Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams

41 At the end of two years Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing beside the Nile,(A) when seven healthy-looking, well-fed cows came up from the Nile and began to graze among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, sickly and thin, came up from the Nile and stood beside those cows along the bank of the Nile. The sickly, thin cows ate the healthy, well-fed cows. Then Pharaoh woke up. He fell asleep and dreamed a second time: Seven heads of grain, plump and good, came up on one stalk. After them, seven heads of grain, thin and scorched by the east wind, sprouted up. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven plump, full ones. Then Pharaoh woke up, and it was only a dream.

When morning came, he was troubled,(B) so he summoned all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men.(C) Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.

Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I remember my faults. 10 Pharaoh was angry with his servants, and he put me and the chief baker in the custody of the captain of the guards. 11 He and I had dreams on the same night; each dream had its own meaning. 12 Now a young Hebrew, a slave of the captain of the guards, was with us there. We told him our dreams, he interpreted our dreams for us, and each had its own interpretation. 13 It turned out just the way he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged.”(D)

14 Then Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and they quickly brought him from the dungeon.[a](E) He shaved, changed his clothes, and went to Pharaoh.(F)

15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said about you that you can hear a dream and interpret it.”(G)

16 “I am not able to,”(H) Joseph answered Pharaoh. “It is God who will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”[b](I)

17 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, 18 when seven well-fed, healthy-looking cows came up from the Nile and grazed among the reeds. 19 After them, seven other cows—weak, very sickly, and thin—came up. I’ve never seen such sickly ones as these in all the land of Egypt. 20 Then the thin, sickly cows ate the first seven well-fed cows. 21 When they had devoured them, you could not tell that they had devoured them; their appearance was as bad as it had been before. Then I woke up. 22 In my dream I also saw seven heads of grain, full and good, coming up on one stalk. 23 After them, seven heads of grain—withered, thin, and scorched by the east wind—sprouted up. 24 The thin heads of grain swallowed the seven good ones. I told this to the magicians, but no one can tell me what it means.”(J)

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams mean the same thing. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.(K) 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads are seven years. The dreams mean the same thing. 27 The seven thin, sickly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind are seven years of famine.(L)

28 “It is just as I told Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt. 30 After them, seven years of famine will take place, and all the abundance in the land of Egypt will be forgotten. The famine will devastate the land.(M) 31 The abundance in the land will not be remembered because of the famine that follows it, for the famine will be very severe. 32 Since the dream was given twice to Pharaoh, it means that the matter has been determined by God, and he will carry it out soon.

33 “So now, let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh do this: Let him appoint overseers over the land and take a fifth of the harvest of the land of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35 Let them gather all the excess food during these good years that are coming. Under Pharaoh’s authority, store the grain in the cities, so they may preserve it as food. 36 The food will be a reserve for the land during the seven years of famine that will take place in the land of Egypt. Then the country will not be wiped out by the famine.”

Joseph Exalted

37 The proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants, 38 and he said to them, “Can we find anyone like this, a man who has God’s spirit[c] in him?” (N) 39 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one as discerning and wise as you are. 40 You will be over my house, and all my people will obey your commands.[d](O) Only I, as king,[e] will be greater than you.” 41 Pharaoh also said to Joseph, “See, I am placing you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Pharaoh removed his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, clothed him with fine linen garments, and placed a gold chain around his neck.(P) 43 He had Joseph ride in his second chariot, and servants called out before him, “Make way!” [f] So he placed him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh and no one will be able to raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt without your permission.” 45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah and gave him a wife, Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest at On.[g] And Joseph went throughout[h] the land of Egypt.

Joseph’s Administration

46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Joseph left Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout the land of Egypt.

47 During the seven years of abundance the land produced outstanding harvests. 48 Joseph gathered all the excess food in the land of Egypt during the seven years and put it in the cities. He put the food in every city from the fields around it. 49 So Joseph stored up grain in such abundance—like the sand of the sea—that he stopped measuring it because it was beyond measure.

50 Two sons were born to Joseph before the years of famine arrived.(Q) Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest at On, bore them to him. 51 Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh[i] and said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and my whole family.” 52 And the second son he named Ephraim[j] and said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

53 Then the seven years of abundance in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in every land, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. 55 When the whole land of Egypt was stricken with famine, the people cried out to Pharaoh for food. Pharaoh told all Egypt, “Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you.” 56 Now the famine had spread across the whole region, so Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 Every land came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, for the famine was severe in every land.(R)

Joseph’s Brothers in Egypt

42 When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt,(S) he said to his sons, “Why do you keep looking at each other? Listen,” he went on, “I have heard there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us so that we will live and not die.”(T) So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he thought, “Something might happen to him.”

