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Genesis/Joseph: Dreaming the Dream

Meditation and Reading taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible
All other text by Cynthia Stewart

For a historical introduction to this sacred text, see Leader Resource 1 - Historical Introduction -
Today's Themes

     Although some people in our modern world see dreams as significant ways that the divine communicates with humans, dreams are more often dismissed as simple housekeeping, the way the subconscious works through issues affecting it. In the ancient world, though, dreams were understood to have profound and prophetic significance, and those who could interpret them were held in high esteem.
      The life of the Biblical figure Joseph is stitched together with dreams. His dreams of his own raised station contribute to his eventual enslavement and incarceration; his ability to interpret the Pharaoh’s dreams lead directly to those original dreams of greatness coming true. The dreams in each case are prophetic, but perhaps just as importantly they are heeded. The brothers in Joseph’s dreams seek to avoid the prophecy of his greatness and unknowingly help fulfill it. Pharaoh dreams of calamity and seeks to prepare for it with the help of Joseph.
      Whether from the gods or from our own psyches, do we see our dreams as significant? Do we hear the prophetic truths they seek to send us?

Words used in this session:
Pharaoh – title of ancient Egyptian kings

Call To Worship

Being human means that we dream. Six of our years on this planet we will spending dreaming, and our bodies break down when dreams do not inhabit our nights.

Dreams are common as snowflakes in winter, and each is just as unique. Dreams can lead us and guide us, give us insight or terrify us. Will we hear them? Will we heed them? Will we let what wells from deep within play a part in how we live our lives?

Come, let us dream together.


     Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age…But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
      Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams…
      Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem…Joseph went after his brothers…They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.”
                        Genesis 37:3-20 (NRSV)


      Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, and there came up out of the Nile seven sleek and fat cows, and they grazed in the reed grass. Then seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. The ugly and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. And Pharaoh awoke…In the morning his spirit was troubled; so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh.
      Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh…”Once Pharaoh was angry with his servants, and put me and the chief baker in custody…A young Hebrew was there with us…He interpreted our dreams to us…As he interpreted to us, so it turned out…”
      …Then Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was hurriedly brought out of the dungeon. When he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer”…
      Joseph said to Pharaoh, “…God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. After them will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt…Now therefore let Pharaoh select a man who is discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt…Let [him] gather all the food of these good years that are coming…That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to befall…
      …So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command…See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”
                        Genesis 41:1-41 (NRSV)


Our dreams may call us to greatness,
or to simplicity;
to service,
or to silence.

Whatever dreams you dream this night,
may they call you live the truth inside you
and to love the world around you.

And may our dreams of community be remembered
when it is time for us to gather again.