will be a deficiency in the crops proportioned to the deficiency in the rise. The rise of the Nile depends on the tropical rains by which the lake is supplied from which it flows. These rains depend on the clouds wafted by the winds from the basin of the Mediterranean Sea. The amount of these piles of vapor will depend on the access and strength of the solar heat producing evaporation from the surface of that inland sea. The same cause, therefore, may withhold rain from central Africa, and from all the lands that are watered from the Mediterranean. The duration of the extraordinary plenty was indeed wonderful. But such periods of excess are generally followed by corresponding periods of deficiency over the same area. This prepares the way for the arrival of Joseph‘s kindred in Egypt.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
In the names of his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, Joseph owned the Divine providence. 1. He was made to forget his misery. 2. He was made fruitful in the land of his affliction. The seven plenteous years came, and were ended. We ought to look forward to the end of the days, both of our prosperity and of our opportunity. We must not be secure in prosperity, nor slothful in making good use of opportunity. Years of plenty will end; what thy hand finds to do, do it; and gather in gathering time. The dearth came, and the famine was not only in Egypt, but in other lands. Joseph was diligent in laying up, while the plenty lasted. He was prudent and careful in giving out, when the famine came. Joseph was engaged in useful and important labours. Yet it was in the midst of this his activity that his father Jacob said, Joseph is not! What a large portion of our troubles would be done away if we knew the whole truth! Let these events lead us to Jesus. There is a famine of the bread of life throughout the whole earth. Go to Jesus, and what he bids you, do. Attend to His voice, apply to him; he will open his treasures, and satisfy with goodness the hungry soul of every age and nation, without money and without price. But those who slight this provision must starve, and his enemies will be destroyed.
Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 323

These and other scriptures clearly proved to Miller's mind that the events which were generally expected to take place before the coming of Christ, such as the universal reign of peace and the setting up of the kingdom of God upon the earth, were to be subsequent to the second advent. Furthermore, all the signs of the times and the condition of the world corresponded to the prophetic description of the last days. He was forced to the conclusion, from the study of Scripture alone, that the period allotted for the continuance of the earth in its present state was about to close. GC 323.1

“Another kind of evidence that vitally affected my mind,” he says, “was the chronology of the Scriptures.... I found that predicted events, which had been fulfilled in the past, often occurred within a given time. The one hundred and twenty years to the flood (Genesis 6:3); the seven days that were to precede it, with forty days of predicted rain (Genesis 7:4); the four hundred years of the sojourn of Abraham's seed (Genesis 15:13); the three days of the butler's and baker's dreams (Genesis 40:12-20); the seven years of Pharaoh's (Genesis 41:28-54); the forty years in the wilderness (Numbers 14:34); the three and a half years of famine (1 Kings 17:1) [see Luke 4:25;] ... the seventy years’ captivity (Jeremiah 25:11); Nebuchadnezzar's seven times (Daniel 4:13-16); and the seven weeks, threescore and two weeks, and the one week, making seventy weeks, determined upon the Jews (Daniel 9:24-27),—the events limited by these times were all once only a matter of prophecy, and were fulfilled in accordance with the predictions.”—Bliss, pages 74, 75. GC 323.2

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 13

Wonderful is the work which the Lord designs to accomplish through His church, that His name may be glorified. A picture of this work is given in Ezekiel's vision of the river of healing: “These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that everything that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live:... and by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.” Ezekiel 47:8-12. AA 13.1

From the beginning God has wrought through His people to bring blessing to the world. To the ancient Egyptian nation God made Joseph a fountain of life. Through the integrity of Joseph the life of that whole people was preserved. Through Daniel God saved the life of all the wise men of Babylon. And these deliverances are as object lessons; they illustrate the spiritual blessings offered to the world through connection with the God whom Joseph and Daniel worshiped. Everyone in whose heart Christ abides, everyone who will show forth His love to the world, is a worker together with God for the blessing of humanity. As he receives from the Saviour grace to impart to others, from his whole being flows forth the tide of spiritual life. AA 13.2

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Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 224

At the very opening of the fruitful years began the preparation for the approaching famine. Under the direction of Joseph, immense storehouses were erected in all the principal places throughout the land of Egypt, and ample arrangements were made for preserving the surplus of the expected harvest. The same policy was continued during the seven years of plenty, until the amount of grain laid in store was beyond computation. PP 224.1

