Acknowledgement: The following is a repeat from last week.
While in Phoenix last week a sharp question was asked to me: But Pharoh's magicians also interpreted
the dream using the seven motif. What was the superiority of Joseph's interpretation.
The answer is that besides using the seven motif Joseph also paid complete
attention to all the other details of the dream.
And, behold, there came up out of the river seven cows, well-favoured and fat-fleshed; and they fed in the reed-grass.
Rashi paraphrased points out how Joseph's interpretation of dreams
carries a thread of numerical symbolism. Joseph besides using the number motif
also paid total attention to the other dream details. Here are some examples:
- Butler's dream (Gn40-12): 12. And Joseph said to him, This is the interpretation of it; The three branches are three days; Joseph followed up on this number motif:
The dream content I squeezed the grapes into Pharoh's cup means that in three days I will
squeeze grapes into Pharoh's cup (and have my job back).
- Baker's drea (Gn40-18):
And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation; The three baskets are
three days; Joseph follows up on this number motif: The dream content The birds ate
from my head means that in three days birds will be pecking/eating my head (I will be hung and dead).
- Pharoh's cow dream (Gn41-02):
And, behold, there came up from the river seven cows sleek and fat; and they fed in the reed grass.
Rashi: The seven sleek fat cows are seven good years.
- Pharoh's cow dream (Gn41-03):
And, behold, seven other cows came up after them from the river, gaunt and thin; and stood by the other cows upon the brink of the river.
Rashi: The seven gaunt thin cows are sever bad years.
Joseph followed up on this number motif. The dream content the thin cows devoured the fat cows means that the 7 famine years will (emotionally) devour the 7 good years (until
they are forgotten).
Advanced Rashi: The Midrash Rabbah points out that Pharoh's magicians interpreted the dreams to mean e.g. You will marry off 7 daughters [cows=women] and then bury 7 daughters or you will conquer 7 land
The devouring of the thin cows/wheat by the fat cows/wheat symbolizes emotional devouring of the good emotions of the saiety years by the bad emotions of the famine years.
Sermonic points: There is a subtlety here we may overlook. Egypt is associated
with slavery and carefully defined social strata. But here we see the very democratic idea
of judging a person / worker by knowledge skills and abilities. Joseph had expertise in
number symbolism and got a typical 'American-type' job promotion, from prisoner to Vice President,
because of his expertise.