Two years passed and Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile River.
Seven cows came up out of the Nile, all shimmering with health, and grazed on the marsh grass.
Then seven other cows, all skin and bones, came up out of the river after them and stood by them on the bank of the Nile.
The skinny cows ate the seven healthy cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.
He went back to sleep and dreamed a second time: Seven ears of grain, full-bodied and lush, grew out of a single stalk.
Then seven more ears grew up, but these were thin and dried out by the east wind.
The thin ears swallowed up the full, healthy ears. Then Pharaoh woke up - another dream.
When morning came, he was upset. He sent for all the magicians and sages of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but they couldn't interpret them to him.
The head cupbearer then spoke up and said to Pharaoh, "I just now remembered something - I'm sorry, I should have told you this long ago.
Once when Pharaoh got angry with his servants, he locked me and the head baker in the house of the captain of the guard.
We both had dreams on the same night, each dream with its own meaning.
It so happened that there was a young Hebrew slave there with us; he belonged to the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams and he interpreted them for us, each dream separately.
Things turned out just as he interpreted. I was returned to my position and the head baker was impaled."
Pharaoh at once sent for Joseph. They brought him on the run from the jail cell. He cut his hair, put on clean clothes, and came to Pharaoh.
"I dreamed a dream," Pharaoh told Joseph. "Nobody can interpret it. But I've heard that just by hearing a dream you can interpret it."
Joseph answered, "Not I, but God. God will set Pharaoh's mind at ease."
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile.
Seven cows, shimmering with health, came up out of the river and grazed on the marsh grass.
On their heels seven more cows, all skin and bones, came up. I've never seen uglier cows anywhere in Egypt.
Then the seven skinny, ugly cows ate up the first seven healthy cows.
But you couldn't tell by looking - after eating them up they were just as skinny and ugly as before. Then I woke up.
"In my second dream I saw seven ears of grain, full-bodied and lush, growing out of a single stalk,
and right behind them, seven other ears, shriveled, thin, and dried out by the east wind.
And the thin ears swallowed up the full ears. I've told all this to the magicians but they can't figure it out."
Joseph said to Pharaoh, "Pharaoh's two dreams both mean the same thing. God is telling Pharaoh what he is going to do.
The seven healthy cows are seven years and the seven healthy ears of grain are seven years - they're the same dream.
The seven sick and ugly cows that followed them up are seven years and the seven scrawny ears of grain dried out by the east wind are the same - seven years of famine.
"The meaning is what I said earlier: God is letting Pharaoh in on what he is going to do.
Seven years of plenty are on their way throughout Egypt.
But on their heels will come seven years of famine, leaving no trace of the Egyptian plenty. As the country is emptied by famine,
there won't be even a scrap left of the previous plenty - the famine will be total.
The fact that Pharaoh dreamed the same dream twice emphasizes God's determination to do this and do it soon.
"So: Pharaoh needs to look for a wise and experienced man and put him in charge of the country.
Then Pharaoh needs to appoint managers throughout the country of Egypt to organize it during the years of plenty.
Their job will be to collect all the food produced in the good years ahead and stockpile the grain under Pharaoh's authority, storing it in the towns for food.
This grain will be held back to be used later during the seven years of famine that are coming on Egypt. This way the country won't be devastated by the famine."
This seemed like a good idea to Pharaoh and his officials.
Then Pharaoh said to his officials, "Isn't this the man we need? Are we going to find anyone else who has God's spirit in him like this?"
So Pharaoh said to Joseph, "You're the man for us. God has given you the inside story - no one is as qualified as you in experience and wisdom.
From now on, you're in charge of my affairs; all my people will report to you. Only as king will I be over you."
So Pharaoh commissioned Joseph: "I'm putting you in charge of the entire country of Egypt."
Then Pharaoh removed his signet ring from his finger and slipped it on Joseph's hand. He outfitted him in robes of the best linen and put a gold chain around his neck.
He put the second-in-command chariot at his disposal, and as he rode people shouted "Bravo!" Joseph was in charge of the entire country of Egypt.
Pharaoh told Joseph, "I am Pharaoh, but no one in Egypt will make a single move without your stamp of approval."
Then Pharaoh gave Joseph an Egyptian name, Zaphenath-Paneah (God Speaks and He Lives). He also gave him an Egyptian wife, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of On (Heliopolis). And Joseph took up his duties over the land of Egypt.
Joseph was thirty years old when he went to work for Pharaoh the king of Egypt. As soon as Joseph left Pharaoh's presence, he began his work in Egypt.
During the next seven years of plenty the land produced bumper crops.
Joseph gathered up the food of the seven good years in Egypt and stored the food in cities. In each city he stockpiled surplus from the surrounding fields.
Joseph collected so much grain - it was like the sand of the ocean! - that he finally quit keeping track.
Joseph had two sons born to him before the years of famine came. Asenath, daughter of Potiphera the priest of On, was their mother.
Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh (Forget), saying, "God made me forget all my hardships and my parental home."
He named his second son Ephraim (Double Prosperity), saying, "God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow."
Then Egypt's seven good years came to an end
and the seven years of famine arrived, just as Joseph had said. All countries experienced famine; Egypt was the only country that had bread.
When the famine spread throughout Egypt, the people called out in distress to Pharaoh, calling for bread. He told the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph. Do what he tells you."
As the famine got worse all over the country, Joseph opened the storehouses and sold emergency supplies to the Egyptians. The famine was very bad.
Soon the whole world was coming to buy supplies from Joseph. The famine was bad all over.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)