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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 41

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



Pharaoh's two dreams, Genesis 41:1-7.

He is troubled; sends for interpreters; their inability, Genesis 41:8.

The chief butler, sensible of his fault, remembers Joseph, Genesis 41:9; commends him to Pharaoh, Genesis 41:10-13, who causes him to be brought before him, Genesis 41:14, expecting the interpretation from him, Genesis 41:15.

Joseph ascribes all to God, Genesis 41:16.

Pharaoh relates his dreams to Joseph, Genesis 41:17-24.

He interprets them, Genesis 41:25-31.

The reason of their being doubled, Genesis 41:32.

His advice to Pharaoh against the dearth to come, Genesis 41:33-36, which he approves of, Genesis 41:37; appoints him governor, next himself, over the whole land, Genesis 41:38-41.

The ensigns of dignity and stately presents conferred on him, Genesis 41:42-44; also a new name, Zaphnath-paaneah, and a wife, Genesis 41:45.

Joseph, now thirty years of age, makes a progress over all the land, inspects the stores, lays up provisions, Genesis 41:45-49; has two children, Manasseh and Ephraim, Genesis 41:50-52.

Bad years come on; he supplies the country, Genesis 41:53-57.

Verse 1

Two full years, after the butler's restitution to his place. Heb. Years of days, for full years, as 2 Samuel 14:28; Jeremiah 28:3; as a month of days is put for a full month, Genesis 29:14, which is complete to a day. Nilus is called the river simply, because of its eminency, as Homer or Virgil are called the poet.

Verse 2

This suits well with the nature of the thing, for both the fruitfulness and the barrenness of Egypt depended, under God, upon the increase or diminution of the waters of that river.

Kine, when they appeared in dreams, did portend, in the opinion of the learned Egyptians, the years or times to come, and them either good or bad, according to their quality.

Verse 3

Which shows how sparingly the river overflowed the lands.

Verse 5

Ears of corn are fit and proper resemblances of the thing here intended, both because the fertility of a land doth mainly consist in the abundance and goodness of these; and because ears of corn appearing to any in a dream, did, in the judgment of the Egyptian wise men, signify years, as Josephus notes.

Verse 6

A boisterous wind, and in those parts of the world very pernicious to the fruits of the earth, Ezekiel 17:10; Ezekiel 19:12; Hosea 13:15.

Verse 7

Not a real thing, as Pharaoh in his sleep imagined it to be. Heb. Behold the dream, i.e. the dream did not vanish, as dreams commonly do, but was fixed in his mind, and he could not shake it off; by which he saw that it was no common or natural, but a Divine and significant dream.

Verse 8

His spirit was troubled, because he understood not the meaning of it, and dreaded the consequences of it. Compare Genesis 40:6; Daniel 2:1,Daniel 2:3; Matthew 27:19.

The magicians, whose profession it was to discover secret and future things; which they did either by the observation of the stars, or by other superstitious practices, and the help of evil spirits. See Exodus 7:11; Exodus 8:19; Daniel 2:2,Daniel 2:10.

The wise men, who were conversant in the study of nature; and by reason of their great sagacity, did ofttimes make happy conjectures.

Pharoah calls them both one dream, either because they seemed to portend the same thing, or because they were the product of one night, and were divided only by a very little interruption.

Verse 9

Not against Joseph by ingratitude, but against the king; by which expression he both acknowledgeth the king’s justice in imprisoning him, and his clemency in pardoning him.

Verse 11

Of which phrase see Poole on "Genesis 40:5".

Verse 13

Me he restored; either,

1. Pharaoh. But then he would have mentioned either his name or title, and not have spoken so slightly and indecently of him. Or rather,

2. Joseph, of whom he spake last, and who is here said to restore the one, and to hang the other, because he foretold those events, as Jeremiah is said to pull down and destroy those nations, Jeremiah 1:10, whose destruction he did only foretell.

Verse 14

The dungeon, or prison, by a synecdoche of the part for the whole. For it is not probable that Joseph, who was now so much employed, and intrusted with all the affairs of the prison and prisoners, Genesis 39:21-23, should still be kept in the dungeon properly so called.

He shaved himself; for till then he suffered his hair to grow, as the manner was for persons in prison, or under great sorrow, 2 Samuel 19:24. But to appear in a mournful dress before the king was not convenient, nor usual. Compare Esther 4:4.

Verse 16

I cannot do this by any power, or virtue, or art of my own, for I am but a man, as your magicians are, but only by inspiration from the great God. Thus he gives the honour from himself unto God, and leads Pharaoh to the knowledge of the true God. For the phrase compare Matthew 10:20; 1 Corinthians 15:10.

God shall give; or, may God give, & c. It is my desire that God would vouchsafe to Pharaoh a comfortable and happy answer.

Verse 21

They seemed to be neither fatter in the flesh, nor fuller in their bodies. As many times in famine men eat much, but are not satisfied, because God withdraws his blessing from it, by which alone it is that meat nourisheth us.

Verse 25

The dream of Pharaoh is one, to wit, in its design and signification; both dreams portend the same thing.

Verse 30

There shall be no relics of it to keep it in men’s minds, which will be so taken up with the contemplation of their present misery and future danger, that they will have neither heart nor leisure to reflect upon their former plenty, the remembrance whereof will but aggravate the present calamity.

Verse 34

Not by force or violence, for Joseph would never be the author of such unrighteous counsels; but by purchase at the common price, which was like to be very low in that case, and therefore might easily be compassed by that rich and mighty prince.

Quest. Why

the fifth part, and not half, seeing the years of famine were as many as the years of plenty?

