An Episode in a Nation's History
Genesis 41:1-8
And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.…

Imperfect as human monarchs are, and sometimes corrupt, they are beneficial to society. A government must be very rotten if it is not better than anarchy. Hence, for the most part, God designs to act through kings, and permits them to be His ministers. God has a secret to make known to Egypt, viz., tidings of approaching scarcity; and since Pharaoh is on the throne, the communication shall be made to him.


1. A dream is enough to terrify him. Yet is not this cowardly? Why should the great Pharaoh be alarmed by a night-vision? Has he not an enormous army at his back? Ah, verily, there is another Power, active, mightier, more august, hedging him on every side! What if this strange Power should be unfriendly! No wonder that Pharaoh's knees tremble. He is like a fly upon the unseen mechanism of the universe. He is but a waif upon the stormy Atlantic. What is this all-surrounding Power? Possibly it may be God!

2. Further, he is a very dependent man. He cannot do without astrologers, magicians, butlers, and bakers. No; it would not do for the king to be independent. The temptation to play the tyrant would be irresistible. He is only one part of the social system, though it may be the most prominent.

3. The king is dependent upon the most obscure in his kingdom. On an imprisoned slave Pharaoh and all Egypt have to depend. Verily nobleness and worth may be found in the lowliest lot!


1. Joseph's first utterance was to acknowledge God. In substance he says, "I am powerless; God can meet the case." Hers was a great opportunity for ostentation, self-display. His bearing is calm, princely, royal. Of himself he can do nothing; but he has brought the true God into court, and "with God nothing is impossible."

2. This was an act of heroic faith. Joseph stood alone in that awestruck assembly. Magnates, officers, stewards, magicians, all were worshippers of Egypt's countless idols. To disparage the ancient idols, powerful for long ages, were perilous to a young man and a foreigner.


1. It is clear that Joseph was master of the situation. Etymologically, the word king means "the man that knows." It was this that made Elijah great and powerful in the face of idolatrous Israel. This gave Daniel sovereign influence in the Chaldean court. This made Luther a monarch among men. "Them that honour Me, I will honour."

2. For this royal position Joseph had been skilfully trained.

IV. THE REAL KING IS SUPREME IN EVERY EMERGENCY. Most sailors can steer the ship in fine weather; it requires a real pilot to steer safely through a storm. Pharaoh might do well enough at the helm of affairs, so long as harvests were copious, and the nation was well fed. But in presence of a night-vision, Pharaoh lost his balance; in presence of a famine, Pharaoh was staggered.

(J. Dickerson Davies, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.

WEB: It happened at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and behold, he stood by the river.

A Perplexing Dream
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