1 And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river. 2 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow. 3 And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and leanfleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river. 4 And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.
I mentioned earlier that the each of the dreams Joseph had to interpret would be more inscrutable than the last. And indeed, it is extremely difficult to tell what specifically this dream of Pharaoh could possibly be about. Really only one thing is perfectly clear in it: that it is foretelling something ominous.
Something good arises from the stream, but then something evil emerges and consumes the good. It is abundantly clear why a person would be troubled by such a vision. Some doom is being forewarned, and to not know its interpretation means that one will be left helpless against it.
But there does seem to be a pattern to how Joseph interprets these dreams. Key elements in all three of the visions have been numbers and subjects (three vines, three baskets, seven cattle), where the vision takes place (in Pharaoh’s presence, upon the head, by the river), and what is happening to the subject (given in a cup, eaten by birds, feasting and being consumed). Something symbolized by a river, something symbolized by cattle, something bad happening to them, and something to do with the number seven…. Vague and foreboding.