The Pharaoh's Dreams
The term "Pharaoh" was originally the designation for the royal palace of the kings of Egypt. Eventually however it came to mean the king himself. In the time of Jacob's exiled son Joseph (see The Israelite Patriarchs - Joseph), the Pharaoh had a prophetic dream:
"41:1 And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river [i.e. the Nile River; see The Nile Delta]. 41:2 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow. 41:3 And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and leanfleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river.
41:4 And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.
41:5 And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn [i.e. wheat or barley - see Corn] came up upon one stalk, rank and good. 41:6 And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them. 41:7 And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream." (Genesis 41:1-7 KJV)
"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"
It was a startlingly realistic dream - and appropriately so. What Pharaoh saw was actually coming upon his kingdom. But the king didn't yet realize what the dream meant, nor did any of his officials. It was at that point that the king's butler remembered a young Hebrew that he met in prison.
"41:8 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.
41:9 Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day:
41:10 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 [see Pharaoh's Butler and Baker]: 41:11 And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream. 41:12 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. 41:13 And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged." (Genesis 41:8-13 KJV)
The purpose of Joseph's tribulation was coming to fruition; the Pharaoh sent for him.
"41:14 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.
41:15 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.
41:16 And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.
41:17 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river:
41:18 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow: 41:19 And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed, such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness:
41:20 And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine:
41:21 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.
41:22 And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good:
41:23 And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them: 41:24 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." (Genesis 41:14-24 KJV)
The dream was given, by the LORD, for Pharaoh to have, and for Joseph to interpret. The dream was a warning of what was coming - and who it was (i.e. Joseph) that could guide Egypt through the crisis, not only for the sake of the people of Egypt, but for the survival of the people of Israel who would come to take refuge there (as Joseph later explained to the brothers that sold him away i.e. "50:20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive" Genesis 50:20 KJV; see Joseph's Coat Of Jealousy).
"41:25 And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath showed Pharaoh what he is about to do. 41:26 The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one. 41:27 And the seven thin and ill favoured 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.
41:28 This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he showeth unto Pharaoh. 41:29 Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt: 41:30 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; 41:31 And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.
41:32 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.
41:33 Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. 41:34 Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. 41:35 And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. 41:36 And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine." (Genesis 41:25-36 KJV)
Unlike many national leaders who are made arrogant by power, the Pharaoh was wise enough, and thereby humble enough (arrogance is the mark of a fool) to heed the warning.
"41:37 And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.
41:38 And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?
41:39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:
41:40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou." (Genesis 41:37-40 KJV)
Fact Finder: Joseph's God-given ability to interpret the dreams of the nation's king enabled him to become the Prime Minister of the country that not long before held him as a slave. What other prophet rose to become a king's Prime Minister in the very same way?
Daniel 2:46-48; see also Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar's Dream