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Genesis 41:1-45

Context
Joseph’s Rise to Power

41:1 At the end of two full years 1  Pharaoh had a dream. 2  As he was standing by the Nile, 41:2 seven fine-looking, fat cows were coming up out of the Nile, 3  and they grazed in the reeds. 41:3 Then seven bad-looking, thin cows were coming up after them from the Nile, 4  and they stood beside the other cows at the edge of the river. 5  41:4 The bad-looking, thin cows ate the seven fine-looking, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.

41:5 Then he fell asleep again and had a second dream: There were seven heads of grain growing 6  on one stalk, healthy 7  and good. 41:6 Then 8  seven heads of grain, thin and burned by the east wind, were sprouting up after them. 41:7 The thin heads swallowed up the seven healthy and full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up and realized it was a dream. 9 

41:8 In the morning he 10  was troubled, so he called for 11  all the diviner-priests 12  of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, 13  but no one could interpret 14  them for him. 15  41:9 Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I recall my failures. 16  41:10 Pharaoh was enraged with his servants, and he put me in prison in the house of the captain of the guards – me and the chief baker. 41:11 We each had a dream one night; each of us had a dream with its own meaning. 17  41:12 Now a young man, a Hebrew, a servant 18  of the captain of the guards, 19  was with us there. We told him our dreams, 20  and he interpreted the meaning of each of our respective dreams for us. 21  41:13 It happened just as he had said 22  to us – Pharaoh 23  restored me to my office, but he impaled the baker.” 24 

41:14 Then Pharaoh summoned 25  Joseph. So they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; he shaved himself, changed his clothes, and came before Pharaoh. 41:15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, 26  and there is no one who can interpret 27  it. But I have heard about you, that 28  you can interpret dreams.” 29  41:16 Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “It is not within my power, 30  but God will speak concerning 31  the welfare of Pharaoh.” 32 

41:17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing 33  by the edge of the Nile. 41:18 Then seven fat and fine-looking cows were coming up out of the Nile, and they grazed in the reeds. 34  41:19 Then 35  seven other cows came up after them; they were scrawny, very bad-looking, and lean. I had never seen such bad-looking cows 36  as these in all the land of Egypt! 41:20 The lean, bad-looking cows ate up the seven 37  fat cows. 41:21 When they had eaten them, 38  no one would have known 39  that they had done so, for they were just as bad-looking as before. Then I woke up. 41:22 I also saw in my dream 40  seven heads of grain growing on one stalk, full and good. 41:23 Then 41  seven heads of grain, withered and thin and burned with the east wind, were sprouting up after them. 41:24 The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads of grain. So I told all this 42  to the diviner-priests, but no one could tell me its meaning.” 43 

41:25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Both dreams of Pharaoh have the same meaning. 44  God has revealed 45  to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 46  41:26 The seven good cows represent seven years, and the seven good heads of grain represent seven years. Both dreams have the same meaning. 47  41:27 The seven lean, bad-looking cows that came up after them represent seven years, as do the seven empty heads of grain burned with the east wind. They represent 48  seven years of famine. 41:28 This is just what I told 49  Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. 41:29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the whole land of Egypt. 41:30 But seven years of famine will occur 50  after them, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will devastate 51  the land. 41:31 The previous abundance of the land will not be remembered 52  because of the famine that follows, for the famine will be very severe. 53  41:32 The dream was repeated to Pharaoh 54  because the matter has been decreed 55  by God, and God will make it happen soon. 56 

41:33 “So now Pharaoh should look 57  for a wise and discerning man 58  and give him authority 59  over all the land of Egypt. 41:34 Pharaoh should do 60  this – he should appoint 61  officials 62  throughout the land to collect one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt 63  during the seven years of abundance. 41:35 They should gather all the excess food 64  during these good years that are coming. By Pharaoh’s authority 65  they should store up grain so the cities will have food, 66  and they should preserve it. 67  41:36 This food should be held in storage for the land in preparation for the seven years of famine that will occur throughout the land of Egypt. In this way the land will survive the famine.” 68 

41:37 This advice made sense to Pharaoh and all his officials. 69  41:38 So Pharaoh asked his officials, “Can we find a man like Joseph, 70  one in whom the Spirit of God is present?” 71  41:39 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Because God has enabled you to know all this, there is no one as wise and discerning 72  as you are! 41:40 You will oversee my household, and all my people will submit to your commands. 73  Only I, the king, will be greater than you. 74 

41:41 “See here,” Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I place 75  you in authority over all the land of Egypt.” 76  41:42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his own hand and put it on Joseph’s. He clothed him with fine linen 77  clothes and put a gold chain around his neck. 41:43 Pharaoh 78  had him ride in the chariot used by his second-in-command, 79  and they cried out before him, “Kneel down!” 80  So he placed him over all the land of Egypt. 41:44 Pharaoh also said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but without your permission 81  no one 82  will move his hand or his foot 83  in all the land of Egypt.” 41:45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah. 84  He also gave him Asenath 85  daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, 86  to be his wife. So Joseph took charge of 87  all the land of Egypt.

