It would take years before Pharaoh could know if any of Joseph's fat-thin cow dream interpretation was accurate. Why then did Pharaoh make Joseph 2nd in command in the country immediately? Were things going so badly in Egypt then that the Pharaoh needed a new 2nd in command?

  • along with items mentioned in the above link, the Torah states ואין פותר אותם לפרעה which one commentary (Rash"i?) explains that everyone had an interpretation. But no one addressed the interpretation in a way that affected Pharoah, directly, except Yosef. That's the "simple" meaning, here. Also, perhaps, the fact that Yosef offered a solution to the problem was the main impetus that Pharoah chose him. Not uncommon, really. (Frequently at work, the person who offers the solution to the problem is the one assigned to be the leader to implement that solution, even if he isn't the manager.)
    – DanF
    Dec 13, 2016 at 13:50
  • Re-reading your question, I'm a bit confused. Assuming that Pharoa accepted Joseph's dream. Joseph's advice was that G-d was speedily bringing on the famine. He advised to immediately save food from the 7 years of surplus so that here would be enough around fro the famine. Why, then, shouldn't he have listened to Joseph's advice so that there would be enough food around? I'm missing the main focus of your question. Are you suggesting that he wait until near the end of the surplus to save up?
    – DanF
    Dec 13, 2016 at 13:54
  • The answer of @msh210 in the link above is apparently the answer for this question too.
    – kouty
    Dec 13, 2016 at 17:30
  • @DanF It would make sense for a Pharaoh, or anyone, to want some concrete indication that a dream interpretation is correct before taking drastic action based on it. Putting a prisoner in charge of the country based on a dream interpretation is drastic, as I see it. By this logic, it would make sense for Pharaoh to wait until the first harvest to sse if was larger than usual.
    – Yehuda W
    Dec 14, 2016 at 21:21

2 Answers 2


I heard the following explanation from R' Rivlin, Mashgiach of Kerem B'Yavneh (although I'm sure it's found in earlier sources somewhere):

Pharaoh had a dream in which there was a startling heretical image - he was standing on the chief god of Egypt, the Nile (Bereishis 41:1)! When he related this dream to others, he wanted to hide this point, and so he related as him standing on the bank of the Nile, not on the Nile itself (Bereishis 41:17). However, Yosef informed Pharaoh that he had actually been standing on the Nile itself in his dream, not next to it. This is hinted to in Tehillim 81:6, in which the verse (homiletically) reports that Yosef was "unable" to hear the word "sefas/bank" in his becoming leader of Egypt. Therefore, Yosef showed that he had "inside information" and his interpretation was accepted.

A similar idea (without the clever reference to Tehillim 81) can be found in Medrash Tanchuma 3, in which the Medrash contrasts all of the discrepancies between what Pharaoh actually dreamed with what he told Yosef. Yosef told Pharaoh that G-d would provide the answer (Bereishis 40:16), at which point Pharaoh changed things in order to test him. The Medrash relates that Yosef called him out on each one (the Medrash actually leaves out the aforementioned, about the bank of the Nile). Realizing that Yosef was getting his info from G-d, he accepted his interpretation and appointed him as viceroy.

  • I like your explanation but it raises another question: If this Pharaoh "realized he was getting his info from G-d" doesn't that mean that he believed in the same G-d? And would that make him a meritorious person? How was it that on his death, the new Pharaoh was so obstinate and bad? Dec 22, 2016 at 1:48
  • @MarkFischler The Egyptian's were polytheistic, so to Pharaoh, he wasn't getting info from G-d, but "a god". The Egyptians had literal thousands. Notably, being a foreigner, the most logical choice of patron would have been the chaotic storm god Set, who was if not "evil", certainly opposed to the Phaoroh's patron deity Horus. All Pharaoh knew was this man had the seeming abililty to interpret his dreams correctly.
    – sharur
    Apr 3, 2023 at 19:58

"Let My Nation Descend" says that Paroh also dreamt and forgot the interpretation, and he was hoping that someone could jog his memory. He knew Yosef's was correct because he recognized it.

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