Chapter 41- 2 years after the close of chapter 40, Pharaoh has some dreams. He dreams of skinny cows devouring fat cows and sickly heads of grain devouring plump, healthy grain. He calls all the magicians and wise men in the land to come interpret these dreams, but no one could. Finally, the butler remembers how Joseph helped with his dream, and refers Pharaoh to talk to Joe. Joseph says God will help him interpret the dreams, and tells Pharaoh that they mean Egypt will experience 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine. Joseph suggests that Pharaoh appoint someone to oversee a collection of food during the good years to save up for the famine. Pharaoh picks Joseph, makes him second in command over Egypt, and gives Joseph a wife named Asenath. During the 7 good years, Joe goes around collecting food and storing it, and his wife has two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Then the famine comes, and people from all over the land come to Egypt to buy bread, since they still have food.
Whew! Sorry for the long summary, but it’s a long chapter.
A couple of things I wondered about here- first, it says that God sent these dreams to Pharaoh, and God helped Joseph interpret them, and thank goodness or everyone would have starved. How come God no longer warns people about impending natural disasters?
Second, it says that Asenath was the daughter of a priest. Considering that Judaism was still a minor religion only popular among Abraham’s family, I assume Asenath’s father was a pagan priest. I’m surprised that things are working out well for Joe, considering thus far in the bible it has been frowned upon to take a shiksa wife, so to speak. Although, she was given to Joseph by Pharaoh, so I guess Joe didn’t have much choice. (And, completely unsurprisingly by now, she had zero choice either. *sigh*)
As an aside- maybe it’s just because I’m familiar with the story of Joseph, but Pharaoh’s dreams seem rather obvious to me. Interesting that nobody else who tried to interpret it managed to stumble on the correct interpretation.
Chapter 42- Jacob hears there is grain in Egypt, so he sends 10 of his sons to go buy some (all except Benjamin). Joseph recognizes his brothers, but they don’t recognize him. Joe accuses them of being spies. To prove they aren’t spies, he throws them in jail for 3 days, then makes Simeon stay in jail while the others go home to fetch Benjamin. Jacob refuses to send Benjamin, as he is the only one of Rachel’s children Jacob has left and he doesn’t want anything bad to happen to him.
On first read through, I wondered why Joe was being so deceitful with his brothers. He goes so far as to use an interpreter to pretend like he doesn’t understand their language. Why? But, if my brothers beat me up then sold me into slavery, I suppose I’d be less than forgiving and forthcoming the next time I met them. Joe actually ends up being far more forgiving than I think I could be. While they’re all in prison, Joe overhears them making a connection between how poorly they’re being treated to how poorly they treated Joe, and they feel bad about it. After hearing that, Joe sends 9 of them on their way, with lots of grain for the famine, and even gave them back the money they paid for the grain.
I can sympathize with Jacob not wanting to lose Benjamin. His favorite wife Rachel has died and he thinks Joe is dead, so Benjamin is all he has left of her. But, to be willing to leave Simeon in jail forever so as to protect Benjamin? I feel bad for Jacob’s other children! To be so unloved all because of the Laban/Leah deceit, and the ensuing arms race for babies to buy Jacob’s love…it’s a sad situation.