Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 2: Genesis, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.
1. Verum fuit in fine duorum annorum dierum, Pharao somniavit, et ecce, stabat juxta flumen.
2. And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow.
2. Ecce autem e flumine ascendebant septem vaccae pulchrae aspectu, et pingues carne, et pascebant in carecto.
3. And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and leanfleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river.
3. Et ecce, septem vaccae aliae ascendebant post eas e flumine, turpes aspectu, et tenues carne, et stabant juxta vaccas, quoe erant juxta ripam fluminis.
4. And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.
4. Et comederunt vaccae turpes aspectu, et tenues carne, septem vaccas pulchras aspectu et pingues: et expergefactus est Pharao.
5. And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good.
5. Deinde dormivit, et somniavit secundo, et ecce, septem spicae ascendebant in culmo uno pingues et pulchrae.
6. And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them.
6. Et ecce, septem spicae tenues, et arefactae Euro, oriebantur post eas.
7. And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.
7. Et deglutiverunt spicae tenues, septem spicas pingues et plenas: et expergefactus est Pharao, et ecce somnium.
8. And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh.
8. Et fuit, mane consternatus est spiritus ejus: misit igitur, et vocavit omnes magos Aegypti, et omnes sapientes ejus, et narravit Pharao eis somnium suum, et non erat ex eis qui interpretaretur ipsi Pharaoni.
9. Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day:
9. Et loquutus est princeps pincernarum ad Pharaonem, dicendo, Peccata mea ego reduco in memoriam hodie.
10. Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in ward in the captain of the guard’s house, both me and the chief baker:
10. Pharao iratus est contra servos suos, et posuit me in custodiam domus principis satellitum, me et principem pistorum.
11. And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream.
11. Et somniavimus somnium nocte eadem, ego et ipse: uterque secundum interpretationem somnii sui somniavimus.
12. And there was there with us a young man, an Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he did interpret.
12. Ibi autem erat nobiscum puer Hebraeus, servus principis satellitum, et narravimus ei, et interpretatus est nobis somnia nostra, utrique secundum somnium suum interpretatus est.
13. And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.
13. Et fuit, quemadmodum interpretatus est nobis, sic fuit: me redire fecit ad locum meum, et ipsum suspendit.
14. Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.
14. Tune misit Pharao, et arcessivit Joseph, et celeriter eduxerunt eum e carcere, et totondit se, et mutavit vestes suas, et vendit ad Pharaonem.
15. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it.
15. Et dixit Pharao ad Joseph, Somnium somniavi, et qui illud interpretetur non est: ego autem audivi de to dici, quod audias somnium ad interpretandum illud.
16. And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.
16. Et respondit Joseph ad Pharaonem, dicendo, Praeter me, Deus respondebit in pacem Pharaonis.
17. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river:
17. Tune loquutus est Pharao ad Joseph, Me somniante ecce, stabam juxta ripan fluminis.
18. And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow:
18. Et ecce, e flumine ascendebant septem vaccae pingues carne, et pulchrae forma, et pascebant in carecto.
19. And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed, such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness:
19. Ecce vero septem vaccae aliae ascendebant post eas tenues, et turpes forma valde, et tenues carne: non vidi similes illis in tota terra Aegypti in turpitudine.
20. And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine:
20. Et comederunt vaccae tenues et turpes, septem vaccas priores pingues.
21. And when they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they were still ill favoured, as at the beginning. So I awoke.
21. Et venerunt ad interiora earum, et non est cognitum quod venissent ad interiora earum: et aspectus earum turpis, quemadmodum in principio: et expergefactus sum.
22. And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good:
22. Vidi praeterea dum somniarem, et ecce, septem spicae ascendebant in culmo uno plenae et pulchrae.
23. And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them:
23. Et ecce item septem spicae parvae et tenues, percussae Euro germinabant post eas.
24. And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears: and I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me.
24. Et deglutiverunt spicae tenues, septem spicas pulchras. Et dixi ad magos, et non fuit qui indicaret mihi.
25. And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do.
25. Et dixit Joseph ad Pharaonem, Somnium Pharaonis unum est: quae Deus facit, indicavit Pharaoni.
26. The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one.
26. Septem vaccae pulchrae, septum anni sunt, et septem spicae pulchrae, septem anni sunt: somnium idem est.
27. And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine.
27. Et septem vaccae vacuae et turpes, ascendentes post eas, septem anni sunt: et septem spicae vacuae arefactae Euro, erunt septem anni famis.
28. This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh.
28. Hoc est verbum quod liquutus sum ad Pharaonem, guod Deus facit, videre fecit Pharaonem.
29. Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt:
29. Ecce, septem anni veniunt abundantiae magnae in omni terra Aegypti.
30. And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land;
30. Et surgent septem anni famis post eos: et erit in oblivione omnis abundantia in terra Aegypti, et consumet fames terram.
31. And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.
31. Nec cognoscetur abundantia in terra, propter famem ipsam se quentem, quia gravis erit valde.
32. And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.
32. Propterea vero iteratum est somnium ipsi Pharaoni duabus vicibus, quia firma est res a Deo, et festinat Deus facere eam.
33. Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.
33. Nune igitur provideat Pharaovirum prudentem, et sapientem, et constituant illum super terram Aegypti.
34. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years.
34. Faciat Pharao, et praeficiat praefectos super terram, et quintam partem sumat a terra Aegypti in septem annis abundantiae.
35. And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities.
35. Et congregent totam annonam horum annorum bonorum qui venient, congregent, inquam, frumentum sub manu Pharaonis, cibum in urbibus, et servent.
36. And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.
36. Et erit cibus in depositum pro terra, pro septem annis famis qui erunt in terra Aegypti: ita non succidetur terra propter famem.
37. And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.
37. Placuit sermo in oculis Pharaonis, et in oculis omnium servorum ejus.
38. And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?
38. Et dixit Pharao ad servos suos, Num inveniemus talem virum, in quo Spiritus Dei?
39. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:
39. Dixit ergo Pharao ad Joseph, Postquam cognoscere fecit Deus to totum hoc, non est intelligens et sapiens sicut tu.
40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.
40. Tu eris super domum meam, et ad os tuum osculabitur omnis populus meus: tantum solio major ero to.
41. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.
41. Itaque dixit Pharao ad Joseph, Vide, posui to super totam terram Aegypti.
42. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck;
42. Et removit Pharao annulum suum e manu sua, posuitque illum in manu Joseph: et indui fecit eum vestibus byssinis, et posuit torquem aureum in collo ejus.
43. And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt.
43. Et equitare fecit eum in curru secundi, qui erat apud se, clamabantque ante eum, Albrech, (id est, pater tener,) et constituit cum super universam terram Aegypti
44. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.
44. Dixit ergo Pharao ad Joseph, Ego Pharao, et sine, to non levabit quisquam manum suam et pedem suum in tota terra Aegypti.
45. And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.
45. Et vocavit Pharao nomen Joseph, Saphenath — Paneah, (id est, vir cui abscondita revelata sunt, vel, absconditorum expositor,) et dedit ei Asenath filiam Poti — pherah principis On in uxorem, et egressus est Joseph super terram Aegypti.
46. And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.
46. Joseph vero erat vir triginta annorum, quando stetit coram Pharaone rege Aegypti: et egressus est Joseph a facie Pharaonis, et transivit per totam terram Aegypti.
47. And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls.
47. Et protulit terra septem annis saturitatis ad collectiones.
48. And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities: the food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same.
48. Et congregavit de universis cibis septem annorum, qui fuerunt in terra Aegypti, et posuit cibum in urbibus: cibum agri civitatis, qui erat in circuitu ejus, posuit in medio ejus.
49. And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number.
49. Congregavit itaque Joseph frumentum, tanquam arenam maris multum valde, adeo ut cessaverit numerari, quia non erat numerus.
50. And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him.
50. Porro ipsi Joseph nati sunt duo filii antequam veniret annus famis, quos peperit ei Asenath filia Poti — pherah principis On.
51. And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house.
51. Et vocavit Joseph nomen primogeniti, Menasseh: quia dixit, Oblivisci fecit me Deus omnis laboris mei, et omnis domus patris mei.
52. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.
52. Nomen autem secundi vocavit Ephraim: quia dixit, crescere fecit me Deus in terra afflictionbis meae.
53. And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.
53. Et finit sunt septem anni saturitatis, quae fuit in terra Aegypti.
54. And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.
54. Inceperunt vero septem anni famis venire, quemadmodum dixerat Joseph, fuitque fames in omnibus terris: at in tota terra Aegypti erat panis.
55. And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do.
55. Postea esuriit tota terra Aegypti, et clamavit populus ad Pharaonem pro pane: et dixit Pharao omnibus Aegyptiis, Ite ad Joseph, quod dixerit vobis, facietis.
56. And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.
56. Et fames erat in omni superficie terrae: et aperuit Joseph omnia horrea, in quibus erant frumenta, et vendidit Aegyptiis: et invaluit fames in terra Aegypti.
57. And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.
57. Et omnes habitatores terrae venerunt in Aegyptum, ut emerent a Joseph: quia invaluerat fames in omni terra.
1. At the end of two full years 154 What anxiety oppressed the mind of the holy man during this time, each of us may conjecture from his own feeling; for we are so tender and effeminate, that we can scarcely bear to be put off for a short time. The Lord exercised his servant not only by a delay of long continuance, but also by another kind of temptation, because he took all human grounds of hope away from him: therefore Moses puts “years of days” for complete and full years. That we may better understand the invincible nature of his fortitude, we must also notice that winding course of divine providence, of which I have spoken, and by which Joseph was led about, till he rose into notice with the king. In the king’s dream, this is worthy to be observed in the first place, that God sometimes deigns to present his oracles even to unbelieving and profane men. It was certainly a singular honor to be instructed concerning an event yet fourteen years future: for truly the will of God was manifested to Pharaoh, just as if he had been taught by the word, except that the interpretation of it was to be sought elsewhere. And although God designs his word especially for the Church, yet it ought not to be deemed absurd that he sometimes admits even aliens into his school, though for an inferior end. The doctrine which leads to the hope of eternal life belongs to the Church; while the children of this world are only taught, incidentally, concerning the state of the present life. If we observe this distinction, we shall not wonder that some oracles are common to profane and heathen men, though the Church possesses the spiritual doctrine of life, as the treasure of its own inheritance. That another dream succeeded to the former, arose from two causes; for God both designed to rouse the mind of Pharaoh to more diligent inquiry, and to add more light to a vision which was obscure. In short, he follows the same course in this dream which he does in his daily method of procedure; for he repeats a second time what he has before delivered, and sometimes inculcates still more frequently, not only that the doctrine may penetrate more deeply into men’s hearts, and thus affect them the more; but also that he may render it more familiar to their minds. That by the second dream God designed to illustrate more fully what was obscure in the first, appears from this, that the figure used was more appropriate to the subject revealed. At first, Pharaoh saw fat cows devoured by lean ones. This did not so clearly prefigure the seven years’ abundance, and as many years of want in corn and other seeds, as the vision of the ears of corn did: for the similitude, in the latter case, better agrees with the thing represented.
8. In the morning his spirit was troubled. A sting was left in Pharaoh’s heart, that he might know that he had to deal with God; for this anxiety was as an inward seal of the Spirit of God, to give authenticity to the dream; although Pharaoh deserved to be deprived of the advantage of this revelation, when he resorted to magicians and soothsayers, who were wont to turn the truth of God into a lie. 155 He was convinced by a secret impulse that the dream sent by God portended something important; but he seeks out imposters, who would darken, by their fallacies, the light which was divinely kindled; and it is the folly of the human mind to gather to itself leaders and teachers of error. No doubt he believed them to be true prophets; but because he voluntarily closes his eyes, and hastens into the snare, his false opinion forms no sufficient excuse for him; otherwise men, by merely shutting their eyes, might have some plausible pretext for mocking God with impunity: and we see that many seek protection for themselves in that gross ignorance in which they knowingly and purposely involve themselves. Pharaoh, therefore, as far as he was able, deprived himself of the benefit of the prophecy, by seeking for magicians as the interpreters of it. So we see it daily happens that many lose hold of the truth, because they either bring a cloud over themselves by their own indolence, or too eagerly catch at false and spurious inventions. But because the Lord would, at that time, succor the kingdom of Egypt, he drew Pharaoh back, as by main force, from his error.
There was none that could interpret. By this remedy God provided that the dream should not fail. We know what an inflated and impudent race of men these soothsayers were, and how extravagantly they boasted. How did it then happen that they gave the king no answer, seeing they might have trifled in any way whatever with a credulous man, who willingly suffered himself to be deluded? Therefore, that he might desist from inquiry, he is not allowed to find what he had expected in his magicians: and the Lord so strikes dumb the wicked workers of deceit, that they cannot even find a specious explanation of the dreams. Moreover, by this method, the anxiety of the king is sharpened; because he considers that what has escaped the sagacity of the magicians must be something very serious and secret. By which example we are taught, that the Lord provides the best for us, when he removes the incitements of error from those of us who with to be deceived; and we must regard it as a singular favor, when either false prophets are silenced, or their fatuity is, in any manner, discovered to us. As for the rest, the king might hence easily gather how frivolous and nugatory was the profession of wisdom, in which the Egyptians gloried above all others; for they boasted that they were possessed of the science of divination which ascended above the very heavens. But now, as far as they are concerned, the king is without counsel, and, being disappointed of his hope, is filled with anguish; nevertheless he does not so awake as to shake off his superstition. Thus we see that men, though admonished, remain still in their torpor. Whence we plainly perceive how inexcusable is the obstinacy of the world, which does not desist from following those delusions which are openly condemned as foolishness, from heaven.
9. Then spake the chief butler. Although the Lord took pity on Egypt, yet he did it not for the sake of the king, or of the country, but that Joseph might, at length, be brought out of prison; and further, that, in the time of famine, food might be supplied to the Church: for although the produce was stored with no design beyond that of providing for the kingdom of Egypt; yet God chiefly cared for his Church, which he esteemed more highly than ten worlds. Therefore the butler, who had resolved to be silent respecting Joseph, is constrained to speak for the liberation of the holy man. In saying, I do remember my faults this day, he is understood by some as confessing the fault of ingratitude, because he had not kept the promise he had given. But the meaning is different; for he could not speak concerning his imprisonment, without interposing a preface of this kind, through fear, lest suspicion should enter into the mind of the king, that his servant thought himself injured; or, should take offense, as if the butler had not been sensible of the benefit conferred upon him. We know how sensitive are the minds of kings; and the courtier had found this out by long experience: therefore he begins by acknowledging that he had been justly cast into prison. Whence it follows that he was indebted to the clemency of the king for restoration to his former state.
14. Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph. We see in the person of a proud king, as in a glass, what necessity can effect. They whose circumstances are happy and prosperous will scarcely condescend to hear those whom they esteem true prophets, still less will they listen to strangers. Wherefore it was necessary that the obstinacy of Pharaoh should be first subdued, in order that he might send for Joseph, and accept him as his master and instructor. The same kind of preparation is also necessary even for the elect; because they never become docile until the pride of the flesh is laid low. Whenever, therefore, we are cast into grievous troubles, which keep us in perplexity and anxiety, let us know that God, in this manner, is accomplishing his design of rendering us obedient to himself. When Moses relates that Joseph, before he came into the presence of the king, changed his garments, we may hence conjecture that his clothing was mean. To the same point, what is added respecting his “shaving himself,” ought, in my opinion, to be referred: for since Egypt was a nations of effeminate delicacy, it is probable that they, being studious of neatness and elegance, rather nourished their hair than otherwise. 156 But as Joseph put off his squalid raiment, so, that he might have no remaining cause of shame, he is shaved. Let us know, then, that the servant of God lay in filth even to the day of his deliverance.
15. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph. We see that Pharaoh offers himself as a disciple to Joseph, being persuaded, by the statement of the butler, that he is a prophet of God. This is, indeed, a constrained humility; but it is expressly recorded, in order that, when the opportunity of learning 157 is afforded us, we may not refuse reverently to honor the gifts of the Spirit. Now, though Joseph, in referring Pharaoh to God, seems to deny that he himself is about to interpret the dream, yet his answer bears on a different point: for, because he knew that he was conversing with a heathen addicted to superstitions, he wishes, above all things, to ascribe to God the glory due to him; as if he had said, I am able to do nothing in this matter, nor will I offer anything as from myself; but God alone shall be the interpreter of his own secret. 158 Should any one object, that whenever God uses the agency of men, their office ought to be referred to in connection with his command: that indeed I acknowledge, but yet so that the whole glory may remain with God; according to the saying of St. Paul,
“Neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth.”
Moreover, Joseph not only desires to imbue the mind of Pharaoh with some relish for piety, but, by ascribing the gift of interpreting dreams to God alone, confesses that he is destitute of it, until he obtains it from God. Wherefore, let us also learn, from the example of holy Joseph, to honor the grace of God even among unbelievers; and if they shut the door against the entire and full doctrine of piety; we must, at least, endeavor to instill some drops of it into their minds. Let us also reflect on this, that nothing is less tolerable than for men to arrogate to themselves anything as their own; for this is the first step of wisdom, to ascribe nothing to ourselves; but modestly to confess, that whatever in us is worthy of praise, flows only from the fountain of God’s grace. It is especially worthy of notice, that as the Spirit of understanding is given to any one from heaven, he will become a proper and faithful interpreter of God.
16. God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace. Joseph added this from the kindly feeling of his heart; for he did not yet comprehend what the nature of the oracle would be. Therefore he could not, in his character as a prophet, promise a successful and desirable issue; but, as it was his duty sincerely to deliver what he received from the Lord, however sad and severe it might prove; so, on the other hand, this liberty presented no obstacle to his wishing a joyful issue to the king. Therefore, what is here said to the king concerning peace, is a prayer rather than a prophecy.
17. In my dream. This whole narration does not need to be explained, for Pharaoh only repeats what we have before considered, with the addition, that the lean cows, having devoured the fat ones, were rendered nothing better. Whereby God designed to testify, that the dearth would be so great, that the people, instead of being nourished by the abundance of food gathered together, would be famished, and drag on a miserable existence. Joseph, in answering that the two dreams were one, simply means, that one and the same thing was showed unto Pharaoh by two figures. But before he introduces his interpretation, he maintains that this is not a merely vanishing dream, but a divine oracle: for unless the vision had proceeded from God, it would have been foolish to inquire anxiously what it portended. Pharaoh, therefore, does not here labor in vain in inquiring into the counsel of God. The form of speaking, however, requires to be noticed; because Joseph does not barely say that God will declare beforehand what may happen from some other quarter, but what he himself is about to do. We hence infer, that God does not indolently contemplate the fortuitous issue of things, as most philosophers vainly talk; but that he determines, at his own will, what shall happen. Wherefore, in predicting events, he does not give a response from the tables of fate, as the poets feign concerning their Apollo, whom they regard as a prophet of events which are not in his own power, but declares that whatever shall happen will be his own work. So Isaiah, that he may ascribe to God alone the glory due to him, attributes to him, both the revealing of things future, and the government of ail his events, by his own authority. (Isa 45:7.) For he cries aloud that God is neither deceived, nor deceives, like the idols; and he declares that God alone is the author of good and evil; understanding by evil, adversity. Wherefore, unless we would cast God down from his throne, we must leave to him his power of action, as well as his foreknowledge. And this passage is the more worthy of observation; because, in all ages, many foolish persons have endeavored to rob God of half his glory, and now (as I have said) the same figment pleases many philosophers; because they think it absurd to ascribe to God whatever is done in the world: as if truly the Scripture had in vain declared, that his “judgments are a great deep.” (Ps 36:7.) But while they would subject the works of God to the judgment of their own brain, having rejected his word, they prefer giving credit to Plato respecting celestial mysteries. “That God,” they say, “has foreknowledge of all things, does not involve the necessity of their occurrence:” as if, indeed, we asserted, that bare prescience was the cause of things, instead of maintaining the connection established by Moses, that God foreknows things that are future, because he had determined to do them; but they ignorantly and perversely separate the providence of God from his eternal counsel, and his continual operation. Above all things, it is right to be fully persuaded that, whenever the earth is barren, whether frost, or drought, or hail, or any other thing, may be the cause of it, the whole result is directed by the counsel of God.
