Joseph—also named as one of the twelve heads of the 144,000 of Revelation—was one of the notable interpreters of dreams in the Bible. He was in his late teens when he received two dreams of his own. Then, after the tragic betrayal that enslaved him to Egyptian bondage, he interpreted two dreams of the prisoners of Pharaoh. Finally, Pharaoh received two dreams, which Joseph was called to interpret.
For the fledging family of Israel, Joseph’s dreams (which resulted in his exile) and the dreams of Pharaoh (warning of the famine) can be seen as divine messages for the salvation of the whole family, upwards of seventy persons. God provided an amazing deliverance by laying up corn in Egypt under the hand of Joseph to save not only the family of Israel, but all Egypt and people from other lands besides.
In that way, Joseph was a type for the Savior, and the dreams with which Joseph was involved in his youth and young adult years were prophetic for the end of time. They carry an even greater message for us today than for Joseph’s day! The great deliverance that God wrought for the patriarchs of Israel was an allegory for the second coming of Jesus and the deliverance of God’s people from this sin-stricken world.
As the dreams of Joseph’s generation are expounded to you in this article, know that there is a haven of light here on this earth where you can come to be refreshed and strengthened to go out again to feed those who eat from your table, to strengthen them for the journey to their Lord.
And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. (Genesis 41:54)
The antitypical “Joseph” (namely Jesus) is offering salvation for all those who are hungering for the Word of God in a world that is starving for relevant truth—something you can “eat”—amidst the masquerading propaganda of this crazy world. Will you follow His light?
The dreams recorded in the life of Joseph were short but significant. The first was as follows:
And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him. And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. (Genesis 37:4-8)
Here are several symbols: 12 sheaves, 11 of which bow down to Joseph’s. Notice that it is Joseph’s brothers who give the interpretation of the dream. Joseph’s second dream was similar, yet different:
And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying. (Genesis 37:9-11)
In this case, it is Joseph’s father who gives the interpretation. It is significant to notice how Jacob understood the dream, but to fully grasp his interpretation, one must put oneself in his shoes and see life and death from his perspective.
These dreams came after the death of Rachel, Joseph’s mother. Therefore, for Jacob to refer to Joseph’s mother in his interpretation as coming to bow down to Joseph (yet future) means that he must have had a view toward the resurrection; he saw the dream as signifying what would transpire in the life to come.
Thus, we already see the biblical evidence to say that we are dealing with things more pertinent to us, who live on the brink of eternity, than to Joseph and his generation. We also see very clearly through the worshipping of Joseph portrayed in these two dreams that Joseph clearly stands as a type for Jesus, to whom Jacob and Rachel and all the brothers (and in fact all the inhabitants of the whole universe) owe their reverence.
The spiteful treatment of Joseph by his brothers is a vivid depiction of the sufferings of Christ. They stripped him of his coat, they threw him into a pit and would have killed him, they sold him for 20 pieces of silver, and they sat down to eat food (that he brought them) without regard. He was separated from his father, falsely accused in Egypt and put in prison.
Christ was also sold by one of twelve for 30 pieces of silver, stripped of His garments, and put in ward. The rulers of His people falsely accused him and hurried his execution so they could sit down and eat the Passover—regardless of the very One to whom it pointed. He was also separated from His Father by the weight of His brothers’ sins.
Have you reconciled your life to your Savior, as Joseph’s brethren—especially Judah—made reconciliation to Joseph? We will analyze the present-day meaning of all the dreams after we have summarized the key points from the rest of them.
While Joseph was unjustly serving time in prison in Egypt, two of Pharaoh’s officers were imprisoned, and Joseph took an interest in them, being the prisoner who was in charge of the others.
