I think you will begin to suspect that I am writing you imaginative tales, but I assure you that these letters are the true stories of my life!
God’s mercy has been shown to me in very mysterious and entirely unforeseeable ways.
When I wrote to you last, I wrote to you from the prison. I am not in prison anymore, by an amazing turn of events.
This is how it happened.
As I mentioned, I was put in charge of all of the other prisoners. Two of my prisoners had worked for the Pharaoh himself. One was a baker and one was a butler.
One morning, when I was greeting each of the prisoners, I noticed that these two were upset. Their problems were the same: both had had dreams, and they could not understand them.
I said to them, “Why are you upset?” and each of them said, “I have had a most unusual dream, but I have nobody to interpret the dream.”
I responded, “Do interpretations not belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”
So they told me their dreams. I will not repeat all of it here, for I have so much else I wish to say, but as they described the details, I immediately understood the meanings. I knew that the butler would be restored to his position, but that the baker would be executed. When I had interpreted both of their dreams, I made my request of the butler. (I did not request this of the baker, for I knew that his days were ending.) I said to the butler: “Remember me, when it is well with you, and do me the kindness, I pray you, to make mention of me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this place. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews; and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into prison.”
Later I received word that everything had happened as I had said. The baker was hung, and the butler was restored to his position. However, I languished in prison for a further two years. It became clear to me that the butler had not mentioned me to the Pharaoh, or else that the Pharaoh was not interested in my case.
But lo and behold, one day, soon after my 30th birthday, several of the Pharaoh’s officials came down to the prison and asked me to prepare to meet the Pharaoh. I washed and I changed my clothing. (They provided me with better garments.) They told me that the Pharaoh had found no one who could interpret his dreams, even though he had summoned all of the wise men and magicians of Egypt to assist him, but that the butler had then remembered me, and had said that two years prior, I had correctly interpreted his dream and the dream of the baker.
I came before the Pharaoh and he said to me: “I was standing by the Nile, and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows sleek and fat, and they fed in the reed grass. And behold, seven other cows, gaunt and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the gaunt and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. And then I awoke. When I fell asleep, I dreamed a second time. Behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears.”
I tell you the details of his dreams to show you how mysterious they were, and how disturbing. Indeed, his spirit was greatly troubled, for he sensed an omen.
But I knew that the Lord, in his goodness, was providing a warning to him which would enable him to protect his people. I understood the dreams, and I spoke immediately. I said, “The dream of Pharaoh is 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 dream is one. The seven lean and gaunt 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. 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 that famine which will follow, for it will be very grievous. And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.”
However, I said more than this. I advised the Pharaoh, for I said: “Now therefore let Pharaoh select a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land, and take the fifth part of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and lay 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 which are to befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”
I was pleased to provide the Pharaoh with my assistance. My heart was gladdened that the Lord was using me as his servant to assist him. The Pharaoh is not an evil man. His desire to preserve his people was pleasing to the Lord.
After I spoke, the Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a man as this, in whom is the Spirit of God?”
Then he pointed at me, and said, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discreet and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” He said to me, “Behold, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”
And at this moment, he stood up, and removed the signet ring from his finger to put it on my own.
I was almost speechless in the moment. Was it not this morning that I awoke in a prison? And now I was given charge of the entire land of Egypt! You cannot imagine all of the sensations I felt at that time.
Since that day, I have executed my duties, and each day is rewarding with good work. The Pharaoh is almost like a brother to me. He calls me Zaphenathpaneah, and I ride in his second chariot when we are procession. I wear garments of fine linen and a gold chain upon my neck, a gift from him. He delights in giving me both power and privileges. He says, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent, no man shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” He gave me a wife as well. Her name is Asenath. She is the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. She accompanies me as I travel throughout Egypt, directing the storage of provisions.
Forgive the length of this letter. I take comfort, somehow, in writing to you, as if you are a tie to my former land and kin. I have not forgotten your kindness, and I keep you in my prayers. May the Lord keep you safe.
Joseph son of Jacob
P.S.: I know that you will receive this letter in good time, for I have access to messengers who are both speedy and reliable, one of the benefits of my position.
P.P.S.: If the famine extends beyond the borders of Egypt, you may do well to set aside provisions now, enough to provide for many years.