32. And for that the dream was doubled. Joseph does not mean to say, that what God may have declared but once, is mutable: but he would prevent Pharaoh’s confidence respecting the event revealed, from being shaken. For since God pronounces nothing but from his own fixed and steadfast purpose, it is enough that he should have spoken once. But our dullness and inconstancy cause him to repeat the same thing the more frequently, in order that what he has certainly decreed, may be fixed in our hearts; otherwise, as our disposition is variable, so, what we have once heard from his mouth, is tossed up and down by us, until it entirely escapes our memory. Moreover, Joseph not only commemorates the stability of the heavenly decree, but also declares that what God has determined to do, is near at hand, lest Pharaoh himself should slumber in the confident expectation of longer delay. For though we confess that the judgments of God are always hanging over our heads, yet unless we are stimulated by the thought of their speedy approach, we are but slightly affected with anxiety and fear respecting them.
33. Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man. Joseph does more than he had been asked to do; for he is not merely the interpreter of the dream; but, as fulfilling the office of a prophet, he adds instruction and counsel. For we know that the true and lawful prophets of God do not barely predict what will happen in future; but propose remedies for impending evils. Therefore Joseph, after he had uttered a prophecy of the changes which would take place in fourteen years, now teaches what ought to be done; and exhorts Pharaoh to be vigilant in the discharge of this duty. And one of the marks by which God always distinguished his own prophets from false prognosticators, was to endue them with the power of teaching and exhorting, that they might not uselessly predict future events. Let us grant that the predictions of Apollo, and of all the magicians were true, and were not entangled with ambiguous expressions; yet whither did they tend, but either to drive men headlong in perverse confidence, or to plunge them into despair? A very different method of prophesying was divinely prescribed, which would form men to piety, would lead them to repentance, and would excite them to prayer when oppressed with fear. Moreover, because the prophecy of which mention is here made, was published only for the temporal advantage of this fleeting life, Joseph proceeds no further than to show the king for what purpose the dream had been sent to him; as if he had said, “Be not sorry on account of this revelation; accept this advantage from it, that thou mayest succor the poverty of thy kingdom.” However, there is no doubt that God guided his tongue, in order that Pharaoh might entrust him with this office. For he does not craftily insinuate himself into the king’s favor; nor abuse the gift of revelation to his private gain: but, what had been divinely ordained was brought to its proper issue without his knowledge; namely, that the famishing house of Jacob should find unexpected sustenance.
35. Under the hand of Pharaoh. Whereas prosperity so intoxicates men, that the greater part make no provision for themselves against the future, but absorb the present abundance by intemperance; Joseph advises the king to take care that the country may have its produce laid up in store. Besides, the common people would also form themselves to habits of frugality, when they understood that this great quantity of corn was not collected in vain by the king, but that a remedy was hereby sought for some unwonted calamity. In short, because luxury generally prevails in prosperity, and wastes the blessings of God, the bridle of authority was necessary. This is the reason why Joseph directed that garners should be established under the power of the king, and that corn should be gathered into them. He concludes at length, that the dream was useful, although at first sight, it would seem sad and inauspicious: because, immediately after the wound had been shown, the means of cure were suggested.
