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Genesis Chapter 41
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Joseph's Vindication
41:1 Two full years passed. Then Pharaoh had a dream. He was standing near the Nile,
41:2 when suddenly seven handsome, healthy-looking cows emerged from the Nile, and grazed in the marsh grass.
41:3 Then another seven, ugly, lean cows emerged from the Nile, and stood next to the cows already on the river bank.
41:4 The ugly, lean cows ate up the seven handsome, fat cows. Pharaoh then woke up.
41:5 He fell asleep again and had a second dream. He saw seven fat, good ears of grain growing on a single stalk.
41:6 Then, suddenly, another seven ears of grain grew behind them, thin and scorched by the [hot] east wind.
41:7 The seven thin ears swallowed up the seven fat, full ears. Pharaoh woke up and realized that it had been a dream.
41:8 In the morning he was very upset. He sent word, summoning all the symbolists and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could provide a satisfactory interpretation.
41:9 The chief wine steward spoke to Pharaoh. 'I must recall my crimes today,' he said.
41:10 'Pharaoh was angry at us, and he placed me under arrest in the house of the captain of the guard, along with the chief baker.
41:11 We dreamed one night - he and I each had a dream that seemed to have its own special meaning.
41:12 There was a young Hebrew man with us, a slave of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them. He provided each of us with an interpretation,
41:13 and things worked out just as he said they would. I was given back my position, while [the baker] was hanged.'
41:14 Pharaoh sent messengers and had Joseph summoned. They rushed him from the dungeon. He got a haircut and changed clothes, and then came to Pharaoh.
41:15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I heard that when you hear a dream, you can explain it.'
41:16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, 'It is not by my own power. But God may provide an answer concerning Pharaoh's fortune.'
41:17 Pharaoh related it to Joseph: 'In my dream, I was standing on the bank of the Nile.
41:18 Suddenly, seven fat, handsome cows emerged from the Nile, and grazed in the marsh grass.
41:19 Then, just as suddenly, seven other cows emerged after them, very badly formed and emaciated. I never saw such bad ones in all Egypt.
41:20 The emaciated, bad cows proceeded to eat the first seven, healthy cows.
41:21 These were completely swallowed by the [emaciated cows], but there was no way of telling that they were inside. The cows looked just as bad as they had at first. Then I woke up.
41:22 'Then I had another dream. There were seven full, good ears of grain growing on one stalk.
41:23 Suddenly, seven other ears of grain grew behind them. [The second ones] were shriveled, thin, and scorched by the east [desert] wind.
41:24 The thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears.

'I told this to the symbolists, but none of them could interpret it for me.'

41:25 Joseph said to Pharaoh, 'Pharaoh's dream has a single meaning. God has told Pharaoh what He is about to do.
41:26 The seven good cows are seven years. The seven good ears are [the same] seven years. It is one dream.
41:27 'The seven emaciated, bad cows who came up after [the first ones] are also seven years. The seven empty, wind-scorched ears will [likewise] be seven years of famine.
41:28 'It is as I have told Pharaoh - God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do.
41:29 Seven years are coming, during which there will be a great surplus of food all over Egypt.
41:30 These will be followed by seven years of famine, when all the surplus in Egypt will be forgotten. The famine will ravage the land.
41:31 The ensuing famine will be so terrible that there will be no way of telling that there was once a surplus in the land.
41:32 'The reason that Pharaoh had the same dream twice is because the process has already been set in motion by God, and God is rushing to do it.
41:33 'Now Pharaoh must seek out a man with insight and wisdom, and place him in charge of Egypt.
41:34 Pharaoh must then take further action, and appoint officials over the land. A rationing system will have to be set up over Egypt during the seven years of surplus.
41:35 Let [the officials] collect all the food during these coming good years, and let them store the grain under Pharaoh's control. The food will be kept in the cities under guard.
41:36 The food can then be held in reserve for the land when the seven famine years come to Egypt. The land will then not be depopulated by the famine.'
41:37 Pharaoh and all his advisors considered it an excellent plan.
41:38 Pharaoh said to his advisors, 'Can there be another person who has God's spirit in him as this man does?'
41:39 Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Since God has informed you about all this, there can be no one with as much insight and wisdom as you.
41:40 You shall be in charge of my government, and food will be distributed to my people by your orders. Only by the throne will I outrank you.'
41:41 Pharaoh then formally declared to Joseph, 'I am placing you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.'
41:42 Pharaoh took his ring off his own hand and placed it on the hand of Joseph. He had him dressed in the finest linen garments, and placed a gold chain around his neck.
41:43 He had [Joseph] ride in his second royal chariot, and [those going] ahead of him announced, 'The Viceroy!' [Joseph] was thus given authority over all Egypt.
41:44 Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I am Pharaoh. Without your say, no man will lift a hand or foot in all Egypt.'
41:45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Tzaphnath Paaneach. He gave him Asenath, daughter of Poti Phera, the priest of On, as a wife. Joseph thus went out to oversee Egypt.
41:46 When he stood before Pharaoh, Joseph was 30 years old.

