Genesis 41:1-36 Pharaoh’s Dreams
Joseph has continued in prison, serving as the right hand man to the keeper of the prison. Pharaoh has a dream and is perplexed by it. Finally his cupbearer remembers Joseph.
It has been two full years since the cupbearer and the baker had their dreams interpreted by Joseph. He asked the cupbearer to put in a good word with Pharaoh for him. It didn’t happen at the time. I have a feeling it wasn’t really because he forgot about Joseph at the time but that he thought his position was too tenuous to be bring him up to Pharaoh. He didn’t want to wind up back in prison, or worse, himself.
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There was something special about Pharaoh’s dreams this particular night. It wasn’t like he didn’t dream all the time but this dream felt special. He KNEW there was meaning in it but he couldn’t reach it. He needed help. So he called those who had proclaimed themselves to be skilled in the art of understanding. “He sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men” (verse 8b). But none of them could give him a convincing meaning for his dreams. Oh they each tried to come up with something but nothing they said rang true in his spirit.
Finally Pharaoh threw them all out. He had had enough of their nonsense. “Wise men indeed. They couldn’t put ALL their heads together and find a way out of a darkened room!”
Pharaoh’s cupbearer had been present during this debacle as he supplied Pharaoh with drink at all times. He has heard all that the wise men had said and knew they hadn’t a clue as to the meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams. His heart has been stirring in him as he listened. “Maybe this is the opening I need to help Joseph. I’m sure he could help Pharaoh with his dreams.” Even though he KNEW Joseph could help, he remained quiet until Pharaoh had exhausted all other options.
The cupbearer is hesitant to remind Pharaoh of the time he put him in prison. He didn’t want a repeat of that experience but he summons up all his courage and finally addresses Pharaoh. “I remember my offenses today. When 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 interpretation. 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 man according to his dream. And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged” (verses 9b-13).
“At last! Someone who is proven in his craft. Bring this man to me” orders Pharaoh.
Joseph is in the prison serving meals to the other prisoners. He hears the sound of rushing feet and stops to listen. He hears a guard speaking to the captain of the guard; “Where is the Hebrew prisoner who interprets dreams?”
“We have only one Hebrew prisoner and his name is Joseph. As to his being able to interpret dreams, I have no knowledge. He is serving the morning meal to the other prisoners.”
Joseph quickly distributes the last two meals on his morning schedule and presents himself to the captain of the guard within moments. “I heard my name master. Is there something you need?”
The guard who had spoken looks Joseph over with disgust on his face. “Clean this man up. Pharaoh wants to see him immediately!”
Joseph quickly surmises that this meeting must be a good thing as surely Pharaoh would not care about the state of a prisoner he planned to execute. The captain of the guard guides Joseph to a washroom. He has his household servant fetch water for a bath, a razor and clean clothes for Joseph. While the bath is being drawn Joseph asks a question; “Do you know what this is about master?”
“No. I do not. But I know better than to delay when Pharaoh calls. You must be quick but also thorough in you task. It wouldn’t do for Pharaoh to see you unkempt. It would certainly mean your death to appear before him in such a state.”
It takes nearly an hour to wash the prison dirt out of Joseph’s pours and the scent from his body. His hair had to be cut close to the scalp and his face shaved clean. He is then dressed in a clean tunic and fresh sandals. FINALLY he is presented to the guard to be escorted to Pharaoh.
Joseph is ushered right into Pharaoh’s presence without a word. Joseph stands before him with his head respectfully bowed. “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” (verse 15).
“It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (verse 16).
Pharaoh is pleased with Joseph’s answer. None of his other “interpreters” even thought to call upon the gods for assistance. “This man is humble and wise” thinks Pharaoh to himself. He then proceeded to tell Joseph his two dreams in great detail, including how the lean cows were not made fatter by consuming the healthy cows and how the blighted ears swallowed up the good ears. These seemed important details to include in this telling.
Joseph listens attentively to all of Pharaoh’s words, occasionally nodding to indicate he is following along. When Pharaoh finishes telling both his dreams Joseph hesitates for a moment and offers a silent prayer to God. “Please God of my fathers, grant me an explanation for Pharaoh. Joseph then begins to tell Pharaoh the meaning of his dreams.
“The dreams of Pharaoh are one; 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 and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also 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, but 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, and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe. And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream mean that the thing is fixed by God and God will shortly bring it about” (verses 25b-32)
During Joseph’s explanation Pharaoh nodded his head several times and was on the edge of his seat. “THIS is the correct interpretation. This one explains it all. This one speaks to my heart!” thinks Pharaoh.
Joseph has a piece of wise advice for Pharaoh concerning all that he has heard. He is not fishing for compliments or setting himself up for “a new job”, he simply feels Pharaoh should have all the advantages he can after hearing what is to come. “Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming and store 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 occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through famine” (verses 33-36). [To be continued]
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I know Father God that YOU set all this in motion from beginning to end. Your plans are perfect and good. Not every step of them is easy but they are necessary in the accomplishment of Your will. Without Joseph being sold into slavery, Pharaoh wouldn’t have had him available to help with this situation. Without the cupbearer being in prison with Joseph, Joseph wouldn’t have been available to interpret a dream for him. Each step ordered by YOU. Nothing is out of Your control.
I’m SO glad my life is just as firmly in Your hands as Joseph’s was. Of this I have NO doubt. I don’t believe I will have such a crucial role in this world’s history but what You set before me is enough for me. Thank You for that purpose! I LOVE how You let me tell Your stories. Thank You for giving me this voice and this forum. I pray I do justice to the stories You shared first.