Commentary on Parashat Miketz, Genesis 41:1 - 44:17
Joseph interprets correctly the dream of Pharaoh’s jailed chief butler and baker. The butler returns to his job but does not keep his promise to tell the Pharaoh about Joseph.
Two years later, the Pharaoh had a dream. He stood by the river deep in thought. Out of the river there came seven fat cows. Then seven thin cows came out of the river and ate up the fat ones.
The Pharaoh then has a second dream. There were seven healthy ears of corn on one stalk followed by seven thin ears of corn. The thin ears swallowed up the seven healthy and full ears.
In the morning, the Pharaoh’s spirit was troubled and he called all the wise men in the land, but none could interpret his dreams. Then the butler spoke to the Pharaoh about Joseph and Joseph was immediately sent for.
The Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hear you can interpret dreams.”
Joseph replied, “It is not me! May God provide an answer that will give the Pharaoh peace.”
The Pharaoh then told him of his dreams.
Joseph Interprets Pharoah’s Dreams
“Pharaoh’s dream is only one dream about what God is going to do,” explained Joseph. “God has announced to Pharaoh that the seven fat cows are seven good years and the seven fat ears of corn are seven good years. But the seven thin cows and the seven thin ears of corn predict there will be seven years of famine. God is telling you, Pharaoh, what God is about to do.
The fact that the dream was repeated twice is because God is hastening to bring this about. So let the Pharaoh seek out a wise and judicious man and set him to oversee the land of Egypt during these years. Let there be a tax of one-fifth each year during the seven years of plenty. Let him hold back the food of these good years and, under Pharaoh’s hand, store up grain for food. In this way there will be food enough during the famine.”
This was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants. Pharaoh said to Joseph. “Since God has let you know all this, there is no one as judicious and wise as you. You shall be the overseer and only my word from the throne will be greater than yours.”
Pharaoh took off his ring and placed it on Joseph’s hand and proclaimed that Egyptians bow down to Joseph. He changed Joseph’s name to Tzaphenath Paneah and gave him the daughter of a priest for a wife. Joseph was 30 years old.
Joseph’s Interpretations Come to Life
Joseph went throughout Egypt during the lands of plenty, storing grain in the cities. Two sons were born during this time to Joseph and his wife Asenath. Joseph named his first-born Menashe, “For God has made all my trouble and all my father’s house into creditors for me.” The second son he named Ephraim, “For God has caused me to blossom in the land of my affliction.”
The seven years of plenty came to an end and famine entered the land. When the people began to complain to Pharaoh about the famine, Joseph opened the storehouses and began to sell the grain. All over Egypt, hungry people came to Joseph to buy food.
Jacob sent all of his sons but Benjamin to buy food in Egypt. Jacob was afraid that an accident might befall his youngest son.
The Brothers are Accused of Spying
When Joseph saw that his brothers had come to buy grain, he made himself a stranger and they did not recognize him. Joseph remembered his childhood dream of his brothers bowing down to him. Joseph said to them, “You are spies.”
“No,” Joseph’s brother replied. “We are 12 brothers of one man in the land of Canaan. The youngest is with our father and the other is gone.”
“I have said you are spies. Therefore you shall be tested. Therefore one of you stay here and the rest of you go fetch your younger brother.”
They said to each other, “Distress has come upon us because of what we did to our brother, Joseph.”
Reuben said, “Did I not tell you not to sin against that child? But you would not listen. Behold, his blood is therefore now avenged.”
Now Joseph was listening, but the brothers did not know he understood their language. Joseph turned away from them and wept.
Joseph came back in the room and took Simeon and bound him before their eyes. Then he filled the rest of the brother’s vessels with grain and put their money back into their sacks along with provisions for the journey.
Along their travels, a brother noticed the provisions and the money. They were frightened. “What is this that God has done to us?”
When the brothers reached their father’s home, they told him of their visit. They told him that he they must bring Benjamin to Egypt in order to prove they are not spies and to be able to bring back Simeon.
“Joseph is gone,” retorts Jacob, “and Simeon, and now you want to take Benjamin? Are you to make me childless?”
Then Reuben said, “You can kill my two sons if I do not bring him home to you. Put him into my hands and I will bring him back to you.”
But Jacob refused to let Benjamin go. The famine was severe in the land, and Jacob needed his sons to go get grain from Egypt. They would not go without Benjamin. Finally, Jacob agreed to let Benjamin go. He had his sons bring gifts for the Egyptian overseer and insisted that they return the money from their packs.
When Joseph saw his brothers coming with Benjamin, he had his servants prepare a feast. The brothers were scared but immediately told Joseph about finding the money and sought to return it.
The Silver Goblet
Joseph dismissed their fear. “Peace be with you! God and the God of your fathers has placed a hidden treasure in your pack. Your money for the grain has already come to me.” Then, Joseph released Simeon.
Later, the brothers came to the feast and presented their gifts. Joseph asked of their father, but when he saw his brother Benjamin, he said, “May God be gracious to you, my son.” Feeling overcome with emotion, Joseph went into another room to weep. He returned later and ordered the feast to begin.
Afterwards, Joseph made sure the packs of his brothers bags were full. Again, their money was returned, but this time a silver goblet was put in Benjamin’s bag. That morning after Joseph’s brothers had traveled a short distance, Joseph sent his servant to them. He said, “Why have you repaid good with evil? Who took the special silver goblet of my master?”
The brother’s were shocked, saying they did no such thing. “If such a thing was done, with whomever you find this goblet, he shall die. And the rest of us shall be your slaves.”
“No,” the servant responded. “Whomever has the goblet shall be my servant and the rest of you shall go free.” The overseer found the goblet in Benjamin’s pack. The brothers tore their clothing as if in mourning.
They returned to Joseph pleading to be able to stay as slaves with their youngest brother. But Joseph said, “It would be a profanation to do that. Only the man who had the goblet shall remain my slave. The rest of you must go home to your father.”
Parashat Miketz Discussion Questions
1. Why does Joseph accuse his brothers of being spies?
2. The brothers feel they are being punished by God for selling Joseph into slavery, but their hardship is really Joseph’s doing. Do you ever feel that God is punishing you, only to find that it is really a person doing the punishing?
3. Why does Joseph weep when he hears his brother’s speaking of him and when he sees Benjamin? How would you feel about your brothers if you were Joseph?
Reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!