September 16, 2016

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

PART IV: JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN (Gen. 37:1-50:26)

 

 

Topic #C: JOSEPH BECOMES GOVERNOR OF EGYPT. Gen. 39:1-41:57.                                                                                                                                                       

 

 

Lesson IV.C.6: The Dream Stated and Interpreted. (Gen. 41:15-36)

 

 

 

Genesis 41:15-36 (KJV)

 

15 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it. 16 And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.17 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river: 18 and, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow: 19 and, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed, such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness: 20 and the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine: 21 and when they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they were still ill favoured, as at the beginning. So I awoke. 22 And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good: 23 and, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them: 24 and the thin ears devoured the seven good ears: and I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me.

25 And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one. 27 And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine. 28 This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh.29 Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt: 30 and there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land; 31 and the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous. 32 And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass. 33 Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. 35 And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. 36 And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.

 

 

 

Commentary

 

15 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it. 

“And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it.” Pharaoh immediately sent for Joseph, who is hurriedly fetched from the prison, but not before shaving his head and beard, and changing his clothes, as the customs of Egypt required. Then he was taken to the king; “And Pharaoh said unto Joseph”immediately after he was introduced to him, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it.” His magicians and wise men had tried, but they failed miserably after bragging of their great skill in such matters. As we shall see, the king's brief statement of the service required of him brought out the genuine piety of Joseph.

“And I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it. It had been reported to him, mainly by the chief butler, that when Joseph was informed of a dream, he had such knowledge and understanding, that he could tell what it meant. In his anxiety Pharaoh overstated the facts, intimating that it was only necessary for Joseph to hear a dream, and the interpretation would follow as a matter of course. Pharaoh acknowledges that here is a man who is somewhat different from his magicians and wise men. He does not need to consult books and dream manuals. He has the ability to interpret a dream immediately on hearing it. Notice that Joseph corrects Pharaoh by immediately giving all the credit to God.

16 And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.

“And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me.” Pharaoh gave Joseph a golden opportunity to glorify himself, but Joseph refused, saying “It is not in me.” He did not use this as an opportunity to glorify himself before Pharaoh, but only to glorify God. As for him, he was not embarrassed to admit to Pharaoh and everybody in the room that he could not interpret dreams. There was nothing special about him that gave him such a gift. He expresses his great modesty, in that short answer,—“It is not in me”—declaringthat he had no such power and abilities in and of himself, to interpret dreams; what he had was a gift of God, which depended entirely upon His influence, and the revelation He was pleased to make to him of such things.

“God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” Joseph seems much wiser and perhaps more humble than he did before, considering the way he told his brothers his previous dreams in a self-glorying way. According to his steadfast habit Joseph ascribes the gift that is in him to God. Joseph firmly declares that the gift is not in him. It is God (Elohim) who can reveal the meaning of dreams, and he had made that clear in Genesis 40:8 when he pointed the two prisoners (Pharaoh’s butler and baker) away from himself to God: “And they said to him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said to them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.”

Reader! Do not overlook Joseph's humble frame of mind in this answer, and don’t forget that precious scripture:“Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves to the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).Joseph was confident that God would reveal what was necessary to be known and it is He Who will give Pharaoh an answer that will bring him peace of mind, that is, a true interpretation.

Some render the words as a prayer or wish, “may God give Pharaoh”; as if he were addressing his God, that He would be pleased to make known to him His interpretation of the dream to the satisfaction of Pharaoh: but the other sense seems best, which expresses his faith in God, that he would do it—give him the true meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams.

17 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river: 

Here is where Joseph’s rise within the government of Egypt begins. While in prison, he did not seek authority or position, though he had a good mind: but waited until it came down from heaven to him, first in the butler’s dream, and now in Pharaoh’s. Had he ravenously sought after advancement, and did anything to get it, as in his mistress’s offer, he might have got what he wanted, but the Lord would have shunned him.

