“Here comes that dreamer!” If you’ll recall, this is what Joseph’s brothers had said to one another early on when they saw their little brother—he was seventeen at the time[1]—coming towards them as they initially considered killing him.[2] As we noted when we covered Genesis 37, though they had used the term “dreamer” as an expression of mocking and ridicule, the word literally means “master of dreams” or “dream expert.”[3] As it turns out, Joseph’s brothers were absolutely correct for he did, indeed, turn out to be a dream expert. For as we saw last week he, by God’s enabling,[4] was able to accurately interpret the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and baker. And as we’ll see this morning God yet again enabled him to interpret two dreams had by none other than Pharaoh who was king over all of Egypt. And continue to keep in mind that in the ancient Near Eastern world where these events took place, dreams—especially those had by kings—were often understood as coming from God since kings were viewed as God’s divine and chosen representatives.[5]

Verse 1 begins by noting that “two years had passed” since Joseph—again, with God’s help—had interpreted the dreams of the chief cupbearer and baker. And, as stated in verse 46 of this chapter,[6] Joseph was now thirty years old. Therefore by this point he had been in Egypt for about thirteen years since, as already noted, he was seventeen years old[7] at the time that his brothers had first sold him off. And though Joseph had asked the chief cupbearer, whose dream had been so favorably and correctly interpreted by him, to remember him to Pharaoh once he was restored to his former position of honor, the cupbearer had never done so.[8]

At the end of verse 1 we see Pharaoh’s two dreams recounted. In the first dream, Pharaoh “was standing by the Nile,”—the Nile River being the source of Egypt’s fertility[9]—“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.” Concerning this first dream, one scholar parenthetically notes, “Cattle often submerged themselves up to their necks in the Nile to escape sun and insects.”[10] Upon having this dream, “Then Pharaoh woke up.”

Pharaoh’s second dream is recorded starting in verse 5 after he “fell asleep again.” In this dream “Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted—thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads.” Again, concerning this imagery, one commentator associates this “east wind” with “The Palestinian sirocco (in Egypt the khamsin), which blows in from the desert…in late spring and early fall, [and] often withers vegetation.”[11] And again we’re told that Pharaoh then woke up, realizing “it had been a dream.”

These dreams were disturbing to Pharaoh because he, being king, understood that God was likely seeking to communicate to him by way of them. As stated in verse 8, “In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.” Concerning these magicians and wise men, one scholar notes that not only Pharaoh but “many ancient rulers…retained sorcerers, dream interpreters, and wise men…for counsel in important matters.”[12] Another further observes that “These were probably cultic officials who interpreted omens and signs—not to be confused with modern illusionists who perform to entertain.”[13]

Now it’s at this point that the chief cupbearer whose dream Joseph had correctly interpreted two years earlier had his memory jogged. Therefore he said to Pharaoh, as recorded starting with verse 9,

Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. 10 Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. 11 Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. 12 Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. 13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.

This was all that Pharaoh needed to hear. As stated in verse 14, “So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.” Concerning Joseph shaving, one commentator notes that “Unlike most ancient Near Eastern men (including the Hebrews), Egyptians were normally clean shaven.” And concerning his change of clothes, “It would [of course] have been inappropriate for Joseph to appear before the king in prison rags.”[14]

So at last! This was the moment Joseph had been waiting for—for two years! As he finally appeared before the king, Pharoah said to Joseph, verse 15, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” And notice that in his reply in verse 16, Joseph reiterated what he had said to both the chief cupbearer and baker two years earlier: “I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” Joseph didn’t present himself as some ancient forebear to Sigmund Freud who could make sense of complex dreams. No, Joseph answered honestly. Of his own ability he couldn’t do it. But neither would he turn to magicians or wise men as Pharaoh had. No, only God himself could—and would—give Pharaoh the interpretation he sought. In answering in this manner, though he lived long before the time that Christ arrived on earth and gave of his Holy Spirit to all who believe in and receive him, Joseph nonetheless demonstrated the truth later taught by the apostle Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians: “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.[15] Though Joseph may well have been a “master of dreams,” he understood well that his ability to interpret dreams was one given by God.

