Pharaoh paced. There would be no rest until he discovered the meaning of these two dreams. Not even the purring fountain or musicians could console him. Surely his blood-kin gods sent him a message. For these were no ordinary dreams. But no one could interpret the vivid scenes that haunted him.
Then the chief cupbearer brought to his attention a young Hebrew slave whom he met in prison. This Joseph guy—whom the cupbearer forgot about the past two years—supposedly interpreted not only the cupbearer’s dream, but also the head baker’s dream. Each with complete accuracy. And both dreams, according to the cupbearer, involved him!
What do I have to lose? My gems are smarter than all the magicians and wise men combined!
“Merkha, fetch Joseph immediately!”
Pharaoh’s servants hastily retrieved Joseph from Potiphar’s dungeon. With clean clothes and a freshly shaven face, Joseph stood humbly before Egypt’s king. Pharaoh measured the Hebrew from head to toe. Although he was white as a sheet from lack of sunlight the past 13 years, his calm manner intrigued him. And his eyes shimmered with intelligence. Pharaoh liked that he didn’t twitch or shuffle his feet like so many others in his presence.
“I have heard that you interpret dreams. Is this true?”
“No Sir, I can’t interpret dreams.” Joseph didn’t cower under his piercing gaze. “But my God can.”
“Alright then,” Pharaoh sat on the edge of his gold engraved throne. “Here are my dreams: I was standing on the bank of the Nile. Suddenly, seven healthy, well-fed cows came up from the river and began to graze among the reeds. Seven other cows—scrawny and sick—snuck up behind them. I’ve never seen such gaunt cows in all of Egypt! The sickly cows ate up the seven healthy ones. But no one could tell they had eaten them. For they looked just as scrawny as before.”
Pharaoh inhaled deeply. “In my second dream I saw seven healthy, full heads of grain growing on a single stalk. Behind them, seven other heads of grain sprouted. But these were withered, thin, and scorched by the east wind. The withered heads of grain swallowed the seven good heads.”
A servant wiped the beads of perspiration from Pharaoh’s forehead. “No one in all of Egypt can tell me the meaning.”
Joseph looked Pharaoh directly in the eyes and spoke in a quiet, respectful tone. “Pharaoh had the same dream twice. God has told Pharaoh what he’s going to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years. It’s all the same dream. The seven thin, sickly cows that came up behind them are seven years. The seven empty heads of grain scorched by the east wind are also seven years. Seven years of famine are coming.”
Joseph paused a moment to let the news soak in.
“God has shown Pharaoh what he’s going to do. Seven years are coming when Egypt will have plenty of food. But then seven years of famine will follow. The plenty in Egypt will be forgotten as a severe famine ruins the land. God will send it very soon. This matter is irrevocable, as signified by your recurring dream.”
Incredible. This Hebrew clearly spoke truth. “What shall I do Joseph?”
Joseph’s gaze rested on the vegetable garden outside Pharaoh’s window. “Look for a wise, experienced man to put in charge. Then appoint managers throughout Egypt to organize during the plenty years. They should collect all the food produced in the good years ahead and stockpile the grain under your authority, storing it in the towns for food. This grain will be used later during the seven years of famine. This will save your country from the famine’s destruction.”
Genius. Surely this man has the spirit of the living God in him!
“I’d say you’re the perfect man for this job. From now on, you’re in charge of my affairs; all my people will report to you. Only as king will I be over you. Your name shall be Zaphenath-Paneah, for God speaks and He lives! I also give you Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of On (Heliopolis) to marry.”
Pharaoh motioned for Merkha. “Place a gold chain, robe, and signet ring on Joseph. Give him my second-in-command chariot to ride among the people.”
And Joseph took up his duties over the land of Egypt. Joseph was thirty years old when he went to work for Pharaoh the king of Egypt. As soon as Joseph left Pharaoh’s presence, he began his work in Egypt.” -Genesis 41:45-46 (MSG)
Before the years of famine came Joseph had two sons with Asenath. He named his firstborn Manasseh (Forget), saying, “God made me forget all my hardships and my parental home.” He named his second son Ephraim (Double Prosperity), saying, “God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow,” (vs. 50-52).
You may read Genesis 41 here: Bible Gateway.
Most of us won’t be interpreting kings’ dreams anytime soon. But like Joseph, we may find ourselves thrown into a situation in any given moment. We can ready ourselves to be used by God when we invest in knowing Him more. Like Joseph, do others see God’s Spirit living in us?
Joseph gave Pharaoh a survival plan for the next 14 years. Through careful planning and implementation Joseph prevented not only the Egyptians from starving, but also all the other countries affected by the severe famine.
How can we translate God’s plan for us into practical steps as Joseph did?