There are several significant factors within Pharaoh’s dreams. First and foremost, of course, was the fact that the Nile was basically responsible for the fact that Egypt suffered less from famine than other countries. As it spilled over its banks each year it produced fertile soil around it that made it the breadbasket of Egypt and on which the cattle flourished. It was only rarely when the river failed to overflow that famine came to Egypt. Nevertheless long periods of famine at other times were known and written about there. Moreover the Nile was looked on as a god whose good or evil pleasure could reward or punish the people.

18 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow. 

“And, behold, there came up out of the river seven [1]kine, fatfleshed and well favoured.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph: Behold, in my dream I stood on the bank of the Nile river. Suddenly seven cows of the buffalo kind, fine looking and fat, came up out of the river; and they fed in the meadow.His account was the same as before, when he described his dreams to his magicians and wise men (see Genesis 41:2); the only difference being that some of the words are transposed. Cows of the buffalo kind are now called “water buffalo,” and are seen daily plunging into the Nile. When their huge form is gradually emerging, it appears as if they are rising “out of the river.”

“And they fed in a meadow” on Nile grass, the aquatic plants that grow on the marshy banks of that river, particularly the lotus kind; on which cattle were usually fattened.

 

19 And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed, such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness. 

“And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed,”They were just as ugly the first time he told of his dreams, but with the second telling comes more details. It can’t be determined whether he remembered some details he left out the first time, or he embellished the story to make it more interesting. These cows appeared in the dream to be pitiful, scrawny, and miserable, exhausted and without strength through some disease they had contacted, or they were simply starving.

“Such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness.” As Pharaoh remembers the scene in his dream, the extreme ugliness of the scrawny and weak cows stood out very prominently; but he adds that though cattle like these can be seen in other countries, never did their like appear in Egypt, which was famous for good cattle.

20 And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine. 

And the thin and scrawny cows ate up the first seven, the fat cows (as previously described by Genesis 41:4).

21 And when they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they were still ill favoured, as at the beginning. So I awoke. 

And when they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they were still ill favoured, as at the beginning.” Earlier in 41:4 Pharaoh said, “And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.” But here he has added both clarity and the fact that once the thin cows had eaten the fat cows, no one would have known that they had eaten them, for they looked just as ugly as at the beginning, just as weak and as scrawny as they did when they first came out of the river, or were first seen by Pharaoh.

“So I awoke,” surprised at what he had seen; this was his first dream.

22 And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good.

“And I saw in my dream.” This was his second dream. Falling asleep again quickly, he dreamed a second time; and this dream was similar to the first. The space between them is so small that they are sometimes treated as one, making this simply the continuation of the first dream.

“And, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good.”The first time I read this sentence I thought he was talking about [2]corn, as we know it today. But on further review, as they say in football, it is not corn, but a grain of some kind. “And I saw in my dream ... seven ears”—that is, of Egyptian “wheat,” which, when “full and good,” is remarkable in size; a single seed sprouting into seven, ten, or fourteen stalks, and each stalk bearing an ear. Perhaps it might be “spelt” (see Exodus 9:32). The vision exhibited samples of grain marked by extraordinary characteristics. But the natural tendency of the spelt to branch out into distinct ears creates a presumption in favor of its being the grain which Pharaoh saw—seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them” (41:23)

23 And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them.

“And, behold,” meaning, “Be sure to see it”; “don’t miss it.”

“Seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them.”

“Seven ears, withered thin, . . .” Here a description of the bad ears is given, but Bible scholars interpret it differently:

  • Small, little is the interpretation given in the Misnah.
  •  Aben Ezra, says it means void, empty, such as had no grains of corn in them, nothing but husk or chaff, and observes that some render it “images”; for the word is “images” in the Arabic language, and may signify that these ears were only mere shadows or images of ears, which had no substance in them.
  • Jarchi says the word, in the Syriac language signifies a rock, and so it denotes that these ears were dry as a rock, and had no moisture in them, dried out, burnt up, “and blasted with the east wind.”