38. Can we find such a one as this? We see that necessity is an excellent teacher. If prefects or judges are to be created, some one is advanced to the honor because he is a favorite, without consideration of his desert; whence it happens that they who are most unworthy frequently creep into office. And although we see political order disturbed and mankind involved in many inconveniences, because they who are least suitable, rashly push themselves, by wicked contrivances, into affairs for which they are not able to manage; nevertheless, ambition triumphs, and subverts equity. But necessity extorts a sober judgment. Pharaoh says nothing but what is naturally engraven on the hearts of all men, that honors ought to be conferred on none but competent persons, and such as God has furnished with the necessary qualifications. Experience, however, abundantly teaches, that this law of nature slips from the memory, whenever men are free to offend against it with impunity. Therefore the pride of Pharaoh was wisely so subdued, that he, setting aside ambition, preferred a foreigner just brought out of prison, to all his courtiers, because he excelled them in virtue. The same necessity restrained the nobles of the kingdom, so that they did not each contend, according to their custom, to obtain the priority of rank for themselves. And although it was but a compulsory modesty, inasmuch as they were ashamed to resist the public good; yet there is no doubt, that God inspired them with fear, so that, by the common consent of all, Joseph was made president of the whole kingdom. It is also to be observed that Pharaoh, though he had been infatuated by his soothsayers, nevertheless honors the gifts of the spirit in Joseph: because God, indeed, never suffers man to become so brutalized, as not to feel his power, even in their darkness. And therefore whatever impious defection may hurry them away, there still abides with them a remaining sense of Deity. Meanwhile, that knowledge is of little worth, which does not correct a man’s former madness; for he despises the God whom with his mouth he proclaims: and has no conception of any other than I know not what confused divinity. This kind of knowledge often enlightens profane men, yet not so as to cause them to repent. Whereby we are admonished to regard any particular principle as of small value, till solid piety springs from it and flourishes.
40. Thou shalt be over my house. Not only is Joseph made governor of Egypt, but is adorned also with the insignia of royalty, that all may reverence him, and may obey his command. The royal signet is put upon his finger for the confirmation of decrees. He is clothed in robes of fine linen, which were then a luxury, and were not to be had at any common price. He is placed in the most honorable chariot. 159 It may, however, be asked, whether it was lawful for the holy man to appear with so great pomp? I answer, although such splendor can scarcely ever be free from blame, and therefore frugality in external ornaments is best; yet all kind of splendor in kings and other princes of the world is not to be condemned, provided they neither too earnestly desire it, nor make an ostentatious display of it. Moderation is, indeed, always to be cultivated; but since it was not in Joseph’s power to prescribe the mode of investiture, and the royal authority would not have been granted to him without the accustomed pomp of state, he was at liberty to accept more than seemed in itself desirable. If the option be given to the servants of God, nothing is safer for them, than to cut off whatever they can of outward splendor. And where it is necessary for them to accommodate themselves to public custom, they must beware of all ostentation and vanity. With respect to the explanation of the words; whereas we render them, “At thy mouth all the people shall kiss,” 160 others prefer to read, “shall be armed;” others, “shall be fed at thy will or commandment;” but as the proper signification of the verb קשנ (nashak) is to kiss, I do not see why interpreters should twist it to another sense. Yet I do not think that here any special token of reverence is intended; but the phrase rather seems to be metaphorical, to the effect that the people should cordially receive and obediently embrace whatever might proceed from the mouth of Joseph: as if Pharaoh had said, “Whatever he may command, it is my will that the people shall receive with one consent, as if all should kiss him.” The second chariot, is read by the Hebrews in construction, for the chariot of the viceroy, who holds the second place from the king. The sense, however, is clear, that Joseph has the precedence of all the nobles of Egypt.
There are various opinions about the meaning of the word ךרבא (abraik). They who explain it by “tender father,” because Joseph, being yet in tender years, was endowed with the prudence and gravity of old age, seem to me to bring something from afar to correspond with their own fancy. They who render it “the father of the king,” as if the word were compounded of the Hebrew noun בא (ab,) and the Arabic ךר (rak,) have little more color for their interpretation. If, indeed, the word be Hebrew, the meaning preferred by others, “Bow the knee,” seems to me more probable. But because I rather suppose that Egyptian terms are referred to by Moses, both in this place and shortly afterwards, I advise the readers not to distort them in vain. And truly those interpreters are ridiculously subtle, who suppose that a Hebrew name was given him by an Egyptian king, which they render either the “Redeemer of the world,” or the “Expounder of mysteries.” 161 I prefer following the Greek interpreters, who, by leaving both words untouched, sufficiently prove that they thought them to be of a foreign language. That the father-in-law of Joseph was, as is commonly believed, a priest, is what I cannot refute, though I can scarcely be induced to believe it. Therefore, since ןהוכ (cohen) signifies a prince as well as a priest, it seems to me probable that he was one of the nobles of the court, who might also be the satrap or prefect of the city of On. 162
