This is a famous story and tells us that divine messages can be sent to us in dreams, for us to interpret. The story also tells that there are certain people who are skilled in interpreting these dreams, such as Joseph; this is an idea that is commonly found in cultures around the world and acknowledged by modern Pagans today.
I find these dreams and interpretations of interest so I will include them all here
37:5-7 "Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of corn out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered round mine and bowed down to it."
His brothers are angered by this assuming that it means he wants to rule over them. Corn is being used as a metaphor for Joseph and his brothers probably because crops were a staple of the economy and the wealthy would have a higher status. Then Joseph had another dream.
37:9 "I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me."
This aroused jealousy in his brothers and rebuke from his father as, naturally it is does sounds rather arrogant. But, arrogance or not this was a message from the Divine and this jealousy would be what manifested the dream itself (as will be discussed in the next post). Joseph is then sold by his brothers to an Egyptian slaver, who trick their father into believing that he has been killed by wild animals.
The story is interrupted by another, which I shall talk about after this one.
So Joseph is taken to Egypt as a slave as as the story goes, his married mistress tries to seduce him. In her humiliation after being rejected he is accused of attacking her and sent to prison where he meets 'the cupbearer and the baker'. These two men both had dreams for Joseph to interpret.
40:8 "'We both had dreams,' they answered, 'but there is no-one to interpret them. Then Joseph said to them, 'Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.'"
The cupbearer's dream is as follows, with interpretation:
40:9-15 "'In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh's cup and put the cup in his hand.'
'The three branches are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put the Pharaoh's cup in his hand, just as you used to when you were his cupbearer.'"
The baker's dream is as follows, with interpretation:
40:16-19 "'I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread. In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.'
'The three baskets are three days. within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat away your flesh.'"
In both of these dreams, as with Joseph's, the subject matter is relevant to the life of the dreamer, corn, cups, and bread; these are dreams sent to these people in their own language of understanding. The dreams come true as Joseph had interpreted, acting as a form of divining the future - later in the Bible said to be sinful. Joseph also interprets Pharaoh's dreams and earns his freedom in doing so.
Pharaoh's dreams and interpretations is as follows:
41:1-4 Dream 1: "He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows.
41:5-7 Dream 2: "Seven ears of corn, healthy and good were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other ears of corn sprouted - thin and scorched by the east wind. the thin ears of corn swallowed up the seven healthy, full ears."
41:25-32 Interpretation: "Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, 'The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and theseven good ears of corn are seven years; it is one and the same dream. The seven lean ugly cows that came up afterwards are seven years, and so are the seven worthless ears of corn scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine."
He goes on to explain clearly what will unfold: There will be seven years of abundance in Egypt, which will be forgotten as seven years of famine will follow. "'The reason two dreams were given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.'"
What I see here is that clearly God is sending help to the polytheist king in order to help him and his people. This is supposedly before the Hebrew's migrated to Egypt, and so He is helping these people because he loves them too. I don't believe he is helping them just so Joseph can fulfill his own dream and destiny. God can and does send his help and dreams to 'non-believers' as well. He sent Joseph to help these people.
This story tells readers of the Torah and Bible that dreams can be sent from God for us to interpret. I don't know if one exists, but a Bible dream interpretation book would certainly be very interesting to look through. This resonates with me as it is something the Abrahamic faiths and Pagan belief systems have in common.
Joseph own dream will be manifested later in the story as he continues to advise Pharaoh on how to handle this famine successfully.