Answ. Because,

1. Men would and should live more sparingly in times of famine.

2. It was likely that very many men would lay up great quantities of corn in those years, partly because they could not spend it all, and partly in expectation of a scarcer and dearer time, when they might either use it themselves, or sell it to their advantage.

3. The fifth part of those years of great plenty might be more than the half, yea, equal to the whole crop of ordinary years.

Verse 38

Or, of the gods, in his heathen language. One whom God hath endowed with such admirable knowledge and wisdom.

Verse 39

God hath showed thee all this, i.e. hath given thee this extraordinary gift of foreseeing and foretelling things to come, and of giving such sage advice for the future.

Verse 40

According unto thy word, i.e. direction and command, Heb. mouth, which is oft put for command, (as Exodus 17:1; Exodus 38:21; Numbers 3:16,Numbers 3:39, &c.,) shall all my poeple be ruled, or, be fed; they shall receive their provisions from thy hand, and according to thy disposal. Others, shall kiss, viz. the hand, as inferiors used to do, upon their address to or conference with great persons. See Job 31:27; Hosea 13:2. But it was frivolous for Joseph to command them to do that which by the custom of the place they were obliged and wont to do. Some render the word thus, and that agreeable to the Hebrew, at thy mouth shall the people kiss; which may be understood either properly, as inferiors did sometimes kiss their superiors in token of their homage; see 1 Samuel 10:1; or rather metaphorically, as the same phrase is used Psalms 2:12; Proverbs 24:26, receive all thy commands with reverence and submission.

In the throne, i.e. in sovereign power and dignity.

Verse 42

His ring was both a token of highest dignity, and an instrument of greatest power, by which he had authority to make and sign what decrees he thought fit in the king’s name. See Esther 3:10; Esther 8:2. With

fine linen the greatest potentates were arrayed. See Proverbs 31:22,Proverbs 31:24; Ezekiel 16:10; Luke 16:19; Revelation 19:8.

A gold chain was another badge of great honour. See Proverbs 1:9; Ezekiel 16:11; Daniel 5:7,Daniel 5:16,Daniel 5:29.

Verse 43

In the second chariot; in the king’s second chariot, that he might be known and owned to be the next person to the king in power and dignity. Compare 2 Chronicles 35:24; Esther 6:8; Esther 10:3; Daniel 5:29.

Bow the knee: they commanded all that passed by him, or came to him, to show their reverent respect to him in this manner: compare Esther 3:2. Others, tender father, to signify that he was to be owned as the father of the country, because by his prudence and care he had provided for them all, and saved them from utter ruin.

Verse 44

I am Pharaoh, i.e. I only am the king, I reserve to myself the sovereign power over thee, and over all. As the name of Caesar among the Romans was commonly used for the emperor, so the name of Pharaoh for the king. Or thus, I have the supreme power, and therefore as I have authority to give thee the following power, so I will make it good to thee, and oblige all my people to observe and obey thee. No man shall do any thing in the public affairs of the kingdom concerning matters of war or peace without thy commission or licence.

Verse 45

Zaphnath-paaneah, i.e. The revealer of secrets, as the Hebrews generally understand it, and with them most others.

Poti-pherah, not that Potiphar, Genesis 39:1; both because he had another title, and dwelt in another place; and because it is not probable Joseph would have married the daughter of so unchaste a mother; but another and a greater person. It is the observation of a late ingenious and learned writer, that among the Egyptians there were three words, or endings of words, near akin, but differing in signification, and in the degree of dignity and authority, to which those names were annexed: Phar, which belonged to inferior officers; and Pherah, which was given to those of greater dignity and power; and Pharaoh, which was appropriated to the king.

Priest, or prince, as the word signifies, Exodus 18:1; 2 Samuel 8:18; 2 Samuel 20:26, and elsewhere. This sense is the more probable, both from Joseph’s high quality, and from his holy disposition, whereby he hated idolatry, and would never have married the daughter of an idolatrous priest.

On was a famous city of Egypt, called also Aven, Ezekiel 30:17, and afterwards, as some think, Heliopolis, now Damiata. See Jeremiah 43:13.

Joseph went out over all the land, upon his employment, and to execute the king’s command, and his own counsel.

Verse 46

Joseph’s age is here noted to teach us,

1. That Joseph’s short affliction was recompensed with a much longer prosperity, even for eighty years.

2. That Joseph’s excellent wisdom did not proceed from his large and long experience, but from the singular gift of God.

He stood before Pharaoh, as his chief minister: to stand before another is the posture and designation of a servant, as 1 Samuel 16:21; Daniel 1:19.

Went throughout all the land, to provide places for his stores, and to constitute officers for the management of them.

Verse 47

Or, unto handfuls, to wit, growing upon one stalk; or, unto heaps; or, as the ancients render it, for the barns or storehouses; i.e. in such plenty, that all their storehouses were filled with heaps of corn.

Verse 48

All the food; that is, either all sorts of grain which was proper for food; or all which he intended to gather, to wit, the fifth part, Genesis 41:34.

Verse 51

i.e. Hath expelled all sorrowful remembrance of it by my present comfort and glory.

All my toil, and all my father’s house, i.e. the toil of my father’s house, or the toil and misery which for many years I have endured by means of my father’s family, and my own brethren, who sold me hither; a figure called hendyadis.

Verse 52


In the land which hitherto hath been to me a land of affliction.

Verse 54

In all lands; in all the neighbouring countries, appears by comparing this with Genesis 42:1.

Verse 55

The people cried to Pharaoh, as to their king and common father. Compare 2 Kings 6:26.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Genesis 41". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/genesis-41.html. 1685.
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