In what follows we see Pharaoh relating to Joseph the two dreams that began the chapter. Since there are but few modifications between the first and second recounting—for example, changes in word order,[16] use of synonymous adjectives to describe the cows[17] and the heads of grain,[18] or editorial comments added by Pharaoh[19]—and they have little impact on the meaning of the dreams, rather than again go over Pharaoh’s relating of his dreams, I’m going to jump ahead to verse 25 where Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.” In other words, the two dreams were really one, that is, God had disclosed to Pharaoh the same message in two different ways. In these opening words, we see again how Joseph made clear that the interpretation came not from him, but God for God was the one who had revealed to Pharaoh what he was about to do. And the fact that God was “about to do” these things attached some urgency to the matter.

What God disclosed to Pharaoh follows. First Joseph explained how it was that these two dreams were providing the same message. As stated in verses 26–27. “26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. 27 The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.”

Second, Joseph went on to provide the interpretation given him by the LORD. Beginning with verse 28 we read, “28 It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, 30 but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe.” So the good news was that there would be seven years of “great abundance throughout the land of Egypt;” however the bad news was that “seven years of famine” would follow the seven years of plenty. So much so that “all the abundance in Egypt [would] be forgotten, and the famine [would] ravage the land.” And again, the “abundance in the land [would] not be remembered, because the famine that [followed] it [would] be so severe.” And perhaps it’s worth noting, as one scholar points out, that “Long famines were rare in Egypt because of the regularity of the annual overflow of the Nile, but not uncommon elsewhere.”[20] This being the case, the long period of famine to come was the exception, not the rule, at least in Egypt. Yet God in his mercy had given these dreams to Pharaoh in order that he might do something to prepare for the period of famine that lay ahead.

Last, Joseph went on to impress upon Pharaoh the gravity and urgency of the dreams. As stated in verse 32, he said to him, “The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.” Without a doubt what God had disclosed would come to pass. And now, for the second time, Joseph underscored that God would do all of this soon. This dream would come to pass not in some far distant future but at any moment. This was so because God had disclosed it in two different dreams. Two dreams. One meaning. Happening soon. As confirmed by one commentator, [in Scripture] “Repetition of a divine revelation was often used for emphasis.”[21]

Such is the power of doubling. Such is the power of repetition. The LORD had given Pharaoh the same message in two dreams because, again, as Joseph had interpreted, “the matter [had] been firmly decided by God” and “God [would] do it soon.” Now reading this statement in verse 32 of our passage took me back to a sermon I heard Doug Stuart once preach when I had flown out here to visit Ron before we had married. Doug spoke of a “repetition of endearment,” a term coined by him to express a widely noted observation that in the ancient world repeating a name indicated a deep, close relationship between the speaker and the one being addressed.[22] Doug’s observation, again which I first heard around seven years ago, has stayed with me and has helped me appreciate the significance of the many times in Scripture where this doubling occurs—perhaps most notably, as he himself pointed out, when Jesus hung on the cross and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[23]—words expressing the intimate relationship between Father and Son.

In general we know that repetition can be a helpful and powerful teacher. This is why I regularly repeat and refer to Scriptures read earlier in the service when I preach my sermons. This is why each week we repeat the Apostles’ Creed. This is why we close every pastoral prayer by repeating the Lord’s Prayer together as we turn to our Father in heaven as his children and family. This is why hymns often make ample use of repetition. For we are a forgetful people and repetition may help us better remember things.

As I was thinking about a New Testament passage to complement our Old Testament one, I remembered that there were times when Jesus would repeat, “Verily, verily I say to you”[24]—this is the King James Version I cut my teeth on when I first came to faith in Christ and which has stayed with me.[25] With my curiosity piqued, I turned to a Greek dictionary to learn more. The Greek word translated as “verily” or “truly,” you won’t be surprised to learn, is “ἀμήν” whose definitions include “amen, the truth; a formula of solemn expression of certainty.”