“Blasted by the east wind.” High winds are destructive to grain wherever they occur, but that is particularly true of Egypt, where, sweeping over the sandy deserts of Arabia, it comes in the nature of a hot, blighting wind, that quickly withers all vegetation (see Ezekiel 19:12; Hosea 13:15). But “the east wind” may be used here in a loose sense for any burning wind. The Arabs now call such winds (Shurkiyeh) “the east wind,” though it blows in spring from the south, and Robinson ('Biblical Researches,' vol. 1:, p. 305: cf. 287) says that he encountered that wind blowing in a southerly direction not far from Beer-sheba. The Septuagint translates the word in this passage as Notos, the south wind.

24 And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears: and I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me.

“And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears.” “Devoured” takes the place of the words “eat up” that are used in Genesis 41:4 and it conveys the idea of destroying, by absorbing all the nutritious virtue of the soil around them.

“And I told this unto the magicians” in the same manner that he had told it to Joseph.

“But there was none that could declare it to me.”—the meaning of it; what all this signifies or warns of.

25 And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do. 

“And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one.”  In Genesis 41:25-36 we have the account of Joseph interpreting Pharaoh's dream. Note that the gifts of the Spirit and the gifts of revelation are operable in Joseph's life in order to give this interpretation (see 1 Corinthians 12:1-11). Joseph could interpret the dream because he had the gift of prophecy. Then he operated in the gift of wisdom to explain what needed to be done as a result of the interpretation. Daniel operated in these same gifts in interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar's dream. In addition, Daniel also operated in the gift of a word of knowledge by recalling the details of the dream.

Only God could have given the proper interpretation of this remarkable dream. Here, as in the case of the dreams of the butler and the baker, the revelation of what the numbers meant was the key to it. The sevens were not daughters, or provinces, as the wise men believed, but they were years. Also, the application of the dream was not to Pharaoh but to Egypt. That was important.

Joseph now proceeds to interpret the dream, and offer counsel appropriate to the emergency. Though there were two distinct dreams expressed under different images and representations, yet the meaning, sense, and significance of them were the same; one interpretation would do for both. (The inability of the magicians to read the dream of Pharaoh was the best proof that Joseph spoke from inspiration), 

“Joseph said ... The dream ... is one.” They both pointed to the same events—a remarkable occurrence of seven years of unprecedented abundance, to be followed by a similar period of unparalleled famine. The participation of the supernatural was obvious in the number seven; and the repetition of the dream in two different forms was designed to show the absolute certainty and speedy arrival of this public crisis (see Job 40:5; Psalms 62:11; also Numbers 5:22). The repetition of a thing serves to confirm it. How sweetly do we find it to be so, with respect to eternal things. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:17-18).

The narrative here is a striking fulfillment of the words in Genesis 39:2, “The Lord was with Joseph.”

“God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do”; that is, through these dreams, which God has given Pharaoh and now has revealed their meaning to Joseph, when they have been interpreted to him; for as yet he didn’t understand them, but when interpreted it would be clear to him what events were to happen quickly. Only God knows the future, and those to whom he is pleased to reveal them, which He did in various ways—by dreams, visions, articulate voices, and so on.

The name “God,” Elohim not Yahweh—the one true, living, eternal God—as opposed to all false gods is used in speaking to foreigners and pagans. The calm and unpretentious, yet confident manner of the interpreter, who, speaking of a period in time extending over fourteen years, displayed the perception of a man gifted with higher prophetic foresight than that of mere natural wisdom, formed a striking contrast to the bewildered and helpless magicians and wise men. The interpretation was accompanied by several suggestions of practical wisdom for meeting so great an emergency as was imminent. Joseph's thinking was always God-centered, and here he stressed the mercy of God in giving Pharaoh such an important alert and warning.

 It has been said, "The intention of prophecies concerning judgments to come, is to excite those threatened with them to take proper measures for averting them." 

26 The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one. 

“The seven good kine are seven years.”The seven healthy-looking cows represent seven years. There will be seven years of plenty and superabundance.

“And the seven good ears are seven years.”The seven heads of grain represent seven years. There will be seven years of plenty and superabundance.

“The dream is one,” for though the seven good cows were seen in one dream, and the seven good ears in another, the meaning of both dreams was the same.

