17The king told Joseph:
I dreamed I was standing on the bank of the River Nile.18I saw seven fat, healthy cows come up out of the river, and they began feeding on the grass.19Next, seven skinny, bony cows came up out of the river. I have never seen such terrible looking cows anywhere in Egypt.20The skinny cows ate the fat ones.21But you couldn't tell it, because these skinny cows were just as skinny as they were before. Straight away, I woke up.
22I also dreamed that I saw seven heads of grain growing on one stalk. The heads were full and ripe.23Then seven other heads of grain came up. They were thin and scorched by a wind from the desert.24These heads of grain swallowed the full ones. I told my dreams to the magicians, but none of them could tell me the meaning of the dreams.
Your Majesty, both of your dreams mean the same thing, and in them God has shown what he is going to do.26The seven good cows stand for seven years, and so do the seven good heads of grain.27The seven skinny, ugly cows that came up later also stand for seven years, as do the seven bad heads of grain that were scorched by the east wind. The dreams mean there will be seven years when there won't be enough grain.
28It is just as I said—God has shown what he intends to do.29For seven years Egypt will have more than enough grain,30but that will be followed by seven years when there won't be enough. The good years of plenty will be forgotten, and everywhere in Egypt people will be starving.31The famine will be so bad that no one will remember that once there had been plenty.32God has given you two dreams to let you know that he has definitely decided to do this and that he will do it soon.
33Your Majesty, you should find someone who is wise and will know what to do, so that you can put him in charge of all Egypt.34Then appoint some other officials to collect one-fifth of every crop harvested in Egypt during the seven years when there is plenty.35Give them the power to collect the grain during those good years and to store it in your cities.36It can be stored until it is needed during the seven years when there won't be enough grain in Egypt. This will keep the country from being destroyed because of the lack of food.
37The king and his officials liked this plan.38So the king said to them, “No one could possibly handle this better than Joseph, since the Spirit of God is with him.”
39The king told Joseph, “God is the one who has shown you these things. No one else is as wise as you are or knows as much as you do.40I'm putting you in charge of my palace, and everybody will have to obey you. No one will be over you except me.
Contemporary English Version. Copyright © 1995 British & Foreign Bible Society. Used by permission.
We all have bad dreams from time to time, but some are more terrifying than others. For the king of Egypt, his dreams were frightening indeed. We can only imagine what the “skinny, ugly,” and “terrible looking” cows must have been like: so thin their bones were showing through, and, in Pharaoh’s dream, changing from docile vegetarians into wild carnivores, attacking and destroying members of their own species. This dream was followed by one in which thin heads of grain swallowed fat ones.
The king of Egypt consulted with the experts of that time, his magicians, but they were unable to interpret his dreams. Joseph, on the other hand, not only knew what the dreams meant but what the king of Egypt should do about it.
There would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph’s advice was to choose someone to oversee the collection of grain during the years of plenty so that the country would have food enough during the years of famine. The king selected Joseph, acknowledging that God had given him the wisdom to not only see what the problem was but to implement a solution.
We are not usually given such a clear picture ahead of time about the difficulties we will face, but we serve the same God who was able to give wisdom to Joseph, and we can trust Him that He will also give us the wisdom we need for the times of plenty – and for the times of famine – in our lives.
Precious Lord, we acknowledge that you alone know the future, and that we can trust you to help us through the good times and the bad. We ask you for the wisdom to make good decisions today and every day of our lives. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen