Genesis 41:1-7 – Dreams played a significant role in the life of Joseph. In earlier years it was his dreams that gave him insights into his future and infuriated his brothers. His interpretation of dreams and his naively sharing them with his brothers angered them so much that they sold him into Egypt. It was dreams that ingratiated himself in the mind and heart of the cupbearer. Now dreams would impact Pharaoh himself, but not only on the king, the nation and the entire Middle East.
Another thing noteworthy about Joseph’s dreams was that they came in pairs. Pharaoh now has two dreams that troubled him greatly. In his dreams he was standing by the Nile and he saw 7 healthy cows emerge from the Nile River and began grazing on the reeds along the river. Pharaoh probably sensed this was a religious dream of some sort since the cow was the image of Isis, the goddess of fertility.
In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, one of the key books of the new age movement, as well as the chief scripture of the Egyptians of those days, the god of vegetation and the nether world was Osiris, who is pictured as large bull accompanied by 7 cows. No doubt he viewed with satisfaction this vision as a sign of prosperity and fertility of the land. Suddenly 7 gaunt cows also emerge from the Nile and stand beside the 7 fat cows, and begin to eat them.
This vision was so shocking to Pharaoh that it caused him to waken from his sleep. Not long after this he fell back to sleep and began having another dream. This time he was looking on one of the many grain fields that stood beside the Nile, and beheld a stalk of grain growing up. On the stalk 7 ears of grain appeared that were plump and full. Again he must have looked with satisfaction at the blessing on his land that brought forth great harvests. Then again this vision of prosperity is swallowed up by 7 ears of grain that were thin, withered and dying. Startled Pharaoh beholds the withered grain eating the plump and healthy grain. Again this dream shocked him so much that he awoke more troubled than at first.
Genesis 41:8-13 – First thing in the morning, Pharaoh sent for his wizards, magicians, and wise men to interpret his dreams. This was a sign from the gods that was given to him and he needed to know what the gods were trying to tell him with these dreams. As powerful as they were (cf. Exodus 7:11,22;8:7), they were stumped by these dreams. The failure by all these officials made Pharaoh more troubled, no doubt bringing the entire staff of his household great worry for their master and for themselves.
It was at this point that the cupbearer remembered Joseph and his ability to interpret his dream. The cupbearer informs Pharaoh about his dream and Joseph’s amazing ability to correctly interpret it. Perhaps this man can interpret the king’s dream and bring peace to him.
Genesis 41:14-16 – Pharaoh immediately sends for Joseph, hoping that he might be able to interpret this most troubling dream. After being made presentable for an appearance before Pharaoh, Joseph stood before the king. God prepared Joseph with thirteen years in prison to be ready for this day. Pharaoh immediately shared with Joseph his dream, telling Joseph that he learned of his ability to interpret dreams.
Joseph could have bargained with Pharaoh demanding release from prison and riches, but instead took a completely different approach. He confesses to Pharaoh that he did not have this ability himself, but that any ability he had came from God. He assured Pharaoh however that God would give to the king the answer to the dream, and bring peace to his troubled soul. What we see here is evidence that all these years in prison and in exile in Egypt have brought a humility and discretion that he lacked in the presence of his brothers, he didn’t even put down all of the advisors of Pharaoh who were unable to interpret the dream.
Genesis 41:17-32 – Pharaoh repeats the dreams to Joseph adding some additional detail, and sharing with him that none of his wise men were able to interpret the dream. Whether there was an interlude in which God reveals to Joseph the dream or if God immediately gives the interpretation to Joseph is not stated. Whatever means God chose He gives Joseph the correct interpretation, which Pharaoh immediately understands to be correct. The fact that the dreams were given to the king twice is understood by Joseph to mean that they are certain to happen.
Four different times Joseph states that all of this is from the hand of God. God, had sent the dream, given the interpretation, and is going to bring it pass soon. The 7 cows and the 7 ears of grain denote 7 years of prosperity. While the 7 gaunt cows and withered grain signified 7 bad years that would consume the 7 good years.
Good times were coming but the bad would be devastating so that they would not even be remembered. Immediately Pharaoh must have wondered what he was going to do in the light of this very strategic information. He must have worried about how the people would react to such things considering that these people were used to prosperity. His kingdom and his rule would be in jeopardy if he did not come up with a suitable plan.
Genesis 41:33-36 – But the same God who gave the dream, their interpretation and the timing, also provided Joseph with a plan of action for the king of Egypt. This plan would not only save the country but further solidify the power and strength of Pharaoh. Joseph counseled the king to implement a savings plan for storing of grain during the abundant years. The people were used to having crops every year as the Nile overflowed its banks like clock work, providing water and nutrients.
The citizens of Egypt were not accustomed to saving grain. The Pharaoh would need to find the right man to oversee this plan so that everything would be organized and in place by the time that the lean years hit. This administrator had to be able to implement a double tithe or tax on the people. Such an increase no doubt would engender resentment but if the administrator was good he would be able to convince the people that this was being done for their benefit. Not only would he need to be diplomatic but of unquestioned integrity since huge sums of commodities were to be handled and could easily be pilfered.
Large storehouses would have to be constructed and this too would need an able administrator to oversee this public works project. It may have been that Pharaoh purchased the grain with tax monies, the grain would be less expensive because of the bumper crops. In all of this there is no hint that Joseph is suggesting himself for the position. More than likely all he wanted was to be set free from jail. He was a foreigner, a prisoner, and inexperienced in such a massive undertaking. However he had some training in the house of Potiphar and in prison, like Moses he had given up all hope of being a great leader, and now God could use him.
Genesis 41:37-44 – The wisdom of the plan that Joseph proposed was apparent to everyone. The interpretation and the plan made such good sense that Pharaoh decided to implement the plan immediately with Joseph overseeing it. Pharaoh believed that God would give to Joseph all that would be needed to make his plan work. Pharaoh confessed that the ruach Elohim was in him, the spirit of God, this same thing happened later to Daniel (Daniel 5:11).
With this acknowledgment and confession Pharaoh appoints Joseph over all Egypt, answerable to only himself. What an incredible chain of events from prison to the palace in a twinkling of an eye (Philippians 2:7-10). All the trials of prison prepared him to be humble and give the glory to God. Moses was similarly prepared as was Joshua, David, and even the Lord Yeshua with His trial in the wilderness for 40 days.
Joseph is given Pharaoh’s signet ring, which enabled him to write and seal documents with the authority of Pharaoh. He was clothed in the finest of clothing and a golden bracelet was placed on him denoting his authority to all who came before him. Egypt would learn of this new ruler through a royal procession led only by Pharaoh himself further indicating to all the importance and primacy of Joseph.