Joseph left Pharaoh's court, and he made an inspection tour of the entire land of Egypt.

41:47 During the seven years of surplus, the land produced loads of grain.
41:48 [Joseph] collected the food during the seven years that Egypt was now enjoying, and he placed the food in the cities. The food growing in the fields around each city was placed inside [the city].
41:49 Joseph accumulated so much grain, it was like the sand of the sea. They had to give up counting it, since there was too much to count.
41:50 Joseph had two sons before the famine years came, borne to him by Asenath, daughter of Poti Phera, priest of On.
41:51 Joseph named the first-born Manasseh (Me-nasheh) - 'because God has made me forget (nasheh) all my troubles - and even my father's house.'
41:52 He named his second son Ephraim - 'Because God has made me fruitful (p'ri) in the land of my suffering.'
41:53 The seven years of surplus that Egypt was enjoying finally came to an end.
41:54 The seven years of famine then began, just as Joseph had predicted. There was famine in all the other lands, but in Egypt there was bread.
41:55 Eventually, however, all of Egypt also began to feel the famine, and the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh announced to all Egypt, 'Go to Joseph. Do whatever he tells you.'
41:56 The famine spread over the entire area. Joseph opened all the storehouses, and he rationed supplies to Egypt. But the famine was growing worse in Egypt.
41:57 The famine was [also] growing more severe in the entire area, and [people from] all over the area came to Egypt to obtain rations from Joseph.


  According to tradition, this occurred in the year 2230 (1532 b.c.e.). Some say that it was the year that Isaac died (Yov'loth 40:12). According to Talmudic tradition, the dream occurred on Rosh HaShanah, the New Year (Rosh HaShanah 10b, end).

According to this chronology, the king of Egypt at the time was probably Amenhotep I of the 18th Dynasty, who ruled from 1545-1525 b.c.e.

However, it may be necessary to correct the chronology by 18 years (see The Torah Anthology 4:240), so the king would then be Ahmose (1552-1527 b.c.e.), the first king of the 18th Dynasty. It was he who drove the Hyksos out of Egypt. According to conventional chronologies, the reign of Ahmose was from 1570 to 1545 b.c.e.

As mentioned above, however, it may be necessary to make a correction by as much as 163 years (note on Genesis 12:15). The Pharaoh would then be the one who, according to conventional chronologies, reigned in 1695 b.c.e. This would place the Pharaoh in the 14th Dynasty, which was when Egypt was under the rule of the Hyksos. Since very little is known historically of that period, it would explain why there are no historic records of Joseph. Josephus also writes that the Israelites lived in Egypt during the reign of the Hyksos (Contra Apion 1:14).

marsh grass
  (Ramban). Achu in the Hebrew, from the Egyptian Akhi. See Job 8:11, Ben Sirah 40:16. This is usually identified with a type of bullrushes or papyrus (cf. Targum Yonathan; Saadia). Others translate it as marsh (Rashi; Josephus 2:5:5; Septuagint).

  or hieroglyphists. Chartumim in Hebrew, probably from the ancient Egyptian cher themu, chief writer (cf. Ibn Ezra). See Exodus 7:11 (and Hirsch ad. loc.), Daniel 1:20. Inscriptions were thought to have magic power, and were used for divination. Others say that they used the bones of the dead for their incantations (Rashi).

  (Targum). Literally, 'he shaved.'

It is not by my own power...
  (Rashi). Or, 'No matter how I [interpret it], let God make it come out good for you' (Ibn Ezra); or 'I cannot do it by myself, but God will tell you what it means' (Rashbam).

