Scripture: Genesis 41
JOSEPH'S STORY Chapter 4
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
"Potiphar! Get me my housecoat - now!" Pharaoh barked. His mood was ugly, his night of sleep had been terrible. "
And get me all my overpaid doctors - especially the ones with a PHDD." (That is a PHD in Dreams. These men were called magicians - but they were some of the most learned professors in the whole country of Egypt).
Pharaoh's royal sleep had been disturbed - deeply disturbed by two nightmares. In his first dream, he dreamt that he was standing by the powerful Nile river, actually the river was one of his gods, it was the biggest river in Egypt. It's deltas provided fertile fields for crops. The lush life around this river provided food for much of the country of Egypt.
Suddenly, out of the river came seven cows, sleek and fat, healthy and strong. With a few moos her and a few moos there, they ate from the luscious green plants and reeds that grew along the river banks. Pleasure swept through Pharaoh's sleeping mind even as he saw this wonderful sight, obviously the cows were the favour of his goddess Isia - he would have to get one of his priestly musicians to write a song about this dream...
Then right behind them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile river, and they came and stood beside them on the bank. They were so skinny, he could see everyone of their ribs. Their hides were infested with gnats, flies were everywhere. Their stank like skunks - only the smell was different - more like something was dead. Suddenly these ugly cows attacked the beautiful cows - horns gashed into bellies, mud and water was thrown violently in all directions, cows screamed in surprise and pain as their blood drained into the Nile river. And then the ugly cows gobbled up the healthy beautiful cows, yet they remained as skinny and ugly as before. Pharaoh woke up with a start. Something was terribly wrong. This certainly was a nightmare.
He got up - to calm his nerves, he asked his trusted Cupbearer for an extra strong drink of wine, he took it, and as the warmth of the wine colored his cheeks, he went back to sleep. A second dream appeared...
In this dream, seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. What abundance his sleeping mind mused - certainly the god Rae - the Sun god was looking with favour on his country. Suddenly, right behind this stalk, another stalk with seven heads of grain sprouted, but these were thin, shriveled by the rays of the sun and scorched by the strong east desert winds. Then thin heads jumped up and swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. What a shocking sight. Pharaoh again woke up with a start - how can this be?
"Potiphar! Get me my housecoat - now! And get me all my overpaid doctors - especially the ones with a PHDD."
The doctors of dreams were contacted by Potiphar's soldiers, hauled out of bed early that morning, told to clean themselves up on the chariot ride to the palace - Pharaoh wanted to see them now!
Pharaoh told them his dreams - about the cows and the stalks of grain. He asked them for the meaning...
There was chin rubbing and head scratching.
Different suggestions were given.
"Your Worship," said one, "These dreams offer such complex problems - certainly it would be wise to have a caucus study committee to examine them and come up with a report in about 7 years."
"Your Honour, Sir," another said. "Maybe these dreams mean nothing at all. What did the Chief Baker give you to eat last night?" hoping to cast just a shadow of suspicion on Pharaoh's new Chief Baker.
"I want an interpretation now!" exclaimed Pharaoh.
But none of his wise men, none of his over educated magicians, could give him any more than political talk - some feared to give an interpretation - because they knew if they were wrong, they might loose their jobs, even their lives.
His trusted friend, the Cupbearer stepped forward.
"Your Worship Sir," he said, "I am sorry I forgot to tell you this. Remember, 2 years ago, when you threw Chief Baker and myself in jail?"
"Go on..." Pharaoh responded...
"While, I'm sorry, but I forgot to tell you something. Both the Chief Baker and I had dreams while we were in jail - and there was this young Hebrew prisoner under whose charge we were. We told him our dreams, he told us what they meant and things turned out exactly the way he interpreted our dreams for us. Today, I stand before you, your humble servant, and you have a new Chief Baker, since the last one was hanged."
"Why didn't you tell this to me before?"
"I didn't think it was important sir, so I forgot." the Cup bearer answered.
"Potiphar! Get me this Joseph from prison!"
This was no day for being slow - Pharaoh was in one rotten mood. Soldiers were immediately commanded to get Joseph from prison.
All this time, Joseph had heard nothing - for two years he had waited, but waiting can get tiring. He had simply gone back to being a model prisoner - doing what the warden told him to do. But that still was not easy. The place where he slept stank. His hair and his beard, never cut, had grown long and scraggly. His clothing had holes worn right through it.
Suddenly the soldiers were at his door. They ripped off his clothing, with force they shaved both his head and his face and then they threw fresh prison garments around his waist.
"Wha - what's going on?" Joseph protested.
"You have an appointment with Pharaoh" was the gruff reply.
First by fast chariot - then running, he was rushed into Pharaoh's opulent palace. As Joseph slowed his pace to catch his breath before entering the throne room, he noticed how many colors were around him. For years he had been in the dungeon, where the only colours were black, grey and brown, and maybe a little bit of light from a torch. Now in the bright daylight of the palace, he saw colours everywhere. Colourful banners hanging on walls. Colorful pictures of armies and cows and people painted on walls depicting the history of this great nation. Golden handles on deep green copper doors. And the soldiers clothing - the closer he got to the throne room, the more color they had too.
