New Living Translation
41 Two full years later, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing on the bank of the Nile River. 2 In his dream he saw seven fat, healthy cows come up out of the river and begin grazing in the marsh grass. 3 Then he saw seven more cows come up behind them from the Nile, but these were scrawny and thin. These cows stood beside the fat cows on the riverbank. 4 Then the scrawny, thin cows ate the seven healthy, fat cows! At this point in the dream, Pharaoh woke up.
5 But he fell asleep again and had a second dream. This time he saw seven heads of grain, plump and beautiful, growing on a single stalk. 6 Then seven more heads of grain appeared, but these were shriveled and withered by the east wind. 7 And these thin heads swallowed up the seven plump, well-formed heads! Then Pharaoh woke up again and realized it was a dream.
8 The next morning Pharaoh was very disturbed by the dreams. So he called for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. When Pharaoh told them his dreams, not one of them could tell him what they meant.
9 Finally, the king’s chief cup-bearer spoke up. “Today I have been reminded of my failure,” he told Pharaoh. 10 “Some time ago, you were angry with the chief baker and me, and you imprisoned us in the palace of the captain of the guard. 11 One night the chief baker and I each had a dream, and each dream had its own meaning. 12 There was a young Hebrew man with us in the prison who was a slave of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he told us what each of our dreams meant. 13 And everything happened just as he had predicted. I was restored to my position as cup-bearer, and the chief baker was executed and impaled on a pole.”
14 Pharaoh sent for Joseph at once, and he was quickly brought from the prison. After he shaved and changed his clothes, he went in and stood before Pharaoh. 15 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream last night, and no one here can tell me what it means. But I have heard that when you hear about a dream you can interpret it.”
16 “It is beyond my power to do this,” Joseph replied. “But God can tell you what it means and set you at ease.”
17 So Pharaoh told Joseph his dream. “In my dream,” he said, “I was standing on the bank of the Nile River, 18 and I saw seven fat, healthy cows come up out of the river and begin grazing in the marsh grass. 19 But then I saw seven sick-looking cows, scrawny and thin, come up after them. I’ve never seen such sorry-looking animals in all the land of Egypt. 20 These thin, scrawny cows ate the seven fat cows. 21 But afterward you wouldn’t have known it, for they were still as thin and scrawny as before! Then I woke up.
22 “In my dream I also saw seven heads of grain, full and beautiful, growing on a single stalk. 23 Then seven more heads of grain appeared, but these were blighted, shriveled, and withered by the east wind. 24 And the shriveled heads swallowed the seven healthy heads. I told these dreams to the magicians, but no one could tell me what they mean.”
25 Joseph responded, “Both of Pharaoh’s dreams mean the same thing. God is telling Pharaoh in advance what he is about to do. 26 The seven healthy cows and the seven healthy heads of grain both represent seven years of prosperity. 27 The seven thin, scrawny cows that came up later and the seven thin heads of grain, withered by the east wind, represent seven years of famine.
28 “This will happen just as I have described it, for God has revealed to Pharaoh in advance what he is about to do. 29 The next seven years will be a period of great prosperity throughout the land of Egypt. 30 But afterward there will be seven years of famine so great that all the prosperity will be forgotten in Egypt. Famine will destroy the land. 31 This famine will be so severe that even the memory of the good years will be erased. 32 As for having two similar dreams, it means that these events have been decreed by God, and he will soon make them happen.
33 “Therefore, Pharaoh should find an intelligent and wise man and put him in charge of the entire land of Egypt. 34 Then Pharaoh should appoint supervisors over the land and let them collect one-fifth of all the crops during the seven good years. 35 Have them gather all the food produced in the good years that are just ahead and bring it to Pharaoh’s storehouses. Store it away, and guard it so there will be food in the cities. 36 That way there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come to the land of Egypt. Otherwise this famine will destroy the land.”
Joseph Made Ruler of Egypt
37 Joseph’s suggestions were well received by Pharaoh and his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked his officials, “Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are. 40 You will be in charge of my court, and all my people will take orders from you. Only I, sitting on my throne, will have a rank higher than yours.”
41 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh removed his signet ring from his hand and placed it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in fine linen clothing and hung a gold chain around his neck. 43 Then he had Joseph ride in the chariot reserved for his second-in-command. And wherever Joseph went, the command was shouted, “Kneel down!” So Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of all Egypt. 44 And Pharaoh said to him, “I am Pharaoh, but no one will lift a hand or foot in the entire land of Egypt without your approval.”
45 Then Pharaoh gave Joseph a new Egyptian name, Zaphenath-paneah.[a] He also gave him a wife, whose name was Asenath. She was the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of On.[b] So Joseph took charge of the entire land of Egypt. 46 He was thirty years old when he began serving in the court of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. And when Joseph left Pharaoh’s presence, he inspected the entire land of Egypt.
47 As predicted, for seven years the land produced bumper crops. 48 During those years, Joseph gathered all the crops grown in Egypt and stored the grain from the surrounding fields in the cities. 49 He piled up huge amounts of grain like sand on the seashore. Finally, he stopped keeping records because there was too much to measure.
50 During this time, before the first of the famine years, two sons were born to Joseph and his wife, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of On. 51 Joseph named his older son Manasseh,[c] for he said, “God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.” 52 Joseph named his second son Ephraim,[d] for he said, “God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.”
