When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream. In his dream, he was standing by the Nile River.
Seven cows came up out of the river. They looked healthy and fat. They were eating some of the tall grass that was growing along the river.
After them, seven other cows came up out of the Nile. They looked ugly and skinny. They were standing beside the other cows on the riverbank.
The ugly, skinny cows ate up the seven cows that looked healthy and fat. Then Pharaoh woke up.
He fell asleep again and had a second dream. In that dream, seven heads of grain were growing on one stem. They were healthy and good.
After them, seven other heads of grain came up. They were thin and dried up by the east wind.
The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up. It had been a dream.
In the morning he was worried. So he sent for all of the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams. But no one could tell him what they meant.
Then the chief wine taster spoke up. He said to Pharaoh, "Now I remember that I've done something wrong.
Pharaoh was once angry with his servants. He put me and the chief baker in prison. We were in the house of the captain of the palace guard.
Each of us had a dream the same night. Each dream had its own meaning.
"A young Hebrew servant was there with us. He was a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams. And he explained them to us. He told each of us the meaning of our dreams.
Things turned out exactly as he said they would. I was given back my position. The other man had a pole stuck through his body."
So Pharaoh sent for Joseph. He was quickly brought out of the prison. Joseph shaved himself and changed his clothes. Then he came to Pharaoh.
Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I had a dream. No one can tell me what it means. But I've heard that when you hear a dream you can explain it."
"I can't do it," Joseph replied to Pharaoh. "But God will give Pharaoh the answer he wants."
Then Pharaoh told Joseph what he had dreamed. He said, "I was standing on the bank of the Nile River.
Seven cows came up out of the river. They were fat and good-looking. They were eating the tall grass that was growing along the river.
"After them, seven other cows came up. They were bony and very ugly and thin. I had never seen such ugly cows in the whole land of Egypt.
"The thin, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first.
But even after the thin cows ate up the fat ones, no one could tell that they had eaten them. They looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.
"In my dreams I also saw seven heads of grain. They were full and good. They were all growing on one stem.
"After them, seven other heads of grain came up. They were weak and thin and dried up by the east wind.
"The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told my dreams to the magicians. But none of them could explain them to me."
Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, "Both of Pharaoh's dreams have the same meaning. God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do.
The seven good cows are seven years. And the seven good heads of grain are seven years. Both dreams mean the same thing.
"The seven thin, ugly cows that came up later are seven years. So are the seven worthless heads of grain that were dried up by the east wind. They are seven years when there won't be enough food.
"It's exactly as I said to Pharaoh. God has shown Pharaoh what he's about to do.
Seven years with plenty of food are coming to the whole land of Egypt.
"But seven years when there won't be enough food will follow them. Then everyone will forget about all of the food Egypt had. Terrible hunger will destroy the land.
There won't be anything left to remind people of the years when there was plenty of food in the land. That's how bad the hunger that follows will be.
"God gave the dream to Pharaoh in two forms. That's because the matter has been firmly decided by God. And it's because God will do it soon.
"So Pharaoh should look for a wise and understanding man. He should put him in charge of the land of Egypt.
"Pharaoh should appoint officials to be in charge of the land. They should take a fifth of the harvest in Egypt during the seven years when there's plenty of food.
They should collect all of the extra food of the good years that are coming. Pharaoh should give them authority to store up the grain. They should keep it in the cities for food.
"The grain should be stored up for the country to use later. It will be needed during the seven years when there isn't enough food in Egypt. Then the country won't be destroyed just because it doesn't have enough food."
The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and all of his officials.
So Pharaoh said to them, "The spirit of God is in this man. We can't find anyone else like him, can we?"
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "God has made all of this known to you. No one is as wise and understanding as you are.
You will be in charge of my palace. All of my people must obey your orders. I will be greater than you only because I'm the one who sits on the throne."
So Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I'm putting you in charge of the whole land of Egypt."
Then Pharaoh took his ring off his finger. It was the ring he used to stamp all of the official papers. He put it on Joseph's finger. He dressed him in robes that were made out of fine linen. He put a gold chain around his neck.
He also had him ride in a chariot. Joseph was now next in command after Pharaoh. People went in front of him and shouted, "Get down on your knees!" By doing all of those things, Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of the whole land of Egypt.
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I am Pharaoh. But without your word, no one will do anything in the whole land of Egypt."
Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah. He gave him a wife. She was Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera. Potiphera was the priest of On. Joseph traveled all over the land of Egypt.
Joseph was 30 years old when he began serving Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. He left Pharaoh's palace and traveled all over Egypt.
During the seven years when there was plenty of food, the land produced more than the people needed.
Joseph collected all of the extra food produced in those seven years in Egypt. He stored it in the cities. In each city he stored up the food that was grown in the fields around it.
Joseph stored up huge amounts of grain. It was like the sand of the sea. There was so much grain it couldn't be measured. So Joseph stopped keeping records of it.