27 And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine. 

“And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them are seven years.”The seven scrawny cows represent seven years. There will be seven years of drought and famine.

“And the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine.” The seven heads of grain represent seven years. There will be seven years of drought and famine.

The very clearness and simplicity of Joseph's explanation sets it aside from the heathen oracles. The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote: “Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life” (Ecclesiastes 7:14).The Prophet Elijah had a message about imminent famine that is very similar to Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream: "Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine  famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years"(2 Kings 8:1).

28 This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh.

“This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh as an interpretation of his dreams.

“What God is about to do, he sheweth unto Pharaoh; the events of fourteen years with respect to plenty and unfruitfulness.

He refers to the statement (41:16) which he made even before Pharaoh had related his dreams, always directing the attention of the king to the Lord. Dear reader! Do not overlook the great spirituality of Joseph through all this. While Pharaoh listens with astonishment, within the view of the Spirit of GOD in Joseph, how much more should we who are Christians admire and adore Him, who received not the Spirit of GOD by measure, but in whom dwelt all the fullness of the GODHEAD bodily? (See John 3:34; Colossians 2:9).

 

29 Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt: 

Proceeding with the interpretation of the dream, Joseph explains to Pharaoh that the seven good cows and the seven full ears point to a succession of seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt” which were already coming, since God ordained that it would. He is not talking about just a sufficiency but an abundance that would cause luxury to come to many in Egypt. God would accomplish this miraculous act by causing the Nile to overflow for seven successive years. Such an awesome feat can be ascribed to no other.

30 and there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land; 

“And there shall arise after them seven years of famine;” that is to say, there will be a famine lasting seven years throughout the land of Egypt, following the seven years of plenty and prosperity. The overruling providence of God will give rise to this famine either by preventing the river Nile fromoverflowing its banks or withholding the rains while the east wind blasted the [2]corn for seven years running. The ancient world considered the number seven to be a sacred number; therefore, seven years of famine were deemed a divine act of judgment.

“And all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt.” The years of famine will be so bad that there will be no trace of the seven fruitful years; the good years “shall be forgotten”—“all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt.”Once the seven years of plenty are all spent, it will be as if it never was; the minds of men would be so focused upon their present distressful condition and circumstances, that they would completely forget how it had been in the past; or it would seem as if they had never enjoyed it, or were never better-off for it. This may explain how it was with the ill favored kine, when they had eaten up the fat kine; they didn’t appear to be any better, nor could it be known from their appearance that they had done so.

“And the famine shall consume the land;” the inhabitants of it, and all the fruits and increase the land had produced in prior years. A seven year famine was also revealed to Elisha in 2 Kings 8:1.

31 and the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous. 

“And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following.” Before it would be over—seven years of famine—the grain stored in barns throughout the land during the seven years of plenty would be used up. The former plenty was to a certain extent known by the stockpile of provisions put in storage during the seven years of abundance and which were sold to Egyptians and foreigners when the famine became very pressing; but by that time, and before the seven years of famine ended, there were no traces of the abovementioned plenty to be observed.

 “For it shall be very grievous,” both in Egypt and in all the countries in the region.

32 And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass. 

“And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice.” God sent Pharaoh two dreams that communicated the same message, but had different facets and characters. “The dream was repeated . . . to Pharaoh . . . because the thing is established by God.”Joseph saw the confirming hand of God in the repetition of the dream. He knew the principle it supported: “by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15), even though he didn’t have it written in Scripture yet. The repetition also gave Joseph a sense of urgency: God will shortly bring it to pass.

“It is because the thing is established by God.”—literally, the word (or thing spoken of) is firmly fixed, i.e. unquestionably decreed, by the Elohim by a firm edict of His, and will most certainly be accomplished. It was repeated in order to assure Pharaoh that “the thing” he dreamed will certainly come to pass.

“And God will shortly bring it to pass. Here is a most significant revelation. This statement definitely did not pertain to any notion that fourteen years of history would pass very quickly, but that this series of events prophesied would begin immediately. The same principle holds true in the Book of Revelation. Revelation speaks of many, many things which shall "shortly come to pass," but that does not mean  that all of the events which were foretold would take place within a few years, or even in a few centuries, but that the entire cosmic panorama of God's winding up and finishing the probation of Adam's race would begin at once.