And now the seven years of dearth began to come, according to Joseph's prediction. “And the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do. And the famine was over all the face of the earth: and Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians.” PP 224.2

The famine extended to the land of Canaan and was severely felt in that part of the country where Jacob dwelt. Hearing of the abundant provision made by the king of Egypt, ten of Jacob's sons journeyed thither to purchase grain. On their arrival they were directed to the king's deputy, and with other applicants they came to present themselves before the ruler of the land. And they “bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.” “Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.” His Hebrew name had been exchanged for the one bestowed upon him by the king, and there was little resemblance between the prime minister of Egypt and the stripling whom they had sold to the Ishmaelites. As Joseph saw his brothers stooping and making obeisance, his dreams came to his mind, and the scenes of the past rose vividly before him. His keen eye, surveying the group, discovered that Benjamin was not among them. Had he also fallen a victim to the treacherous cruelty of those savage men? He determined to learn the truth. “Ye are spies,” he said sternly; “to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.” PP 224.3

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Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 241

The people of Egypt, in order to supply themselves with food during the famine, had sold to the crown their cattle and lands, and had finally bound themselves to perpetual serfdom. Joseph wisely provided for their release; he permitted them to become royal tenants, holding their lands of the king, and paying an annual tribute of one fifth of the products of their labor. PP 241.1

But the children of Jacob were not under the necessity of making such conditions. On account of the service that Joseph had rendered the Egyptian nation, they were not only granted a part of the country as a home, but were exempted from taxation, and liberally supplied with food during the continuance of the famine. The king publicly acknowledged that it was through the merciful interposition of the God of Joseph that Egypt enjoyed plenty while other nations were perishing from famine. He saw, too, that Joseph's management had greatly enriched the kingdom, and his gratitude surrounded the family of Jacob with royal favor. PP 241.2

But as time rolled on, the great man to whom Egypt owed so much, and the generation blessed by his labors, passed to the grave. And “there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.” Not that he was ignorant of Joseph's services to the nation, but he wished to make no recognition of them, and, so far as possible, to bury them in oblivion. “And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.” PP 241.3

The Israelites had already become very numerous; they “were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.” Under Joseph's fostering care, and the favor of the king who was then ruling, they had spread rapidly over the land. But they had kept themselves a distinct race, having nothing in common with the Egyptians in customs or religion; and their increasing numbers now excited the fears of the king and his people, lest in case of war they should join themselves with the enemies of Egypt. Yet policy forbade their banishment from the country. Many of them were able and understanding workmen, and they added greatly to the wealth of the nation; the king needed such laborers for the erection of his magnificent palaces and temples. Accordingly he ranked them with the Egyptians who had sold themselves with their possessions to the kingdom. Soon taskmasters were set over them, and their slavery became complete. “And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigor: and they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigor.” “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.” PP 241.4

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Ellen G. White
Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, 148-53

“And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again, and he gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand; but he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.” The butler was guilty of the sin of ingratitude. After he had obtained relief from his anxiety, by the cheering interpretation of Joseph, he thought that he should, if brought again into the king's favor, certainly remember the captive Joseph, and speak in his favor to the king. He had seen the interpretation of the dream exactly fulfilled, yet in his prosperity he forgot Joseph in his affliction and confinement. Ingratitude is regarded by the Lord as among the most aggravating sins. And although abhorred by God and man, yet it is of daily occurrence. 3SG 148.1

Two years longer Joseph remained in his gloomy prison. The Lord gave Pharaoh remarkable dreams. In the morning the king was troubled because he could not understand them. He called for the magicians of Egypt, and the wise men. The king thought that they would soon help him to understand these dreams, for they had a reputation of solving difficulties. The king related his dream to them, but was greatly disappointed to find that with all their magic and boasted wisdom, they could not explain them. The perplexity and distress of the king increased. As the chief butler saw his distress, all at once Joseph came into his mind, and at the same time a conviction of his forgetfulness and ingratitude, “Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day.” He then related to the king the dreams which he and the chief baker had, which troubled them as the dreams which now troubled the king, and said, “And there was there with us a young man, an Hebrew servant to the captain of the guard, and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams, 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 restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.” 3SG 148.2

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