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Genesis - Chapter 41

Bible Study Notes

Genesis 41:1-7 Pharaoh dreamed of seven healthy cows and grain, but seven unhealthy cows and grain came about and devoured the good cows and grain. Pharaoh, being troubled by this dream called all his wise men to interpret the dreams. No one could interpret the dreams.

Notes: These dreams represent a pattern of abundance followed by scarcity.

These events take place two years after the chief cupbearer has been released from prison. Joseph is now 30 years old (see v. 46) and has been in Egypt for about 12 or 13 years (see 37:2).

Joseph’s Timeline


Event                                                                                                             Age       Genesis
Joseph’s father Jacob moves family from Haran to Canaan                          6           31:17–21

Joseph sold to Potiphar in Egypt                                                                    17         ch. 37

Joseph interprets dreams of cupbearer and baker in prison                          28         ch. 40

Joseph’s grandfather Isaac dies                                                                     29         35:28–29

Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams, is released from prison                       30         41:1–36

Seven years of plenty; sons Manasseh and Ephraim born during
this time                                                                                                          30–37   41:47–52

Seven years of famine; two years into the famine Joseph reconciles
with his brothers and father                                                                            37–44   41:53–47:26

Joseph’s father Jacob dies                                                                             56         47:28

Joseph dies                                                                                                    110        50:22–26

Genesis 41:8 Pharaoh, being troubled by this dream called all his wise men to interpret the dreams. No one could interpret the dreams.

Notes: Without knowing it, they had just set the stage for Joseph’s entrance on the scene of Egyptian history.

Genesis 41:9-13 The issue with solving the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams jogged the memory of the cupbearer to when he was in prison where Joseph interpreted his and the baker’s dream and how they came true.

Genesis 41:14-24 Desperate, Pharaoh immediately calls Joseph from the prison to see if he can interpret the dreams. Pharaoh tells Joseph that he was summoned because it is has been said that he can interpret dreams. Joseph clarifies immediately that it is God and not he. Pharaoh again explains the dreams to Joseph and the fact that his own wise men cannot interpret them.

Notes: Joseph was prepared in clean-shaven Egyptian style for a proper appearance.

Genesis 41:25-32 The ‘seven’ in the dreams represents years. The seven good represent seven years of good harvest and meat production. The seven bad represent seven years of famine that will follow the seven years of good. The seven years of good will be completely forgotten for it will be severe. The doubling of the dream affirms that God will make it happen.

Genesis 41:33-36 Joseph advises to Pharaoh to select a wise man over this issue along with overseers to store and save away 1/5 of the produce of the land for each of the seven years of plenty, so that when the seven years of famine come, they can feed on the plenty that was stowed away until the famine is over. This way the land would not perish and Egypt come to ruin.

Notes: Not only did Joseph raise the issue, but also he came up with a solution. This two-pronged concept is still emphasized in business today. “Don’t Give Me a Problem Unless You Have a Solution!”

Genesis 41:37-39 The interpretation and solution impresses Pharaoh so much that he could think of no one wiser then Joseph to be that wise man to be put in charge of the famine issue. Pharaoh recognized that Joseph must have the Spirit of God in him, for else how could he have interpreted the dreams in the first place and come up with an excellent solution.

Genesis 41:40-45 Joseph has now risen to second-in-command (steward, vizier, or prime minister) of all of Egypt. Just like Potiphar, Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of his entire house. Not only that, but also all of Egypt. He was to be treated with the same respect and honor as Pharaoh himself. Joseph was given Pharaoh’s signet ring (proof of Joseph’s authority), fine clothes, and the Pharaoh’s second chariot for royal transportation. No one can make any decision in regards to the welfare of Egypt without Joseph’s consent. Pharaoh has put the future survival of Egypt all in Joseph’s hands. He even gave Joseph an Egyptian wife and a new Egyptian name, Zaphenath-paneah.

Notes: All this completes the process by which Pharaoh fully integrates Joseph into the royal court. By marrying into a prominent priestly family, Joseph would gain additional acceptance.

Notes: Because of what Jesus has done for us, we are made

joint heirs with Christ – Romans 8:17
priests, 1 Peter 2:9
given a new body, Philippians 3:21
dressed in unsoiled white garments, Revelation 3:5
and a new name. Revelation 2:17

Genesis 41:46-49 Thirteen years has now passed since his brothers threw Joseph into that pit. Joseph is now 30 years old. The 1/5 that Joseph gathered was not just of a normal harvest for seven years, but seven years of great plenty. So much is this 1/5, that it will provide not only for Egypt during the seven years of famine, but help out other nations that are ill prepared.

Genesis 41:50-52 Two sons were born to Joseph during the first seven years of plenty. The first he called Manasseh and the second Ephraim. The names given to his sons reminds Joseph of how his new position and favor has eased his grief from all those years of injustice and hardship done to him when he lived with his family and his time of slavery and imprisonment, replaced instead by blessings and fruitfulness that God has given to him.

Notes: Years of suffering, pagan presence, and separation from his own family had not harmed his faith.

Genesis 41:53-57 Upon entering the seven years of famine, Pharaoh instructed his people who cried for bread to turn to Joseph for direction. Joseph opened the storehouses that stored away 1/5 of the plenty during the years of plenty to be sold to the people during the years of famine. Not only the Egyptians, but also all the surrounding nations that suffered from this worldwide famine.

Notes: Egypt had become indeed the “breadbasket” of the ancient world.


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