Jan. 14 Reading: Genesis 41-42 Commentary

Below is our Genesis 41-42 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.

Key Verse(s):

“Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.'” (Gen. 41:39-40)

Genesis 41

commentaryTwo years pass by between the events of Genesis 40 and 41 (v. 1). Joseph remains in prison. But that circumstance is about to come to an end. And once again, God will use dreams in the life of Joseph to move His plan forward.

This time the dreamer is Pharaoh himself. In the same night, he has two consecutive dreams with disturbing imagery:

Dream 1: Pharaoh sees seven attractive and plump cows and seven ugly and thin cows standing by the Nile. The seven ugly cows eat up the seven attractive cows.

Dream 2: Pharaoh sees seven good looking ears of grain and seven blighted and thin ears of grain growing on a stalk. The seven thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears.

When Pharaoh awoke, he was disturbed by the imagery. So, he called all his magicians and wise men to his side to interpret the dream. None of them could tell him what it meant.

This triggered the memory of the chief butler. He told Pharaoh about his encounter with Joseph in prison and how Joseph had interpreted his dream correctly. So, Pharaoh commanded that Joseph be cleaned and brought before him.

Joseph Before Pharaoh

After all these years as a slave and prisoner in Egypt, Joseph’s faith remained intact. When Pharaoh asks about his ability to interpret dreams, Joseph replies, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (v. 16). So Pharaoh describes the dreams to Joseph as he did to his magicians.

Joseph’s interpretation is dire. He tells Pharaoh both dreams mean the same thing. God has shown Pharaoh there is about to be seven years of plenty in the land. But following that will be seven years of famine. The famine will be so bad no one will remember the seven years of plenty.

But Joseph doesn’t just come only armed with problems. On his own, he offers Pharaoh a solution to the problem at hand:

‘Now therefore, let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, to collect one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. Then that food shall be as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which shall be in the land of Egypt, that the land may not perish during the famine.” (Gen. 41:33-36).

Joseph’s Life Changes Forever

God has been with Joseph every moment of his life which, up until this point, has been mostly filled with dark times. As a young man, he was treated poorly by his family. In his adult life, he’s known two things, slavery and prison. He’s had one of the roughest journeys to this part one could think of.

But now, that’s all about to change with one statement from Pharaoh. When he hears Joseph’s interpretation and proposal to fix it, he declares to his servants:

“‘Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.’ And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.'” (Gen. 41:38-41).

It’s a rags to riches story. Perhaps though, it’s better to describe it as a redemption story. Joseph shows us that sometimes we have to go through the darkest of circumstances to reach the good on the other side.

Joseph’s journey was completely orchestrated by God. Now at 30 years of age, Joseph sits as second in command of all the land of Egypt.

Joseph Manages the Crisis

Joseph’s masterfully managed the crisis in Egypt. During the seven years of plenty, he gathered as much grain as possible and stored it in the cities. He collected so much grain that he quit keeping records of it because it was immeasurable.

During this time, he managed to have two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, from his wife Asenath, who had been given to him by Pharaoh.

Once the seven years of plenty were through, the famine came just as God had said. When food ran out, all of Egypt cried out for Pharaoh to feed them. He pointed them to Joseph and said “…whatever he says to you, do” (v. 55).

Joseph distributed food to the entire land of Egypt. But, as it turns out, Egypt wasn’t the only nation affected by this situation. The famine was region wide. So Chap. 41 closes by saying, “…all countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain…” (v. 57).

The lesson here is clear: There is great wisdom in planning ahead to meet your needs. Always trust in God to provide. But also demonstrate wisdom to be ready for a day of crisis.

Genesis 42 – Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt

Back in Canaan, Jacob’s family has been affected by the famine as well. He instructs his sons to head to Egypt to buy grain. When they arrive, they must go before Joseph to make a request for grain. But two interesting things happen when they meet.

For starters, Joseph recognizes his brothers but they don’t recognize him. He was 17 years old when they sold him into slavery and is now 30. So many years have passed. And most likely, he looked like an Egyptian.

Secondly though, they bowed before him to show respect. “Then Joseph remembered the dreams which he had dreamed about them…” (v. 9).

What should Joseph do? Should he reveal himself? Does he take revenge? Should he help his brothers after all they have put him through?

Joseph’s Plan

Instead of revealing himself, Joseph takes a different approach. He accuses them of being spies and asks them to prove they are who they say. The price? Bring their youngest brother (Benjamin) to Egypt as proof of their words.

This test does not sit well with the brothers. When they hear Joseph’s accusation and realize what they must do, they said to one another [regarding Joseph]:

“‘We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.” And Reuben answered them, saying, ‘Did I not speak to you, saying, ‘Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us.'” (Gen. 42:21-22)

They don’t know Joseph can understand their language. He leaves their presence and gets emotional, only to return and take Simeon prisoner until the brothers return.

Joseph gives them grain but secretly puts all their money for payment back in the bag. When the brothers discover it on their return trip, they are terrified saying, “What is this that God has done to us?” (v. 28)

Of course, when Jacob finds out all that happens, he is distraught that Simeon has been taken prisoner. And he refuses to let them take Benjamin back out of fear something will happen to him as well.

Questions and Thoughts to Consider from Genesis 41-42:

Joseph’s management skills in dealing with the region wide famine could rival any modern-day CEO. He trusted God would provide but he also did his part to plan ahead for the coming crisis. Are you doing what it takes to be prepared for what lies ahead? If not, what’s holding you back?

What tough times have you gone through that eventually resulted in some good occurring? How were you able to handle the valley in order to reach the peak?

What other points would you want to know about in our Genesis 41-42 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.