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Genesis 41-44

Supplemental notes for the Daily Bible Study Bible Reading Plan

by Wayne Blank

Genesis Chapter 41

"After two whole years, Pharaoh [see Egypt's Royal House] dreamed that he was standing by the Nile [see The Nile River, also The Nile Delta], and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows sleek and fat, and they fed in the reed grass. And behold, seven other cows, gaunt and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the gaunt and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. And Pharaoh awoke." (Genesis 41:1-4 RSV)

Egypt Joseph had by that time been wrongly imprisoned for over "two whole years." He had demonstrated his God-given ability to reveal the meaning of dreams to The Pharaoh's Chief Butler, who only years later made an effort to help free an innocent man just as the butler himself had been freed.

"Then the chief butler said to Pharaoh, "I remember my faults today. When Pharaoh was angry with his servants, and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own meaning. A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard [i.e. Potiphar]; and when we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. And as he interpreted to us, so it came to pass; I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged."

Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh." (Genesis 41:9-14 RSV)

Joseph's abilities greatly impressed the Egyptian king; Joseph was not only liberated, he was made the Prime Minister of Egypt, second only to the pharaoh himself. The famine came just as Joseph said that it would, but Egypt had been warned and prepared itself.

"Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went through all the land of Egypt. During the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth abundantly, and he gathered up all the food of the seven years when there was plenty in the land of Egypt, and stored up food in the cities; he stored up in every city the food from the fields around it. And Joseph stored up grain [see Corn] in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured." (Genesis 41:46-49 RSV)

Joseph also married at that time, from which two sons were born (see Ephraim and Manasseh).

"Before the year of famine came, Joseph had two sons, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore to him. Joseph called the name of the first-born Manasseh, "For," he said, "God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father's house." The name of the second he called Ephraim, "For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction." (Genesis 41:50-52 RSV)

Genesis Chapter 42

The land of Israel was not as prepared for the long famine as Egypt had made itself. Jacob sent some of his sons to buy food from The Grain Merchant of Egypt.

To Egypt

"When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, "Why do you look at one another?" And he said, "Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live, and not die."

So ten of Joseph's brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph's brother, with his brothers [see Children of Jacob], for he feared that harm might befall him. Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in The Land Of Canaan.

Now Joseph was governor over the land; he it was who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph's brothers came, and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. Joseph saw his brothers, and knew them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. "Where do you come from?" he said.

They said, "From the land of Canaan, to buy food."

Thus Joseph knew his brothers, but they did not know him. And Joseph remembered the dreams which he had dreamed of them [see Joseph's Dreams]; and he said to them, "You are spies, you have come to see the weakness of the land." (Genesis 42:1-9 RSV)

Genesis Chapter 43

Joseph did not identify himself to his brothers, at first. He treated them, not harshly, but justly, considering what they had done to him, having sold their own brother into slavery, and then causing terrible grief to their father Jacob / Israel by telling him that Joseph had been killed (see Coat Of Many Colors).

The Nile Delta

"Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten the grain which they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, "Go again, buy us a little food."

But Judah said to him, "The man solemnly warned us, saying, 'You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.' If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food; but if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, 'You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.'"

Israel said, "Why did you treat me so ill as to tell the man that you had another brother?" (Genesis 43:1-6 RSV)

Joseph's strategy was also to get them to return with Joseph's full, younger brother Benjamin (Joseph and Benjamin were the sons of Rachel). It worked.

"And he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, and said, "Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!" (Genesis 43:29 RSV)

Genesis Chapter 44

Joseph wasn't finished with his treacherous older brothers yet however.


"Then he commanded the steward of his house, "Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man's money in the mouth of his sack, and put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, with his money for the grain." And he did as Joseph told him."

As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away with their asses. When they had gone but a short distance from the city, Joseph said to his steward, "Up, follow after the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, 'Why have you returned evil for good? Why have you stolen my silver cup? Is it not from this that my lord drinks, and by this that he divines? You have done wrong in so doing.'" (Genesis 44:1-5 RSV)

It had been Judah's idea to sell Joseph into slavery, rather than kill him (Genesis 37:26-28). It was Judah who attempted to save the young Benjamin from prison.

"Then Judah went up to him and said, "O my lord, let your servant, I pray you, speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant; for you are like Pharaoh himself." (Genesis 44:18 RSV)

"Now therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the lad's life, when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die; and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol [see Sheol and Hades].

For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, 'If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame in the sight of my father all my life.' Now therefore, let your servant, I pray you, remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord; and let the lad go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the lad is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would come upon my father." (Genesis 44:30-34 RSV)

Fact Finder: Centuries after the time of Joseph, how did the famous Cleopatra become the ruler of Egypt?
See The Greek Egyptians

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