41 Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the [a]Nile. 2 And lo, there came up out of the Nile seven [healthy] cows, sleek and handsome and fat; and they grazed in the reed grass [in a marshy pasture]. 3 Then behold, seven other cows came up after them out of the Nile, ugly and gaunt and raw-boned, and stood by the fat cows on the bank of the Nile. 4 Then the ugly and gaunt and raw-boned cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. Then Pharaoh awoke. 5 Then he fell asleep and dreamed a second time; and behold, seven ears of grain came up on a single stalk, plump and good. 6 Then behold, seven ears [of grain], thin and dried up by the east wind, sprouted after them. 7 Then the thin ears swallowed the seven plump and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and it was a dream. 8 So when morning came his spirit was troubled and disturbed and he sent and called for all the magicians and all the wise men of Egypt. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them to him.
9 Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharaoh, saying, “I would mention my faults today. 10 [Two years ago] Pharaoh was angry with his servants, and he put me in confinement in the house of the captain of the guard, both me and the chief baker. 11 We dreamed a dream on the same night, he and I; each of us dreamed according to [the significance of] the interpretation of his own dream. 12 Now there was with us [in the prison] a young man, a Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted our dreams for us, to each man according to the significance of his own dream. 13 And just as he interpreted [the dreams] for us, so it happened; I was restored to my office [as chief cupbearer], and the baker was hanged.”
14 Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when Joseph shaved himself and changed his clothes [making himself presentable], he came to Pharaoh. 15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have dreamed a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you that you can understand a dream and interpret it.” 16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me [to interpret the dream]; God [not I] will give Pharaoh a [b]favorable answer [through me].” 17 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream, I was standing on the bank of the Nile; 18 and seven fat, sleek and handsome cows came up out of the river, and they grazed in the reed grass [of a marshy pasture]. 19 Lo, seven other cows came up after them, very ugly and gaunt [just skin and bones]; such emaciated animals as I have never seen in all the land of Egypt. 20 And the lean and ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows. 21 Yet when they had devoured them, it could not be detected that they had eaten them, because they were still as thin and emaciated as before. Then I awoke [but again I fell asleep and dreamed]. 22 I saw in my [second] dream, seven ears [of grain], plump and good, growing on a single stalk; 23 and lo, seven [other] ears, withered, thin, and scorched by the east wind, sprouted after them; 24 and the thin ears devoured the seven good ears. Now I told this to the magicians and soothsayers, but there was no one who could explain it [to me].”
25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The [two] dreams are one [and the same and have one interpretation]; God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the [two] dreams are one [and the same]. 27 The seven thin and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years; and also the seven thin ears, dried up and scorched by the east wind, they are seven years of famine and hunger. 28 This is the message just as I have told Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do. 29 Listen very carefully: seven years of great abundance will come throughout all the land of Egypt; 30 but afterward seven years of famine and hunger will come, and [there will be such desperate need that] all the great abundance [of the previous years] will be forgotten in the land of Egypt [as if it never happened], and famine and destitution will ravage and destroy the land. 31 So the great abundance will become forgotten in the land because of that subsequent famine, for it will be very severe. 32 That the dream was repeated twice to Pharaoh [and in two different ways] indicates that this matter is fully determined and established by God, and God will bring it to pass very quickly. 33 So now let Pharaoh [prepare ahead and] look for a man discerning and clear-headed and wise, and set him [in charge] over the land of Egypt [as governor under Pharaoh]. 34 Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers and officials over the land, and set aside one-fifth [of the produce] of the [entire] land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. 35 Let them gather [as a tax] all [of the fifth of] the food of these good years that are coming, and store up grain under the direction and authority of Pharaoh, and let them guard the food [in fortified granaries] in the cities. 36 That food shall be put [in storage] as a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine and hunger which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land (people) will not be ravaged during the famine.”
37 Now the plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all of his servants.
Joseph Is Made a Ruler of Egypt
38 So Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this [a man equal to Joseph], in whom is the divine spirit [of God]?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since [your] God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and clear-headed and wise as you are. 40 You shall have charge over my house, and all my people shall [c]be governed according to your word and pay respect [to you with reverence, submission, and obedience]; only in [matters of] the throne will I be greater than you [in Egypt].” 41 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you [in charge] over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and dressed him in [official] vestments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 He had him ride in his second chariot; and runners proclaimed before him, “[Attention,] bow the knee!” And he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Though I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission shall no man raise his hand [to do anything] or set his foot [to go anywhere] in all the land of Egypt [all classes of people shall submit to your authority].” 45 Then Pharaoh named Joseph [d]Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On (Heliopolis in Egypt), as his wife. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt [to inspect and govern it].
46 Now Joseph [had been in Egypt thirteen years and] was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Joseph departed from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt [performing his duties]. 47 In the seven abundant years the earth produced handfuls [for each seed planted]. 48 And Joseph gathered all the [surplus] food of the seven [good] years in the land of Egypt and stored [enormous quantities of] the food in the cities. He stored away in every city the food [collected] from its own surrounding fields. 49 Thus Joseph gathered and stored up grain in great abundance like the sand of the sea, until he stopped counting it, for it could not be measured.
