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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 41

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Genesis 41:0


Pharaoh's DreamPharaoh's DreamJoseph's ElevationJoseph Interprets the King's DreamsPharaoh's Dream
Genesis 41:1-8Genesis 41:1-8Genesis 41:1-8Genesis 41:1-8Genesis 41:1-4
Genesis 41:5-7
Genesis 41:8-13
Genesis 41:9-13Genesis 41:9-13Genesis 41:9-13Genesis 41:9-13
Joseph Interprets
Genesis 41:14-24Genesis 41:14-24Genesis 41:14-21Genesis 41:14-15Genesis 41:14-16
Genesis 41:16
Genesis 41:17-24Genesis 41:17-24
Genesis 41:25-36Genesis 41:25-36Genesis 41:25-36Genesis 41:25-32Genesis 41:25-32
Genesis 41:33-36Genesis 41:33-36
Joseph's Rise to Power Joseph is Made Governor Over EgyptJoseph's Promotion
Genesis 41:37Genesis 41:37-45Genesis 41:37-45Genesis 41:37-46aGenesis 41:37-43
Joseph Is Made a Ruler of Egypt
Genesis 41:38-45
Genesis 41:44-45
Genesis 41:46-49Genesis 41:46-49Genesis 41:46-49Genesis 41:46-49Genesis 41:46-49
The Sons of Joseph Joseph's Sons
Genesis 41:50-52Genesis 41:50-52Genesis 41:50-52Genesis 41:50-52Genesis 41:50-52
Genesis 41:53-57Genesis 41:53-57Genesis 41:53-57Genesis 41:53-57Genesis 41:53-57

READING CYCLE THREE (see Guide to Good Bible Reading)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 41:1-8 1Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing by the Nile. 2And lo, from the Nile there came up seven cows, sleek and fat; and they grazed in the marsh grass. 3Then behold, seven other cows came up after them from the Nile, ugly and gaunt, and they stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. 4The ugly and gaunt cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. Then Pharaoh awoke. 5He fell asleep and dreamed a second time; and behold, seven ears of grain came up on a single stalk, plump and good. 6Then behold, seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind, sprouted up after them. 7The thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears. Then Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. 8Now in the morning his spirit was troubled, so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh.

Genesis 41:1 "at the end of two full years" This, of course, relates to chapter 40, where Joseph interprets two person's dreams, both hoping to be released from prison, and yet, this was not successful. The date is from the restoration of one servant and the execution of the other. Throughout the account of Joseph it is interesting that the author/editor gives us several dates: (1) he was seventeen years old when he was sold into slavery (cf. Genesis 37:2); (2) he became second in command of the nation of Egypt when he was thirty years old (cf. Genesis 41:46). With these figures it is possible to see that he had remained in jail approximately thirteen years. This is conditioned on how much time he stayed in Potiphar's service before the incident with his wife.

"Pharaoh" Pharaoh is a collective title for all of the kings of Egypt as Hadad was for Syria, Caesar later becomes for Rome, and Czar was for Russia. The etymology of the term is uncertain, but most Egyptologists assume it is from the phrase "the great house" (BDB 829, i.e., the house of the gods). There has been much speculation about when Joseph could have arisen as second in command over all of Egypt. Many assume that it had to be during the Hyksos period known as "the Shepherd Kings," who were apparently Semitic, not Egyptian (see AB, p. 316). They ruled from 1730 to 1570 B.C. However, it is interesting that in Genesis 41:1, the term for "river," which obviously refers to the Nile, is found in a form that only occurs during the 18th Dynasty or 1546-1085 B.C. From Egyptian documents we also learn that throughout the history of Egypt, there were Semites in places of responsibility in many other Egyptian dynasties than the two mentioned above.

"a dream" There is extensive literature, both in Egypt and Mesopotamia, concerning dreams and their interpretation. It is interesting that the two Hebrew persons involved in interpreting dreams each worked for pagan kings; Daniel in Mesopotamia and Joseph in Egypt.

The NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 154, makes an interesting comment about the three kinds of dreams.