1 tn Heb “two years, days.”

2 tn Heb “was dreaming.”

3 tn Heb “And look, he was standing by the Nile, and look, from the Nile were coming up seven cows, attractive of appearance and fat of flesh.” By the use of the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”), the narrator invites the audience to see the dream through Pharaoh’s eyes.

4 tn Heb “And look, seven other cows were coming up after them from the Nile, bad of appearance and thin of flesh.”

5 tn Heb “the Nile.” This has been replaced by “the river” in the translation for stylistic reasons.

6 tn Heb “coming up.”

7 tn Heb “fat.”

8 tn Heb “And look.”

9 tn Heb “And look, a dream.”

sn Pharaoh’s two dreams, as explained in the following verses, pertained to the economy of Egypt. Because of the Nile River, the land of Egypt weathered all kinds of famines – there was usually grain in Egypt, and if there was grain and water the livestock would flourish. These two dreams, however, indicated that poverty would overtake plenty and that the blessing of the herd and the field would cease.

10 tn Heb “his spirit.”

11 tn Heb “he sent and called,” which indicates an official summons.

12 tn The Hebrew term חַרְטֹם (khartom) is an Egyptian loanword (hyr-tp) that describes a class of priests who were skilled in such interpretations.

13 tn The Hebrew text has the singular (though the Samaritan Pentateuch reads the plural). If retained, the singular must be collective for the set of dreams. Note the plural pronoun “them,” referring to the dreams, in the next clause. However, note that in v. 15 Pharaoh uses the singular to refer to the two dreams. In vv. 17-24 Pharaoh seems to treat the dreams as two parts of one dream (see especially v. 22).

14 tn “there was no interpreter.”

15 tn Heb “for Pharaoh.” The pronoun “him” has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons.

16 tn Heb “sins, offenses.” He probably refers here to the offenses that landed him in prison (see 40:1).

17 tn Heb “and we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he, each according to the interpretation of his dream we dreamed.”

18 tn Or “slave.”

19 tn Heb “a servant to the captain of the guards.” On this construction see GKC 419-20 §129.c.

20 tn The words “our dreams” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.

21 tn Heb “and he interpreted for us our dreams, each according to his dream he interpreted.”

22 tn Heb “interpreted.”

23 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Pharaoh) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

24 tn Heb “him”; the referent (the baker) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

25 tn Heb “and Pharaoh sent and called,” indicating a summons to the royal court.

26 tn Heb “dreamed a dream.”

27 tn Heb “there is no one interpreting.”

28 tn Heb “saying.”

29 tn Heb “you hear a dream to interpret it,” which may mean, “you only have to hear a dream to be able to interpret it.”

30 tn Heb “not within me.”

31 tn Heb “God will answer.”

32 tn The expression שְׁלוֹם פַּרְעֹה (shÿlom paroh) is here rendered “the welfare of Pharaoh” because the dream will be about life in his land. Some interpret it to mean an answer of “peace” – one that will calm his heart, or give him the answer that he desires (cf. NIV, NRSV, NLT).

33 tn Heb “In my dream look, I was standing.” The use of the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”) here (and also in vv. 18, 19, 22, 23) invites the hearer (within the context of the narrative, Joseph; but in the broader sense the reader or hearer of the Book of Genesis) to observe the scene through Pharaoh’s eyes.

34 tn Heb “and look, from the Nile seven cows were coming up, fat of flesh and attractive of appearance, and they grazed in the reeds.”

35 tn Heb “And look.”

36 tn The word “cows” is supplied here in the translation for stylistic reasons.

37 tn Heb “the seven first fat cows.”

38 tn Heb “when they went inside them.”

39 tn Heb “it was not known.”

40 tn Heb “and I saw in my dream and look.”

41 tn Heb “And look.”

42 tn The words “all this” have been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.

43 tn Heb “and there was no one telling me.”

44 tn Heb “the dream of Pharaoh is one.”

45 tn Heb “declared.”

46 tn The active participle here indicates what is imminent.

47 tn Heb “one dream it is.”

48 tn Heb “are.” Another option is to translate, “There will be seven years of famine.”

49 tn Heb “it is the word that I spoke.”

50 tn The perfect with the vav consecutive continues the time frame of the preceding participle, which has an imminent future nuance here.

51 tn The Hebrew verb כָּלָה (kalah) in the Piel stem means “to finish, to destroy, to bring an end to.” The severity of the famine will ruin the land of Egypt.

52 tn Heb “known.”

53 tn Or “heavy.”

54 tn Heb “and concerning the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh two times.” The Niphal infinitive here is the object of the preposition; it is followed by the subjective genitive “of the dream.”

