Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine. It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will consume the land, and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe. And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.” – Genesis 41:25-36 ESV
If you were going to have to interpret the dreams of the most powerful man in the world, wouldn’t you prefer that you have something positive to share? Nobody likes to hear bad news, especially someone like Pharaoh, who was probably used to having everyone around him tell him what he wanted to hear. But Joseph gave Pharaoh the truth, telling him, “God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do” (Genesis 41:28 ESV). According to God’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s two dreams, there was only one meaning. There was going to be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of drought and famine. The seven years of agricultural bounty would be completely consumed when the famine came. And as if that news was not bad enough, Joseph tells Pharaoh, “the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about” (Genesis 41:32 ESV).
This is going to be a divine act. Which brings us back to the issue of God’s timing. Why had Joseph had to stay in prison for two years? Why had God waited all that time before causing Pharaoh to have his dreams? It was all part of His divine plan and according to His perfect timing. At just the right time, Pharaoh had his dreams. At just the right time, the cupbearer remembered what Joseph had done for him in the prison. At just the right time, Joseph was brought from the prison to the palace to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. And it would prove perfect timing, not only for Joseph but for the land of Egypt. The events foretold in Pharaoh’s dreams were about to take place. And Joseph gives him some very sound counsel:
“Therefore, Pharaoh should find an intelligent and wise man and put him in charge of the entire land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh should appoint supervisors over the land and let them collect one-fifth of all the crops during the seven good years. Have them gather all the food produced in the good years that are just ahead and bring it to Pharaoh’s storehouses. Store it away, and guard it so there will be food in the cities. That way there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come to the land of Egypt. Otherwise this famine will destroy the land.” – Genesis 41:33-36 NLT
The passage doesn’t say this, but it seems clear that Joseph’s counsel to Pharaoh had been given to him by God. This was not some off-the-cuff advice that Joseph threw in for free. It was part of the interpretation. God had shown Pharaoh what He was about to do. Now He was telling Pharaoh what he should do to prepare for the inevitable. Honestly, I doubt that Joseph had any idea that the words coming out of his mouth were in reference to himself. That kind of grandstanding doesn’t fit the kind of character he has displayed throughout the story so far. Joseph wasn’t trying to audition for a job. We know that he was a hard worker, a good manager of the affairs of others, and had a track record of having God’s hand of blessing on his life. But there is no indication that Joseph was trying to get out of jail by jockeying for a role in the royal cabinet. He was simply sharing the words of God. The remarkable advice he gave Pharaoh was divinely inspired, not the result of human discernment. God was giving ample warning about the events to come and the steps to prepare for them. The famine had a divine purpose behind it. So did the seven years of plenty. But only those who heeded the Lord’s counsel and followed His prescribed steps of preparation would survive. And survival was at the heart of God’s message. This famine would be widespread and have an impact far beyond the borders of Egypt. And God was preparing the land of Egypt to be His divine resource for rescuing the descendants of Abraham and fulfilling His promises to them.
So often, the ways of God make no sense to us. His methods appear to be convoluted and confusing. We wonder why He does things the way He does. We question His reasoning and complain about His timing. Whether we intend to or not, when we doubt the ways of God, we are really questioning the wisdom of God. And He has some fairly strong words for those who raise questions about His wisdom.
“Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.” – Job 36:2-3 NLT
This statement was addressed to Job, who had been through a great deal of suffering and loss. He had some legitimate questions about all that had happened to him. He was confused by all the pain and persecution he had endured. And his confusion caused him to lash out at God, questioning His ways and raising doubts about His wisdom. So God had a few questions of His own for Job:
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much.” – Job 36:4 NLT
“Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east?” – Job 36:12 NLT
“Have you explored the springs from which the seas come? Have you explored their depths?” – Job 36:16 NLT
“Can you shout to the clouds and make it rain? Can you make lightning appear and cause it to strike as you direct?” – Job 36:34-35 NLT
God’s questions to Job are numerous and come in relentless waves. Then He adds one last question: “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?” (Job 40:2 NLT).
We may not understand God’s ways, but we have no right to question His wisdom. He is God Almighty. He is the creator of all things. He is the God of the universe. His wisdom is beyond our comprehension. His methods are too much for our minds to grasp. But we can know this. He is all-wise, all-powerful and all-loving. He knows what He is doing and what He does is always right.
He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! – Deuteronomy 32:4 NLT
The LORD is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. – Psalm 145:17 NLT