Joseph knew the matter was entirely in the hands of God. God had a purpose for the dream, a purpose for the timing, a purpose for the famine, a purpose for Joseph being in jail, and a purpose for everything. This interpretation which looked forward over fourteen years could not fail to make an impression upon the king, when contrasted with the bewilderment of the Egyptian magicians and wise men.

33 Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. 

 “Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise.” The explanation given when the meaning of the dreams was revealed, appears to have been satisfactory to the king and his [3]courtiers; and we may suppose that it gave rise to a great deal of anxious conversation, in the course of which Joseph might have been asked whether he had anything further to say. No doubt the providence of God provided the opportunity of his suggesting what was necessary to meet the extraordinary emergency predicted. 

Joseph now naturally passes from the interpreter to the adviser. He is wearing both hats on this critical occasion. His composure never forsakes him. His thorough self-command arises from spontaneously throwing himself, with all his heart, into the great national emergency which is before his mind.

All who are present on this occasion are watching the young Hebrew and are listening to his words. Joseph now brings his organizational powers into play. Firstly, Pharaoh should appoint one man to take over the whole operation. He will need to be discreet and wise because he will need to obtain people’s cooperation and will need to plan wisely.

“Now,”Joseph says to Pharaoh,Find a man who is discreet and wise,” a man having good judgment and good behavior, one who has great wisdom and executive ability, combined with a good understanding of the situation and the necessary tact, and with abilities capable of carrying out a proposal he is about to make. I cannot even imagine that it could be consistent with the great modesty of Joseph that he had himself in mind for this “discreet and wise” man. And it is doubtful that he would give any advice at all, unless the king asked him first.

“And set him over the land of Egypt.”; not to be governor of it in general, but with a particular regard for the coming national emergency; to take care of providing relief during the coming food shortage predicted by God in Pharaoh’s dreams. He uses people to further His plan. God always works through men performing tasks on the earth.

34 Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. 

“Let Pharaoh do this.” The measures he suggested to Pharaoh were—we must suppose—in conformity with the civil institutions of the country. The payment (levy) of a fifth, or two tithes, during the period of plenty, may have been an extraordinary measure, which the absolute power of the monarch enabled him to enforce for the public safety. The sovereign was probably dependent for his revenues on the produce of the crown lands, certain taxes on exports and/or imports, and occasional gifts or forced contributions from his subjects. This extraordinary fifth was probably one of the last measures still available to him, and was fully warranted by the coming emergency.

Joseph showed both his boldness and his gift of administration. No responsible administrator would present such news without also suggesting a plan to meet the coming crisis.

“And let him appoint officers over the land,” not Pharaoh, but the wise and discreet governor he should set over the land, and the governor should have the power to appoint officers or overseers under his authority to manage things according to his directions. The “him” could be either Pharaoh or the appointed man, but it makes little difference seeing that Joseph hardly expected Pharaoh himself to appoint the overseers directly. But he wants Pharaoh to feel that what is done is done by him.

“And take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years”; not the officers appointed, but the one that appointed them, the chief governor under Pharaoh, for the word is singular, “him.” It is proposed that he should, in Pharaoh's name, and by his authority, take a fifth part of all the corn in the land of Egypt and store it in silos during the seven years of plenty; not by force, which a good man like Joseph would never suggest, but by purchasing it for a fair price, which in such a time of plenty would be bought cheap, and which a prince as great as Pharaoh was capable of doing.

The Egyptians could well spare it, and the king might as well buy it, since he could sell it again for very good profit. The unprecedented fertility of the soil enabled Egyptian farmers to bear the loss of a fifth of their crop without complaint, if, indeed, adequate compensation was not given for the second tenth—in the Seven plenteous years.” The corn tax, which was one tenth, was already an important part of Egyptian revenue, and its increase in years of such abundance would be no hardship.

