Genesis 41

1 The author is emphasizing that it was a long and agonizing stay for Joseph.

Pharaoh has a dream from God. God will occasionally give pagans visions of the future. However, He typically gives them dreams they do not understand. Instead, God places one of His followers in the right place to interpret the dream so that He is glorified.

2 The river would have been the Nile. The Egyptians worshiped the Nile as the giver of life, so symbolically the first part of the dream would have been easy for Pharaoh to understand.
3 However, to have the Nile bring forth skinny, unhealthy cows would have been disturbing.
4 What was more disturbing was that the skinny cows ate the sleek cows. Cattle do not eat one another.
5 Grain was an important and common crop. To dream about healthy grain was a good thing.
6 As with the cattle before, unhealthy grain sprung up and ate the healthy grain. The "east wind" was a hot, dry wind from the desert that could cause crops to wilt in the Nile River valley.
7 Pharaoh saw the disturbing picture of grain eating grain. This was not normal. He woke up in a cold sweat.
8 Pharaoh felt that his dream was important, but he did not know what it meant. He called his wise men, who would have used occult methods in the attempts to interpret the dreams. Whether these men had any real record of accurately interpreting dreams is unknown. However, even if they had such a reputation, they dared not "make something up" when it came to Pharaoh's dream. Admitting that they could not interpret the dream might have cost them their reputations, but if they were wrong, it could have cost them their lives.

Another thing to consider is that some things that God tells us can only be understood through the teaching of the Spirit. God already had a special man prepared so that Pharaoh would know that such wisdom is granted by Him, not by earthly teaching and wisdom.

9 This verse is commonly interpreted with the idea that the cupbearer has offended Joseph by not being grateful for the interpreted dream he was given during his time in prison. Another way to look at this is that the cupbearer is remembering when he offended Pharaoh, not an offense about being inconsiderate to a foreign prisoner. The connection point was the baffling dream that had no interpretation. If this prisoner was still alive, he might be able to help in this situation since he had proven to be correct before. This probably was not intended to be a favor to Joseph; otherwise, the cupbearer would have acted earlier. Instead, his first loyalty was to Pharaoh, and this was an opportunity for him to serve.
10 The cupbearer then gives a brief account of his encounter with Joseph.
14 The cupbearer was Pharaoh's trusted friend. The cupbearer was putting himself in jeopardy if Joseph (really God using Joseph) did not come through. Pharaoh was desperate enough to call a foreigner out of prison to interpret his dream. We are not told if Pharaoh was aware of Joseph's alleged crime. That was irrelevant now.

Hebrews preferred beards, but the Egyptians were clean-shaven. Of course, he had to be cleaned up and properly dressed before coming into Pharaoh's presence.

16 Some people resent God after suffering for years in miserable circumstances. Joseph, however, was patient and trusting. Here he reaffirms that he is in close contact with God, and only God can do the amazing thing that Pharaoh asks. Joseph does not first complain about the injustice brought against him or plead for freedom in return for the interpretation. Instead, he allows himself to be open to God's will to glorify Him rather than himself.
21 This detail is not mentioned earlier. Although the picture of cattle and grain eating their own kind was unusual, it was also unusual to think that something small could eat something big, yet not show any increase in size. Only in light of God's revelation does this become clear. When bad circumstances arrive, people often forget the good times that preceded them.
25 Visions and prophesies are not restricted to God's people, but when He does reveal His will to non-believers, He makes sure that they know it was from Him.

However, even when God reveals Himself in such a "miraculous" way, the recipient does not always give Him proper authority over their lives. Despite Pharaoh's obedience to God in this matter concerning the famine, the rest of this history reveals no evidence that Pharaoh gave up his pagan practices (one of which was to consider himself a deity).

The dreams differed in details, but the meaning were identical.

27 Famines were rare in Egypt. The annual flooding of the Nile banks usually guaranteed that some crops could be grown. A seven-year famine for Egypt, and the rest of the world, would be very unusual.
31 The famine would be so severe that all the food and natural resources would be used up.

Why would God tell the Egyptians about this famine, but do nothing to stop it? Why did He not reveal this to other countries? We can speculate on these questions, but only God knows all of His reasons. God uses this event to set in motion the beginning of one of His greatest acts: removing the Hebrews from the Egyptians. God was merciful enough to tell the Egyptians about the famine ahead of time so that they would have plenty and would be able to shelter the Hebrew people when they arrived. It was also a test to see if Pharaoh would submit to God in this area. Pharaoh did, but possibly out of superstition instead of recognition that there is only one true God.

32 People often need warnings repeated before they pay attention. When God speaks, we should listen and obey the first time. If He feels that He must repeat the warning, we can sure of the dire implications if His words are not heeded. The differences in the warnings reinforce the urgency of the situation. Both cattle and grain would be affected by this severe famine. The repetition is also an indicator that this event will happen immediately. There was to be no delay in preparing for the future.
33 I have heard that the best way to keep a job is to find a unique and useful task and make it your job. While it seems apparent to us that Joseph was describing a job that he was perfectly suited for, he was probably offering it as honest advice on how to prevent the famine from becoming a deadly disaster.
34 Joseph had already proven himself a blessed administrator. Thus, it was easy for him to quickly analyze the situation and come up with a plan. Considering that the plan was given so quickly indicates that God was inspiring him on the spot, or God had previously told Joseph what to say.

