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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 41

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-7

The Dreams of Pharaoh

Dreams play an important role in Joseph’s life. Two full years have gone by and Joseph is still in the jail. Did he ever think that God had forgotten him? God determines the duration of everything. He sets a limit to our lives. He also sets a limit to the duration of our suffering (cf. Matthew 24:21-Song of Solomon :). He does not tempt beyond what we are able, “but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Time is a factor He uses to teach us patience, to teach us to persevere. This perseverance must have a perfect work (James 1:3-Numbers :).

When the time of God has come, He begins to work. He determines the duration of the humiliation of Joseph. When that time of suffering is full, he goes to work to bring his servant to glory (Psalms 105:19-Ecclesiastes :). Here we see again a beautiful picture of what God works for the glorification of the Lord Jesus. That is what it is always and only about in everything God does.

God begins His work for Joseph’s benefit by making Pharaoh dream dreams that cause him trouble (Genesis 41:8). Pharaoh understands that these are not ordinary dreams, dreams that people have naturally (Ecclesiastes 5:3). They are two dreams with the same meaning. One dream is about seven sleek cows grazing in the marsh grass, and seven ugly and gaunt cows eating up the seven sleek and fat cows. After waking up for a while he falls asleep again and dreams another dream. It is about seven ears of grain on a single stalk, plump and good, and seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind.

Verses 8-13

The Chief Cupbearer Thinks of Joseph

When Pharaoh wakes up, he wants to know what the dreams mean. He tells them to “all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men”, so no one excepted. Not one of them can tell him what the dreams mean. Only when it has become clear that all the wisdom of Egypt, all the wisdom of the world, has no answer to the problem of Pharaoh, Joseph is thought of. To understand the thoughts of God, someone like Joseph is needed.

So it is with the Lord Jesus. Without Him a person doesn’t come a step further with regard to the questions and problems of life. First, the wisdom of the wise must be destroyed before God’s wisdom in Christ is accepted by men (1 Corinthians 1:19-Proverbs :; 1 Corinthians 1:30). Only when a person has completely failed on everything and everyone, does he come to ask the Lord Jesus (cf. Luke 8:43-Acts :).

Through the dreams of Pharaoh, the cupbearer is reminded of his sins and of Joseph. We hear from the cupbearer an acknowledgment of his sins. The cupbearer cannot think of Joseph without thinking of his past, where he met Joseph and what Joseph did for him.

He tells about what happened in the jail, how Joseph interpreted the dreams and how it went exactly as Joseph has interpreted. Surely, we can never think of the Lord Jesus, without thinking about what and where we were and what He did for us, so that we now live in freedom, can we?

Verses 14-16

Joseph Brought out of the Dungeon

Genesis 41:14 gives a brief and beautiful picture of what we read in Philippians 2 about the exaltation of the Lord Jesus after His humiliation in the verses before (Philippians 2:9). They hurry to get Joseph out of prison. What is reminiscent of the prison is disposed of. Here Joseph gets the third garment.

His first garment, the varicolored one, his brothers took from him and dipped it in blood (Genesis 37:31-Micah :). His second garment is his slave garment which he left in the hand of Potiphar’s wife when she caught him by his garment to force him to commit adultery (Genesis 39:10-Job :). This garment may be his jail clothes. In any case, his slave garment and his jail clothes speak of his humiliation. His jail clothes are changed for clothes in which he can go to Pharaoh. They are the clothes of his exaltation by and with Pharaoh.

After his appearance has changed so much that it is suitable to be in the presence of Pharaoh, he is brought from the dungeon into the palace. Pharaoh expects Joseph to interpret his dream to him, because it has been said of him. Joseph, however, rejected any expectation directed at him, and gave God the honor. Just like the wise men of Egypt, Joseph himself is not capable of interpreting the dream. He also speaks even before he has heard the dreams about the fact that God, through the dream, makes known to Pharaoh what is for his good.

Verses 17-24

Pharaoh Tells His Dreams

In the representation of the dream, Pharaoh says something additional to what is not mentioned in the first account (Genesis 41:1-Judges :). He noticed, possibly after thinking about it, that the lean cows have not become thicker, after they have devoured the fat cows. He also checked whether he has ever seen such ugly and gaunt cows in his country as in his dream. He tells Joseph that he told all this to his magicians, but that they cannot tell him its meaning.

