Pharaoh Has Two Dreams
Two years have passed since the end of Genesis 40. Joseph is nearing 30 years old, and prison is still his home. Dreams have so far been nothing but trouble for Joseph, but now that is all about to change.
Two full years later, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing on the bank of the Nile River. In his dream he saw seven fat, healthy cows come up out of the river and begin grazing in the marsh grass. Then he saw seven more cows come up behind them from the Nile, but these were scrawny and thin. These cows stood beside the fat cows on the riverbank. Then the scrawny, thin cows ate the seven healthy, fat cows! At this point in the dream, Pharaoh woke up.
But he fell asleep again and had a second dream. This time he saw seven heads of grain, plump and beautiful, growing on a single stalk. Then seven more heads of grain appeared, but these were shriveled and withered by the east wind. And these thin heads swallowed up the seven plump, well-formed heads! Then Pharaoh woke up again and realized it was a dream.
Genesis 41:1-7 (NLT)
Why so disturbing?
Because they seemed so real, that after he awoke V7 says that he was relieved to realize they were just dreams. Yet the content was such, that they seemed more than a dream…more like a vision…so he felt he must pursue the meaning.
The next morning Pharaoh was very disturbed by the dreams. So he called for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. When Pharaoh told them his dreams, not one of them could tell him what they meant.
Genesis 41:8 (NLT)
He calls all of his “magicians” and “wise men” to tell him the meaning of these dreams. These two groups of men the Pharaoh summoned were his brain trust, his governmental cabinet; they represented the spiritual and the intellectual elite of Egypt…and they were stymied.
The religion of Egypt, the spiritual, consisted of much magic and sorcery to go with the many gods and goddesses. The Pharaoh, as all his of subjects, believed strongly in the ancient Mystery Babylon styled religion of Egypt, so it was an integral part of life.
Christians could learn much from the unwavering commitment these pagans had to their religion (even though it was false), for they considered it the center of their lives.
Every facet of their existence was tied to their belief system, unaware that it was a counterfeit system designed by Satan; so the Pharaoh naturally had these experts in religion, these spiritualists, as part of his group of close advisers.
Conversely, the “wise men” were not representatives of the spiritual, they were the Egyptian intellectuals; they represented the worldly knowledge and science that had been developed to such a high level in Egypt.
Magicians and wise men were common in the palaces of ancient rulers. Their job description included studying sacred arts and sciences, reading the stars, interpreting dreams, predicting the future, and performing magic.
These men had power (see Exodus 7:11-12), but their power was satanic. They were unable to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, but God had revealed it to Joseph in prison.
Finally, the king’s chief cup-bearer spoke up. “Today I have been reminded of my failure,” he told Pharaoh. “Some time ago, you were angry with the chief baker and me, and you imprisoned us in the palace of the captain of the guard. One night the chief baker and I each had a dream, and each dream had its own meaning. There was a young Hebrew man with us in the prison who was a slave of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he told us what each of our dreams meant. And everything happened just as he had predicted. I was restored to my position as cup-bearer, and the chief baker was executed and impaled on a pole.”
Pharaoh sent for Joseph at once, and he was quickly brought from the prison. After he shaved and changed his clothes, he went in and stood before Pharaoh.
Genesis 41:9-14 (NLT)
Pharaoh tells these men about his dreams; but they stood silent, having no understanding as to their meaning. The chief cupbearer, who had been imprisoned by Pharaoh two years past, now reluctantly steps forward. He tells Pharaoh about this Joseph who accurately interpreted his, and the chief baker’s, dreams. Pharaoh immediately orders Joseph to be brought before him.
Our most important opportunities may come when we least expect them. Joseph was brought hastily from the dungeon and pushed before Pharaoh.
Did he have time to prepare?
Yes and no. He had no warning that he would be suddenly pulled from prison and questioned by the king. Yet Joseph was ready for almost anything because of his right relationship with God. It was not Joseph’s knowledge of dreams that helped him interpret their meaning. It was his knowledge of God. Be ready for opportunities by staying close to God. Then, when He calls you to a task, you’ll be ready.
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream last night, and no one here can tell me what it means. But I have heard that when you hear about a dream you can interpret it.”
“It is beyond my power to do this,” Joseph replied. “But God can tell you what it means and set you at ease.”
Genesis 41:15-16 (NLT)
Pharaoh tells Joseph that he has had dreams, which his brightest and best not could interpret, but that he was told that Joseph could. Joseph answers completely truthfully: “It isn’t in me. God will give Pharaoh his answer…”
And, so here stands the Hebrew slave, Joseph, in the company of Pharaoh and the most admired religious leaders and the intellectual elite in all of Egypt, being asked to do what they couldn’t possibly do, for they were not equipped to do it.
Since indeed these were prophetic dreams of Holy truth given by God to Pharaoh, how could the simple, wholly inadequate, employment of worldly knowledge and false, though sincere, religion possibly fathom their meaning?
It can NEVER be so; but it forever will be that only the children of God, in spiritual union with the Father, can know the truth. And, Joseph is about to announce the truth to Pharaoh.
First, Joseph makes it clear that these dreams are from God.
