The Pharaoh’s butler was among the learned and influential men called together by the Pharaoh to try to interpret *his two puzzling dreams*. After a man there had said the dreams were telling the Pharaoh to shrink the size of Egypt’s government and reduce taxes on the people, the butler got up and said to the gathering:
“When I and the baker were in jail for trying to *trying to poison* his Majesty, the Pharaoh, there was a young Hebrew man there, by name of Joseph. One night the baker and I had puzzling dreams, and Joseph interpreted them for us. I won’t go into the details of the dreams, but Joseph foretold from them that I would be freed and the baker hanged. This is exactly what happened.”
Turning to the Pharaoh, the butler said, “May I humbly suggest, Your Majesty, that you ask Joseph what your dreams mean.”
“Go and fetch Joseph” said the Pharaoh to two guards.
Joseph was sleeping in his cell when the two guards walked in. “On your feet, prisoner. His Majesty the Pharaoh wants to see you, and on the double. And have a shave and put on clean clothes while you’re about it. You smell as rank as an ill-wrapped mummy on a hot day, and look as unkempt as a primeval savage who’s been in the rain.”
Freshly shaved and with sweet-smelling clothes, Joseph was marched by the guards to the Pharaoh and the gathering of the learned and influential men.
“You interpret dreams, I understand,” said the Pharaoh.
“It’s not I who interpret them, Your Majesty, but God who interprets them through me.”
The Pharaoh then described to Joseph his two dreams about *the seven cows and the seven ears of corn*. When he had finished, the Pharaoh said, “One of the men in this gathering says these dreams are telling me to shrink the size of Egypt’s government and reduce taxes on the people. What do you think?”
“With all due respect to this man, Your Majesty, what he told you is bilge. Your two dreams are in fact one dream. The seven sleek and fat cows and the seven full and ripe ears of corn both represent seven years. The seven lean and gaunt cows and the seven thin and shrivelled ears of corn both represent seven years too.”
“This is all very well”, said the Pharaoh, “but what are these cows and these ears of corn telling me to do?”
“I was just getting to that, Your Majesty. The seven sleek and fat cows and seven full and ripe ears of corn are saying that the seven years they represent will be seven years of great plenty. However, the seven lean and gaunt cows and the seven thin and shrivelled ears of corn are saying that the seven years they represent will be seven years of great famine. First will come the seven years of plenty, immediately followed by seven years of famine. Here’s the thing, though, the seven years of famine will cause such ruin that no-one will remember the seven good years that went before.”
“It doesn’t sound like there’s anything I, or anyone else, can do about this ruinous famine, if ruinous famine there should be,” said the Pharaoh. “In any case, why should I believe you? You may, for all I know, be one of those men who delight in spreading alarm and despondency, that lowers the morale of the people. Perhaps I should have done to you what I had done to my chief baker, that is, have your head lopped off and your headless body hanged from a tree for the birds to eat.”
“You could certainly do this, Your Majesty, and there’s nothing I could do about it. The famine will happen anyway, because God is already resolved it must happen. This is why He gave you two dreams with the same meaning. He was trying to make His point. If you ignore what He’s telling you, it will be the worse for you, and for Egypt too.”
“Are you implying there’s something I can do about the coming famine?”
“Well, Your Majesty, there’s not only something you can do about it, but lots you can do about it – in the sense of ameliorating its deleterious effects.”
Source: Genesis 41, 9 – 32