Pharaoh’s First Dream
Seven Fatted Cows and Seven Lean Cows: Genesis 41:1-4
1 And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.
For two long years Joseph languished in a prison for a crime he did not commit. Joseph knew he was innocent of the sexual charges leveled against him by the lying wife of Potiphar, but he could not prove his innocence. Potiphar’s wife knew he was innocent of her angry accusations. And, in all probability, Potiphar himself knew that Joseph was an innocent man, for a wise husband will know when his wife is lying. That Potiphar did not have Joseph put to death might indicate he was at least suspicious that his trusted servant was not guilty.
Best of all, God knew that Joseph was innocent of any moral indiscretion against Potiphar’s wife. Therefore, the Lord moved to protect Joseph while he was in prison. No harm would come to Joseph. In due time, Joseph would be vindicated, and then exalted beyond his highest expectation.
The road to Joseph’s recovery in society began with a dream by the Pharaoh of Egypt, for we read that “Pharaoh dreamed.”
The word Pharaoh, which means, “sun”, is a title of honor for the ancient rulers of Egypt. There are at least ten Pharaohs referred to in the Bible. Much uncertainty surrounds the identity of the Pharaoh who had the dreams which Joseph interpreted. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia article on “Egypt” suggests the Hyksos Pharaohs were in power during the lifetime of Abraham and Joseph (c. 1782 – c. 1570).
In the first dream, Pharaoh stood by the river. The river probably refers to the Nile River which flows about 4,050 miles through North East Africa from its initial headstream, the Kagera, North to the Mediterranean. Ancient Egypt was the land along the Nile, and its Delta from the First Cataract at Aswan to the Mediterranean.
2 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fat-fleshed; and they fed in a meadow.
Kine are the plural of cattle. The cattle of Egypt will immerse themselves in water in the heat of the day.
3 And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and lean-fleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river.
4 And the ill favoured and lean-fleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.
Pharaoh’s Second Dream: Genesis 41:5-7
5 And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good.
6 And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them.
Coming over the hot and sandy deserts of the Sinaitic peninsula the east wind would be severe.
7 And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.
Imagination vs. Interpretation: Genesis 41:8
8 And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh.
The fact that none of the wise men of Egypt could interpret Pharaoh’s dream was not for lack of trying. According to the Midrash (c. BC 400 – AD 1200), some of the necromancers, and some of the wise men, said the dreams were hinting that Pharaoh would have seven daughters born to him, and these seven would die shortly thereafter. Others explained that Pharaoh would conquer, and then lose seven countries.
As he listened to these interpretations, Pharaoh was not convinced. His countenance reflected his skepticism. The court before Pharaoh grew very quiet. Finally, the chief butler felt compelled to say something.
A Strategic Moment of Memory: Genesis 41:9-10
9 Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day:
10 Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in ward in the captain of the guard’s house, both me and the chief baker:
From time to time, some gentle humor flashes forth from the pages of Scripture. I find this narrative such a moment. In the awkwardness of being in the presence of an agitated ruler, one man is compelled to say something, knowing personally what an upset Pharaoh is capable of doing on the spur of the moment. “I do remember my faults,” he blurted out.” “You were angry with some of your servants, and put me in prison, both me and the chief baker.”
With that being said, the chief butler was able to finish his thought.
Hope for a Troubled Heart: Genesis 41:11-13
11 And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream.
12 And there was there with us a young man, an Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he did interpret.
The young man, the Hebrew, of whom the chief butler spoke, was Joseph. The term “Hebrew” means, “to cross over.” Abram, or Abraham, was the first person in the Bible to be called a Hebrew when he crossed over the Euphrates River on his way to the Land of Promise (Gen. 14:13).
13 And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.
The Social Discretion of Joseph: Genesis 41:14
14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.
While the Egyptians did allow their hair and beard to grow as a sign of mourning, they were normally clean shaven. Joseph shaved after being released from prison, and in so doing showed great common sense in preparing himself to be presented to the Pharaoh. One sign of a declining and decadent society is how carelessly people dress in the hour of worship, or when meeting important dignitaries in society. Joseph refused to go before Pharaoh unshaven, unwashed, and without appropriate clean clothing.
God will Provide the Answer: Genesis 41:15-16
15 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it.
16 And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.
Joseph was confident in telling Pharaoh that God would give him an answer, because Joseph knew the Lord personally.
Joseph knew the Lord was unchangeable. He who had given Joseph His spirit of discernment in the past, would give it in the present.
Joseph knew the Lord was gracious and full of mercy. God delights to show mercy to troubled hearts.