1. natural sleep, Psalms 126:1; Isaiah 29:7-8; Ecclesiastes 5:7

2. false revelation, Jeremiah 23:25, Jeremiah 23:27, Jeremiah 23:32; Jeremiah 27:9-10; Jeremiah 29:8; Zechariah 10:2

3. true revelation, Genesis 20:3; Genesis 28:12; Numbers 12:6; 1 Kings 3:5; Daniel 2:28; Matthew 1:20

Visions can often occur at night, but seem to be different from dreams. The exact nature of the difference is not stated. YHWH communicates to a person's subconscious using symbols and metaphors with which they are familiar.

"the Nile" This (BDB 384) is the first in a series of uniquely Egyptian terms. Not only are they uniquely Egyptian terms, but the entire context is culturally Egyptian. This river and its annual flood was the source of Egypt's life and fertility. It was considered a god (cf. Exodus 1:22) to be appeased.

Genesis 41:2 "seven cows" We learn from Plutarch, the Roman historian, and Clement of Alexandria, an early church father, that "cow" (BDB 831) symbolized the bounty of the earth in Egypt. As the cow was the main herd animal in Egypt, the sheep was in Palestine. The cow was an obvious choice in an Egyptian dream concerning agricultural bounty (i.e., "sleek," BDB 421 [lit. "beautiful"] and "fat," BDB 135).

"they grazed in the marsh grass" This is another Egyptian loan word. We know from Egyptian sources that the cattle immersed themselves in the water along the Nile for several reasons: (1) to keep cool; (2) to keep the insects off; and (3) to eat the lush growth of marsh grass (BDB 28).

Genesis 41:3-4 These cows are in direct contrast with the healthy cows of Genesis 41:2.

1. ugly (lit. "bad of sight"), BDB 948 I CONSTRUCT BDB 909

2. gaunt (lit. "thin of flesh"), BDB 201 CONSTRUCT BDB 142

They eat up (BDB 37, KB 46, Qal IMPERFECT) the healthy cows (Genesis 41:4).

Genesis 41:5 The second dream is repetitious except the cows are replaced by contrasting ears of grain (BDB 987 II).

Genesis 41:6 "the east wind" This desert wind (BDB 870), so notorious for its blighting of the agricultural produce of the land, is called the "Sirroco" (Aramaic) in Palestine, where it blows from the southeast. It is called the "Khamsin" in Egypt and it comes more from the south, southeast. It is referred to in Ezekiel 17:10 and Hosea 13:15. All the food for the cattle (and thereby humans) would die.

Genesis 41:8 "his spirit was troubled" The term translated "spirit" is ruah (BDB 924), which denotes the life force of animals and humans on this planet. It can be translated "wind," "breath," and "spirit."

The VERB "troubled" (BDB 821, KB 952, Niphal IMPERFECT) is a rare word. It is used in the Niphal stem in Psalms 77:4; Daniel 2:1, Daniel 2:3, and the Qal is used of God's Spirit "stirring" in Judges 13:25. Its basic meaning is "to thrust" or "to impel."

"the magicians of Egypt" This seems to be another Egyptian loan word that comes from the root "to engrave" (BDB 355) and is always used of occultic knowledge (cf. Exodus 7:11, Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:7, Exodus 8:18, Exodus 8:19; Exodus 9:11). Why an Egyptian term would be used for Babylonian soothsaying priests (cf. Daniel 1:20; Daniel 2:2, Daniel 2:10, Daniel 2:27; Daniel 4:7, Daniel 4:9) is uncertain. Therefore, these men were the readers, practitioners, and writers of the ancient books concerning divination, interpretations, etc. They are referred to not only in Egypt, but also in Babylon (cf. Isaiah 44:25; Jeremiah 50:35; Jeremiah 51:57) and in Persia (cf. Genesis 41:3 and 6:13). The terms used in Daniel are different terms, but refer to the same type of people.

For an extensive discussion of the practices of divination and dream interpretation see A. L. Oppenheim, The Interpretation of Dreams in the Ancient Near East, pp. 184-307.

"and all its wise men" This refers to the court counselors (BDB 481 CONSTRUCT BDB 314, cf. Exodus 7:11; Isaiah 19:11, Isaiah 19:12), not necessarily the priestly class of soothsayers referred to by the former term.

"there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh" Pharaoh apparently had more honest wise men than Nebuchadnezzar, who did not trust his magi enough to give them the content of his dreams lest they make up an interpretation (cf. Daniel 2:0)!

