Pharaoh’s dreams (Gen 41:1-41:36)

“After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, and there came up out of the Nile seven sleek and fat cows, and they grazed in the reed grass.  Then seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile.  The ugly and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows.   Pharaoh awoke. Then he fell asleep and dreamed a second time.  Seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. Then seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them.  The thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears.  Pharaoh awoke, and it was a dream.”

Pharaoh was having dreams about seven fat cows and seven thin cows along the Nile.  He also dreamt about seven good ears of corn and seven thin ears of corn. The thin ears swallowed the good ears, just as the thin cows devoured the plump cows.

 “In the morning his spirit was troubled.  So he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men.  Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh. Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, ‘I remember my faults today.  Once Pharaoh was angry with his servants, and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard.  We dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own meaning.  A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard.  When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each according to his dream. As he interpreted to us, so it turned out.  I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.’”

The next morning Pharaoh sent for all the wise men in Egypt, but no one could interpret his dreams.  I find this hard to believe, since they should have come up some good ideas.  In retrospect, this is a pretty simple idea as Joseph was to point out. The cup bearer of Pharaoh told him about the Hebrew in prison who interpreted dreams that came through for him and the chief baker.

 “Then Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was hurriedly brought out of the dungeon.  When he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh.  Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it.  I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’  Joseph answered Pharaoh, ‘It is not I.  God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.’”

Pharaoh then sent for Joseph and asked him to interpret his dreams.  Joseph got out of the dungeon, cleaned up and went before Pharaoh.  Joseph said that God gives the responses not him.

“Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘In my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile.  Seven cows, fat and sleek, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass.  Then seven other cows came up after them, poor, very ugly, and thin.  Never had I seen such ugly ones in all the land of Egypt.   The thin and ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows, but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had done so, for they were still as ugly as before.  Then I awoke.   I fell asleep a second time and I saw in my dream seven ears of grain, full and good growing on one stalk, and seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them.   The thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears.  But when I told it to the magicians, there was no one who could explain it to me.’”

He then told Joseph his dream about the seven good looking and seven ugly cows as well as the ears of grain, good and bad.  However, the Egyptian magicians could not explain it to him. Notice the continual use of the lucky or unlucky number seven, 7.

“Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, ‘Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same.  God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.  The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years.  The dreams are one.  The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, as are the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind.  They are seven years of famine.  It is as I told Pharaoh.  God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do.  There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt.  After them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt.  The famine will consume the land.  The plenty will no longer be known in the land because of the famine that will follow, for it will be very grievous.  The double dreams of Pharaoh means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about.’”

Joseph responded that Pharaoh’s dreams were one and the same. The seven good cows and the seven good years of grain are seven good years.  The same fate awaits the good cows and the good ears of corn. After seven great years, there will be seven years of a serious famine. This is fixed by God and it will begin soon.  

“’Now therefore let Pharaoh select a man who is discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land, and take the one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plenteous years. Let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and lay up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it.  That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.’”

Joseph has a plan.  Put someone in charge of the land in Egypt with overseers to take 20% of the produce during the good years as a reserve for the lean famine years.

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