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41 One night two years later, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing on the bank of the Nile River, when suddenly, seven sleek, fat cows came up out of the river and began grazing in the grass. Then seven other cows came up from the river, but they were very skinny and all their ribs stood out. They went over and stood beside the fat cows. Then the skinny cows ate the fat ones! At which point, Pharaoh woke up!

Soon he fell asleep again and had a second dream. This time he saw seven heads of grain on one stalk, with every kernel well formed and plump. Then, suddenly, seven more heads appeared on the stalk, but these were shriveled and withered by the east wind. And these thin heads swallowed up the seven plump, well-formed heads! Then Pharaoh woke up again and realized it was all a dream. Next morning, as he thought about it, he became very concerned as to what the dreams might mean; he called for all the magicians and sages of Egypt and told them about it, but not one of them could suggest what his dreams meant. Then the king’s wine taster spoke up. “Today I remember my sin!” he said. 10 “Some time ago when you were angry with a couple of us and put me and the chief baker in jail in the castle of the captain of the guard, 11 the chief baker and I each had a dream one night. 12 We told the dreams to a young Hebrew fellow there who was a slave of the captain of the guard, and he told us what our dreams meant. 13 And everything happened just as he said: I was restored to my position of wine taster, and the chief baker was executed, and impaled on a pole.”

14 Pharaoh sent at once for Joseph. He was brought hastily from the dungeon, and after a quick shave and change of clothes, came in before Pharaoh.

15 “I had a dream last night,” Pharaoh told him, “and none of these men can tell me what it means. But I have heard that you can interpret dreams, and that is why I have called for you.”

16 “I can’t do it by myself,” Joseph replied, “but God will tell you what it means!”

17 So Pharaoh told him the dream. “I was standing upon the bank of the Nile River,” he said, 18 “when suddenly, seven fat, healthy-looking cows came up out of the river and began grazing along the riverbank. 19 But then seven other cows came up from the river, very skinny and bony—in fact, I’ve never seen such poor-looking specimens in all the land of Egypt. 20 And these skinny cattle ate up the seven fat ones that had come out first, 21 and afterwards they were still as skinny as before! Then I woke up.

22 “A little later I had another dream. This time there were seven heads of grain on one stalk, and all seven heads were plump and full. 23 Then, out of the same stalk, came seven withered, thin heads. 24 And the thin heads swallowed up the fat ones! I told all this to my magicians, but not one of them could tell me the meaning.”

25 “Both dreams mean the same thing,” Joseph told Pharaoh. “God was telling you what he is going to do here in the land of Egypt. 26 The seven fat cows (and also the seven fat, well-formed heads of grain) mean that there are seven years of prosperity ahead. 27 The seven skinny cows (and also the seven thin and withered heads of grain) indicate that there will be seven years of famine following the seven years of prosperity.

28 “So God has showed you what he is about to do: 29 The next seven years will be a period of great prosperity throughout all the land of Egypt; 30 but afterwards there will be seven years of famine so great that all the prosperity will be forgotten and wiped out; famine will consume the land. 31 The famine will be so terrible that even the memory of the good years will be erased. 32 The double dream gives double impact, showing that what I have told you is certainly going to happen, for God has decreed it, and it is going to happen soon. 33 My suggestion is that you find the wisest man in Egypt and put him in charge of administering a nationwide farm program. 34-35 Let Pharaoh divide Egypt into five administrative districts,[a] and let the officials of these districts gather into the royal storehouses all the excess crops of the next seven years, 36 so that there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come. Otherwise, disaster will surely strike.”

37 Joseph’s suggestions were well received by Pharaoh and his assistants. 38 As they discussed who should be appointed for the job, Pharaoh said, “Who could do it better than Joseph? For he is a man who is obviously filled with the Spirit of God.” 39 Turning to Joseph, Pharaoh said to him, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, you are the wisest man in the country! 40 I am hereby appointing you to be in charge of this entire project. What you say goes, throughout all the land of Egypt. I alone will outrank you.”

41-42 Then Pharaoh placed his own signet ring on Joseph’s finger as a token of his authority, and dressed him in beautiful clothing and placed the royal gold chain about his neck and declared, “See, I have placed you in charge of all the land of Egypt.”

43 Pharaoh also gave Joseph the chariot of his second-in-command, and wherever he went the shout arose, “Kneel down!” 44 And Pharaoh declared to Joseph, “I, the king of Egypt, swear that you shall have complete charge over all the land of Egypt.”

45 Pharaoh gave him a name meaning “He has the godlike power of life and death!”[b] And he gave him a wife, a girl named Asenath, daughter of Potiphera, priest of Heliopolis. So Joseph became famous throughout the land of Egypt. 46 He was thirty years old as he entered the service of the king. Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and began traveling all across the land.

47 And sure enough, for the next seven years there were bumper crops everywhere. 48 During those years, Joseph requisitioned for the government a portion of all the crops grown throughout Egypt, storing them in nearby cities. 49 After seven years of this, the granaries were full to overflowing, and there was so much that no one kept track of the amount.

50 During this time before the arrival of the first of the famine years, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of the sun god Re of Heliopolis. 51 Joseph named his oldest son Manasseh (meaning “Made to Forget”—what he meant was that God had made up to him for all the anguish of his youth, and for the loss of his father’s home). 52 The second boy was named Ephraim (meaning “Fruitful”—“For God has made me fruitful in this land of my slavery,” he said).

53 So at last the seven years of plenty came to an end. 54 Then the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had predicted. There were crop failures in all the surrounding countries, too, but in Egypt there was plenty of grain in the storehouses. 55 The people began to starve. They pleaded with Pharaoh for food, and he sent them to Joseph. “Do whatever he tells you to,” he instructed them.

56-57 So now, with severe famine all over the world, Joseph opened up the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians and to those from other lands who came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph.


  1. Genesis 41:34 Let Pharaoh divide Egypt into five administrative districts, or “Let Pharaoh appoint officials to collect a fifth of all the crops.”
  2. Genesis 41:45 He has the godlike power of life and death, or “God (or Pharaoh) says, ‘He is living.’” he gave him a wife, a . . . daughter of Potiphera, priest of Heliopolis. Joseph married into a family of high nobility, for his father-in-law was a major priest and politician of that time.

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