Now in the Book of Revelation, we’re told that our precious Christ Jesus is the Amen. That is, we’re told that he is the truth. As John stated in Revelation 3:14, “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.”[26] Christ Jesus who is the truth[27] came to declare to us the truth about who he is and why we need him. He is the Amen. He is the truth. He is the one created everything that exists. He is the one who now rules over everything that exists. Because he is God who is the Amen, the truth, we can take everything he states as being true, as being certain. And because Jesus didn’t want us to misunderstand him; because he wanted to make sure that we were able to comprehend and receive and believe and obey his message, he repeated that message. Jesus understood the power of doubling. He understood the importance of repetition. Therefore we see that:

He left us not one; not two; not three; but four Gospels, four historical accounts by four of his most faithful and conscientious and devout followers so that we might be presented with a clear picture of who he is and why we need him.;

He left us not one, not ten, not twenty, not thirty, but thirty-nine Old Testament books, all of which point to him,[28] in order that we might understand why we so desperately need the promise of him contained in these books;

He left us not one, not nine, not eighteen, but twenty-seven New Testament books in order that we might see how all of the Old Testament promises came to completion and were fulfilled in him;

And in the Gospel of John, our awesome Creator, Savior, and LORD Jesus Christ told us truly, truly, the primary things you and I need to know in order to have an intimate, personal, eternal relationship with him and the Father by the Holy Spirit he so freely gives. For as noted in the Greek dictionary, in “the Gospel of John [ἀμήν] is doubled in the sayings of Jesus for emphasis.”[29] As I searched John’s Gospel to see which teachings Jesus chose to give special importance by introducing them with this doubling—“Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι” in the Greek or “Truly, truly I say to you”—here is a sampling of what I found:

“Truly, truly I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”[30]

“Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”[31]

24 Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Truly, truly I say to you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”[32]

“Truly, truly I say to you, the one who believes has eternal life.”[33]

“Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”[34]

“Truly, truly I say to you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”[35]

“Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am!”[36]

“Truly, truly I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.”[37]

“Truly, truly I say to you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”[38]

“Truly, truly I say to you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”[39]

Again, there are more instances of this doubling by Jesus in the Gospel of John but I’ve chosen these because they present the heart of the Gospel, the Good News that Christ the Son brought to earth and died on the cross—and rose from death—and ascended to heaven to procure. If I can summarize,

First, truly, truly, Christ Jesus the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation came to deliver us from eternal death and give us eternal life. And only those who believe in him and obey his words are able to have the eternal life he offers and gives;[40]

Second, truly, truly, we need the eternal life so freely and graciously offered by Christ Jesus the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation for apart from him we are slaves to sin.[41] It is because of our sin that we need to be born again. We creatures of earth need to become creatures of heaven who are born from above. And this is only possible through Jesus Christ;[42]

Third, truly, truly we can trust in Christ Jesus the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation because he was sent by the Father in heaven and has done what the Father sent him to do.[43] He knows the Father intimately because he has eternally existed with the Father.[44] Therefore, if we accept him, we are accepting the Father with whom he is one;

Fourth, truly, truly Christ Jesus the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation is the only way we can know and be reconciled to our heavenly Father who sent him.[45]

And last, truly, truly Christ Jesus the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation is the only way we can be given his Holy Spirit who is one with him and the Father.[46] He is the only means of eternally uniting us with the triune God—and with each other.

Dear brothers and sisters, these teachings are certain. These teachings are true. Therefore, this communion Sunday as we commemorate the sacrifice of Christ Jesus the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation, let us turn to him with deep gratitude as we celebrate the wondrous love he so willingly bestows upon any and all who turn to him, confess and turn from their sin, and embrace him as their Savior and LORD.

Let us pray.

Addendum

As stated in footnote #26, following is a brief summary of the self-identifications the risen Christ Jesus disclosed in his Revelation to John. For starters, in the Book of Revelation, John introduces what God has disclosed to him by stating,

1 The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

John addresses “the seven churches in the province of Asia” and greets them by stating, “Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”[47] He then breaks out in a doxology, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.”[48]

In what follows John goes on to address God’s angel at each of the seven churches and to each he provides a disclosure from Christ. Therefore,

1)   the angel of the church in Ephesus is told to write, “These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.”[49]

2)   the angel of the church in Smyrna is told to write, “These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.”[50]

3)   the angel of the church in Pergamum is told to write, “These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.”[51]

4)   the angel of the church in Thyatira is told to write, “These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.”[52]

5)   the angel of the church in Sardis is told to write, “These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.”[53]

6)   the angel of the church in Philadelphia is told to write, “These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”[54]

7)   Last, but not least, the angel of the church in Laodicea mentioned in the sermon is told to write, “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.”[55]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Genesis 37:2b: Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

[2] Genesis 37:19–20: 19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”

[3] According the Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on Genesis 37:19. The Crossway ESV Study Bible note on Genesis 37:18–20 states it may also mean “owner of the dreams.” See sermon preached on January 31, 2021, The Importance of Sowing Godly Seed, on Genesis 37:15–36.

