Two years later, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing on the bank of the Nile River.
In his dream, seven fat, healthy-looking cows suddenly came up out of the river and began grazing along its bank.
Then seven other cows came up from the river, but these were very ugly and gaunt. These cows went over and stood beside the fat cows.
Then the thin, ugly cows ate the fat ones! At this point in the dream, 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 a dream.
The next morning, as he thought about it, Pharaoh became very concerned as to what the dreams might mean. So he called for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt and told them about his dreams, but not one of them could suggest what they meant.
Then the king's cup-bearer spoke up. "Today I have been reminded of my failure," he said.
"Some time ago, you were angry with the chief baker and me, and you imprisoned us in the palace of the captain of the guard.
One night the chief baker and I each had a dream, and each dream had a meaning.
We told the dreams to a young Hebrew man who was a servant of the captain of the guard. He told us what each of our dreams meant,
and everything happened just as he said it would. I was restored to my position as cup-bearer, and the chief baker was executed and impaled on a pole."
Pharaoh sent for Joseph at once, and he was brought hastily from the dungeon. After a quick shave and change of clothes, he went in and stood in Pharaoh's presence.
"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."
"It is beyond my power to do this," Joseph replied. "But God will tell you what it means and will set you at ease."
So Pharaoh told him the dream. "I was standing on the bank of the Nile River," he said.
"Suddenly, seven fat, healthy-looking cows came up out of the river and began grazing along its bank.
But then seven other cows came up from the river. They were very thin and gaunt -- in fact, I've never seen such ugly animals in all the land of Egypt.
These thin, ugly cows ate up the seven fat ones that had come out of the river first,
but afterward they were still as ugly and gaunt as before! Then I woke up."
"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.
Then out of the same stalk came seven withered heads, shriveled by the east wind.
And the withered heads swallowed up the plump ones! I told these dreams to my magicians, but not one of them could tell me what they mean."
"Both dreams mean the same thing," Joseph told Pharaoh. "God was telling you what he is about to do.
The seven fat cows and the seven plump heads of grain both represent seven years of prosperity.
The seven thin, ugly cows and the seven withered heads of grain represent seven years of famine.
This will happen just as I have described it, for God has shown you what he is about to do.
The next seven years will be a period of great prosperity throughout the land of Egypt.
But afterward there will be seven years of famine so great that all the prosperity will be forgotten and wiped out. Famine will destroy the land.
This famine will be so terrible that even the memory of the good years will be erased.
As for having the dream twice, it means that the matter has been decreed by God and that he will make these events happen soon."
"My suggestion is that you find the wisest man in Egypt and put him in charge of a nationwide program.
Let Pharaoh appoint officials over the land, and let them collect one-fifth of all the crops during the seven good years.
Have them gather all the food and grain of these good years into the royal storehouses, and store it away so there will be food in the cities.
That way there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come. Otherwise disaster will surely strike the land, and all the people will die."
Joseph's suggestions were well received by Pharaoh and his advisers.
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."
Turning to Joseph, Pharaoh said, "Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, you are the wisest man in the land!
I hereby appoint you to direct this project. You will manage my household and organize all my people. Only I will have a rank higher than yours."
And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I hereby put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt."
Then Pharaoh placed his own signet ring on Joseph's finger as a symbol of his authority. He dressed him in beautiful clothing and placed the royal gold chain about his neck.
Pharaoh also gave Joseph the chariot of his second-in-command, and wherever he went the command was shouted, "Kneel down!" So Joseph was put in charge of all Egypt.
And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I am the king, but no one will move a hand or a foot in the entire land of Egypt without your approval."
Pharaoh renamed him Zaphenath-paneah and gave him a wife -- a young woman named Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of Heliopolis. So Joseph took charge of the entire land of Egypt.
References for Genesis 41:45
He was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. And when Joseph left Pharaoh's presence, he made a tour of inspection throughout the land.
And sure enough, for the next seven years there were bumper crops everywhere.
During those years, Joseph took a portion of all the crops grown in Egypt and stored them for the government in nearby cities.
After seven years, the granaries were filled to overflowing. There was so much grain, like sand on the seashore, that the people could not keep track of the amount.
During this time, before the arrival of the first of the famine years, two sons were born to Joseph and his wife, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of Heliopolis.
Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, "God has made me forget all my troubles and the family of my father."
References for Genesis 41:51
Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said, "God has made me fruitful in this land of my suffering."
References for Genesis 41:52
At last the seven years of plenty came to an end.
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.
Throughout the land of Egypt the people began to starve. They pleaded with Pharaoh for food, and he told them, "Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you."
So with severe famine everywhere in the land, Joseph opened up the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians.
And people from surrounding lands also came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe throughout the world.