46. And Joseph was thirty years old. For two reasons Moses records the age at which Joseph was advanced to the government of the kingdom. First, because it is seldom that old men give themselves up to be governed by the young: whence it may be inferred that it was by the singular providence of God that Joseph governed without being envied, and that reverence and majesty were given him beyond his years. For if there was danger lest Timothy’s youth should render him contemptible, Joseph would have been equally exposed to contempt, unless authority had been divinely procured for him. And although he could not have obtained this authority by his own industry, yet it is probable that the extraordinary virtues with which God had endowed him, availed not a little to increase and confirm it. A second reason for noting his age is, that the reader may reflect on the long duration of the sufferings with which he had been, in various ways, afflicted. And however humane his treatment might have been; still, thirteen years of exile, which had prevented his return to his father’s house, not merely by the bond of servitude, but also by imprisonment, would prove a most grievous trial. Therefore, it was only after he had been proved by long endurance, that he was advanced to a better state. Moses then subjoins, that he discharged his duties with diligence and with most punctual fidelity; for the circuit taken by him, which is here mentioned, was a proof of no common industry. He might, indeed, have appointed messengers, on whose shoulders he could have laid the greater part of the labor and trouble; but because he knew himself to be divinely called to the work, as one who had to render an account to the divine tribunal, he refused no part of the burden. And Moses, in a few words, praises his incredible prudence, in having quickly found out the best method of preserving the corn. For it was an arduous task to erect storehouses in every city, which should contain the entire produce of one year, and a fifth part more. 163 This arrangement was also not less a proof of sagacity, in providing that the inhabitants of any given region should not have to seek food at a distance. Immediately afterwards his integrity is mentioned, which was equally deserving of praise; because in the immense accumulation which was made, he abstained from all self-indulgence, just as if some humble office only, had been assigned to him. But it is to the praise of both these virtues that, after he has collected immense heaps, he remits nothing of his wonted diligence, until he has accomplished all the duties of the office which he had undertaken. The ancient proverb says, “Satiety produces disgust,” and in the same manner abundance is commonly the mother of idleness. Whence, therefore, is it, that the diligence of Joseph holds on its even course, and does not become remiss at the sight of present abundance, except because he prudently considers, that, however great the plenty might be, seven years of famine would swallow it all up? He manifested also his fidelity, and his extraordinary care for the public safety, in this, that he did not become weary by the assiduous labor of seven years, nor did he ever rest till he had made provision for the seven years which still remained.
50. And unto Joseph were born two sons. Although the names which Joseph gave his sons in consequence of the issue of his affairs, breathe somewhat of piety, because in them he celebrates the kindness of God: yet the oblivion of his father’s house, which, he says, had been brought upon him, can scarcely be altogether excused. It was a pious and holy motive to gratitude, that God had caused him to “forget” all his former miseries; but no honor ought to have been so highly valued, as to displace from his mind the desire and the remembrance of his father’s house. Granted that he is Viceroy of Egypt, yet his condition is unhappy, as long as he is an exile from the Church. Some, in order to exculpate the holy man, explain the passage as meaning that he so rejoiced in the present favor of God, as to make him afterwards forgetful of the injuries inflicted upon him by his brethren; but this (in my judgment) is far too forced. And truly, we must not anxiously labor to excuse the sin of Joseph; but rather, I think, we are admonished how greatly we ought to be on our guard against the attractions of the world, lest our minds should be unduly gratified by them. Behold Joseph, although he purely worships God, is yet so captivated by the sweetness of honor, and has his mind so clouded, that he becomes indifferent to his father’s house, and pleases himself in Egypt. But this was almost to wander from the fold of God. It was, indeed, a becoming modesty, that from a desire of proclaiming the Divine goodness towards him, he was not ashamed to perpetuate a memorial of his depressed condition in the names of his sons. They who are raised on high, from an obscure and ignoble position, desire to extinguish the knowledge of their origin, because they deem it disgraceful to themselves. Joseph, however, regarded the commendation of Divine grace more highly than an ostentatious future nobility.
53. And the seven years... were ended. Already the former unwonted fertility, which showed Joseph to have been a true prophet, had procured for him a name and reputation; and in this way the Egyptians had been restrained from raising any tumult against him. Nevertheless, it is wonderful that a people so proud should have borne, in the time of prosperity, the rule of a foreigner. But the famine which followed proved a more sharp and severe curb for the subjugation of their lofty and ferocious spirits, in order that they might be brought into subjection to authority. When, however, Moses says that there was corn in all the land of Egypt, while the neighboring regions were suffering from hunger, he seems to intimate that wheat had also been laid up by private persons. And, indeed, (as we have said elsewhere,) it was impossible but the rumor of the approaching famine would be spread abroad, and would everywhere infuse fears and solicitude, so that each person would make some provision for himself. Nevertheless, however provident each might be, what they had preserved would, in a short time, be consumed. Whence it appeared with what skill and prudence Joseph had perceived from the beginning, that Egypt would not be safe, unless provisions were publicly gathered together under the hand of the king.
55. Go unto Joseph. It is by no means unusual for kings, while their subjects are oppressed by extreme sufferings, to give themselves up to pleasures. But Moses here means something else; for Pharaoh does not exonerate himself from the trouble of distributing corn, because he wishes to enjoy a repose free from all inconvenience; but because he hassuch confidence in holy Joseph, that he willingly leaves all things to him, and does not allow him to be disturbed in the discharge of the office which he had undertaken.
