Have you ever wondered how Joseph interprets dreams correctly? Does 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 interprets:
- Squeezing grapes into Pharaoh’s cup
- Birds eating 3 baskets of bread
- 7 thin cows swallowing up 7 healthy cows
- 7 thin ears of grain swallowing up 7 healthy ears
Let’s dive in!
What Are the 4 Dreams Joseph Interprets and What Do They Mean?
1) Squeezing grapes into Pharaoh’s cup
This dream belongs 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 begins (verses 9 and 10).
“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 concludes (verse 11).
Joseph explains that the three branches symbolize three days. After this period, Pharaoh will release the cupbearer from prison and restore him back to office (verses 12 and 13).
What a promising reward!
Now, what about the bread? Continue reading.
2) Birds eating 3 baskets of bread
This dream belongs to the baker, who was also imprisoned after committing an offense against Pharaoh (Genesis 40:1).
He narrates 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 and 17).
As Joseph interprets, the three baskets symbolize three days, just as in the cupbearer’s dream (verse 18).
At the end of those days, Pharaoh will release him, too. But unlike the cupbearer, the baker will be hung on a tree and his flesh will be eaten by birds (verse 19).
What a terrible fate! But this is another proof of the gift God gave Joseph to interpret dreams.
3) 7 thin cows swallowing up 7 healthy cows
In the first dream of the Pharaoh, he sees himself standing by the Nile River (Genesis 41:1).
Then, seven sleek, fat cows come up and feed in the reed grass. After that, seven thin, ugly cows come out and stand beside the riverbank (verses 2 and 3).
Later, the thin cows eat up the healthy ones (verse 4).
Can you imagine that?
Pharaoh wakes up but falls asleep again.
4) 7 thin ears of grain swallowing up 7 healthy ears
As the Pharaoh goes back to sleep, another dream comes.
Here, seven heads of healthy and good grain grow on a single stalk. After which, seven heads of thin and scorched grain sprout (Genesis 41:5-6).
Later, the thin heads of grain swallow up the healthy ones (verse 7).
What an unusual dream!
Pharaoh then wakes up.
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 (verse 8).
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 and 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 God will do it soon,” Joseph concludes (verse 32, NIV).
And it all happened as we’ve seen in Joseph’s story.
Now, let’s determine how Joseph interprets dreams accurately.
3 Secrets to How Joseph Interprets Dreams Correctly
1) His God knows everything.
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 (verse 11 of chapter 50, 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 two dreams.
The first one is about his brothers’ sheaves of grain bowing down to his sheaf (Genesis 37:5-7). The second one shows the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowing down to him as well (verse 9).
These two dreams foretell that Joseph will someday rule over his family and they will “bow down to the ground” before him (verses 8 and 10, NIV).
From this, we can see that God perfectly knows what lies ahead of Joseph and his family. He is in control of the future as He does with the past and the present.
As Ellen White states, “not only does He [God] know the things that are past, but He sees the future as well” (Foreknowledge and Foreordination 1.2).
With this, how can God not know the future based on the baker’s, the cupbearer’s, and Pharaoh’s dreams, whose interpretations He reveals through Joseph?
2) He relies upon God’s wisdom and power.
Joseph admits that he alone can’t interpret dreams. Like any of us, he is just a human being who has limited knowledge of things.
But he believes that God’s wisdom and power can make it possible for him to discern people’s dreams and interpret their prophetic meanings.
For instance, when Pharaoh recognizes his ability to interpret dreams, Joseph answers, “I cannot do it but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires” (Genesis 41:16, NIV).
As you can see, Joseph recognizes 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” (Ellen White, Bible History Old Testament, volume 1 138.3).
3) He never takes credit for himself.
Aside from relying upon God’s wisdom and power, even after he successfully interprets a dream, Joseph never takes pride in himself.
He always gives back all the credit to the ultimate Source of wisdom above, saying in Genesis 40:8 (KJV), “Do not interpretations belong to God?”
And as we have seen earlier, Joseph responds to the king’s compliment with humility, saying, “It is not in me; God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (Ellen White, Spiritual Gifts, volume 3, 150.1).
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 (Ellen White, Bible History Old Testament, volume 1 135.1).
He disclaims the honor of possessing in himself superior wisdom because only God has it. As we have said earlier, he is only an instrument through whom God can interpret dreams.
What a humble man, isn’t he?
What Have You Learned?
What have you learned from this article?
Share it with us in the comments below.
To learn more about Joseph, subscribe to Heroes: The Bible Trivia Game, read his story on our hero page, find him in our Bible study course, and download our game on Google Play and App Store.