TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 40:25-36 (NRSV*)
Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; 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, as are the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind. They are 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. 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. The plenty will no longer be known in the land because of the famine that will follow, for it will be very grievous. And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. Now therefore let Pharaoh select a man who is discerning and wise, 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 plenteous years. Let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and lay 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 befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”
AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE
I was not convinced when they brought the prisoner in to see me. He could not have been thirty years old. How could he possibly interpret my dreams, when my most experienced and venerable counselors could not? And yet, these dreams burned in my heart, and I knew that they must be interpreted. So I told this young man my dreams. And without hesitation, he gave me such a clear interpretation that I immediately knew he was correct. It wasn’t pleasant, that interpretation. Seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. No ruler wants to hear that difficult times are coming to his land. But to have foreknowledge of such a disaster? That is worth everything. And then, at the end of his interpretation, this young boy said something incredibly wise: ‘Let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt.’ … Ah, well. I think I have found that discerning and wise man. Joseph will not be returning to the prison today, or ever.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…
- This is the third time in the story that Joseph has discussed a set of dreams. What do you see has changed in his manner of delivering the interpretations?
- What does the way Joseph handles this interpretation tell you about how Joseph has changed and matured?
- It was not usual for a servant, let alone a stranger, to be so forthright with the Pharaoh. How do you account for Joseph’s confidence in giving advice to the king of Egypt?
- What does Joseph’s answer to Pharaoh tell us about Joseph’s relationship with God?
- What do you believe God’s role was in this situation?
“The theological explanations that punctuate this section (verses 25, 28, 32) accomplish three things: (1) They emphasize that God reveals this meaning; in other words, this is serious business; (2) they indicate that God speaks through Joseph; and (3) they provide a structure for the section… The interpretation centers on the years of famine, the better to impress upon Pharaoh the need to take action. Joseph offers more than just an interpretation. Without waiting for Pharaoh’s response… Joseph puts forward a plan whereby these events can effectively be addressed, preventing much damage to the country.” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. I (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1994, 621).
* New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.