In fine duorum annorum dierum “In the account of Pharaoh’s dream, we are first struck with the use of the word וחא, (Achu,) Nile grass, an Egyptian word for an Egyptian thing.” A note on this passage adds, “Our translators have inaccurately rendered it meadow, (ver. 2,) the aquatic plants of the Nile, particularly those of the litus kind, were so valuable in Egypt, that they were reaped in as regular a harvest as the flax and corn.” The writer proceeds, “In the next place, the seven poor and the seven fat kine attract our attention. The symbol of the cow is very peculiar and exclusively Egyptian. It is scarcely conceivable that a foreign inventor should have confined himself so closely to the peculiar Egyptian symbols. The circumstance that the kine come up out of the Nile, the fat and also the lean, has reference to the fact that Egypt owes all its fertility to this stream, and that famine succeeds as soon as it fails.” — Egypt and the Books of Moses, p. 28. — Ed
“Pharaoh calls ‘all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof,’ that they might interpret the dream by which he is troubled. Now, we find in Egyptian antiquity an order of persons, to whom this is entirely appropriate, which is here ascribed to the magicians. The priests had a double office, the practical worship of the gods, and the pursuit of that which in Egypt was accounted as wisdom. The first belonged to the so — called prophets, the second to the holy scribes. These last were the learned men of the nation; as in the Pentateuch they are called wise men, so the classical writers named them sages. The interpretation of dreams and also divination belonged to the order of the holy scribes,” — Egypt and the Books of Moses, p. 29. — Ed.
This conjecture of Calvin’s is erroneous. “Herodotus mentions it among the distinguishing pecularities of the Egyptians, that they commonly were shaved, but in mourning they allowed the beard to grow. The sculptures also agree with this representation. ‘So particular,’ says Wilkinson, ‘were they on this point, that to have neglected it was a subject of reproach and ridicule; and whenever they intended to convey the idea of a man of low condition, or a slovenly person, the artists represented him with a beard.’” — Egypt and the Books of Moses, p. 30. — Ed.
In the Amsterdam edition, it is “facultas decendi,” but in Hengstenberg’s it is “facultas discendi;” and as the French version has it “le moyen d’apprendre,” there can be no doubt that the later Latin edition is right. — Ed.
The force of Joseph’s language is remarkable: “Without me, God will answer to the peace of Pharaoh.” He thus entirely renounces, in a single word, all the personal honor which the heathen monarch was disposed to pay him, that God alone may have the glory due unto his name. — Ed.
Of the marks of distinction conferred by Pharaoh upon Joseph, mentioned in verses 42 and 43 of this chapter; the first is the signet-ring which was common to the nations of the East as well as to Egypt. The next is the “vesture of fine linen,” or byssus, which was a peculiarly Egyptian token of honor. The third is the gold chain, or the necklace of gold, “of which the Egyptian monuments afford abundant explanation.” Modern objectors to the Mosaic account pretend that all the ornaments here mentioned belong to a later date. But such remarks, as Hengstenberg observes, “have interest only as they show how far the investigations of the rationalists, in reference to the Pentateuch, fall short of the present advanced state of knowledge repsecting Egyptian antiquity.” — Ed.
Osculabitur totus populus ad os tuum. The English version is, “According unto thy word shall all my people be ruled:” which is a free translation, bearing, according to Calvin’s explanation, the true sense of the original. The margin of our Bible gives “be armed,” or, “kiss,” instead of the words “be ruled.” — Ed.
This is the rendering given of the name Zaphnath — paneah by Jerome, and by the Chaldee Paraphrast respectively. The reader may consult Rivetus in his Exercitation elviii., Gesenius’s Lexicon, and the Commentaries of Bush and Dr. A. Clarke. — Ed.
That the word ןהוכ (cohen) generally signifies priest, is not to be disputed. Gesenius earnestly contends that this is its invariable meaning; but to establish his point, he is obliged to regard some as priests who were not of the tribe of Levi. This seems conclusive against him; for there is no room for doubt that none were, or could be, priests who sprang from any other tribe. Yet so much, perhaps, ought to be conceded to the primary meaning of the work, that is should be translated priest, wherever the sense of the passage does not require another interpretation. Such a rule would determine its meaning in this passage. The following remarks of Hengstenberg deserve attention. “According to Ge 41:45, Pharaoh gives to Joseph, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of On, in marriage. This name (which means he who belongs to the sun) is very common on the Egyptian monuments, and is especially appropriate for the Priest of On, or Heliopolis (the city of the sun). Since Pharaoh evidently intended, by this act, to establish the power bestowed on Joseph upon a firm basis, it is implied in this account; first, that Egyptian High Priests occupied a very important position; and, secondly, that among them the High Priest of On was the most distinguished. Both these points are confirmed by history.” — See Egypt and the Books of Moses, p. 32. — Ed
“The labors of Joseph in building storehouses are placed vividly before us in the paintings upon the monuments, which show how common the storehouse was in ancient Egypt. In a tomb at Elethya, a man is represented whose business it evidently was to take account of the number of bushels which another man, acting under him, measures... Then follows the transportation of the grain. From the measurer, others take it and carry it into the storehouses.” — Egypt and the Books of Moses, p. 36. — Ed