The question has been asked, “Why not take half the crop for Pharaoh, since there were to be as many years of famine as of plenty?” Joseph might answer this way: “Besides this fifth part taken up, there might be an old stock left over from former years—and it is very likely that there would be a considerable amount of produce remaining from these seven years of plenty, which rich men would take into their barns, as Pharaoh did; and besides, a fifth part might be equal to the crop of an ordinary year, or near to it. It may be added, that in times of famine men live more sparingly, and therefore such a quantity would last longer. But consider this that in spite of the barrenness of the land in general, yet in some places, especially on the banks of the Nile, some corn might be produced. Now, if we put all this speculation together, we may reach the conclusion that a fifth part might be judged sufficient to answer the demands of the seven years of famine, and even to allow for sale to other countries.”

35 And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. 

“And let them gather all the food of those good years that come.” “Them” would be those men chosen by Joseph to work directly under him. It will fall to them to collect the fifth part of all the fruits of the land during the seven years of plenty. This is clearly to be understood in terms of what went before the fifth part; a very abundant harvest. (It is quite clear that under no circumstance would anyone suggest that all the food of the good years should be stored for the future as that would leave the Egyptians without food for the present). Solomon said, Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!” (Proverbs 6:6). The suggestion is to follow the example of the industrious ant—save for those rainy days.

The “gathering up of all the food” may imply that, in addition to the fifth, large purchases of corn were made by the government out of the surplus produce of the country.

And lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh.” In Egypt the storing of grain in public silos by the government was quite customary, and such silos have been discovered, but what is required here is the same thing on a vast scale. One inscription from c 100 BC recalls a seven year famine in the reign of Zoser, a thousand years before the time of Joseph, and at another time one civic authority is quoted as saying, “when famine came for many years I gave grain to my town in each famine” This on a larger scale was what would now be required. Various other Egyptian writings speak of famines and at least two officials, proclaiming their good deeds on the walls of their tombs, tell of distributing food to the hungry ‘in each year of want’.

“Corn” is to be stored “under the hand of Pharaoh”; as his property, and only to be disposed of by his orders; since it was to be purchased with his money, it was right that it should be in his hands, or in the hands of his officers appointed by him.

“And let them keep food in the cities.” His advice is that royal store-houses, or granaries, be erected in all the chief cities for the purpose of storing corn and other foods “under the hand of the king,”  so it does not perish during the seven years of famine.

36 And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.

“And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine.” He not only predicts Egypt’s misery, but shows the means to alleviate it. It was a simple solution—a number of cities will serve as depositories for food (the fifth), which is to be used in a time of public distress. This is the right method, and must be made use of.

“Which shall be in the land of Egypt.”  The grain in the silos will be used to tide the inhabitants over during the critical period; the seven years of famine, when they should be hard pressed to know what to do, and where to go for food:

“That the land (i.e. the people of the land)  perish not through the famine.”Joseph sensed there was a reason why God gave this message to Pharaoh. It was so he could prepare for the coming crisis. This wasn’t just gossip from heaven to earth; it was an urgent call to action.

Joseph’s counsel was not an act of presumption on the part of Joseph, but a bit of advice which the Lord gave to Pharaoh by his mouth. God blesses, protects, and keeps a whole country for the sake of the believers that may be living in it.

Joseph also presented God as sovereign over Pharaoh (Genesis 41:25; Genesis 41:28). The Egyptians regarded Pharaoh as a divine manifestation in human form. By accepting Joseph’s interpretation of his dreams Pharaoh chose to place himself under Joseph’s God. God rewarded this humility by preserving the land of Egypt during the coming famine.

 

End Notes:

[1] Kine is an archaic word for cows or cattle.

[2] Corn in the Bible. The most common kinds were wheat, barley, spelt (Authorized Version; Exodus 9:32 ), "rye” (Isaiah 28:25), and "fitches" and millet (Ezekiel 4:9 ); oats are mentioned only by rabbinical writers.Our Indian corn was unknown in Bible times.

[3] Courtiers has two definitions:   

          1) A person who is often in attendance at the court of a king or other royal personage.

          2) A person who seeks favor by flattery, charm, etc.

 

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