The Sons of Joseph
50 Now two sons were born to Joseph before the years of famine came, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him. 51 Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh (causing to forget), for he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and hardship and all [the sorrow of the loss of] my father’s household.” 52 He named the second [son] Ephraim (fruitfulness), for “God has caused me to be fruitful and very successful in the land of my suffering.”
53 When the seven years of plenty came to an end in the land of Egypt, 54 the seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said [they would]; the famine was in all the [surrounding] lands, but in the land of Egypt there was bread (food). 55 So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried out to Pharaoh for food; and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; do whatever he says to you.” 56 When the famine was spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold [surplus grain] to the Egyptians; and the famine grew [extremely] severe in the land of Egypt. 57 And [the people of] all countries came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the [known] earth.
Joseph’s Brothers Sent to Egypt
42 Now when Jacob (Israel) learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why are you staring at one another [in bewilderment and not taking action]?” 2 He said, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy [some] grain for us, so that we may live and not die [of starvation].” 3 So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s [younger] brother, with his brothers, for he said, “I am afraid that some harm or injury may come to him.” 5 So the sons of Israel came [to Egypt] to buy grain along with the others who were coming, for famine was in the land of Canaan also.
6 Now Joseph was the ruler over the land, and he was the one who sold [grain] to all the people of the land; and Joseph’s [half] brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the ground. 7 When Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them, but [hiding his identity] he treated them as strangers and [e]spoke harshly to them. He said to them, “Where have you come from?” And they said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.”
8 Joseph recognized his brothers, but [f]they did not recognize him. 9 Joseph remembered the dreams he had dreamed about them, and said to them, “You are spies; you have come [with a malicious purpose] to observe the [g]undefended parts of our land.” 10 But they said to him, “No, my lord, for your servants have [only] come to buy food. 11 We are all the sons of one man; we are honest men, your servants are not spies.” 12 Yet he said to them, “No, you have come to see the undefended parts of our land.” 13 But they said, “Your servants are twelve brothers [in all], the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; please listen: the youngest is with our father today, and one is no longer alive.” 14 Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you, you are spies. 15 In this way you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here! 16 Send one of you [back home], and let him bring your brother [here], while [the rest of] you remain confined, so that your words may be tested, [to see] whether there is any truth in you [and your story]; or else, by the life of Pharaoh, certainly you are spies.” 17 Then Joseph put them all in prison for three days.
18 Now Joseph said to them on the third day, “Do this and [you may] live, for I fear God: 19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in your [place here in] prison; but as for the rest of you, go, carry grain for the famine in your households, 20 but bring your youngest brother to me, so your words will be verified and you will not die.” And they did so. 21 And they said to one another, “Truly we are guilty regarding our brother [Joseph], because we saw the distress and anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us [to let him go], yet we would not listen [to his cry]; so this distress and anguish has come on us.” 22 Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you, ‘Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Now the accounting for his blood is required [of us for we are guilty of his death].” 23 They did not know that Joseph understood [their conversation], because he spoke to them through an interpreter. 24 He turned away from his brothers and [left the room and] wept; then he returned and talked with them, and took Simeon from them and bound him in front of them [to be kept as a hostage in Egypt]. 25 Then Joseph gave orders [privately] that their bags be filled with grain, and that every man’s money [used to pay for the grain] be put back in his sack, and that provisions be given to them for the journey. And so this was done for them.
26 They loaded their donkeys with grain and left from there. 27 And at the lodging place, as one of them opened his sack to feed his donkey, he saw his money in the opening of his sack. 28 And he said to his brothers, “My money has been returned! Here it is in my sack!” And their hearts sank, and they were afraid and turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”
The Return to Canaan
29 When they came to Jacob their father in the land of Canaan, they told him everything that had happened to them, saying, 30 “The man who is the lord of the land spoke harshly to us, and took us for spies of the land. 31 But we told him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. 32 We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no longer alive, and the youngest is with our father today in the land of Canaan.’ 33 And the man, the lord of the country, said to us, ‘By this [test] I will know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers here with me and take grain for your starving households and go. 34 Bring your youngest brother to me; then I will know that you are not spies, but that you are honest men. Then I will return your [imprisoned] brother [back] to you, and you may trade and do business in the land.’”
35 Now when they emptied their sacks, every man’s bundle of money [paid to buy grain] was in his sack. When they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid. 36 Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me [by causing the loss] of my children. Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and you would take Benjamin [from me]. All these things are [working] against me.” 37 Then Reuben spoke to his father, “You may put my two sons to death if I do not bring Benjamin back to you; put him in my care, and I will return him to you.” 38 But Jacob said, “My son shall not go down [to Egypt] with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left [of Rachel’s children]. If any harm or accident should happen to him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol (the place of the dead) in sorrow.”
- Genesis 41:1 Lit the river, and so throughout.
- Genesis 41:16 Lit answer of peace.
- Genesis 41:40 Lit yield to your mouth.
- Genesis 41:45 Probably Egyptian for “God speaks; he lives.”
- Genesis 42:7 Joseph was conversing with his brothers through an interpreter (v 23).
- Genesis 42:8 Perhaps as many as twenty years had passed since his brothers last saw Joseph. They never would have suspected that the powerful Egyptian ruler standing before them was their brother.
- Genesis 42:9 Lit nakedness.