Verses 9-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 41:9-13 9Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharaoh, saying, "I would make mention today of my own offenses. 10Pharaoh was furious with his servants, and he put me in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, both me and the chief baker. 11We had a dream on the same night, he and I; each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. 12Now a Hebrew youth was with us there, a servant of the captain of the bodyguard, and we related them to him, and he interpreted our dreams for us. To each one he interpreted according to his own dream. 13And just as he interpreted for us, so it happened; he restored me in my office, but he hanged him."

Genesis 41:9-12 "my own offenses" This paragraph refers to the events recorded in Genesis 40:0. It almost seems he is talking to a new Pharaoh.

Genesis 41:12 "a Hebrew youth" See note at Genesis 40:15.

Verses 14-24

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 41:14-24 14Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh. 15Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it." 16Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer." 17So Pharaoh spoke to Joseph, "In my dream, behold, I was standing on the bank of the Nile; 18and behold, seven cows, fat and sleek came up out of the Nile, and they grazed in the marsh grass. 19Lo, seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and gaunt, such as I had never seen for ugliness in all the land of Egypt; 20and the lean and ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows. 21Yet when they had devoured them, it could not be detected that they had devoured them, for they were just as ugly as before. Then I awoke. 22I saw also in my dream, and behold, seven ears, full and good, came up on a single stalk; 23and lo, seven ears, withered, thin, and scorched by the east wind, sprouted up after them; 24and the thin ears swallowed the seven good ears. Then I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me."

Genesis 41:14 "they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon" Again we have an Egyptian loan word (see note at Genesis 40:15) in the term "dungeon," which seems to mean "incarcerated within an Egyptian fortress." Apparently Joseph was kept with the political prisoners.

"shaved himself and changed his clothes" Here again is the Egyptian custom of not only shaving one's beard, but of shaving one's entire body, and cleaning one's self completely before approaching Pharaoh.

Genesis 41:16 "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer" This answer is much like Daniel 2:27-30. Joseph knew the source of his dreams was not in his ability to use divination or to read ancient documents, but in the power of God (cf. Genesis 40:8). Joseph has a theocentric worldview (cf. Genesis 41:25, Genesis 41:28, Genesis 41:32).

The term translated "favorable" is the term shalom (BDB 1022), which denotes "peace," "well being," or "favor." See Special Topic: Peace (shalom). In the context of chapter 41, the shalom may refer to Pharaoh's spirit ("his spirit was troubled") in Genesis 41:8.

Genesis 41:17-24 This is a slightly different form from the account of Pharaoh's dream found earlier in chapter 41. It fits the situation exactly. No one would retell the story exactly the same without embellishing some points and omitting other points. To me it is a sign of the historicity of the account.

Genesis 41:18 The term "sleek" is a Hebrew CONSTRUCT "beautiful" (BDB 421) and "form" (BDB 1061). This CONSTRUCT is used of

1. cows, here

2. women, Genesis 29:17; Deuteronomy 21:11; 1 Samuel 25:3; Esther 2:7

3. man, Genesis 39:6

4. tree, Jeremiah 11:16

Verses 25-36

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 41:25-36 25Now Joseph said to Pharaoh, "Pharaoh's dreams are one and the same; God has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do. 26The seven good cows are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one and the same. 27The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven thin ears scorched by the east wind will be seven years of famine. 28It is as I have spoken to Pharaoh: God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do. 29Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt; 30and after them seven years of famine will come, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will ravage the land. 31So the abundance will be unknown in the land because of that subsequent famine; for it will be very severe. 32Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about. 33Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. 35Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh's authority, and let them guard it. 36Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine."

Genesis 41:25 Joseph is addressing an Egyptian who would not recognize YHWH so he used the more general name for Deity, Elohim. See Special Topic: Names for Deity.

This God is ready and willing to inform Pharaoh, a pagan king, about His future plans (cf. Genesis 41:25, Genesis 41:28, Genesis 41:32). The "nations" have always been the focus of God's eternal, redemptive plan (cf. Genesis 3:15; Genesis 12:3; Exodus 19:5-6; Isaiah; Jonah; Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8)!

Genesis 41:26-32 Joseph began to explain the dream to Pharaoh. Note in Genesis 41:24 none of his magicians could do it.

