All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Ominous Dreams
Based on Genesis 39–41

Joseph is sold as a slave to Potiphar, whose name means “He whom Ré [the sun god] has given.” He’s the captain of the guard, a title that indicates he’s the chief executioner. Since Pharaoh is probably a “Hyksos” foreign Semite ruler, it’s important that Potiphar be Egyptian, since his countrymen won’t tolerate a foreign executioner.

Observing that the Lord prospers Joseph, Potiphar soon puts him in charge of his household. Joseph is well built and handsome, and Potiphar’s wife is attracted to him. Daily she entices him, but he refuses her advances. Finally, he’s forced to run outdoors—but not before she snatches his outer garment! Standard dress for Egyptian men is a loincloth, but overseers are often portrayed wearing a white cloth hanging from their shoulders. This is likely what she’s held onto as she loudly accuses Joseph of trying to rape her. Once again, Joseph is identified by his garment.


Potiphar is furious! He throws Joseph into the royal dungeon, but doesn’t execute him—probably because he disbelieves his wife. However, Joseph soon finds favor with the warden, who puts him in charge of the prison’s affairs—just as he had been before.

Pharaoh’s former chief butler and baker are put under Joseph’s charge, and when they have strange dreams, he’s eager to help. Within three days, Pharaoh will “lift” their heads, he predicts. The butler will be restored to his position, but the baker will be decapitated, and his body will be hanged.

Three days later, Pharaoh celebrates his birthday. These occasions call for a banquet—and sometimes amnesties. As predicted, the baker is killed and the butler is restored, but he forgets Joseph’s request to remember him before Pharaoh.

Dreams Fulfilled

Two years later, Pharaoh has two dreams of his own. His wise men can’t interpret them using their dream books, but when the butler hears this, he remembers Joseph.

Shaving his face and head to appear like an Egyptian, Joseph appears before the king. “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,” Pharaoh says.

“It is not in me,” Joseph replies. “God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”

In his first dream, seven fat cows emerge from the Nile, followed by seven skinny ones, who eat the fat ones! This is shocking, since the Nile is considered the god that gives life. The second dream reveals seven fat heads of grain being eaten by seven withered heads, blighted by the east desert wind.

Joseph interprets the two dreams as seven years of plenty, followed by seven of famine. The repetition provides emphasis, indicating that fulfillment will be prompt. He advises Pharaoh to appoint an overseer, tax the people twenty percent in grain, and store it for the famine years.

Pharaoh wisely appoints Joseph as overseer (vizier), elevating him to second-in-command in his kingdom. He gives him his signet ring, clothes him in fine linen, and honors him publicly with a gold chain. He also gives him an appropriate Egyptian name, Zaphnath-Paaneah (“The god speaks that he may live”), and the daughter of the high priest of On for a wife.

Joseph is thirty when he begins public service, the same age required for Hebrew priest ministry—and Jesus’ age when He begins His public ministry!

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