[4] Genesis 40:8b: Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

[5] Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Genesis 41:1.

[6] Genesis 41:46a: Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

[7] Genesis 37:2b: Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

[8] Genesis 40:14, 23: [Joseph is speaking to the chief cupbearer in verse 14] 14 But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison…. 23 The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.

[9] Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Genesis 41:1.

[10] Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on Genesis 41:2.

[11] Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on Genesis 41:6.

[12] Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Genesis 41:8. The note also references Exodus 7:11 (Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts) and Daniel 2:2. Daniel 2:1–3 states “1 In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, ‘I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.’”

[13] Crossway ESV Study Bible note on Genesis 41:8.

[14] Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Genesis 41:14. The note also references 2 Kings 25:29: 27 In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Awel-Marduk became king of Babylon, he released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. He did this on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month. 28 He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table.

[15] 2 Corinthians 3:5. Emphasis added.

[16] For example, in the first relating of the dream, the cows are said to be “sleek and fat” whereas in the second relating, the cows are “fat and sleek.”

[17] For example, in the first dream relating the seven other cows are “ugly and gaunt” whereas in the second they’re described as “scrawny and very ugly and lean.”

[18] For example, in the first relating of the second dream, the seven heads of grain are described as “healthy and good” whereas in the second relating they’re described as being “full and good.” The seven other heads of grain are said to be “thin and scorched by the east wind” in the first relating but “withered and thin and scorched by the east wind” in the second relating.

[19] For example, in the second relating Pharaoh adds, “I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt.” Another addition in the second relating is found in verse 21 when Pharaoh observed, “But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before.” Too, in the first relating it simply states that Pharaoh woke up after the dream whereas in the second relating he tells Joseph, “I told this to the magicians, but none of them could explain it to me.”

[20] Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on Genesis 41:27.

[21] Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on Genesis 41:32.

[22] I believe Dr. Stuart was preaching on the end Matthew 7 where Jesus states, “21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” In this passage, there were those saying “Lord, Lord” indicating a deep relationship with Jesus when nothing could have been further from the truth. They had used his name for their own gain. This is why he drove them away from himself and referred to them as evildoers.

[23] Matthew 27:46.

[24] King James Version.

[25] The New International Version in our pew Bibles translates this as “Very truly I tell you,” whereas the Revised Standard and English Standard Versions translate it as “Truly, truly I say to you.”

[26] See Addendum at the end of the sermon for a short summary of these self-identifications by Jesus in John’s Revelation.

[27] John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

[28] As Jesus Christ, risen from death, said to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:27: And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

[29] https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/amen.

[30] John 3:3.

[31] John 5:19.

[32] John 5:24–25.

[33] John 6:47.

[34] John 8:34.

[35] John 8:51.

[36] John 8:58.

[37] John 10:7.

[38] John 13:20.

[39] John 16:7.

[40] John 5:24–25: 24 Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Truly, truly I say to you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.; John 6:47: Truly, truly I say to you, the one who believes has eternal life.; John 8:51: Truly, truly I say to you, whoever obeys my word will never see death

[41] John 8:34: Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.

[42] John 3:3: Truly, truly I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.

[43] John 5:19: Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

[44] John 8:58: Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am!

[45] John 10:7: Truly, truly I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.; John 13:20: Truly, truly I say to you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.

[46] John 16:7: Truly, truly I say to you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you

[47] Revelation 1:4–5a. See also verse 8: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

[48] Revelation 1:5b–6.

[49] Revelation 2:1.

[50] Revelation 2:8.

[51] Revelation 2:12.

[52] Revelation 2:18.

[53] Revelation 3:1.

[54] Revelation 3:7.

[55] Revelation 3:14.