Genesis 41:26 "seven years" In literature of the ANE seven year cycles were common (cf. ANET, p. 31).

Genesis 41:27

NASB“thin ears" NKJV“empty heads" NRSV, JPSOA"empty ears" TEV“thin heads of grain" NJB“shriveled ears of grain" LXX"thin and blasted ears"

The Hebrew words for

1. thin (BDB 210), הדקות

2. empty (BDB 938), הרקות

The letters d (ד) and r (ר) are often confused. The UBS Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project (1979, p. 62) gives "thin" a B rating (some doubt).

Genesis 41:32 "the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about" Joseph is asserting his God's power and foreknowledge related to events in Egypt. The Egyptian magicians (cf. Exodus 7-8), and by implication the Egyptian gods, were not able to know it or stop it.

YHWH later used the plagues of the Exodus to also depreciate the Egyptian pantheon. YHWH wants Egyptians to know Him!

Genesis 41:33-36 In these verses Joseph gives his wise understanding of what should be done to prepare for the abundance and then severe famine.

Notice the VERBALS.

1. "let Pharaoh look for a man, discerning and wise," Genesis 41:33, BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal JUSSIVE

2. "set him over the land of Egypt," Genesis 41:33, BDB 1011, KB 1483, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

3. "let Pharaoh take action," Genesis 41:34, BDB 793, KB 889, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

4. "appoint overseers," Genesis 41:34, BDB 823, KB 955, Hiphil JUSSIVE

5. "let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land," Genesis 41:34, BDB 332, KB 331, Piel PERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense (NASB)

6. "let them gather all the food," Genesis 41:35, BDB 867, KB 1062, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

7. "store up the grain," Genesis 41:35, BDB 840, KB 999, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

8. "let them guard it," Genesis 41:35, BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal PERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense (NASB)

9. "let the food become as a reserve," Genesis 41:36, BDB 224, KB 242, Qal PERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense (there are three Qal PERFECTS functioning as JUSSIVES in this context)

10. also note the phrase "it will be very severe" of Genesis 41:31

Genesis 41:33 It should be noted that YHWH's revealed forecast of seven years of abundance and then seven years of famine (which no one can affect, yet here it is not a judgment from God, but a weather cycle in a fallen world) can only be dealt with by purposeful, planned human action. This interconnect of God's sovereignty/knowledge and human activity is characteristic of the Bible. Both are crucial (cf. Exodus 3:0, God's knowledge/action in Genesis 41:7-9, but Moses' need to respond in Genesis 41:10-12).


Genesis 41:34 "and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt" Notice that the phrase "of the produce" is in italics, which means it is not in the Hebrew text. Therefore, the VERB "exact a fifth" (BDB 332, KB 331, Piel PERFECT) can refer to a taxation of 20%, which we learn was common in the Egyptian literature, or it might refer to a dividing of the land of Egypt into five administrative districts (AB, p. 313).

Some commentators think the VERB is coming from the PASSIVE PARTICIPLE שמת (BDB 332), which means "armed" or "equipped" (cf. Joshua 1:14; Joshua 4:12; Judges 7:11, AB, p. 313). This is followed by the JPSOA, "organize the land of Egypt."

Genesis 41:36 "so that the land may not perish during the famine" The term "land" (BDB 75) is functioning as a metaphor for the people and government of Egypt.

Verses 37-45

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 41:37-45 37Now the proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants. 38Then Pharaoh said to his servants, "Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?" 39So Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. 40You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you." 41Pharaoh said to Joseph, "See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt." 42Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph's hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put the gold necklace around his neck. 43He had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, "Bow the knee!" And he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Though I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt." 45Then Pharaoh named Joseph Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, as his wife. And Joseph went forth over the land of Egypt.

Genesis 41:38 "a divine spirit" This is translated from the Hebrew words ruach Elohim (BDB 924, and BDB 43). Notice that Pharaoh uses the same name for God as Joseph has used. This seems to be a common characterization for one who was able to interpret dreams (cf. Daniel 4:8, Daniel 4:9, Daniel 4:18; Daniel 5:11, Daniel 5:14) by non-Hebrews.

