[b-hebrew] Joseph's Dream

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Dec 13 17:27:31 EST 2007


Kenneth Greifer:
 
1.  You wrote:  “You think that Joseph's mother had to be alive because he 
dreamed that she would bow down to him in Genesis 37:9-10.  Since she did not 
actually live to see him become ruler of Egypt, the dream would have been a 
false prophecy if she was alive or dead when he had the dream, because she never 
actually bowed down to him as a ruler to fulfill the prophecy.”
 
No.
 
(a)  Jacob is not presented in the text as having the power to divine the 
meaning of dreams.  Therefore we should not assume that Jacob’s immediate 
reaction to Joseph’s dream at Genesis 37: 9-10 is the definitive interpretation of 
that dream.
 
(b)  In fact, Joseph’s dream at Genesis 37: 9-10 does come true.  It’s just 
that at the time that Joseph dreamed that dream, no one (including young 
Joseph at that point) knew exactly what the dream meant.  Here is the dream:
 
“And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it to his brethren, and said:  
'Behold, I have dreamed yet a dream:  and, behold, the sun and the moon and 
eleven stars bowed down to me.'”  Genesis 37: 9
 
(c)  Here is Jacob’s good faith and logical, but erroneous, interpretation of 
that dream:
 
“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 to thee to the earth?'” 
 Genesis 37: 10
 
Here is why Jacob’s interpretation of that dream is very logical, though erron
eous.  Rachel was still living at the time, and she was obviously showing her 
pregnancy.  Both Jacob and Joseph, and presumably everyone else, thought that 
the baby would be a boy (and that later turned out to be correct).  Jacob 
naturally thought that the sun in Joseph’s dream was Jacob himself, being Joseph’
s father;  the moon was Joseph’s birth mother (Jacob’s favorite wife), 
Rachel (who was still living, so she could still potentially bow down to Joseph);  
and the 11 stars were Joseph’s 11 brothers, including Joseph’s 10 older 
half-brothers, and Joseph’s one full-brother, Benjamin, who would be born in a few 
months from now.
 
With a pregnant Rachel still being very much alive at that point, Jacob’s 
interpretation of Joseph’s dream is entirely logical.  Note that Leah has just 
died, so Leah is not in the dream as a person who will in the future be bowing 
down to Joseph.
 
But though Jacob’s interpretation of the dream is logical, it is erroneous.  
Jacob himself never bows down to Joseph.  In chapter 48 of Genesis, Jacob 
famously refuses to allow Joseph to favor Joseph’s firstborn son, and instead 
insists, over powerful Joseph’s helpless objections, that Joseph’s younger son 
shall have the greater inheritance.  Even more obviously, Rachel never bows down 
to her son Joseph, because Rachel dies in childbirth (giving birth to 
Benjamin) a few months after this dream, when young Joseph is only age 10 regular 
years.
 
(d)  But Joseph’s controversial dream in fact eventually does come true, in 
spades.  The sun is Pharaoh.  Pharaoh selects as Joseph’s bride the daughter of 
an Egyptian priest of “On”, with On being where the sun-god Ra was 
worshipped.  So associating Pharaoh with the sun is natural.  Pharaoh shockingly gives 
Joseph Pharaoh’s signet ring, and says that Joseph shall rule the land of 
Egypt.  Thus in effect, Pharaoh has bowed down to Joseph:
 
“And Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's 
hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about 
his neck.  …And Pharaoh said unto Joseph:  'I am Pharaoh, and without thee 
shall no man lift up his hand or his foot in all the land of Egypt.'”  Genesis 41: 
42, 44
 
The moon is the Queen of Egypt.  (The situation regarding the pharaoh’s Queen 
at the time of the composition of the Patriarchal narratives was so 
ultra-dicey that the Hebrew author wisely does not portray any specific Queen.  The 
situation was in flux at that time as to whether the pharaoh’s main wife #1, or 
one of pharaoh’s young teenage daughters, was, or would soon be, Queen of 
Egypt.)  Whoever the Queen of Egypt might be, she would certainly agree with Pharaoh
’s decision as to who was to be Egypt’s top vizier in running the country.  
So to the extent that Pharaoh bowed down to Joseph, in effect the Queen of 
Egypt effectively bowed down to Joseph as well.  
 
And as is well known, on their second trip to Egypt to buy food, all 11 of 
Joseph’s brothers, including his 10 older half-brothers and his one younger 
full-brother, literally bow down to Joseph:
 
“And when Joseph [Pharaoh’s powerful vizier, in Egypt] came home, they…bowed 
down to him to the earth.”  Genesis 43: 26
 
The “they” who bowed down to Joseph at that point were all 11 of Joseph’s 
brothers, including Benjamin.  (Simeon had been released to the other brothers 
at Genesis 43: 23, so Simeon is there, too, bowing down to Joseph like everyone 
else.)
 
(e)  Thus Joseph’s controversial dream ending up coming true.  It’s just 
that when he dreamed it, no one knew how to interpret it.  In particular, Jacob’s 
logical, good faith interpretation of the dream in chapter 37 of Genesis 
turned out to be completely erroneous as to the identity of the sun and the moon 
in Joseph’s dream.
 
2.  You wrote:  “I think that her maid was his adopted mother who fulfilled 
the prophecy. When the maids had kids for Rachel and Leah, they considered  the 
kids to be theirs (Rachel and Leah's kids.) Also, Genesis 37:2 says that 
Joseph watched the flocks with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, but that would have 
only been Gad, Asher, Dan, and Naphtali. Genesis 37 mentions Reuben and Judah 
being with the flocks too. Maybe all of them were there because their adopted 
mothers were Bilhah and Zilpah. Do you think only Joseph and the 4 maid's sons 
watched the flocks or all of them?”
 
No.
 
Joseph never thought of his birth mother Rachel’s female servant, Bilhah, as 
being Joseph’s adopted mother.  Likewise, Joseph never thought of Bilhah’s 
two blood sons, Dan and Naphtali, as being Joseph’s full-brothers.  In fact, Dan 
and Naphtali hated Joseph and participated in Simeon’s and Levi’s nefarious 
attempt to murder young Joseph.
 
We know this, because Joseph favors his one and only blood full-brother, 
Benjamin, over all his other half-brothers when they come to Egypt, and Joseph 
never does anything special for Dan or Naphtali.
 
“And portions were taken unto them from before him;  but Benjamin's portion 
was five times so much as any of theirs.  …To all of them he gave each man 
changes of raiment;  but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver, and 
five changes of raiment.”  Genesis 43: 34;  45: 22
 
 In the incident reported at Genesis 37: 2-4, only Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher 
and Joseph happened to be tending the flock at that particular time.  Note 
that all of Joseph’s half-brothers, including Dan and Naphtali, hate Joseph 
because of Jacob’s favoritism of Joseph.  Genesis 37: 4  About a year later, when 
Joseph is almost murdered, all of Jacob’s other sons, including Reuben, Simeon, 
Levi and Judah, are tending the flock.
 
3.  You wrote:  “There is also the possibility that the sun or moon in 
Joseph's dream stood for Dinah, and that Jacob was wrong to think it was Joseph's 
mother, but I doubt this.”
 
No.  Dinah never bowed down to Joseph.  See #1 above for the correct 
interpretation of Joseph’s dream.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois




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