Genesis 41:1 – 44:17

Genesis chapter 41, verse 1 to chapter 44, verse 17


The story of Joseph picks up two years later. He has been in prison all this time. One night Pharaoh has two dreams which no one is able to interpret. The cupbearer remembers how Joseph correctly interpreted his dream and he tells Pharaoh. The Egyptian ruler summons Joseph and tells him about his dreams. The first one had seven fat cows grazing by the nile. Seven skinny cows appear and eat the fat ones. The second dream had seven healthy heads of grain growing from a single stalk. Seven thin heads sprouted by them and swallowed up the healthy heads of grain.

Joseph insisted that his abilities came from God. He then explained that the dreams meant that Egypt will be blessed by seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph explained that what Pharaoh should do is appoint someone to be in charge of collecting food during the years of plenty so that it could be distributed during the years of famine. Pharaoh was impressed with Joseph and his plan, and appointed him to be in charge of this project. Joseph is given a new name and a wife, named Asenat. He has two sons, Manesseh and Ephraim. Joseph became a very important leader and became well know. He wisely stored all the food he collected from the people, so that when the famine began, there was enough food for the Egyptians. The famine spread to other lands and people from far and wide came to buy grain from Joseph and the Egyptians.

In Canaan, Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to buy grain. He keeps his youngest son, Benjamin with him. When the brothers come to Egypt they assemble before Joseph to buy grain. They don’t recognize him, but he knows exactly who they are. He doesn’t reveal himself but decides to test them. He asks them where they are from. They tell him about their family and describe how they have a younger brother with their father, and had a brother who died. Joseph accuses them of being spies and imprisons them.

After three days he summons them and orders them to return to Canaan and bring their youngest brother back to Egypt. The brothers become very upset, and understand that this is a punishment from God for what they did to their brother. They speak amongst themselves in Hebrew, without knowing that Joseph understands them. He secretly becomes upset, but still doesn’t reveal himself to his brothers. He insists that one of the brothers, Simon, be held hostage until they return with Benjamin.   Unbeknownst to them he then orders that the brother’s sacks be filled with grain and with the money they had brought to pay for it. They begin their journey back to Canaan. While on their way, they discover the money with the grain and become very afraid.

They return to Canaan and tell their father what happens. At first Jacob refuses to send Benjamin to Egypt, but the famine gets worse, and Jacob realises he needs to send his sons to Egypt again, and this time with his youngest son. Judah volunteers to take personal responsibility for Benjamin, and tells Jacob that if anything happens to the youngest, Judah can be punished. They return to Egypt with gifts for Joseph and twice as much cash as they need, to replace the money they brought back from Egypt.

Once in Egypt they meet with Joseph. They admit that they found the money in the sacks and return it to him. In exchange, he returns Simon to his brothers. Joseph also meets Benjamin for the first time. Joseph hides the fact that he is emotionally moved by this whole experience. He then serves the brothers a great feast.

He later secretly instructs his servants to fill the brother’s sacks with grain, along with the money they paid. He also ordered that a silver goblet be placed in Benjamin’s bag. The brothers depart and Joseph sends his men to pursue the brothers and accuse them of theft. The portion ends with Joseph announcing that Benjamin must remain as his slave, but the rest of the brothers are free to go.

Torah Portion in English

1) After two years’ time, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, 2) when out of the Nile there came up seven cows, handsome and sturdy, and they grazed in the reed grass. 3) But presently, seven other cows came up from the Nile close behind them, ugly and gaunt, and stood beside the cows on the bank of the Nile; 4) and the ugly gaunt cows ate up the seven handsome sturdy cows. And Pharaoh awoke. 5) He fell asleep and dreamed a second time: Seven ears of grain, solid and healthy, grew on a single stalk. 6) But close behind them sprouted seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind.

Getting to Know my Parasha

What Does my Parasha Say?

  1. Why was Joseph still in jail?
  2. What were the interpretations of Pharaoh’s dreams?
  3. Where did Joseph say his abilities came from?
  4. How did Joseph benefit from his ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams?
  5. What was happening in Canaan with Joseph’s family?
  6. Did Joseph recognize his brothers? Did they recognize him?
  7. What did Joseph demand of his brothers before they returned to Canaan?
  8. Who was left behind?
  9. What was Jacob’s reaction?
  10. When the brothers returned to Egypt, what did they do?