Academic journal article Jewish Bible Quarterly

Pharaoh's Dreams: An Extended Interpretation

Academic journal article Jewish Bible Quarterly

Pharaoh's Dreams: An Extended Interpretation

Article excerpt

Joseph is the subject of many intriguing stories in the Bible, but perhaps the most enigmatic one is his interpretation of Pharaoh's dreams. Freud (1) cites Joseph's analysis of Pharaoh's dreams as an example of symbolic dream interpretation, viz., it "regards the dream content as a whole and seeks to replace it by another content which is intelligible and in certain respects analogous." In the Bible it is stated that none of Egypt's wise men could interpret Pharaoh's dreams, but according to Genesis Rabbah (89:6) they did in fact provide an explanation, saying that the dreams referred to the conquest and revolt of seven provinces and the birth and burial of seven daughters. The Midrash records that these interpretations "did not enter his ears"--they did not ring true to Pharaoh. Why, then, did Joseph's interpretation appeal to him? Beyond its simplicity and apparent logic, Joseph interpreted the content of the dream and its symbols as a whole.

To fully appreciate Joseph's interpretation, we must ask a few questions about the details of Pharaoh's dreams. Why did Pharaoh specifically visualize cows rather than other animals in the first dream, and why were they emerging from the River Nile? Is there any relevance to the vision of the healthy corn and the scorched corn in the second dream beyond Joseph's recognition that the dreams were the same? Answering these questions will explain why Pharaoh responded so quickly to Joseph's analysis.

One has to understand the beliefs of ancient Egyptians fully comprehend the mysterious elements in Pharaoh's dream. The Egyptians worshipped over a hundred deities, but one goddess has particular significance where Pharaoh's dream is concerned. That goddess was Hathor (2), daughter of Ra, the sun god. Egyptians worshipped her for over 3,000 years. Hathor was believed to have several important functions. …

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