Genesis 41 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Genesis 41)

Verse 8

[8] And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh.

His spirit was troubled — It cannot but put us into a concern to receive any extraordinary message from heaven. And his magicians were puzzled; the rules of their art failed them; these dreams of Pharaoh did not fall within the compass of them. This was to make Joseph's performance by the Spirit of God the more admirable.

Verse 9

[9] Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day:

I remember my faults this day — in forgetting Joseph. Some think he means his faults against Pharaoh, for which he was imprisoned, and then he would insinuate, that through Pharaoh had forgiven him, he had not forgiven himself. God's time for the enlargement of his people will appear, at last, to be the fittest time. If the chief butler had at first used his interest for Joseph's enlargement, and had obtained, it is probable, he would have gone back to the land of the Hebrews, and then he had neither been so blessed himself, nor such a blessing to his family. But staying two years longer, and coming out upon this occasion to interpret the king's dreams, way was made for his preferment. The king can scarce allow him time, but that decency required it, to shave himself, and to change his raiment, Genesis 41:14. It is done with all possible expedition, and Joseph is brought in perhaps almost as much surprised as Peter was, Acts 12:9, so suddenly is his captivity brought back, that he is as one that dreams, Psalms 126:1. Pharaoh immediately, without enquiring who or whence he was tells him his business, that he expected he should interpret his dream.

Verse 16

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

(1.) He gives honour to God; It is not in me; God must give it. Great gifts then appear most graceful and illustrious, when those that have them use them humbly, and take not the praise of them to themselves, but give it to God, (2.) He shews respect to Pharaoh, and hearty good-will to him, supposing that the interpretation would be an answer of peace. Those that consult God's oracles may expect an answer of peace.

Verse 29

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

See the goodness of God, in sending the seven years of plenty before those of famine, that provision might be made accordingly. How wonderful wisely has Providence, that great house-keeper, ordered the affairs of this numerous family from the beginning! Great variety of seasons there have been and the produce of the earth sometimes more, and sometimes less; yet take one time with another, what was miraculous concerning the manna, is ordinarily verified in the common course of Providence; He that gathers much has nothing over, and he that gathers little has no lack, Exodus 16:18.

Verse 30

[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;

See the perishing nature of our worldly enjoyments. The great increase of the years of plenty was quite lost and swallowed up in the years of famine; and the overplus of it, which seemed very much, yet did but just serve to keep men alive.

Verse 44

[44] And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.

Without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot — All the affairs of the kingdom must pass through his hand.

Only in the throne will I be greater than thou — It is probable there were those about court that opposed Joseph's preferment, which occasioned Pharaoh so oft to repeat the grant, and with that solemn sanction, I am Pharaoh. He gave him his own ring as a ratification of his commission, and in token of peculiar favour; or it was like delivering him the great seal. He put fine clothes upon him instead of his prison garments, and adorned him with a chain of gold. He made him ride in the second chariot next his own, and ordered all to do obeisance to him, as to Pharaoh himself; he gave him a new name and such a name as spoke the value he had for him, Zaphnath-paaneah, a Revealer of secrets. He married him honourably to a prince's daughter. Where God had been liberal in giving wisdom and other merits, Pharaoh was not sparing in conferring honours. Now this preferment of Joseph, was, 1st, an abundant recompense for his innocent and patient suffering, a lasting instance of the equity and goodness of providence, and an encouragement to all to trust in a good God. 2dly, It was typical of the exaltation of Christ, that great revealer of secrets, ( John 1:18,) or as some translate Joseph's new name, the Saviour of the world. The brightest glories of the upper world are upon him, the highest trusts lodged in his hand, and all power given him both in heaven and earth. He is gatherer, keeper, and disposer of all the stores of divine grace, and chief ruler of the kingdom of God among men. The work of ministers is to cry before him; Bow the knee; kiss the Son.

Verse 50

[50] And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him.

Two sons — In the names he gave them, he owned the divine Providence giving this happy turn to his affairs. He was made to forget his misery, but could he be so unnatural as to forget all his father's house? And he was made fruitful in the land of his affliction. It had been the land of his affliction, and, in some sense, it was still so, for his distance from his father was still his affliction. Ephraim signifies fruitfulness, and Manasseh forgetfulness.

Verse 54

[54] And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.

The seven years of dearth began to come — Not only in Egypt, but in other lands, in all lands, that is, all the neighbouring countries.