Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 41

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Genesis 41:1. At the end of two full years — After the butler’s restoration to his place. No doubt Joseph was some considerable time in prison before the keeper of the prison would so far trust him as to commit the other prisoners, especially the state prisoners, to his charge; and he was some time confined with them. Yet two years more pass away before his deliverance came. By this great and long-continued humiliation and trial, he was prepared for the extraordinary exaltation which God designed for him.

Verse 2
Genesis 41:2. There came out of the river — A just and proper emblem this, because both the fruitfulness and barrenness of the land of Egypt depended, under God, on the increase or diminution of the waters of that river. Well-favoured kine, and fat-fleshed — Signifying plenty of grass, whereby they had been thus fed, and promising milk and flesh-meat in abundance.

Verse 5
Genesis 41:5. Seven ears of corn on one stalk — These also were fit emblems of the thing intended, especially as the fertility of that country did chiefly consist in its producing abundance of corn.

Verse 6
Genesis 41:6. Blasted by the east wind — Coming through the parched deserts of Arabia, and very pernicious in Egypt. Thevenot, in his Travels, part 1, Genesis 50:2, c. 34, says, that in the year 1658 two thousand men were destroyed in one night by one of these blasting winds.

Verse 8
Genesis 41:8. His spirit was troubled — Because he was impressed with an idea that the dreams were supernatural, that something extraordinary was intended by them, and because he understood not their meaning, and dreaded the consequences. Compare Genesis 40:6; Daniel 2:1-3; and Matthew 27:19. He called for the magicians, who professed to discover secret and future things, either by consulting the stars, or by other superstitious practices; but if they ever did any thing of that kind, no doubt it was by the help of evil spirits. The wise men, distinguished from these, were employed, it seems, in the study of nature, and, by their great sagacity, often made happy conjectures respecting abstruse and future things. On what principles they interpreted dreams, does not appear. In this instance, however, they were puzzled, and the rules of their art failed them. But this was intended to render Joseph’s interpretation of these dreams, by the Spirit of God, the more wonderful.

Verse 9
Genesis 41:9. I remember my faults this day — In forgetting Joseph; or rather, he means his faults against Pharaoh, for which he was imprisoned; and thus he would insinuate, that, though Pharaoh had forgiven him, he had not forgiven himself. God’s time for the enlargement of his people will appear, at last, to be the fittest time. If the chief butler had at first used his interest for Joseph’s enlargement, and had obtained it, it is probable he would have gone back to the land of the Hebrews, and then he had neither been so blessed himself, nor such a blessing to his family. But staying two years longer, and coming out upon this occasion to interpret the king’s dreams, a way was made for his preferment.

Verse 13
Genesis 41:13. Me he restored unto mine office — That is, Joseph foretold his restoration to his office, and the execution of the other. Thus Jeremiah is said to pull down and destroy those nations, whose downfall and destruction he only foretold, Jeremiah 1:10.

Verse 14
Genesis 41:14. Brought him out of the dungeon — Or prison; for, as Joseph was now so much employed, and intrusted with all the affairs of the prison and prisoners, it is not probable that he should still be kept confined in the dungeon, properly so called. The king could scarce allow him time, but that decency required it, to shave himself, and to change his raiment. It is done with all possible expedition, and Joseph is brought in perhaps almost as much surprised as Peter was, Acts 12:9; so suddenly is his captivity brought back, that he is as one that dreams, <19C601>Psalms 126:1. Pharaoh immediately, without inquiring who or whence he was, tells him his business, that he expected he should interpret his dream.

Verse 16
Genesis 41:16. It is not in me — I cannot do this by any virtue, or power, or art of my own; but only by the inspiration of the great God. 1st, Thus he gives the honour to God, to whom it was due, and leads Pharaoh to the knowledge of him. Great gifts then appear most graceful and illustrious, when those that have them use them humbly, and take not the praise of them to themselves, but give it to God. 2d, He shows respect to Pharaoh, and hearty goodwill to him, supposing that the interpretation would be an answer of peace. Those that consult God’s oracles may expect an answer of peace.

Verse 29
Genesis 41:29. Seven years of great plenty — See the goodness of God, in sending the seven years of plenty before those of famine, that provision might be made accordingly. How wonderful wisely has Providence that great house-keeper, ordered the affairs of his numerous family from the beginning! Great variety of seasons there have been, and the produce of the earth sometimes more, and sometimes less; yet, take one time with another, what was miraculous concerning the manna is ordinarily verified in the common course of Providence; “He that gathers much has nothing over, and he that gathers little has no lack,” Exodus 16:18.