Joseph knew the Lord was sovereign. No matter what message God had for Pharaoh, knowing God’s will brings peace to the heart, even when the message contains bad news. One problem with the heart, is the imagination. In times of stress the heart tends to imagine the worse scenario and then act upon that as if it were the reality. In this way mental and emotional agitation is added to the difficult situation. Mental and emotional stress can be more painful than bodily pain. People need a message of peace.
The gospel is such a message. It offers hope of salvation and eternal life to the lost, and sanctification to those with a guilty conscience. God comforts people through His Word being believed.
In order to enjoy the answer of peace, God must be believed.
Believe Jesus when He says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
Believe the Lord when He says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. 13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:11-13).
God has an answer for every person with a troubled heart.
With hope in his heart, Pharaoh recounted for Joseph the two dreams he had in the night.
The Two Dreams of Pharaoh Repeated to Joseph: Genesis 41:17-24
The First Dream of Cattle: Genesis 41:17-21
17 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river:
18 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fat-fleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow:
19 And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and lean-fleshed, such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness:
20 And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine:
21 And when they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they were still ill favoured, as at the beginning. So I awoke.
The Second Dream of Corn: Genesis 41:18-24
22 And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good:
23 And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them:
24 And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears: and I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me.
The First Dream Divinely Interpreted
What God will Do: Genesis 41:25-27
25 And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do.
No sooner had Pharaoh ceased speaking than Joseph gave the correct interpretation of the dream. The interpretation was the correct one, not because Joseph was more clever than the magicians and wise men of Egypt, but because God had spoken.
This is an important concept to understand when reading the Bible. God has spoken. The Bible is not subject to your opinion, or mine. Those who read Scripture must submit themselves to what God has said.
The technical science of studying the Bible is called Hermeneutics (Gk. hermeneuo, translate, interpret). The practical science of studying the Bible is to ask God the Holy Spirit to illuminate understanding. Let ever Christian pray with the Psalmist, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm 119:18).
When the heart is totally submissive to the Word of God, no matter how challenging or convicting it may be, there will be an answer of peace given.
Joseph was able to speak with authority, and say that the two dreams are one dream with profound meaning. Egypt was going to experience seven years of amazing prosperity, followed by seven difficult years of economic hardship.
26 The seven good kine [cattle] are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one.
27 And the seven thin and ill-favored kine that came up after them are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine.
The Second Dream Divinely Interpreted
What God will Do: Genesis 41:28-32
28 This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh.
The reason why God shewed unto Pharaoh what He was about to do, was because the Lord is full of grace and mercy. The Lord wanted Pharaoh, and each succeeding generation to know spiritual truth, including the following facts.
First, God is sovereign. God controls the earth, including its climate. This divine perspective is often forgotten by men who think that man can control the weather. Oh how arrogant and foolish humans are. Godless people dismiss the Creator, and pretend they can make the climate change. Their foolish thinking is compounded by thinking they must do something in order to change the world, or it will be destroyed within a predicted time frame.
In the year 2006, former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, predicted the world would end in ten years because of climate change. Many people believed his nonsense.
In the year 2019, on January 22, Congress woman Ocasio-Cortez, age 29, predicts the world will end in twelve years unless Americans do not overthrow the government, destroy the capitalistic economic system, give her, and her political party, complete control over every facet of daily life, and embrace her Green Deal.
The arrogance of the old and the young is breath-taking. They want to be God. But God will not surrender His sovereignty. He will control the climate, not man. He will control all of nature, not government.
Second, God is a personal God. God has not withdrawn from His creation. He is intimately involved in our lives. Jesus said that not even a sparrow can fall on the ground without the Father (Matt. 10:29). Jesus said the very hairs of our head are numbered. God is looking after each and every person on the planet. He who can name the trillions of stars, knows you and me by name as well.
Third, God is an omniscient God. God knows the past, the present, and the future. Such knowledge is incomprehensible to us. For those who believe in God, there is great comfort. We might not know what the future holds, but we know the One who holds the future, and hearts are at peace.
29 Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt:
30 And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land;
31 And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.
32 And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.
“Pharaoh, the thing is established. God will bring it to pass. Your future is certain. Your salvation is secure. Embrace the Lord. It is no secret what God will do.”
“The chimes of time ring out the news
Another day is through,
Some one slipped and fell,
Was that someone you?
You may have longed for added strength
Your courage to renew
Do not be disheartened
I have news for you.
It is no secret what God can do,
What he has done for others,
He’ll do for you.
With arms wide open,
He’ll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do.
There is no night, for in His light
You’ll never walk alone.
You’ll always feel at home wherever you may roam,
There is no power can conquer you,
While God is on your side.
Take Him at His promise,
Don’t run away and hide.
It is no secret what God can do,
What he has done for others,
He’ll do for you.
With arms wide open,
He’ll pardon you.
It is no secret what God can do…