Then he entered the throne room - and colour was everywhere. He saw the golden throne in the middle of the room, a crowd of colourful coats standing around it - obviously a crowd of important people trying to help Pharaoh with his concerns.
When he came in, the crowd opened up and made way for him and the soldiers around him. Pharaoh looked down at this tall, handsome young man in prison clothing.
Pharaoh said in commanding voice; "I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it."
"No, I can't do that." Joseph responded. "But Elohim will give Pharaoh the answer he desires."
"I know the god Rae, and Isia and Nile, who in the world is this God of your's Elohim? How dare you tell me there is another god?"
"Your Majesty - he is the God of my father - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Hebrews. We call him Elohim. He is the God above every other god. He gives dreams and their interpretations."
Pharaoh was quite desperate.
He told Joseph his dreams about the 7 beautiful cows and the 7 ugly cows that gobbled them up, he told about the 7 full heads of grain and how the 7 shriveled heads gobbled them up.
"What do they mean?" the desperation in his voice started showing.
As Joseph was listening to the dream, their meanings quickly became clear to him. It was not that Joseph was so smart that he could interpret them, God was with him and God was telling Joseph what the dreams meant.
"Both these dreams are the same dreams," Joseph responded. "Elohim is revealing to you, Pharaoh, what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream.
The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine."
"Elohim is showing you what he is about to do. Elohim is going to give to Egypt seven years of great abundance, plentiful harvests, more than you can use, but then seven years of famine will follow them where there will not be near enough to feed the people, or your cattle, or your servants. Ugly starvation will be everywhere. People will not remember that they were once well fed. The famine will be so severe that hunger will drive them to forget. You had this dream two times, in two different ways because Elohim will do it, and he will not change his mind."
For the first time that morning - Pharaoh had actually heard an interpretation - and it made sense, more sense than all his wise men and magicians put together, more sense than all his gods could muster. There was certainly something special about this young man.
"What must we do?" he asked looking at the crowd of advisors around him. Again they seemed dumbfounded. Another person suggest a 7 year committee to research the interpretation and write a report on possible governmental initiatives.
Pharaoh was getting red again...
"If I may, your Honour, offer a suggestion." Joseph said with a confidence he himself did not quite understand.
"Yes!" said Pharaoh
"Look for a project manager who is discerning and wise and put him in charge of this entire project over all the land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh should appoint commissioners - men who will take 1/5th of the harvest each year for the next 7 years of abundance, store the grain up in the cities for food to be used and distributed back to the people during the seven years of famine. Times will be hard but at least people will be able to live."
Pharaoh looked at his crowd of political advisors with searching eyes. "What do you think?" he asked them.
There were murmurs about this Hebrew slave humiliating them all, but there was little discussion - his ideas were better than anything they had come up with. "But who is it that we should appoint to this esteemed position?" one of his advisors asked.
Potiphar, at Pharaoh's side leaned over and whispered in his Pharaoh's ear. Pharaoh, looking at Joseph said: "Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of Elohim?"
There was silence in the room...
Pharaoh stood up and beckoned Joseph to come closer to his throne.
"Joseph, since this God of yours has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you. I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt."
And then Pharaoh made Joseph project manager over the entire land of Egypt. He gave Joseph his signet wring with which to sign all the official documents of the King. He threw around Joseph's shoulders a robe of many colours and gave him a large golden chain around his neck. He received his own personal chariot along with a company of soldiers that cleared the roads before him as he went."
In the back of Joseph's mind he again heard his brother's taunt - "What will come of your dreams now - Dreamer?" This time his mind had the very clear answer - "They will come true!"
In the seven years that followed, Pharaoh's dreams also came true. The land of Egypt never had had better harvests. Food was everywhere. And Joseph, with the power that Pharaoh had given him, collected 20% of all the grain that was harvested and stored it in huge granaries. The piles of grain were so large and so deep, people thought it looked like the sand on the seashore. There was no use keeping records of how much he gathered - the record books were becoming too thick and cumbersome to deal with.
In that time, Pharaoh, seeing how faithfully Joseph did his task, gave to Joseph a wife - the daughter of a high priest. Joseph received two sons - one he named Manasseh ( which means God has made me forget) because he said "God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household.." The other he name Ephraim (which means "Fruitful") because he siad "God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering."
When the seven years of famine began, after some time, the people started to get hungry. They complained to Pharaoh - and he just send them to Joseph. Joseph started selling the grain he had saved up. Egypt had enough food. The countries all around Egypt were starving - and so they too went to Egypt to buy. In the end, even during times of famine, Egypt's treasury did well - "Thanks to Joseph, - no, - More thanks to Elohim!" thought Pharaoh as he lay in his bed before he went off into a peaceful sleep. He could afford to sleep, Joseph was in charge.