Pharaoh, the Cow and Fertility

The term ‘Be Fruitful and Multiply’ was the first commandment made by God to all life on earth. The commandment was given on the 5th day of creation when God created life on earth (but not yet man) (Genesis 1:22) (See hyperlink 5, 50, 500). The commandment was repeated again to man on the 6th day of creation (Genesis 1:28). The commandment was then repeated again on several occasions to Noah and the animals surviving the flood. As can be noted in the section (See hyperlink Be fruitful and multiply), gematrically the term ‘Be Fruitful and Multiply’ adds up to 500 referring to the next world.

After the Flood, the idea of ‘Being fruitful and multiplying’ was announced on specific occasions to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob before the Children of Israel migrated down to Egypt.

The idea of fruitfulness and multiplication was given in the image of being ‘like the stars in the heaven’ or ‘the dust of the Earth’ – the two opposites and giving the concept that through procreation both Heaven and Earth are enriched. Moreover on each occasion that the concept of multiplication mentioned it was always associated with a second the concept of ‘the Land that I will give unto you and your seed’.

After lot separated from Abram to go down to Sodom

For all the land which you see, to you will I give it, and to your seed forever: And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth; so that if a man can count the dust of the earth, then shall your seed also be counted: (Genesis:13:14-15)

When Abraham made sacrifice of a heifer, female goat, ram and 2 birds

And He brought him outside, and said, Look now toward heaven, and count the stars, if you are able to count them; and he said to him, So shall your seed be: And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness: And he said to him, I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it: (Genesis: 15:5-7).

And he said to Abram, Know for a certainty that your seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years: And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great wealth: (Genesis: 15:13-14)

In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, To your seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates:(Genesis: 15:18)

God to Abraham after the sacrifice of Isaac

That in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies: And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have obeyed my voice (Genesis: 22:17-18)

God to Isaac when there was famine God charged him not to go down to Egypt

Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you, and will bless you; for to you, and to your seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father: And I will make your seed multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give to your seed all these countries; and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed: (Genesis: 26:3-4)

Isaac to Jacob when he sent him away after his blessing

And God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, that you may be a multitude of people: And give the blessing of Abraham to you, and to your seed with you; that you may inherit the land where you are a stranger, which God gave to Abraham: (Genesis 28:3-4).

God to Jacob re Jacob’s Ladder

And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and to the north, and to the south; and in you and in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed: And, behold, I am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you, until I have done that about which I have spoken to you: (Genesis: 28:14-15)

God to Jacob after his encounter with Esau

And God said to him, I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of you, and kings shall come from your loins: And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to you I will give it, and to your seed after you will I give the land: (Genesis 35:11-12)

Whereas the term Be fruitful and multiply is always associated with the land, what is not mentioned it that the multiplication was to take place outside the land - in the land of Egypt. The purpose of going down to Egypt was not to save the Children of Israel from famine in the Land of Canaan, for they would have survived the trauma anyway, albeit in a diminished state, but ‘to be fruitful and multiply’.

It was part of the Heavenly plan set at the time of the Creation, and God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to ‘make a great nation’:

So when Joseph entered a new phase in his life in Egypt, in the Diaspora, it is a phase of fertility. For everything he touched and everything he did, whether as a slave, in prison or second to Pharaoh, was always fruitful.

The word for fruitful or fertile in Hebrew is peruah, פרוה spelt peh-resh-vav-heh where peh-resh פר are the root letters for fertility, and from which other words are derived:

pri פרי = fruit,

par פר = bullock or cow (the god of the Egyptians)

aphar [i]עפר= dust from which man was made (see Genesis 3:19: from dust you were made and to dust you shall return)),

And of course the phrase ‘be fruitful and multiply = pru oo rabu פרו ורבו.

Moreover, we see that throughout Joseph’s life in Egypt, that each of the key figures in his life contains the letters peh-resh פר:


  • His first overseer was Potiphar, spelt: peh-vav-tet-yod-peh-resh; פוטיפר
  • He was second only to Pharaoh, spelt: peh-resh-ayin-heh;פרעה
  • His claim for recognition was to interpret Pharaoh’s dream about cattle, par, in Hebrew spelt: peh-resh פר
  • His wife, Asenath, was daughter of Poti-pherah, spelt: peh-vav-tet-yod-peh-resh-ayin,פוטיפרע the priest of On;
  • His second son was called Ephraim, spelt: aleph-peh-resh-aleph-yod-mem; אפראים‘For God hath made me fruitful in the land of my afflictions’ (Genesis 42:52)


In the dream of Pharaoh, he dreamed of the seven fat cows, par פר in Hebrew coming out of the Nile followed by seven emaciated cows symbolising the fruitfulness of the land and which was at risk and dependent upon the water provided by the River Nile. Joseph could successfully interpret this dream, because he himself was the embodiment of fruitfulness and therefore could immediately recognise the meaning of the 7 cows.

So we see that fruitfulness surrounded Joseph throughout his life in Egypt as it does his brothers and their families. Moreover we see that fruitfulness persist throughout the period the Children of Israel are in Egypt where the 70 souls that enter the land of Egypt multiply to be at least 2 million souls –based upon the assumption that the census was from 20 years upward and only included males.

And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot, who were men, beside children (Exodus 12:37).

Egypt was an incubator for the multiplication of the Children of Israel to the point that their numbers exceeded those of the Egyptian themselves. Life was too good and it was only through enslaving them was it possible for God to convince them that it was time to return home to the Land of Canaan.

And he (Pharaoh) said to his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it may come to pass, that, when there would be any war, they should join our enemies, and fight against us; and so get them out of the land: (Exodus 1: 9-10).

Indeed the Children of Israel had fulfilled the first commandment of the Bible in the Land of Egypt and it was time to leave.

[i] It is to be noted that the word for dust is aphar עפר spelt with an ayin ע whereas the word for ashes is aphar אפר spelt with an aleph. (See hyperlink world of opposites).


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