Genesis 41:40

NASB“do homage" NKJV“shall be ruled" NRSV“shall order themselves" TEV“will obey your orders" NJB“respect your order" LXX"be obedient to your word" JPSOA"be directed" REB"will respect your every word"

The etymology of this term is uncertain, but it seems to be related to a Hebrew root which means "kiss upon the mouth" (BDB 676, KB 30, Qal IMPERFECT). It may mean (1) "to be obedient" (KB) or (2) "to kiss the ground as a gesture of homage" (cf. Psalms 2:12). Egyptians shall honor Joseph's word (lit. mouth) as they do Pharaoh's (cf. Genesis 41:42, Genesis 41:43, Genesis 41:44). He was made Pharaoh's "Grand Vizier."

Genesis 41:42 "his signet ring" This is from the same root as the VERB "to sink down" (BDB 371), which may refer to the official ring sinking down in clay or wax to officially document something (cf. Esther 3:10, Esther 3:12; Esther 8:8, Esther 8:10).

"clothed him in garments of fine linen" This is another Egyptian loan (BDB 1058 III) word that refers to the fine white linen worn by the elite classes of Egyptian society.

"put the gold necklace around his neck" This was a symbol of authority throughout Egyptian history, particularly in the 12th dynasty (cf. Daniel 5:7, Daniel 5:16, Daniel 5:29). All of these details are true of Egypt's culture of the period. These are eyewitness details!

Genesis 41:43 "second in charge" This was a way of referring to Joseph as second in command of Egypt (i.e., Grand Vizier). The term "second" (BDB 1041) often refers to political or administrative offices (cf. 1 Samuel 23:17; 2 Kings 23:4; 2 Kings 25:18; 1 Chronicles 5:12; 1 Chronicles 15:18; 2 Chronicles 28:7; 2 Chronicles 31:12; Nehemiah 11:17; Esther 10:3; Jeremiah 52:24).

"Bow the knee" The meaning of this Egyptian term ("Abrek," cf. JPSOA) has been greatly debated. It sounds like the Hebrew root "to kneel." There are several other possible translations found in Brown, Driver and Briggs (BDB 7). However, the Vulgate, Aquilla's Hebrew translation, Origen of Alexandria, and the Jewish commentator, Kimchi, all say that it means "to bow the knee," which comes from an ancient Hebrew root (BDB 7). This seems to be the best possibility contextually.

Genesis 41:44 "no one shall raise his hand or foot" This is an idiom for "no work or effort shall start or continue without Joseph's permission." It denotes a total and complete authority.

Genesis 41:45 "Then Pharaoh named Joseph Zaphenath-paneah" This is an official title (BDB 861) related to Pharaoh himself (cf. Genesis 45:8). Pharaoh's naming him may have been a cultural sign of his authority over Joseph. There have been several proposed etymologies. The most popular one has been "the god speaks and he lives," which seems to refer to Pharaoh as the son of the sun god, Re, or possibly Joseph's God speaks and saves Egypt. Another possibility is "he who knows things," which would refer to Joseph as a dream interpreter.

"and he gave him Asenath, the daughter of" This is another Egyptian name which means "belongs to Neith" (BDB 62, cf. Genesis 41:45, Genesis 41:50; Genesis 46:20), who is the love goddess of the Egyptians.

"Potiphera priest of On" This is another Egyptian name which is a lengthening of the name Potiphar, found in Genesis 37:36; Genesis 39:1. It means "he to whom (Re) gave" (BDB 806). Pharaoh is making Joseph a part of the elite classes of Egypt's society by this marriage to the daughter of an important priest (BDB 463).

"On" "On" (BDB 58) is the city of the sun god. It is called Heliopolis in Greek and Beth Shemesh in Hebrew (cf. Jeremiah 43:13). It was located about seven miles north of Cairo, on the border of the Land of Goshen.

NASB, NKJV "and Joseph went forth over the land of Egypt" NRSV "Thus Joseph gained authority over the land of Egypt" TEV "traveled all over the land" NJB, LXX "and Joseph began to journey all over Egypt" REB "Joseph's authority extended over the whole of Egypt" JPSOA "Thus Joseph emerged in charge of the land of Egypt"

This phrase is literally translated in the NASB and NKJV. However, its meaning is disputed.