So Pharaoh told Joseph his dream. “In my dream,” he said, “I was standing on the bank of the Nile River, and I saw seven fat, healthy cows come up out of the river and begin grazing in the marsh grass. But then I saw seven sick-looking cows, scrawny and thin, come up after them. I’ve never seen such sorry-looking animals in all the land of Egypt. These thin, scrawny cows ate the seven fat cows. But afterward you wouldn’t have known it, for they were still as thin and scrawny as before! Then I woke up.
“In my dream I also saw seven heads of grain, full and beautiful, growing on a single stalk. Then seven more heads of grain appeared, but these were blighted, shriveled, and withered by the east wind. And the shriveled heads swallowed the seven healthy heads. I told these dreams to the magicians, but no one could tell me what they mean.”
Joseph responded, “Both of Pharaoh’s dreams mean the same thing. God is telling Pharaoh in advance what he is about to do. The seven healthy cows and the seven healthy heads of grain both represent seven years of prosperity. The seven thin, scrawny cows that came up later and the seven thin heads of grain, withered by the east wind, represent seven years of famine.
Genesis 41:17-27 (NLT)
Next, he informs Pharaoh that both of these dreams are concerning the same matter: a coming time of great famine. The first dream was about cows; first 7 healthy ones, then 7 sickly ones. The second dream was about corn; first 7 healthy stalks of corn, then 7 sickly ones. It was important that there were two dreams because one concerned the livestock, and the other the field crops; that is, both major elements of the food supply were going to be effected by what was coming.
“This will happen just as I have described it, for God has revealed to Pharaoh in advance what he is about to do. The next seven years will be a period of great prosperity throughout the land of Egypt. But afterward there will be seven years of famine so great that all the prosperity will be forgotten in Egypt. Famine will destroy the land. This famine will be so severe that even the memory of the good years will be erased. As for having two similar dreams, it means that these events have been decreed by God, and he will soon make them happen.
Genesis 41:28-32 (NLT)
As is God’s way, He does not bring judgment without sufficient warning for those who pay heed to Him. So, God says He will see to it that there will be 7 wonderfully, unusually, abundant years of food growth and harvest, before 7 years…not of less than normal production…. but of TERRIBLE famine.
“Therefore, Pharaoh should find an intelligent and wise man and put him in charge of the entire land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh should appoint supervisors over the land and let them collect one-fifth of all the crops during the seven good years. Have them gather all the food produced in the good years that are just ahead and bring it to Pharaoh’s storehouses. Store it away, and guard it so there will be food in the cities. That way there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come to the land of Egypt. Otherwise this famine will destroy the land.”
Genesis 41:33-36 (NLT)
What comes next is wisdom from Joseph about what to do about the coming trial. Of course, the nature of the wisdom is such that we can have no doubt as to its source: the Creator of all.
Joseph says, in paraphrase: Pharaoh, during the next seven years, make it a law that all throughout Egypt, 20% of all produce will be stored away for that day, 7 years into the future, when it will be needed for the lean times. Rather than living especially high during the 7 years of unusual plenty, be wise, and use that time to prepare.
I suspect that the people were not too thrilled at this ruling. After all, as they looked around all they saw was prosperity. The future seemed bright, without a cloud on the horizon.
Why this negativity?
No doubt, many saw it as a conspiracy of these detested foreign Hyksos rulers to simply confiscate food from the people and somehow enrich themselves.
How difficult it is to believe God, instead of our eyes, especially when things are going well.
But, one has to give the Pharaoh a lot of credit for taking Joseph seriously…and ACTING on it, and not just pondering it.
I wonder: would we have the faith to do what this heathen Pharaoh was about to do?
Would we have the faith to hear from God that a time of terrible tribulation was nearing, and that we needed to prepare by putting aside some of our time, our riches, our labors, our interests, ourselves?
Could we intentionally deprive ourselves when we were in the midst of abundance, when life was good?
Could we do it on FAITH, and not by what we see with our eyes?
Could we do it when the best and brightest minds, and our most prestigious religious leaders, tell us that the future is unknowable…except as they can discern it from their positions of authority?
Beloved, I sure hope we can, because we HAVE been told. We are right now in that time of relative abundance and plenty, just before the onset of the greatest trial mankind has ever, or will ever, experience.
How do I know this?
God has revealed it to us. He has shown us in his Word what signs to look for; and they have happened, and are happening. He has told us unequivocally that when Jerusalem is back in the hands of the Jews, that that generation will see the coming of the Lord.
He has also told us that a few months before Jesus once again sets His feet on the Mt. of Olives, there will be a time so terrible that we cannot possibly comprehend it. He has told us to prepare; prepare by giving over our lives to Him.
By following the wisdom that comes from God: living within our means, getting out of debt, seeking Him instead of personal pleasures, learning to rely on Him and nothing else. Trusting Him, believing Him, and not what our fleshly senses and corrupted intellect tells us. For, those of us in our time who do not prepare will experience devastation many fold more than what Egypt was about to experience.
It doesn’t matter that most of our religious leaders are blind to it. It doesn’t matter that our academic elite scoff at it. It doesn’t matter that our government sees everything in terms of geo-political realities, and our lawmakers see things in terms of attaining and maintaining personal power. For most of our secular and religious leaders are as oblivious to reality as were Pharaoh’s wise men and magicians.
You see, God has not entrusted the truth to them: He has entrusted it to US…His true Church. Not the façade of Church institution, with its bureaucracies and man-made doctrines, rather His people, His followers, sanctified through the blood of Christ.
To Be Continued…