And he asked Pharaoh’s officers that were with him in the ward of his lord’s house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly to day? And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you. And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, In my dream, behold, a vine was before me; And in the vine were three branches: and it was as though it budded, and her blossoms shot forth; and the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes: And Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand: and I took the grapes, and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand. And Joseph said unto him, This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days: Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler. But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews: and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon. (Genesis 40:7-15)
Here again we have a dream with striking symbolism that has much more vivid meaning to us (at least as Christians) than it could have had in Joseph’s day: a vine, branches, fruits, the cup, and the grape juice (not to mention the number three). Every Christian knows that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:5)
Notice that whereas when Joseph dreamed another interpreted it, here another dreamed and Joseph interpreted it. It is often the case that God gives the understanding of dreams to someone besides the ones to whom He gives the dreams. If you have received dreams and do not fully understand them, it might be wise to ask the advice of the one whom God has endowed with the wisdom to interpret dreams, recognizing that “interpretations belong to God,” as Joseph said.
But beware: not all dreams have a “good” interpretation, and if you are not prepared to accept the interpretation, it might be better not to ask. The baker’s dream, for example, which is the next dream in the record of Joseph’s life, was as follows:
When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph, I also was in my dream, and, behold, I had three white baskets on my head: And in the uppermost basket there was of all manner of bakemeats for Pharaoh; and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head. And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation thereof: The three baskets are three days: Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee. And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand: But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them. (Genesis 40:16-22)
To appreciate the symbols of this dream, first a clarification must be made regarding the expression translated as “white baskets” in the King James Version, which would be better translated as baskets of white bread, since the Strong’s concordance gives the following definition for the word “white” in this verse:
H2751kho-ree’From the same as H2353; white bread: - white.
The symbols we are dealing with here are the number three again, baskets of white bread, baked goods, and feasting birds. These are also important symbols—generally negative ones—some of which (particularly the birds) are found in Revelation. Baked bread, of course, symbolizes spiritual food, but white bread is particularly known to be almost devoid of nutrition. This is a type of bread that uses leavening, which represents sin (in contrast to the unleavened bread of the sanctuary that was made with oil, representing the Holy Spirit).
Therefore, this dream stands very much in contrast to its counterpart. Furthermore, although these two dreams form a pair, they were dreamt by two different people. These differences are important to note and will become more significant later.
Two years later, Joseph’s career as an interpreter of dreams was suddenly brought to its pinnacle. He was called from prison to interpret the dreams of the king of Egypt. The first dream was as follows:
And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river. And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow. And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and leanfleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river. And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke. (Genesis 41:1-4)
It is important to note further details mentioned later in the chapter:
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river: And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow: And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed, such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness: And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine: And when they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they were still ill favoured, as at the beginning. So I awoke. (Genesis 41:17-21)
The main symbols are a river, cattle, the numbers seven and seven.
Pharaoh’s second dream was similar:
And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good: And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them: And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears: and I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me. (Genesis 41:22-24)
The main symbols include seven and seven again, but this time there is one stalk (instead of the river) on which grows the corn (instead of the cows).
Those who have read our introductory article series entitled The Sacrifice of Philadelphia should be able to remember that the seven lean years of Pharaoh’s dreams were a prophecy not only for ancient Egypt, but also for the end of time—a time which we are already in. That fact is shown by the dreams themselves, and that brings us to the main topic and goal of our study: to understand what these dreams mean for our time.
Before we decipher them, however, let us tabulate the key points of all the dreams. This will provide a certain visual aid to our understanding:
The dreams were given in sets of two. The first set was given to Joseph while he was at home, the second to the butler and baker in prison, and the third to Pharaoh in the palace. Note that the middle set was divided between two different individuals, as emphasized by the dotted line.
Also note that the dream pairs always share similar numbers: Joseph’s dreams both have the number 11 (or 12 including Joseph), the prison dreams both have the number 3, and the palace dreams both have the numbers 7 + 7. These are all biblical numbers with important significances.
If we want to understand what these dreams mean for us today, let us break down the common misconception that the pairs of dreams, apparently doubles, have one and the same meaning. That idea originates in the statement that Joseph himself made in connection with Pharaoh’s dreams, which is why it is commonly held to be so.
However, it is often the case that dreams (or visions or prophecies in general) gain layers of significance over time. God knows the end from the beginning, and when He gives a dream, He often puts several layers of meaning into it, such as immediate guidance to the individual who receives it (as was the case for the dreams of Pharaoh), as well as a deeper meaning that can only be fully understood “when the fullness of the time has come,” so to speak.