Verse 30
Genesis 41:30. Seven years of famine — See the perishing nature of our worldly enjoyments. The great increase of the years of plenty was quite lost and swallowed up in the years of famine; and the over-plus of it, which seemed very much, yet did but just serve to keep men alive.

Verse 33
Genesis 41:33. Let Pharaoh look out a man — It was not presumption in Joseph to offer this advice to Pharaoh, considering that God, by him, had given Pharaoh the fore-knowledge of what was about to come to pass, and what greatly concerned both him and his whole kingdom. Indeed, the advice was only that he should make a practical and proper use of the revelation now made to him. Joseph, in giving this counsel, could have no view to his own advancement to this office; as any thing of that kind, at that time, when he was just brought out of prison, and did not know but he must be sent back thither, must have appeared highly improbable.

Verse 34
Genesis 41:34. Let him appoint officers to take up a fifth part — Not by force or violence, but by purchase at the common price, which would probably be very low during these years of plenty. But why only a fifth part, seeing the years of famine were to be as many as the years of plenty? 1st, Because people would live more sparingly in the time of the famine. 2d, It is likely that many persons, in all parts of the country, besides the king, would lay up great quantities of corn, both because they could not easily consume it all, and in expectation of a time of greater scarcity and dearness, when they might either use it themselves, or sell it to their advantage. Add to this, 3d, That even the fifth part of the produce of those years of plenty might be more than the half, yea, equal to the whole crop of ordinary years.

Verse 40
Genesis 41:40. According to thy word — Thy direction and command, the word mouth, as the Hebrew is, being often put for command; shall all my people be ruled — Or be fed. They shall receive their provisions from thy hand, and according to thy disposal. But the Hebrew is, at thy mouth shall my people kiss, which may be understood literally; for inferiors used sometimes to kiss their superiors in token of their homage; or rather metaphorically, as the same phrase is used, Psalms 2:12, and Proverbs 24:26, they shall receive all thy commands with reverence and submission.

Verse 42-43
Genesis 41:42-43. Pharaoh took off his ring — Which was both a token of the highest dignity, and an instrument of the greatest power; and put it on Joseph’s hand — Thereby giving him authority to make and sign what decrees he thought fit in the king’s name. He made him ride in the second chariot — That he might be known to be next to the king in dignity and power.

Verse 44
Genesis 41:44. Without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot — A hyperbolical phrase, signifying that all the affairs of the kingdom should pass through his hands. Only in the throne will I be greater than thou — It is probable there were those about court that opposed Joseph’s preferment, which occasioned Pharaoh so oft to repeat the grant, and with that solemn sanction, I am Pharaoh. Hence, besides the honours just mentioned, he also gave him a new name, and such a name as spoke the value he had for him, Zaphnath-paaneah, a revealer of secrets; and he married him honourably to a priest’s, or rather, as the word also signifies, a prince’s daughter. Thus where God had been liberal in giving wisdom and other merits, Pharaoh was not sparing in conferring honours. Now this preferment of Joseph was, 1st, an abundant recompense for his innocent and patient suffering, a lasting instance of the equity and goodness of Providence, and an encouragement to all to trust in a good God; 2d, it was typical of the exaltation of Christ, with great revealer of secrets, (John 1:18,) or, as some translate Joseph’s new name, the Saviour of the world. The brightest glories of the upper world are upon him, the highest trusts lodged in his hand, and all power given him both in heaven and earth. He is gatherer, keeper, and disposer of all the stores of divine grace, and chief ruler of the kingdom of God among men. The work of ministers is to cry before him, Bow the knee; kiss the Son.

Verse 46
Genesis 41:46. Joseph was thirty years old — So that his life had been a life of humiliation and suffering for about thirteen years. But the season of peculiar and great affliction, whereby his faith and patience, and all his graces, had been tried to the uttermost, had prepared him for his subsequent exaltation, which was of much longer duration, even for the space of eighty years. His age may also, perhaps, be mentioned here, to signify that his great wisdom, when he stood before Pharaoh, was not the fruit of long and large experience, but was the singular gift of God.

Verse 50
Genesis 41:50. Two sons — In the names he gave them, he owned the divine providence giving this happy turn to his affairs. He was made to forget his misery, but could he be so unnatural as to forget all his father’s house? And he was made fruitful in the land of his affliction. It had been the land of his affliction, and, in some sense, it was still so, for his distance from his father was still his affliction. Ephraim signifies fruitfulness, and Manasseh, forgetfulness.

Verse 54
Genesis 41:54. The seven years of death began to come — Not only in Egypt, but in other lands, that is, all the neighbouring countries.