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Genesis 41-44 Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams

41 At the end of two years Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing beside the Nile, 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, so he summoned all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. 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.”

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

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.”

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

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.”

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams mean the same thing. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 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, scorched heads of grain are seven years of famine.

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. 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?” 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] 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. 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. 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.

Joseph’s Brothers in Egypt

42 When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, 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.” 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. 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 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—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.”

22 But Reuben replied: “Didn’t I tell you not to harm the boy? 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 is this that God has 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. If anything happens to him on your journey, you will bring my gray hairs down to Sheol in sorrow.”

Decision to Return to Egypt

43 Now the famine in the land was severe. When they had used up the grain they had brought back from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little food.”

But Judah said to him, “The man specifically warned us: ‘You will not see me again unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy food for you. But if you will not send him, we will not go, for the man said to us, ‘You will not see me again unless your brother is with you.’”

“Why have you caused me so much trouble?” Israel asked. “Why did you tell the man that you had another brother?”

They answered, “The man kept asking about us and our family: ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ And we answered him accordingly. How could we know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother here’?”

Then Judah said to his father Israel, “Send the boy with me. We will be on our way so that we may live and not die—neither we, nor you, nor our dependents. I will be responsible for him. You can hold me personally accountable![r] If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, I will be guilty before you forever. 10 If we had not delayed, we could have come back twice by now.”

11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your packs and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balsam and a little honey, aromatic gum and resin, pistachios and almonds. 12 Take twice as much silver with you. Return the silver that was returned to you in the top of your bags. Perhaps it was a mistake. 13 Take your brother also, and go back at once to the man. 14 May God Almighty cause the man to be merciful to you so that he will release your other brother and Benjamin to you. As for me, if I am deprived of my sons, then I am deprived.”

The Return to Egypt

15 The men took this gift, double the amount of silver, and Benjamin. They immediately went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph.

16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his steward, “Take the men to my house. Slaughter an animal and prepare it, for they will eat with me at noon.” 17 The man did as Joseph had said and brought them to Joseph’s house.

18 But the men were afraid because they were taken to Joseph’s house. They said, “We have been brought here because of the silver that was returned in our bags the first time. They intend to overpower us, seize us, make us slaves, and take our donkeys.” 19 So they approached Joseph’s steward[s] and spoke to him at the doorway of the house.

20 They said, “My lord, we really did come down here the first time only to buy food. 21 When we came to the place where we lodged for the night and opened our bags of grain, each one’s silver was at the top of his bag! It was the full amount of our silver, and we have brought it back with us. 22 We have brought additional silver with us to buy food. We don’t know who put our silver in the bags.”

23 Then the steward said, “May you be well. Don’t be afraid. Your God and the God of your father must have put treasure in your bags. I received your silver.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24 The steward brought the men into Joseph’s house, gave them water to wash their feet, and got feed for their donkeys. 25 Since the men had heard that they were going to eat a meal there, they prepared their gift for Joseph’s arrival at noon. 26 When Joseph came home, they brought him the gift they had carried into the house, and they bowed to the ground before him.

27 He asked if they were well, and he said, “How is your elderly father that you told me about? Is he still alive?”

28 They answered, “Your servant our father is well. He is still alive.” And they knelt low and paid homage to him.

29 When he looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother that you told me about?” Then he said, “May God be gracious to you, my son.” 30 Joseph hurried out because he was overcome with emotion for his brother, and he was about to weep. He went into an inner room and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out. Regaining his composure, he said, “Serve the meal.”

32 They served him by himself, his brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who were eating with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, since that is detestable to them. 33 They were seated before him in order by age, from the firstborn to the youngest. The men looked at each other in astonishment. 34 Portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, and Benjamin’s portion was five times larger than any of theirs. They drank and became drunk with Joseph.

Joseph’s Final Test

44 Joseph commanded his steward, “Fill the men’s bags with as much food as they can carry, and put each one’s silver at the top of his bag. Put my cup, the silver one, at the top of the youngest one’s bag, along with the silver for his grain.” So he did as Joseph told him.

At morning light, the men were sent off with their donkeys. They had not gone very far from the city when Joseph said to his steward, “Get up. Pursue the men, and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? Isn’t this the cup that my master drinks from and uses for divination? What you have done is wrong!’”

When he overtook them, he said these words to them. They said to him, “Why does my lord say these things? Your servants could not possibly do such a thing. We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found at the top of our bags. How could we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? If it is found with one of us, your servants, he must die, and the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.”

10 The steward replied, “What you have said is right, but only the one who is found to have it will be my slave, and the rest of you will be blameless.”

11 So each one quickly lowered his sack to the ground and opened it. 12 The steward searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13 Then they tore their clothes, and each one loaded his donkey and returned to the city.

14 When Judah and his brothers reached Joseph’s house, he was still there. They fell to the ground before him. 15 “What is this you have done?” Joseph said to them. “Didn’t you know that a man like me could uncover the truth by divination?”

16 “What can we say to my lord?” Judah replied. “How can we plead? How can we justify ourselves? God has exposed your servants’ iniquity. We are now my lord’s slaves—both we and the one in whose possession the cup was found.”

17 Then Joseph said, “I swear that I will not do this. The man in whose possession the cup was found will be my slave. The rest of you can go in peace to your father.”

Judah’s Plea for Benjamin

18 But Judah approached him and said, “My lord, please let your servant speak personally to my lord.[t] Do not be angry with your servant, for you are like Pharaoh. 19 My lord asked his servants, ‘Do you have a father or a brother?’ 20 and we answered my lord, ‘We have an elderly father and a younger brother, the child of his old age. The boy’s brother is dead. He is the only one of his mother’s sons left, and his father loves him.’ 21 Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him to me so that I can see him.’ 22 But we said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father. If he were to leave, his father would die.’ 23 Then you said to your servants, ‘If your younger brother does not come down with you, you will not see me again.’

24 “This is what happened when we went back to your servant my father: We reported to him the words of my lord. 25 But our father said, ‘Go again, and buy us a little food.’ 26 We told him, ‘We cannot go down unless our younger brother goes with us. If our younger brother isn’t with us, we cannot see the man.’ 27 Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. 28 One is gone from me—I said he must have been torn to pieces—and I have never seen him again. 29 If you also take this one from me and anything happens to him, you will bring my gray hairs down to Sheol in sorrow.’

30 “So if I come to your servant my father and the boy is not with us—his life is wrapped up with the boy’s life— 31 when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die. Then your servants will have brought the gray hairs of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow. 32 Your servant became accountable to my father for the boy, saying, ‘If I do not return him to you, I will always bear the guilt for sinning against you, my father.’ 33 Now please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave, in place of the boy. Let him go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father without the boy? I could not bear to see the grief that would overwhelm my father.”

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
  18. 43:9 Lit can seek him from my hand
  19. 43:19 Lit approached the one who was over the house
  20. 44:18 Lit speak a word in my lord’s ears
Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.

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