Thus, while acknowledging the divine inspiration of Joseph’s dream interpretations in the Bible, we should not feel as if his interpretation is the final word on the matter. The word of God is alive, and we want to understand what the Living God is saying to us today through these dreams. And to do that, we have to consider them very carefully, and not take for granted that things are the same when they are not.
In the first two dreams, for example, there is an obvious difference. The first dream speaks about Joseph and his brothers, but not Jacob and Rachel. As we already noted, Jacob—who was surely wiser about spiritual things in his generation than the average person who has been degraded by nearly four more millennia of sin—understood that the sun and moon giving obeisance to Joseph must refer to the life to come, after Rachel’s resurrection. But he didn’t believe that he would bow down to Joseph, even in heaven:
And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying. (Genesis 37:10–11)
In his belief system, there was to be a Messiah to come, who would raise the dead and establish the eternal city, “made without hands,” and this is what the stars pointed to. It was the Messiah—not Joseph—to whom Jacob would bow. He did not understand that the dream represented Joseph as a type for the Messiah; he only saw it in terms of the literal persons.
In retrospect, it is perfectly clear according to the biblical record that Joseph’s brothers did indeed literally bow down to Joseph when they came to Egypt for grain.
And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth. (Genesis 42:6)
This fulfilled the first dream, where the 11 sheaves bowed down to Joseph’s sheaf. It is also important to note that the symbolic context fits perfectly: they bowed down to him to buy grain—exactly the symbol that was depicted in the dream.
By contrast, the second dream was never literally fulfilled. The Bible does not mention anywhere that Jacob bowed down to Joseph (and Rachel could not have in any case). Furthermore, the context given by the symbols of the dream was not present. What did Joseph’s generation have to do with the sun, moon, and stars?
Thus, one must admit that the second dream was not fulfilled historically like the first dream, and therefore it has a different meaning—a meaning which should involve the heavenly bodies in some way (like how the fulfillment of the first dream involved grain).
Notwithstanding his disbelief that he would bow to Joseph, Jacob still anticipated a future fulfillment to Joseph’s dream. He held the dream of Joseph as truth, and he recognized that the dream would fulfill in the future of Joseph’s lineage in some way, as can be seen from the blessing he gave from his deathbed:
Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:) Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren. (Genesis 49:22–26)
The “everlasting hills” refer to the constellations of the heavens. The meaning of every part of this blessing is explained in detail in The Mystery of the Holy City, but for the present purpose it is enough to emphasize that Jacob pronounced a future blessing (God “shall bless thee”) of a celestial nature. This aspect of the blessing is even clearer in Moses’ recital of it before his own death:
And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath, And for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon, And for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills, And for the precious things of the earth and fulness thereof, and for the good will of him that dwelt in the bush: let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that was separated from his brethren. His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh. (Deuteronomy 33:13–17)
Here the sun and moon are specifically referenced, as well as the constellations (ancient mountains, lasting hills) and their “chief things” (i.e. the planets).
The celestial context of Joseph’s second dream and the references to the stars in Jacob’s blessing point to the end of time (as also indicated by Moses’ blessing). This corresponds to what Daniel prophesied:
And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:3)
And this shows us that if we would like to be wise to be instruments to turn many to righteousness, then we must look up to the heavens and contemplate the biblical meaning of celestial objects and events, which were given as time markers especially for the end of time. One must unlearn to categorically shun all wisdom of the stars as heathen astrology and begin to inquire of the Maker of the stars to find the meaning He has given them.
The next part of this series will do just that, unfolding the meaning of the dreams of Joseph’s generation in the light of the stars of heaven. If you are a little bit afraid to take this journey to the stars, perhaps the voice of God to Jacob will serve to strengthen you too:
And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac. And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes. (Genesis 46:2-4)
In that you have read this first part, you have taken the first step of your journey. Have you reached Beersheba, bringing all that you have, including the souls that follow you? Now be strong and don’t be afraid, because God will go with you on this journey and bring you “back again” with much increase to (the heavenly) Canaan!
Please proceed to Part II. For those who are unfamiliar with biblical astronomy, we also recommend The Elijah Signs.
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