Verses 25-32

Joseph Explains the Dreams

Joseph explains – and thus underlines what he said earlier (Genesis 41:16; Genesis 41:28) – that God has revealed to Pharaoh through dreams what He is about to do. There is no doubt whatsoever with Joseph about the explanation he gives. Doubt is glorified today, but in whom the Spirit of God works (Genesis 41:38) and who lives with God judges all things (1 Corinthians 2:15).

In this way we too can speak with certainty about what God is about to do in and with the world in which we live. The book of Revelation, for example, makes that clear. To understand and pass it on we must be slaves of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1). The mind of a slave – that is obeying and serving – is a condition for learning to know God’s thoughts.

First there will come seven years of abundance, and then seven years of famine. The famine will be so great that all abundance will be forgotten. The people of the world also have their vision for the future. On this basis, they determine their policy. However, they do not take God into account, while only God can tell us how things will go. As in Revelation 1, this is a matter that will soon (Revelation 1:1) or “quickly” (Genesis 41:32) be performed by God.

Verses 33-36

Advice from Joseph

Unsolicited, but with dignity, the slave Joseph gives advice to the mighty Pharaoh. There is nothing of revenge on the injustice suffered by him. We see that he offers a helping hand. His advice is to look for one man over Egypt with a view to the things to come. This must be a “discerning and wise” man, who must have overseers who can manage the abundance in the right way in view of the coming famine.

Not through parliaments, cabinets or ministers or other earthly dignitaries will God rule, but through one Man, Who is discerning and wise: Jesus Christ (Isaiah 11:2).

Verses 37-44

Joseph Viceroy

There is only one man who meets the ‘profile’ outlined and that is Joseph. Pharaoh acknowledges that God has revealed everything to Joseph and that Joseph owes his discernment and wisdom to God. That is why he places Joseph over everything he has. Herein is Pharaoh a picture of God Who submits all things to the feet of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:27) and calls to honor Him.

Joseph receives his fourth garment (Genesis 41:42). This garment is connected with the public glory that he has as ruler over all that belongs to Pharaoh. In this he is a picture of the Lord Jesus in the glory He has as the King of kings and Lord of lords. That glory radiates from Him when He accepts His public reign over all things in heaven and on earth (Ephesians 1:10).

Verse 45

A Name and a Wife for Joseph

The name given by Pharaoh to Joseph, “Zaphenath-paneah”, means “revealer of mysteries” or “savior of the world”. Pharaoh gives him not only a name, but also a wife. She is a picture of the bride that the Lord Jesus received after His exaltation: the church from the nations.

Verses 46-49

Joseph at Work

When Joseph was seventeen years old, the way down began. Now that he is thirty years old, he has been made viceroy by Pharaoh. The way to glory always goes through suffering. The Lord Jesus is now in glory. The world is still experiencing a time of abundance, as it were, an abundance of grace. Unfortunately the world doesn’t know about it, they don’t realize it.

We do not read that the Egyptians themselves provide a supply. It is Joseph who takes care of this. It is important that we too gather food for our souls in the years of spiritual abundance. We can do this by visiting meetings where the Word is preached and explained and also by personal Bible study. In this way we can fill the treasuries of our hearts and thoughts. This is especially important when we are young. “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

Verses 50-52

The Sons of Joseph

In the time of abundance, the two sons of Joseph are born. The meaning of the names is significant. “Manasseh” means “forgetting”, “Ephraim” means “double fertility”. Rejected by his brothers, Joseph is in a position to “forget” all the suffering that is done to him (Job 11:16), while he takes care for others that they bear “much fruit”.

So it is in a way also with the Lord Jesus. Rejected by His earthly people, His brethren, He is now in glory, and has received the church as a bride, by which He can forget the reproach done to Him. From glory He makes sure that those who know Him, who are in connection with Him, bear fruit.

Verses 53-57

The Famine Begins

The years of abundance are coming to an end. The years of famine begin. In that time Joseph deals with Egypt and with his brothers. It is the time which can be compared with “the hour of testing, that [hour] which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10) and upon Israel in particular (Jeremiah 30:7). During the years of abundance, we hear nothing from the brothers. That will happen now.

When hunger begins and the land calls for bread, Pharaoh says: “Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, you shall do.” This is again a beautiful picture of the gospel. God says to people in need about their sins and calls to him: “Go to Jesus, do whatever He says to you” (cf. John 2:5).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Genesis 41". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/genesis-41.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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