Bible studies with Don Isaac Abravanel’s commentary (also spelled Abarbanel) has withstood the test of
time. For over five centuries, Abravanel has delighted – and enlightened – clergy and layman alike,
offering enduring interpretations of the Bible.

Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. In chapter 41, we read how Joseph’s life takes a radical turn – for the better. His meteoric
journey rise to power started one night, when Egypt’s king’s sleep was disrupted by ghoulish dreams
featuring nightmarish imagery.

“Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brough him hastily out
of the dungeon. And he shaved himself, and changed his clothing, and
came in unto Pharaoh.”

Distraught, Pharaoh awoke haunted to the core. He convened his closest counselors to interpret the
dreams, to no avail. They disappointed him, adding to his distress. That’s when the chief butler stepped
forward. He had a recommendation for Pharaoh, a master dream interpreter who just might be able to
decipher the king’s dreams, and assuage his angst.

Abravanel illustrates how divine providence brought Joseph to the pinnacle of power. Specifically, he
notes how the Maker – Doer of good and evil – charts history. In earlier chapters, the Bible records ten
travesties committed against Joseph. Here, God provides ten antidotes, also supported by Scripture.

1) In Canaan, Joseph was hated by his brothers. In Egypt, Joseph was the darling to strangers,
including Pharaoh and his couriers.
2) In Canaan, dreams exacerbated animosity in Jacob’s family. In Egypt, dreams were the vehicle
by which Joseph became popular.
3) Joseph’s brothers stripped him of his coat of many colors. In Egypt, the king outfitted Joseph in
royal raiment.
4) Joseph’s ordeal began when his brothers threw him into a pit naked. Pharaoh summoned
Joseph from his dungeon, and rushed him to the palace after he had shaved and dressed
respectfully in preparation for meeting the monarch.
5) Whereas Joseph had been ignominiously sold in Canaan, in Egypt he was put in charge of selling
local grain.
6) In Canaan, when Joseph approached his brothers, they acted callously, as if strangers. In Egypt,
when his brothers came to buy food, the shoe would be on a different foot, in a manner of
speaking. Joseph pretended he had never laid his eyes upon them.
7) Earlier, Joseph had been alienated from his brothers. Now, they engage him for commerce.
8) Prior, Joseph had been disgraced and degraded. At present, Joseph ruled Egypt.
9) While a slave, Potiphar’s wife tried repeatedly to seduce Joseph. He resisted her bids. In power,
Joseph marries Osnat, daughter of Potiphar.
10) While serving time in prison, the chief butler failed to remember Joseph. When restored to
office, the chief recommends Joseph to Pharaoh.

In sum, we have listed ten providential antidotes custom designed to lift Joseph’s spirits, and comfort
him. For Abravanel, this is proof positive that both good and evil emanate from Heaven. The evil that
had so pained Joseph became stepping stones to his path to fame and glory.