Genesis 41-42 God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do

From Genesis 41-42

01 Genesis thumbPharaoh has a couple of dreams and he does not know what they mean. Dreams held supernatural significance in ancient near eastern cultures. So he sends out for people who may interpret them for him. He calls Joseph out of prison.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

While Joseph was in prison, Pharaoh had a couple of dreams. Dreams were fairly taken seriously in their culture and it was wise to interpret them and respond accordingly. Pharaoh did not know what his dreams meant. So he sent out for people who may be able to interpret them. He had access to ‘magicians’ and wise men but they are no help (Gen 41.1-8).

01 Joseph before Pharaoh
Public Domain

Pharaoh’s cupbearer remembers a former incident where Joseph interpreted a key dream resulting in his reestablishment in Pharaoh’s court (Gen 41.9-13).

Joseph is called and prepared to meet Pharaoh. When they meet, Pharaoh tells him he needs his dreams interpreted. Joseph humbly gives the glory to God, recognising he is the one who gives the interpretations (Gen 41.14-16).

This is where our passage picks up.


17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Behold, in my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile. 18 Seven cows, plump and attractive, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass.

19 Seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and thin, such as I had never seen in all the land of Egypt.

20 And the thin, ugly cows ate up the first seven plump cows, 21 but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had eaten them, for they were still as ugly as at the beginning. Then I awoke.

22 I also saw in my dream seven ears growing on one stalk, full and good.

23 Seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them,

24 and the thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. And I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me.” (Gen 41.17-24)

Pharaoh shares with Joseph the dreams (with extra embellishments Gen 41.19,21). Remarkably Joseph knows what they mean straight away.

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.

26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. 27 The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine.


28 It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do.

29 There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt,

30 but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will consume the land, 31 and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe.

32 And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. (Gen 41.25-32)

Egypt will have seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph knows during the seven years of plenty they need to prepare for the seven years of famine. God has revealed his hand and given them warning of what is to come.

The dreams were an act of grace and providence.

Joseph goes beyond the interpretation as his years of experience in leadership come into play. He provides the interpretation and the action required in light of the dreams.

Pharaoh responds promptly and appoints him to the position of second-in-command in the land. Neatly falling into the LORD’s preordained plans.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

“Within the horizons of Genesis this episode raises questions. Twice in consecutive episodes Joseph had interpreted two dreams, and here he observed that the reason for paired dreams is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon (v32).

What then about his own pair of dreams (37:5–11)? Were they going to be fulfilled?

Do not the names Manasseh and Ephraim that he gave to his sons really imply that there was still something missing, that he had not forgotten his father’s household?

These are hints that Joseph’s appointment to the supreme office in Egypt is not the climax of the story; there is still more of God’s purpose to be revealed.” (Carson, D. A., France, R. T., Motyer, J. A., & Wenham, G. J. (Eds.). (1994). New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 87). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.)

Story of Jesus

In the gospel Mary was visited by an angel and told two things would happen.

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.

28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.

30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Lk 1:26–33)

The angel predicted the coming birth of her son and that he was the promised Messiah who would rule over David’s kingdom forever.

As with Joseph’s dreams we looked at today, the initial prediction of having a son would have pleased Mary. The second prediction, that Jesus would rule over David’s kingdom forever had far reaching implications for God’s people and the world.

God revealed to Mary what he was about to do. The thing was fixed by God, and God shortly brought it about.

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