A king typically took one-tenth "income tax" from his subjects. Here, Joseph proposes doubling the tax in order to store up enough produce for the hard time ahead. No doubt, this would have chaffed the people badly, especially when they would pay this tax after seven years of prosperity. However, they would later be indebted to Pharaoh for "his" insight.

Unfortunately, this contrasts with most of our overspending governments today. They do not save up money for bad times. Some use up all their tax money as soon as they get it and then go and beg money when they run out (either by increasing taxes or getting foreign aid from "wealthy" countries). Other countries just print more paper money when they run out of assets. This devalues their currency and can lead to financial ruin.

In our personal lives we should save resources so that they will be available during hard times (there is a balance here involving stewardship).

37 Not only did Pharaoh have the answer to his question about the dream; he also had a plan of action. Even the trained wise men agreed that the wisdom displayed by this foreign prisoner was better than anything they could have come up with.
38 Pharaoh could see that the Holy Spirit lived in Joseph. As Christians, we also have the Holy Spirit living in us. Is this apparent to those around us?
39 Prov 1:7. God alone can make us truly wise in all things, both in earthly and spiritual matters.
40 Being "vice-Pharaoh" would be far more powerful than a vice-president would. Joseph would actually rule the country, and Pharaoh would be the figurehead. Joseph would be accountable only to Pharaoh, and it is apparent that Pharaoh went along with everything Joseph suggested.

This is the third time Joseph has been in this situation. He had proven himself a wise and reliable worker. With God's guidance, Joseph always became the best person for administrative positions. 1 Cor 12:28 mentions administration skills as a gift from God.

It is highly unusual that Pharaoh would have taken an unknown foreigner prisoner and placed him in charge of the country. However, Pharaoh was so convinced that Joseph had divine wisdom that it was the obvious action to take.

42 Pharaoh gave Joseph the symbols of authority. Anything he signed with the signet ring would have the same authority as if Pharaoh had signed it himself.

The signet ring had a unique engraving on it that would be known throughout the kingdom. The ring was pressed into soft clay or wax and served as both a seal and signature. To break (or ignore) the king's seal without the proper authority to do so was commonly a capital offense.

43 Pharaoh introduced Joseph to the rest of Egypt in grand style. This is truly a rags-to-riches story. In prison one day, co-ruler of a powerful country the next. His authority was proclaimed throughout Egypt.
44 Every household in Egypt would know Joseph's name. He was to have direct authority over every single person in Egypt.
45 According to the Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Joseph's new name might have meant "revealer of secrets."

It also indicates that "priest" here might really mean "prince." However, since On was the religious center for the worship of the sun, the distinction may be insignificant. We are given no indication about how Joseph's relationship with the one true God affected his relationships within his new family. It appears that Joseph never compromised his faith in God. After all, if he had said no to Potifer's wife and held his integrity all through prison, why would he suddenly compromise his values now? We can only guess that while this dismayed his in-laws, they could not do anything to oppose or convert Joseph since he was their ruler.

46 Joseph had been sold when he was about seventeen (Gen 37:2). He was a household servant for approximately nine years. More than two of his years in Egypt were spent in prison (Gen 41:1). Now, however, he ruled Egypt.
48 Each city was to have a storehouse so that the food could later be distributed easily.
49 The Bible does not say if anything other than grain was stored up. If other, more perishable, foods were preserved and stored, it would have been on a household level.
51 God had used present-day blessings to help Joseph forget his painful past. "Manasseh" means, "one who causes to forget."
52 Joseph's own brothers wanted him cut off and dead. Instead, God "pruned" Joseph so that he would be more fruitful and eventually become a source of life for his extended family.

"Ephraim" means, "fruitful." Despite being in Egypt so long, Joseph gave his sons Hebrew names.

53 The good times seem to pass by so quickly. Enjoy them while you can.
54 The paradox was obviously that no food could be grown, but there was plenty of food available.
55 Here we see that Joseph's position had not diminished in seven years. Pharaoh would not now overshadow Joseph's authority. When you do a good job (with God's help, of course), people will respect you and give you proper authority.
56 Joseph now opened the warehouses of stored grain and fed the people. This was not welfare, since the people still had to pay for the food. The wise Egyptian commoner would have stored up money to buy grain during the good years. By the end of the famine, it is apparent that none of them planned that far ahead.
57 God did not give this "inside knowledge" to other countries, so they all had to come to Joseph. Many countries would have heard about Egypt storing up grain, but chose to ignore God's "warning." In the same way, we as Christians "tell" others about God through our words and actions, but many will choose to ignore them. At any rate, this was another chance for people to hear the story about how God had told Joseph ahead of time about the famine. There is no indication that anyone turned his or her life to God, despite His great mercy in making food available during this time of need.

As a side benefit for Pharaoh, his kingdom would become exceedingly rich because of all the grain being sold. His profit margin was high since he took the grain as a tax, and did not have to pay for it other than storage and management costs.