55 tn Heb “established.”

56 tn The clause combines a participle and an infinitive construct: God “is hurrying…to do it,” meaning he is going to do it soon.

57 tn Heb “let Pharaoh look.” The jussive form expresses Joseph’s advice to Pharaoh.

58 tn Heb “a man discerning and wise.” The order of the terms is rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons.

59 tn Heb “and let him set him.”

60 tn The imperfect verbal form has an obligatory nuance here. The Samaritan Pentateuch has a jussive form here, “and let [Pharaoh] do.”

61 tn Heb “and let him appoint.” The jussive form expresses Joseph’s advice to Pharaoh.

62 tn Heb “appointees.” The noun is a cognate accusative of the preceding verb. Since “appoint appointees” would be redundant in English, the term “officials” was used in the translation instead.

63 tn Heb “and he shall collect a fifth of the land of Egypt.” The language is figurative (metonymy); it means what the land produces, i.e., the harvest.

64 tn Heb “all the food.”

65 tn Heb “under the hand of Pharaoh.”

66 tn Heb “[for] food in the cities.” The noun translated “food” is an adverbial accusative in the sentence.

67 tn The perfect with vav (ו) consecutive carries the same force as the sequence of jussives before it.

68 tn Heb “and the land will not be cut off in the famine.”

69 tn Heb “and the matter was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants.”

70 tn Heb “like this,” but the referent could be misunderstood to be a man like that described by Joseph in v. 33, rather than Joseph himself. For this reason the proper name “Joseph” has been supplied in the translation.

71 tn The rhetorical question expects the answer “No, of course not!”

72 tn Heb “as discerning and wise.” The order has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons.

73 tn Heb “and at your mouth (i.e., instructions) all my people will kiss.” G. J. Wenham translates this “shall kowtow to your instruction” (Genesis [WBC], 2:395). Although there is some textual support for reading “will be judged, ruled by you,” this is probably an attempt to capture the significance of this word. Wenham lists a number of references where individuals have tried to make connections with other words or expressions – such as a root meaning “order themselves” lying behind “kiss,” or an idiomatic idea of “kiss” meaning “seal the mouth,” and so “be silent and submit to.” See K. A. Kitchen, “The Term Nsq in Genesis 41:40,” ExpTim 69 (1957): 30; D. S. Sperling, “Genesis 41:40: A New Interpretation,” JANESCU 10 (1978): 113-19.

74 tn Heb “only the throne, I will be greater than you.”

75 tn The translation assumes that the perfect verbal form is descriptive of a present action. Another option is to understand it as rhetorical, in which case Pharaoh describes a still future action as if it had already occurred in order to emphasize its certainty. In this case one could translate “I have placed” or “I will place.” The verb נָתַן (natan) is translated here as “to place in authority [over].”

76 sn Joseph became the grand vizier of the land of Egypt. See W. A. Ward, “The Egyptian Office of Joseph,” JSS 5 (1960): 144-50; and R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 129-31.

77 tn The Hebrew word שֵׁשׁ (shesh) is an Egyptian loanword that describes the fine linen robes that Egyptian royalty wore. The clothing signified Joseph’s rank.

78 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Pharaoh) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

79 tn Heb “and he caused him to ride in the second chariot which was his.”

80 tn The verb form appears to be a causative imperative from a verbal root meaning “to kneel.” It is a homonym of the word “bless” (identical in root letters but not related etymologically).

81 tn Heb “apart from you.”

82 tn Heb “no man,” but here “man” is generic, referring to people in general.

83 tn The idiom “lift up hand or foot” means “take any action” here.

84 sn The meaning of Joseph’s Egyptian name, Zaphenath-Paneah, is uncertain. Many recent commentators have followed the proposal of G. Steindorff that it means “the god has said, ‘he will live’” (“Der Name Josephs Saphenat-Pa‘neach,” ZÄS 31 [1889]: 41-42); others have suggested “the god speaks and lives” (see BDB 861 s.v. צָפְנָת פַּעְנֵחַ); “the man he knows” (J. Vergote, Joseph en Égypte, 145); or “Joseph [who is called] áIp-àankh” (K. A. Kitchen, NBD3 1262).

85 sn The name Asenath may mean “she belongs to the goddess Neit” (see HALOT 74 s.v. אָֽסְנַת). A novel was written at the beginning of the first century entitled Joseph and Asenath, which included a legendary account of the conversion of Asenath to Joseph’s faith in Yahweh. However, all that can be determined from this chapter is that their children received Hebrew names. See also V. Aptowitzer, “Asenath, the Wife of Joseph – a Haggadic Literary-Historical Study,” HUCA 1 (1924): 239-306.

86 sn On (also in v. 50) is another name for the city of Heliopolis.

87 tn Heb “and he passed through.”



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