The sons of Israel were among those who came to buy grain, for the famine was in the land of Canaan. Joseph was in charge of the country; he sold grain to all its people. His brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the ground.(U) When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them.

“Where do you come from?” he asked.

“From the land of Canaan to buy food,” they replied.

Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Joseph remembered his dreams about them(V) and said to them, “You are spies. You have come to see the weakness[k] of the land.”

10 “No, my lord. Your servants have come to buy food,” they said. 11 “We are all sons of one man. We are honest; your servants are not spies.”

12 “No,” he said to them. “You have come to see the weakness of the land.”

13 But they replied, “We, your servants, were twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now[l] with our father, and one is no longer living.”

14 Then Joseph said to them, “I have spoken:[m] ‘You are spies!’ 15 This is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one from among you to get your brother. The rest of you will be imprisoned so that your words can be tested to see if they are true. If they are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!” 17 So Joseph imprisoned them together for three days.

18 On the third day Joseph said to them, “I fear God(W)—do this and you will live. 19 If you are honest, let one of you[n] be confined to the guardhouse, while the rest of you go and take grain to relieve the hunger of your households. 20 Bring your youngest brother to me so that your words can be confirmed; then you won’t die.” And they consented to this.

21 Then they said to each other, “Obviously, we are being punished for what we did to our brother. We saw his deep distress when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this trouble has come to us.”(X)

22 But Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to harm the boy?(Y) But you wouldn’t listen. Now we must account for his blood!” [o]

23 They did not realize that Joseph understood them, since there was an interpreter between them. 24 He turned away from them and wept. When he turned back and spoke to them, he took Simeon from them and had him bound before their eyes. 25 Joseph then gave orders to fill their containers with grain, return each man’s silver to his sack, and give them provisions for their journey. This order was carried out. 26 They loaded the grain on their donkeys and left there.

The Brothers Return Home

27 At the place where they lodged for the night, one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver there at the top of his bag. 28 He said to his brothers, “My silver has been returned! It’s here in my bag.” Their hearts sank. Trembling, they turned to one another and said, “What has God done to us?”

29 When they reached their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them: 30 “The man who is the lord of the country spoke harshly to us and accused us of spying on the country. 31 But we told him, ‘We are honest and not spies. 32 We were twelve brothers, sons of the same[p] father. One is no longer living, and the youngest is now with our father in the land of Canaan.’ 33 The man who is the lord of the country said to us, ‘This is how I will know if you are honest: Leave one brother with me, take food to relieve the hunger of your households, and go. 34 Bring back your youngest brother to me, and I will know that you are not spies but honest men. I will then give your brother back to you, and you can trade in the country.’”

35 As they began emptying their sacks, there in each man’s sack was his bag of silver! When they and their father saw their bags of silver, they were afraid.

36 Their father Jacob said to them, “It’s me that you make childless. Joseph is gone, and Simeon is gone. Now you want to take Benjamin. Everything happens to me!”

37 Then Reuben said to his father, “You can kill my two sons if I don’t bring him back to you. Put him in my care,[q] and I will return him to you.”

38 But Jacob answered, “My son will not go down with you, for his brother is dead and he alone is left.(Z) If anything happens to him on your journey, you will bring my gray hairs down to Sheol in sorrow.”(AA)

Footnotes

  1. 41:14 Or pit, or cistern
  2. 41:16 Or “God will answer Pharaoh with peace of mind.”
  3. 41:38 Or the spirit of the gods, or a god’s spirit
  4. 41:40 Lit will kiss your mouth
  5. 41:40 Lit Only the throne I
  6. 41:43 Or “Kneel!”
  7. 41:45 Or Heliopolis, also in v. 50
  8. 41:45 Or Joseph gained authority over
  9. 41:51 In Hb, the name Manasseh sounds like the verb “forget.”
  10. 41:52 In Hb, the name Ephraim sounds like the word for “fruitful.”
  11. 42:9 Lit nakedness, also in v. 12
  12. 42:13 Or today, also in v. 32
  13. 42:14 Lit “That which I spoke to you saying:
  14. 42:19 Lit your brothers
  15. 42:22 Lit Even his blood is being sought!”
  16. 42:32 Lit of our
  17. 42:37 Lit hand

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