A rationing system...
  (Saadia; cf. Josephus 2:5:7). Chimesh in Hebrew. Other have 'alert Egypt' (Rashi; cf. Exodus 13:18, Joshua 1:14, 4:12, Judges 7:11), or, 'collect a fifth of Egypt's produce' (Targum Yonathan; Rashbam; Ibn Ezra; Radak; see Genesis 47:24). Some say, 'Divide Egypt into five administrative districts' (cf. Isaiah 19:18).

  Literally, 'house.'

food will be distributed
  (Rashi; Targum). Or, 'by your word, the people will be organized' (Rashbam); or, 'all the people will kiss you as their master' (Radak, Sherashim).

formally declared
  Literally, 'said.'

second royal chariot
  (Rashi; Ramban; Ralbag; Sefer HaYashar). Or, 'the chariot of the second in command' (Rashbam; Ibn Ezra).

The Viceroy
  (Targum). Avrekh in Hebrew. Since rekh can mean king (see 2 Samuel 3:39, Radak ad loc.), this word can be interpreted as 'father of the king' or 'arch-ruler' (Sifri on Deuteronomy 1:1; Bava Bathra 4a; Rashi; Rashbam. See Genesis 45:8; note on Genesis 20:2). It may also be related to the Akadian word abarakhu, denoting the chief steward of the royal house. Others define Avrekh as 'merciful father' (Sh'muel ben Chofni). Still others see it as a command, 'bow down' (Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim; Sforno). It may thus be related to the Egyptian expression a-bor-k, 'prostrate yourself,' or aprek, 'head bowed.' Others see it as related to the Egyptian ibrek, 'attention,' aabrek 'to the left' or 'stand aside,' ap-rekh-u, 'head of the wise,' ab-rek, 'rejoice!' or abu-rek, 'your command is our desire.'

According to other sources, Avrekh was the public name given to Joseph, while Tzaphnath Paaneach (41:45) was the private name used in the palace (Agadath Bereshith 73). Others interpret the verse, 'as he passed [the people] called out, 'I will bow down' ' (Ibn Ezra).

Tzaphnath Paaneach
  Many authorities state that this is a Hebrew translation of the Egyptian name that he was given, and that it means 'revealer of secrets' (Targum; Rashi; Septuagint; Josephus 2:6:1). Others say that it is an Egyptian name (Ibn Ezra; Radak, Sherashim). In Egyptian, Tzaphnath is tza-pa-neth meaning, 'the Neth speaks' or 'the god speaks.' Paaneach is pa-anakh, meaning 'the life,' where anach or ankh is the symbol of life. Hence the name can be translated as, 'Lord of life,' 'Neth speaks life,' or 'The God speaks and [this man] lives.'

  There is a tradition that she was actually Dinah's daughter by Shechem (Genesis 34:2), and after being brought to Egypt, she was adopted by Poti Phera (Targum Yonathan; Pirkey Rabbi Eliezer 38). According to this, the name Asenath comes from a Hebraic root, possibly from S'neh (a bush), since she was hidden under a bush (Chizzkuni). It is also possible that Asenath is an Egyptian name, since in Egyptian ase-nath means 'Belonging to God' or 'Belonging to Neth,' where Neth is an Egyptian goddess. Some say that Asenath was an Egyptian (Midrash Tadshe 21, Yalkut Shimoni 2:9).

Poti Phera
  This is also an Egyptian name, Pa-diu Per-Ra, meaning 'given of the House of Ra,' where 'House of Ra' is the sacred name for On (see note on Genesis 41:45, 'priest'). It may also be seen as having the same meaning as Potiphar; see note on Genesis 37:36. Some say that Poti Phera was the same person as Potiphar (Sotah 13a; Targum Yonathan; Rashi; Yov'loth 40:10).

  Either high priest (Targum; Rashbam) or one of the priests (Josephus 2:6:1).

  Ionu in ancient Egyptian, the center of worship of the sun-god Ra. Its sacred name was Per-Ra, 'House of Ra' (see notes on Genesis 12:15, 37:36), which was translated into Greek as Heliopolis. It is 7 miles north of the present Cairo, and 'Cleopatra's Needle' which stands in Central Park came from there. Poti Per-Ra which means 'given of Per-Ra,' can thus literally mean 'the priest of On.' See Genesis 41:50, 46:20; Radak on Ezekiel 30:17. Also see Jeremiah 43:13.

30 years old
  Thus, he had been in Egypt for 13 years; see Genesis 37:2.

  (Targum). Or 'by the handful' (Rashi), indicating that each ear produced a handful of grain (Rashbam).

  Or 'restored' (Josephus).

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