Today’s reading begins with Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream and concludes with Israel distressed over the fact that his sons must make a return trip to Egypt with Benjamin.
Two years after Pharaoh’s cupbearer is restored to his position of service, Pharaoh has a series of dreams that distress him. Pharaoh seeks for an interpretation and the cupbearer then remembers that Joseph had the ability to interpret dreams and tells Pharaoh. Pharaoh immediately calls Joseph to interpret his dreams.
Pharaoh’s first dream began with him standing by the Nile River and seven cows came up out of the Nile. The cows were healthy and fat. Soon after, seven additional cows came up out of the Nile. The second set of cows was very thin and emaciated. These sickly cows devoured the seven healthy cows. Pharaoh awoke after this dream but then after falling asleep again he had another dream, this time he saw seven ears of grain that were healthy and filled out, growing on a single stock. They were followed by another seven ears of grain, shriveled and blighted. The second set of ears of grain swallowed the healthy ears of grain.
After Pharaoh described his dreams to Joseph, Joseph gave Pharaoh the interpretation: the dreams were two different versions of the same eventuality of a coming famine. Not only were the dreams prophetic but the events would transpire soon. The coming seven years would be years of great abundance. Abundance not before known in the land. The second seven years would be years of great famine so much so that the years of abundance would be forgotten. Joseph instructed Pharaoh to appoint someone to manage the coming years of abundance so that the famine could be endured.
Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph’s grasp of the coming events that he placed him in charge of all of his affairs and gave him charge of the entire kingdom just short of the actually throne of the kingdom. Joseph was thirty years old when Pharaoh empowered him with managing the affairs of the kingdom and did as he instructed the Pharaoh to do: collecting a fifth of all of the produce of the land during the seven years of abundance. During this time, Pharaoh gave him a wife and the couple was blessed with two sons: Manasseh and Ephraim.
As the famine began and its effects began to be felt across the kingdom and the surrounding regions, Israel and his family became desperate for produce and having heard that Egypt had an abundance, commanded his sons to go to Egypt to acquire grain for their family. When the sons of Israel came to Egypt to buy grain, Joseph recognized his brothers and questioned them as to their intentions and accused them of being spies seeking to take advantage of Egypt. Joseph’s brothers denied this, but after giving grain to his brothers, Joseph insisted that his brothers confirm the story they had told him about their family and return with their youngest brother. To ensure their return, Joseph took Simeon captive.
In addition to providing grain to his brothers, Joseph had his servants place the money they had paid for the grain into the bags of grain that they had purchased. The brothers didn’t realize this until they were a long distance into their journey and decided to return home. After telling Israel of what happened on the trip, and that Pharaoh’s commander insisted that the brothers return to Egypt with their youngest brother, Benjamin; Israel became deeply distressed. Realizing that unless his sons returned with Benjamin that he would also lose Simeon, Israel instructs his sons to return to Egypt.