The Dreams of Pharaoh
"Then it came to pass, at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh had a dream; and behold, he stood by the river. Suddenly there came up out of the river seven cows, fine looking and fat; and they fed in the meadow. Then behold, seven other cows came up after them out of the river, ugly and gaunt, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the river. And the ugly and gaunt cows ate up the seven fine looking and fat cows. So Pharaoh awoke. He slept and dreamed a second time; and suddenly seven heads of grain came up on one stalk, plump and good. Then behold, seven thin heads, blighted by the east wind, sprang up after them. And the seven thin heads devoured the seven plump and full heads. So Pharaoh awoke, and indeed, it was a dream" (Gen. 41:1-7).

Pharaoh's dreams, like those of the butler and baker, were vivid or distinct in such a way as to motivate him to pursue the meaning behind them. These were disturbing dreams, not to be regarded lightly. He wanted to understand but none of his magicians or wise men could help him. This does speak favorably to their credibility; that is, they did not attempt to deceive Pharaoh to their own advantage by simply making up some interpretation. As the chapter continues, it becomes clear that the dreams were from God and that they could be interpreted by someone with the proper gift from God. Joseph was just the man for the task! The chief butler suggested Joseph to Pharaoh after explaining his mistake in forgetting about the young Hebrew man for the past two years. The butler spoke favorably of Joseph, knowing from firsthand experience his ability to correctly interpret dreams.

"Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it.' So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, 'It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace'" (Gen. 41:14-16). No doubt Joseph is thrilled to be out of prison! When he stood before Pharaoh, however, he radiated humility. Joseph directed the praise to God, not himself, regarding his ability to interpret dreams. Joseph does not here guarantee a favorable interpretation for Pharaoh. He does affirm that Pharaoh will soon have peace to the extent that he will know the precise meaning of the dreams.

Pharaoh then told the dreams to Joseph. He added the detail that after the gaunt cows ate the fat cows, they were still gaunt!

"Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, 'The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do: 'The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads are seven years; the dreams are one. And the seven thin and ugly cows which came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty heads blighted by the east wind are seven years of famine. This is the thing which I have spoken to Pharaoh. God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do. Indeed seven years of great plenty will come throughout all the land of Egypt; but after them seven years of famine will arise, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine will deplete the land. So the plenty will not be known in the land because of the famine following, for it will be very severe. And the dream was repeated to Pharaoh twice because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass'" (Gen. 41:25-32).

Joseph explained the dream with authority and detail. He affirmed that the interpretation was certain and God's actions in this regard would not be altered. I suspect all who heard Joseph would be convinced of the truthfulness of his words. Pharaoh is now faced with a choice: What should he do to prepare for the coming famine? Joseph will give advice in this regard before he finishes speaking to Pharaoh.