My notes on Mikeitz

Parashat Mikeitz (Genesis 41:1-44:17)

Genesis 41

41:7          And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.

Comment: How many dreams appeared in the story about Joseph?

Six. This is the 6th and the last dream in the story of Joseph. Six dreams knit up this wonderful story that has changed many people’s lives. Dreams, an invisible and intangible thing, actually changed people’s destiny. If you think about it, there is actually a master of fate behind it.

The story took place in West Asia and North Africa, in an ancient era when slavery was still practiced.

Joseph, a wealthy 17-year-old boy who was favored by his father, described to his brothers his Dreams 1,2, that suggested that the brothers were about to bow down to him, which intensified their jealousy and prompted them to sell Joseph to Egypt as a slave, to prevent the fulfillment of Joseph’s Dreams 1, 2.

In Egypt, Joseph was falsely accused and put into a prison. There, with Gd’s help, Joseph interpreted the dreams of his inmates at the age of 28, which are the Dreams 3,4.

Two years later, Pharaoh dreamed Dreams 5,6 that no one could interpret. The inmate who was released from prison recommended Joseph to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh, so that Joseph was released from prison. He interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams (again with Gd’s help), and became the prime minister of Egypt, in order to implement the revelation in Dreams 5 and 6, and save food for the famine in advance.

During the famine years, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food and bowed down to the Egyptian prime minister, not knowing that it was actually the 39-year-old Joseph, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Joseph’s Dreams 1, 2 from 22 years ago.

(These are translated with Google from a Chinese article of mine:创37-41)六个梦背后的作者/)


41:35          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.

Comment: As the next verse explains, the excess food from the good years is kept for feeding the famine years. This is similar to saving money from salary to be used in the retirement years. This actually can be applied more generally. For example:  What if you suddenly get a lot of time to spend, such as by waiting in a long line, or having missed a flight? 

You can take out your smartphone, study the Bible, read the papers, or write your own book …. When one has a lot of leisure time, one can use it to prepare for the busier times in the future.  After one gets baptized and before he could leave this world and return to Gd, he is commissioned by Gd to do His will on earth. So he should make good use of all his time here before he is called to return to Gd.

Many years ago there was no smartphone yet, and I missed a flight to Madison, WI, and had to wait for about half a day. In order to spend time there, I thought about a research problem that I was working on with my collaborator. Baruch Hashem, I had an idea before boarding the plane. After I arrived at Madison, I found time to record the idea in the evening, and later formed a concise theorem. The paper was published a year later and has since received dozens of citations. At that time I was not baptized yet and was not tenured yet either, so my focus was on secular research. If leisure time appeared now, I would focus more on studying the Bible, or doing related writings. 


Genesis 42

42:14          And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies:

Comment: “Ye are spies”: The brothers are now being “wrongly accused”, as Joseph was wrongly accused (by the wife of his former master).


42:17          And he put them all together into ward three days.

Comment: The brothers are now put in a prison, as Joseph was put in a prison (after being wrongly accused).


Genesis 43

43:34          And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him.

Comment: “Benjamin’s mess (i.e. portion) was five times”: Was Joseph favoring his full brother Benjamin too much over his 10 half brothers? 

I do not think so. This might have been deliberately done to give the ten brothers a possible reason to be jealous of Benjamin, and to create an opportunity for them to overcome their jealousy, when they would need to act in the next chapter to save Benjamin, who would be “wrongly accused”.


Genesis 44

44:16          And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found.

Comment: The brothers are now facing slavery, as Joseph faced. 

It is striking that the 10 brothers faced all the sufferings that they caused Joseph to face after selling him (slavery, being wrongly accused, being prisoned). Benjamin was innocent and he is facing slavery too, but he will be compensated by Joseph in the future for this unjustified scare. (See v.45:22: “To all of them he gave each man changes of raiment; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment.”)

Did Joseph want to personally avenge his brothers for everything that he suffered? 

No. We will soon see that in fact he wanted to forgive them. His “revenges” were all disproportionately light. For example, brothers were not imprisoned very long (only 3 days for most of them). The link below basically suggests that Joseph was helping the brothers to recall their previous sin and to sincerely regret, by getting some idea of how the victim suffered.

For ordinary people like us, we shouldn’t misunderstand the Bible and personally revenge people who did us wrong. Instead, we are taught to forgive people as Gd forgives us, (Matthew  6:14-15) “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”