1. vv. 45 and 46 are parallel, therefore, "traveled over the whole land" (TEV, NJB, LXX, NIV)

2. in Esther 1:17 this very common VERB "go" or "come" (BDB 422, KB 425, Qal IMPERFECT), also a Qal IMPERFECT, is used in the sense of something spreading (i.e., the message about Vasti's defiance). So here Joseph's fame and authority spread throughout the land (NRSV, REB).

3. Because the phrase "over the land" following the VERB is used in Genesis 41:33, Genesis 41:41, and 43 in connection with Joseph's authority as Vizier, then the VERB here must refer to that also (JPSOA).

Verses 46-49

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 41:46-49 46Now Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. 47During the seven years of plenty the land brought forth abundantly. 48So he gathered all the food of these seven years which occurred in the land of Egypt and placed the food in the cities; he placed in every city the food from its own surrounding fields. 49Thus Joseph stored up grain in great abundance like the sand of the sea, until he stopped measuring it, for it was beyond measure.

Genesis 41:46 "thirty years old" This is literally "son of thirty years," which is an idiom (cf. Leviticus 27:5; 2 Kings 8:26; Jeremiah 52:1).

Genesis 41:47-49 Joseph's dream interpretation was completely accurate. The abundance is accentuated in several ways.

1. seven years of plenty, Genesis 41:47

2. the land brought forth abundantly, Genesis 41:47

3. stored grain in great abundance, Genesis 41:47, Genesis 41:47

4. like the sand of the sea, Genesis 41:49

5. until he stopped measuring it for it was beyond measure, Genesis 41:49

Verses 50-52

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 41:50-52 50Now before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore to him. 51Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, "For," he said, "God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household." 52He named the second Ephraim, "For," he said, "God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction."

Genesis 41:51 "Manasseh" This name (BDB 586) is related to the Hebrew VERB "to forget" (BDB 674, KB 728, Piel PARTICIPLE) by sound similarity. This is specifically related to the pain involved in the actions of his brothers. Later events in Genesis show that Joseph had not completely gotten over his brother's hateful betrayal.

Genesis 41:52 "Ephraim" This name (BDB 68) is related to a term "fruitfulness" or "double fruit" (BDB 826, cf. Genesis 49:22) by popular wordplay. It is interesting to note that in modern Israel, Jewishness is determined by the Jewish mother. In reality, these two boys are not really Jewish! They will later become the half-tribes who will inherit Joseph's double portion and will make up part of the twelve tribes (i.e., thirteen) of Israel. Levi will not be counted as a tribe for inheritance purposes (cf. Joshua).

Verses 53-57

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 41:53-57 53When the seven years of plenty which had been in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54and the seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said, then there was famine in all the lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, you shall do." 56When the famine was spread over all the face of the earth, then Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold to the Egyptians; and the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57The people of all the earth came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the earth.

Genesis 41:53-57 This explains historically how Pharaoh came to own all the land of Egypt (cf. Genesis 47:20-26). The Egyptians sold their land to the king to buy grain to feed themselves and their families.

It must be noted that famine would have shown the failure of Egyptian religion (i.e., sun god, fertility gods, and the Nile itself) to be able to deliver Egypt, but YHWH could!

Genesis 41:56

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, TEV, VULGATE"all the storehouses" NJB, LXX, REB"all the granaries" JPSOA"all that was within"

The Hebrew text is literally translated by JPSOA. It can refer to

1. all the places where Joseph stored the grain

2. all the places where the Egyptians could buy grain throughout the land

Genesis 41:57 This verse describes the terrible drought and famine over the whole Near East and Mediterranean area. Many nations came to Egypt to buy food. Joseph saved

1. Egypt

2. many other surrounding people groups

3. especially the chosen family of Jacob!

God's providence functions on several levels!

Note the hyperbole in the phrase "all the earth." This is parallel to the phrase used in Genesis 6-7 about the extent of the flood (cf. Genesis 7:19, ארצ, 'eres, BDB 75, , see Special Topic: Land, Country, Earth (ארץ).


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. List all of the Egyptian loan words in this chapter and the uniquely Egyptian customs.

2. Describe magicians and their function in the Ancient Near East

3. List all of the ways that Joseph's new position is described in Genesis 41:41-44.

4. What is the meaning of the names of Joseph's sons and what is their significance (Genesis 41:50-52)?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Genesis 41". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/genesis-41.html. 2021.
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