“Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, ‘Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. 27The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, as are the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind. They are seven years of famine. 28It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. 30After them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; the famine will consume the land. 31The plenty will no longer be known in the land because of the famine that will follow, for it will be very grievous. 32And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about.”
If some animals signified destruction and sorrow, then some animals were then symbols of success, blessing, and favor. One such animal were cows or cattle. For a family or tribe or nation to have herds of cattle, they were prosperous, indeed. At various points in the Old Testament, the people of God’s blessings could be counted in their number of cattle and their downfall was that loss. To own cattle is, even then, an expensive endeavor.
And as Joseph’s story reveals as he rises from a prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, a nation’s success can also be measured by the well-being of its cattle. The years of prosperity and abundance equated to sleek and fatten cows, Joseph explains. And the years of famine, leanness and sickness represented by the seven ugly cows. His blessings from God to be wise in interpreting the dreams also had him in the right place to then rise even further to be the Pharaoh’s emissary to prepare and save for those famine years that struck all the land. Putting Joseph in a place of such power but also a place to truly offer grace, as Genesis closes in the reuniting of his family, “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good.”
Gracious Lord, as we learn more of those animals that bring blessings to your people, maybe we bring blessings to others. As Christ continues to extend blessing and grace to us as more than the things we own. In his precious name we pray, Amen.