53 At last the seven years of bumper crops throughout the land of Egypt came to an end. 54 Then the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had predicted. The famine also struck all the surrounding countries, but throughout Egypt there was plenty of food. 55 Eventually, however, the famine spread throughout the land of Egypt as well. And when the people cried out to Pharaoh for food, he told them, “Go to Joseph, and do whatever he tells you.” 56 So with severe famine everywhere, Joseph opened up the storehouses and distributed grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout the land of Egypt. 57 And people from all around came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe throughout the world.
Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt
42 When Jacob heard that grain was available in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why are you standing around looking at one another? 2 I have heard there is grain in Egypt. Go down there, and buy enough grain to keep us alive. Otherwise we’ll die.”
3 So Joseph’s ten older brothers went down to Egypt to buy grain. 4 But Jacob wouldn’t let Joseph’s younger brother, Benjamin, go with them, for fear some harm might come to him. 5 So Jacob’s[e] sons arrived in Egypt along with others to buy food, for the famine was in Canaan as well.
6 Since Joseph was governor of all Egypt and in charge of selling grain to all the people, it was to him that his brothers came. When they arrived, they bowed before him with their faces to the ground. 7 Joseph recognized his brothers instantly, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where are you from?” he demanded.
“From the land of Canaan,” they replied. “We have come to buy food.”
8 Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they didn’t recognize him. 9 And he remembered the dreams he’d had about them many years before. He said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see how vulnerable our land has become.”
10 “No, my lord!” they exclaimed. “Your servants have simply come to buy food. 11 We are all brothers—members of the same family. We are honest men, sir! We are not spies!”
12 “Yes, you are!” Joseph insisted. “You have come to see how vulnerable our land has become.”
13 “Sir,” they said, “there are actually twelve of us. We, your servants, are all brothers, sons of a man living in the land of Canaan. Our youngest brother is back there with our father right now, and one of our brothers is no longer with us.”
14 But Joseph insisted, “As I said, you are spies! 15 This is how I will test your story. I swear by the life of Pharaoh that you will never leave Egypt unless your youngest brother comes here! 16 One of you must go and get your brother. I’ll keep the rest of you here in prison. Then we’ll find out whether or not your story is true. By the life of Pharaoh, if it turns out that you don’t have a younger brother, then I’ll know you are spies.”
17 So Joseph put them all in prison for three days. 18 On the third day Joseph said to them, “I am a God-fearing man. If you do as I say, you will live. 19 If you really are honest men, choose one of your brothers to remain in prison. The rest of you may go home with grain for your starving families. 20 But you must bring your youngest brother back to me. This will prove that you are telling the truth, and you will not die.” To this they agreed.
21 Speaking among themselves, they said, “Clearly we are being punished because of what we did to Joseph long ago. We saw his anguish when he pleaded for his life, but we wouldn’t listen. That’s why we’re in this trouble.”
22 “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy?” Reuben asked. “But you wouldn’t listen. And now we have to answer for his blood!”
23 Of course, they didn’t know that Joseph understood them, for he had been speaking to them through an interpreter. 24 Now he turned away from them and began to weep. When he regained his composure, he spoke to them again. Then he chose Simeon from among them and had him tied up right before their eyes.
25 Joseph then ordered his servants to fill the men’s sacks with grain, but he also gave secret instructions to return each brother’s payment at the top of his sack. He also gave them supplies for their journey home. 26 So the brothers loaded their donkeys with the grain and headed for home.
27 But when they stopped for the night and one of them opened his sack to get grain for his donkey, he found his money in the top of his sack. 28 “Look!” he exclaimed to his brothers. “My money has been returned; it’s here in my sack!” Then their hearts sank. Trembling, they said to each other, “What has God done to us?”
29 When the brothers came to their father, Jacob, in the land of Canaan, they told him everything that had happened to them. 30 “The man who is governor of the land spoke very harshly to us,” they told him. “He accused us of being spies scouting the land. 31 But we said, ‘We are honest men, not spies. 32 We are twelve brothers, sons of one father. One brother is no longer with us, and the youngest is at home with our father in the land of Canaan.’
33 “Then the man who is governor of the land told us, ‘This is how I will find out if you are honest men. Leave one of your brothers here with me, and take grain for your starving families and go on home. 34 But you must bring your youngest brother back to me. Then I will know you are honest men and not spies. Then I will give you back your brother, and you may trade freely in the land.’”
35 As they emptied out their sacks, there in each man’s sack was the bag of money he had paid for the grain! The brothers and their father were terrified when they saw the bags of money. 36 Jacob exclaimed, “You are robbing me of my children! Joseph is gone! Simeon is gone! And now you want to take Benjamin, too. Everything is going against me!”
37 Then Reuben said to his father, “You may kill my two sons if I don’t bring Benjamin back to you. I’ll be responsible for him, and I promise to bring him back.”
38 But Jacob replied, “My son will not go down with you. His brother Joseph is dead, and he is all I have left. If anything should happen to him on your journey, you would send this grieving, white-haired man to his grave.[f]”
- 41:45a Zaphenath-paneah probably means “God speaks and lives.”
- 41:45b Greek version reads of Heliopolis; also in 41:50.
- 41:51 Manasseh sounds like a Hebrew term that means “causing to forget.”
- 41:52 Ephraim sounds like a Hebrew term that means “fruitful.”
- 42:5 Hebrew Israel’s. See note on 35:21.
- 42:38 Hebrew to Sheol.