Genesis 41:33-44

33 “Now therefore, let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt.

34 Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, to collect one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven plentiful years.

35 And let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities.

36 Then that food shall be as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which shall be in the land of Egypt, that the land may not perish during the famine.”

37 So the advice was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants.

38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?”

39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you.

40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.”

41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”

42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck.

43 And he had him ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried out before him, “Bow the knee!” So he set him over all the land of Egypt.

44 Pharaoh also said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no man may lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.”

There’s no hint in Scripture that, when Joseph suggested that Pharaoh find a “discerning and wise man” (v.33), he expected Pharaoh to choose him. Although I also have to think, by this time, that his selection didn’t surprise him.

This chief administrator should be provided with a corps of capable and trustworthy deputies to administer his plan. It would be necessary to levy a “double tithe” on the produce of Egypt during the years of plenty. It has been shown by historians that tithing was practiced in ancient Egypt and other nations, as a form of tax or tribute to the king; but a 20 percent levy would be very unusual, and might well be resisted, especially if enacted by an unpopular sovereign. Thus, the chief administrator of this plan would have be be skilled in diplomacy and persuasion, as well as be of unquestioned integrity himself, in order to overcome the natural reluctance of the people to such a tax. — Morris, pages 583-584.


Even though Joseph had been completely unknown … only a few hours earlier, it was transparently clear that here was a man of unique qualities, ideally suited to administer the plan he had formulated and proposed.

They also recognized that he was a man of unique spiritual attributes and that, indeed, this was the real reason for his other abilities. Though they could hardly have understood the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Spirit, nevertheless they acknowledged that in Joseph dwelt the Spirit of God. …

[Pharaoh] gave Joseph his signet ring, possession of which enabled its owner to place his seal and signature on official documents of state. He was clad in fine linen robes, the finest in Egypt. A golden chair, emblematic of his authority, was placed around his neck.

A royal procession of state was organized, with Joseph riding immediately behind Pharaoh in a chariot only slightly less ornate, … thus indicating to the entire populace that Joseph was now second in command of the kingdom. As he rode, men accompanying his chariot cried out to the people along the way to bow the knee to him. — Morris, pages 585-586.


Joseph then advises Pharaoh to find a man discerning and wise who can implement the specific steps he describes to prepare for this famine. In marked contrast to his successor 400 years later “who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8), the present Pharaoh responds ebulliently by affirming the truth of what Joseph’s God has informed him, as well as that Joseph is himself the very discerning and wise man needed for the task. Pharaoh thus makes Joseph second in authority only to himself (anticipating the same redemptive “positioning” (and hence God’s hand in such) of, inter alias, Esther and Mordechai at the opposite end of Israel’s Hebrew-Bible history: cf. esp. Esther 8:2; 10:3) and declares that “Apart from you, no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.”  — Wechsler, page 255.

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