Heroes: Joseph Interprets pharaoh's Dreams


3 Secrets on How Joseph Interpreted Dreams Correctly

Have you ever wondered how Joseph interpreted dreams correctly? Did he have some sort of psychic power or gift of prophecy?

In this article, let’s discover the 3 secrets behind his ability to interpret dreams.

But first, let’s have a background of the 4 dreams he interpreted.

What Were the 4 Dreams Joseph Interpreted and What Did They Mean?

1) Squeezing grapes into the pharaoh’s cup

Heroes: Cupbearer's dream
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This dream belonged to the king’s cupbearer, who was imprisoned after committing an offense against him (Genesis 40:1).

“In my dream, there was a vine before me, and on the vine, there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth and the clusters ripened into grapes,” the cupbearer began (verses 9-10, ESV).

“Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into [his] cup and placed [it] in [his] hand,” he concluded (verse 11, ESV).

Joseph explained that the 3 branches symbolized 3 days. After this period, the pharaoh would release the cupbearer from prison and restore him to office (verses 12-13).

What a promising reward!

2) Birds eating 3 baskets of bread

Heroes: Chief baker's dream
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This dream belonged to the baker, who was also imprisoned after committing an offense against the pharaoh (Genesis 40:1-3).

He narrated his dream, “There were three cake baskets on my head, and in the uppermost basket, there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head” (verses 16-17, ESV).

Joseph interpreted that the 3 baskets symbolized 3 days, just as in the cupbearer’s dream (verse 18).

At the end of those days, the pharaoh would release him too. But unlike the cupbearer, the baker would be hung on a tree and his flesh would be eaten by birds (verse 19).

What a terrible fate! But regardless of that, this is another proof of the gift God gave Joseph to interpret dreams.

3) 7 thin cows swallowing up 7 healthy cows

Heroes: Pharaoh's dream of healthy and unhealthy cows
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In Pharaoh’s first dream, he saw himself standing by the Nile River (Genesis 41:1).

Then, 7 sleek, fat cows came up and fed in the reed grass. After that, 7 thin, ugly cows came out and stood beside the riverbank (verses 2-3).

Later, the thin cows ate up the healthy ones (verse 4).

Can you imagine that?

Pharaoh woke up but fell asleep again.

4) 7 thin ears of grain swallowing up 7 healthy ears

Heroes: Pharaoh's dream of healthy and unhealthy ears
Photo credit: Free Bible Images

As the pharaoh went back to sleep, another dream came.

Here, 7 heads of healthy and good grain grew on a single stalk. After which, 7 heads of thin and scorched grain sprouted (Genesis 41:5-6).

Later, the thin heads of grain swallowed up the healthy ones (verse 7).

What an unusual dream!

Pharaoh then woke up.

Unfortunately, not one of his magicians could interpret his dreams. But thanks to the cupbearer for remembering Joseph, who was able to tell the king the meaning of his dreams (verses 8-25).

Joseph interpreted, “The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream” (verse 26, NIV).

“The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine,” he continued (verse 27, NIV).

“Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten and the famine will ravage the land” (verses 29-30, NIV).

“The abundance in the land will not be remembered because the famine that follows it will be so severe” (verse 31, NIV).

“The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and [He] will do it soon,” Joseph concluded (verse 32, NIV).

And it all happened as we saw in Joseph’s story.

Now, let’s determine how Joseph interpreted dreams accurately.

3 Secrets on How Joseph Interpreted Dreams Correctly

1) His God knows everything.

Heroes: Jesus in the clouds
Photo credit: Canva

This God is “our Lord” Who is “mighty in power.” His understanding “has no limit” (Psalm 147:5, NIV).

“There is no other” and “there is none like [Him].” He “made known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come” (Isaiah 46:9-10, NIV).

He knows “every bird in the mountains” and the “insects in the fields” are His (Psalm 50:11, NIV). He even knows the number of the “very hairs of your head” (Matthew 10:30, NIV).

Can you imagine that?

Well, it just proves that God knows everything in this world from the simplest to the most significant thing that exists.

Now, looking back at Joseph’s story, we remember God giving him 2 dreams.

The first one was about his brothers’ sheaves of grain bowing down to his sheaf (Genesis 37:5-7). The second one showed the sun, moon, and 11 stars bowing down to him as well (verse 9).

Those 2 dreams foretold that Joseph would someday rule over his family and they would “bow down to the ground” before him (verses 8 and 10, NIV).

From this, we can see that God perfectly knew what lied ahead of Joseph and his family.

“Not only does He know the things that are past, but He sees the future as well”1.

With this, how could God not know the future based on the baker’s, the cupbearer’s, and Pharaoh’s dreams, whose interpretations He revealed through Joseph?

2) He relies upon His wisdom and power.

Heroes: Joseph in prison
Photo credit: Free Bible Images

Joseph acknowledged that he alone couldn’t interpret dreams. Like any of us, he had a limited knowledge of things.

But he believed that God’s wisdom and power could make it possible for him to discern people’s dreams and interpret their prophetic meanings.

For instance, when Pharaoh recognized his ability to interpret dreams, Joseph answered, “I cannot do it but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires” (Genesis 41:16, NIV).

Joseph recognized himself as a mere instrument through whom God can reveal the mysteries behind things humans can’t comprehend.

With this, “what a contrast between the hoary lore of Egypt and the poor Hebrew slave [Joseph] fetched from prison!”

While these Egyptian wizards were “professedly claiming, besides their real knowledge, supernatural power,” Joseph was “disclaiming all power on his part…appealing to God”2.

3) He never takes credit for himself.

Heroes: Man pointing to God
Photo credit: Free Bible Images

Aside from relying on God’s wisdom and power, even after successfully interpreting a dream, Joseph never took pride in himself.

He would always give back all the credit to the ultimate Source of wisdom above, saying, “Don’t interpretations belong to God?” (Genesis 40:8, CEB).

And as we saw earlier, Joseph responded to the king’s compliment with humility, saying, “It is not in me; God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace”3.

With this, Joseph “would at least not appear like the Egyptian magicians—he would not claim power or wisdom; he would own God, and look up to Him”4.

What a humble man!

What Have You Learned?

What have you learned from this article?

Share it with us in the comments below.

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  1. Ellen White, Foreknowledge and Foreordination, 1.2 []
  2. Alfred Edersheim, Bible History Old Testament, volume 1, 138.3 []
  3. Ellen White, Spiritual Gifts, volume 3, 150.1 []
  4. Alfred Edersheim, Bible History Old Testament, volume 1, 135.1 []
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