After a lapse of two years, Pharaoh had a dream. He saw himself standing by the Nile,
when up out of the Nile came seven cows, handsome and fat; they grazed in the reed grass.
Behind them seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile; and standing on the bank of the Nile beside the others,
the ugly, gaunt cows ate up the seven handsome, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.
He fell asleep again and had another dream. He saw seven ears of grain, fat and healthy, growing on a single stalk.
Behind them sprouted seven ears of grain, thin and blasted by the east wind;
and the seven thin ears swallowed up the seven fat, healthy ears. Then Pharaoh woke up, to find it was only a dream.
Next morning his spirit was agitated. So he summoned all the magicians and sages of Egypt and recounted his dreams to them; but no one could interpret his dreams for him.
Then the chief cupbearer spoke up and said to Pharaoh: “On this occasion I am reminded of my negligence.
Once, when Pharaoh was angry, he put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the chief steward.
Later, we both had dreams on the same night, and each of our dreams had its own meaning.
There with us was a Hebrew youth, a slave of the chief steward; and when we told him our dreams, he interpreted them for us and explained for each of us the meaning of his dream.
And it turned out just as he had told us: I was restored to my post, but the other man was impaled.”
Pharaoh therefore had Joseph summoned, and they hurriedly brought him from the dungeon. After he shaved and changed his clothes, he came into Pharaoh’s presence.
Pharaoh then said to him: “I had certain dreams that no one can interpret. But I hear it said of you that the moment you are told a dream you can interpret it.”
“It is not I,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God who will give Pharaoh the right answer.”
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph: “In my dream, I was standing on the bank of the Nile,
when up from the Nile came seven cows, fat and well-formed; they grazed in the reed grass.
Behind them came seven other cows, scrawny, most ill-formed and gaunt. Never have I seen such ugly specimens as these in all the land of Egypt!
The gaunt, ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows.
But when they had consumed them, no one could tell that they had done so, because they looked as ugly as before. Then I woke up.
In another dream I saw seven ears of grain, fat and healthy, growing on a single stalk.
Behind them sprouted seven ears of grain, shriveled and thin and blasted by the east wind;
and the seven thin ears swallowed up the seven healthy ears. I have spoken to the magicians, but none of them can give me an explanation.”
Joseph said to Pharaoh: “Both of Pharaoh’s dreams have the same meaning. God has thus foretold to Pharaoh what he is about to do.
The seven healthy cows are seven years, and the seven healthy ears are seven years – the same in each dream.
So also, the seven thin, ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, as are the seven thin, wind-blasted ears; they are seven years of famine.
It is just as I told Pharaoh: God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.
Seven years of great abundance are now coming throughout the land of Egypt;
but these will be followed by seven years of famine, when all the abundance in the land of Egypt will be forgotten. When the famine has ravaged the land,
no trace of the abundance will be found in the land because of the famine that follows it – so utterly severe will that famine be.
That Pharaoh had the same dream twice means that the matter has been reaffirmed by God and that God will soon bring it about.
“Therefore, let Pharaoh seek out a wise and discerning man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt.
Pharaoh should also take action to appoint overseers, so as to regiment the land during the seven years of abundance.
They should husband all the food of the coming good years, collecting the grain under Pharaoh’s authority, to be stored in the towns for food.
This food will serve as a reserve for the country against the seven years of famine that are to follow in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish in the famine.”
This advice pleased Pharaoh and all his officials.
“Could we find another like him,” Pharaoh asked his officials, “a man so endowed with the spirit of God?”
So Pharaoh said to Joseph: “Since God has made all this known to you, no one can be as wise and discerning as you are.
You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people shall dart at your command. Only in respect to the throne shall I outrank you.
Herewith,” Pharaoh told Joseph, “I place you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.”
1 With that, Pharaoh took off his signet ring and put it on Joseph’s finger. He had him dressed in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck.
2 He then had him ride in the chariot of his vizier, and they shouted “Abrek!” before him. Thus was Joseph installed over the whole land of Egypt.
“I, Pharaoh, proclaim,” he told Joseph, “that without your approval no one shall move hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.”
3 Pharaoh also bestowed the name of Zaphnath-paneah on Joseph, and he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of Heliopolis.
Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. After Joseph left Pharaoh’s presence, he traveled throughout the land of Egypt.
During the seven years of plenty, when the land produced abundant crops,
he husbanded all the food of these years of plenty that the land of Egypt was enjoying and stored it in the towns, placing in each town the crops of the fields around it.
Joseph garnered grain in quantities like the sands of the sea, so vast that at last he stopped measuring it, for it was beyond measure.
Before the famine years set in, Joseph became the father of two sons, borne to him by Asenath, daughter of Potiphera, priest of Heliopolis.
4 He named his first-born Manasseh, meaning, “God has made me forget entirely the sufferings I endured at the hands of my family”;
5 and the second he named Ephraim, meaning, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
When the seven years of abundance enjoyed by the land of Egypt came to an end,
the seven years of famine set in, just as Joseph had predicted. Although there was famine in all the other countries, food was available throughout the land of Egypt.
When hunger came to be felt throughout the land of Egypt and the people cried to Pharaoh for bread, Pharaoh directed all the Egyptians to go to Joseph and do whatever he told them.
When the famine had spread throughout the land, Joseph opened all the cities that had grain and rationed it to the Egyptians, since the famine had gripped the land of Egypt.
In fact, all the world came to Joseph to obtain rations of grain, for famine had gripped the whole world.
1  Signet ring: a finger ring in which was set a stamp seal, different from the cylinder seal such as Judah wore; see note on ⇒ Genesis 38:18. This is an authentic detail. By receiving Pharaoh’s signet ring, Joseph was made vizier of Egypt (⇒ Genesis 41:43); the vizier was known as “seal-bearer of the king of Lower Egypt.” Another authentic detail is the gold chain, a symbol of high office in ancient Egypt.
2  Abrek: apparently a cry of homage, though the word’s derivation and actual meaning are uncertain.
3  Zaphenath-paneah: a Hebrew transcription of an Egyptian name meaning “the god speaks and he (the new-born child) lives.” Asenath: means “belonging to (the Egyptian goddess) Neith.” Potiphera: means “he whom Ra (the Egyptian god) gave”; a shorter form of the same name was borne by Joseph’s master (⇒ Genesis 37:36). Heliopolis: in Hebrew, On, a city seven miles northeast of modern Cairo, site of the chief temple of the sun god; it is mentioned also in ⇒ Genesis 41:50; ⇒ 46:20; ⇒ Ezekiel 30:17.
4  Manasseh: allusion to this name is in the Hebrew expression, nishshani, “he made me forget.”
5  Ephraim: related to the Hebrew expression hiphrani, “(God) has made me fruitful.”