Before the years when there wasn't enough food, two sons were born to Joseph. He had them by Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera. Potiphera was the priest of On.
Joseph named his first son Manasseh. That's because he said, "God has made me forget all of my trouble and my father's whole family."
He named the second son Ephraim. That's because he said, "God has given me children in the land where I've suffered so much."
The seven years when there was plenty of food in Egypt came to an end.
Then the seven years when there wasn't enough food began. It happened exactly as Joseph had said it would. There wasn't enough food in any of the other lands. But in the whole land of Egypt there was food.
When all of the people of Egypt began to get hungry, they cried out to Pharaoh for food. He told all of the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph. Do what he tells you."
There wasn't enough food anywhere in the country. So Joseph opened the storerooms. He sold grain to the Egyptians because people were very hungry all over Egypt.
People from all of the other countries came to Egypt. They came to buy grain from Joseph. That's because people were very hungry all over the world.
Jacob found out that there was grain in Egypt. So he said to his sons, "Why do you just keep looking at each other?"
He continued, "I've heard there's grain in Egypt. Go down there. Buy some for us. Then we'll live and not die."
So ten of Joseph's brothers went down to Egypt to buy grain there.
But Jacob didn't send Joseph's brother Benjamin with them. He was afraid Benjamin might be harmed.
Israel's sons were among the people who went to buy grain. There wasn't enough food in the land of Canaan.
Joseph was the governor of the land. He was the one who sold grain to all of its people. When Joseph's brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.
As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them. But he pretended to be a stranger. He spoke to them in a mean way. "Where do you come from?" he asked. "From the land of Canaan," they replied. "We've come to buy food."
Joseph recognized his brothers, but they didn't recognize him.
Then Joseph remembered his dreams about them. So he said to them, "You are spies! You have come to see the places where our land isn't guarded very well."
"No, sir," they answered. "We've come to buy food.
All of us are the sons of one man. We're honest men. We aren't spies."
"No!" he said to them. "You have come to see the places where our land isn't guarded very well."
But they replied, "We were 12 brothers. All of us were the sons of one man. He lives in the land of Canaan. Our youngest brother is now with our father. And one brother is gone."
Joseph said to them, "I still say you are spies!
So I'm going to put you to the test. You can be sure that Pharaoh lives. And you can be just as sure that you won't leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. I promise with an oath that you won't leave here.
Send one of you back to get your brother. The rest of you will be kept in prison. "I'll put your words to the test. Then we'll find out whether you are telling the truth. You can be sure that Pharaoh lives. And you can be just as sure that if you aren't telling the truth, we'll know that you are spies!"
So Joseph kept all of them under guard for three days.
On the third day, Joseph spoke to them again. He said, "Do what I say. Then you will live, because I have respect for God.
If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison. The rest of you may go and take grain back to your hungry families.
"But you must bring your youngest brother to me. That will prove that your words are true. Then you won't die." So they did what he said.
They said to one another, "God is certainly punishing us because of our brother. We saw how troubled he was when he begged us to let him live. But we wouldn't listen. That's why all of this trouble has come to us."
Reuben replied, "Didn't I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn't listen! Now we're being held accountable for killing him."
They didn't realize that Joseph could understand what they were saying. He was using someone else to explain their words to him in the Egyptian language.
Joseph turned away from them and began to sob. Then he turned around and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken and tied up right there in front of them.
Joseph gave orders to have their bags filled with grain. He had each man's money put back into his sack. He also made sure they were given food for their journey.
Then the brothers loaded their grain on their donkeys and left.
When night came, they stopped. One of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey. He saw his money in the top of his sack.
"My money has been given back," he said to his brothers. "Here it is in my sack." They had a sinking feeling in their hearts. They began to tremble. They turned to each other and said, "What has God done to us?"
They came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. They told him everything that had happened to them. They said,
"The man who is the governor of the land spoke to us in a mean way. He treated us as if we were spying on the land.
But we said to him, 'We're honest men. We aren't spies.
We were 12 brothers. All of us were the sons of one father. But now one brother is gone. And our youngest brother is with our father in Canaan.'
"Then the man who is the governor of the land spoke to us. He said, 'Here's how I will know whether you are honest men. Leave one of your brothers here with me. Take food for your hungry families and go.
" 'But bring your youngest brother to me. Then I'll know that you are honest men and not spies. I'll give your brother back to you. And you will be free to trade in the land.' "
They began emptying their sacks. There in each man's sack was his bag of money! When they and their father saw the money bags, they were afraid.
Their father Jacob said to them, "You have taken my children away from me. Joseph is gone. Simeon is gone. Now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is going against me!"
Then Reuben spoke to his father. He said, "You can put both of my sons to death if I don't bring Benjamin back to you. Place him in my care. I'll bring him back."
But Jacob said, "My son will not go down there with you. His brother is dead. He's the only one left here with me. Suppose he's harmed on the journey you are taking. Then I would die as a sad old man. I would go down into the grave full of sorrow."