"Accursed are the wicked that never do a wholly good deed." The chief butler described Joseph contemptuously as a "slave" in order that it might be impossible for him to occupy a distinguished place at court, for it was a law upon the statute books of Egypt that a slave could never sit upon the throne as king, nor even put his foot in the stirrup of a horse.
Pharaoh revoked the edict of death that he had issued against the wise men of Egypt, and he sent and called Joseph. He impressed care upon his messengers, they were not to excite and confuse Joseph, and render him unfit to interpret the king's dream correctly. They brought him hastily out of the dungeon, but first Joseph, out of respect for the king, shaved himself, and put on fresh raiment, which an angel brought him from Paradise, and then he came in unto Pharaoh.
The king was sitting upon the royal throne, arrayed in princely garments, clad with a golden ephod upon his breast, and the fine gold of the ephod sparkled, and the carbuncle, the ruby, and the emerald flamed like a torch, and all the precious stones set upon the king's head flashed like a blazing fire, and Joseph was greatly amazed at the appearance of the king. The throne upon which he sat was covered with gold and silver and with onyx stones, and it had seventy steps. If a prince or other distinguished person came to have an audience with the king, it was the custom for him to advance and mount to the thirty-first step of the throne, and the king would descend thirty-six steps and speak to him. But if one of the people came to have speech with the king, he ascended only to the third step, and the king would come down four steps from his seat, and address him thence. It was also the custom that one who knew all the seventy languages ascended the seventy steps of the throne to the top, but if a man knew only some of the seventy languages, he was permitted to ascend as many steps as he knew languages, whether they were many or, few. And another custom of the Egyptians was that none could reign over them unless he was master of all the seventy languages.
When Joseph came before the king, he bowed down to the ground, and he ascended to the third step, while the king sat upon the fourth from the top, and spake with Joseph, saying: "O young man, my servant beareth witness concerning thee, that thou art the best and most discerning person I can consult with. I pray thee, vouchsafe unto me the same favors which thou didst bestow on this servant of mine, and tell me what events they are which the visions of my dreams foreshow. I desire thee to suppress naught out of fear, nor shalt thou flatter me with lying words, or with words that please me. Tell me the truth, though it be sad and alarming."
Joseph asked the king first whence he knew that the
given by the wise men of his country was not true, and Pharaoh replied, "I saw the dream and its interpretation together, and therefore they cannot make a fool of me." In his modesty Joseph denied that he was an adept at interpreting dreams. He said, "It is not in me; it is in the hand of God, and if it be the wish of God, He will permit me to announce tidings of peace to Pharaoh." And for such modesty he was rewarded by sovereignty over Egypt, for the Lord doth honor them that honor Him. Thus was also Daniel rewarded for his speech to Nebuchadnezzar:
"There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, but as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but to the intent that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that thou mayest know the thoughts of thy heart."
Then Pharaoh began to tell his dream, only he omitted some points and narrated others inaccurately in order that he might test the vaunted powers of Joseph. But the youth corrected him, and pieced the dreams together exactly as they had visited Pharaoh in the night, and the king was greatly amazed. Joseph was able to accomplish this feat, because he had dreamed the same dream as Pharaoh, at the same time as he. Thereupon Pharaoh retold his dreams, with all details and circumstances, and precisely as he had seen them in his sleep, except that he left out the word Nile in the description of the seven lean kine, because this river was worshipped by the Egyptians, and he hesitated to say that aught that is evil had come from his god.
Now Joseph proceeded to give the king the true interpretation of the two dreams. They were both a revelation concerning the seven good years impending and the seven years of famine to follow them. In reality, it had been the purpose of God to bring a famine of forty-two years' duration upon Egypt, but only two years of this distressful period were inflicted upon the land, for the sake of the blessing of Jacob when he came to Egypt in the second year of the famine. The other forty years fell upon the land at the time of the prophet Ezekiel.
Joseph did more than merely interpret the dreams. When the king gave voice to doubts concerning the interpretation, he told him signs and tokens. He said: "Let this be a sign to thee that my words are true, and my advice is excellent: Thy wife, who is sitting upon the birthstool at this moment, will bring forth a son, and thou wilt rejoice over him, but in the midst of thy joy the sad tidings will be told thee of the death of thine older son, who was born unto thee but two years ago, and thou must needs find consolation for the loss of the one in the birth of the other."
Scarcely had Joseph withdrawn from the presence of the king, when the report of the birth of a son was brought to Pharaoh, and soon after also the report of the death of his first-born, who had suddenly dropped to the floor and passed away. Thereupon he sent for all the grandees of his realm, and all his servants, and he spake to them, saying: "Ye have heard the words of the Hebrew, and ye have seen that the signs which he foretold were accomplished, and I also know that he hath interpreted the dream truly. Advise me now how the land may be saved from the ravages of the famine. Look hither and thither whether you can find a man of wisdom and understanding, whom I may set over the land, for I am convinced that the land can be saved only if we heed the counsel of the Hebrew." The grandees and the princes admitted that safety could be secured only by adhering to the advice given by Joseph, and they proposed that the king, in his sagacity, choose a man whom he considered equal to the great task. Thereupon Pharaoh said: "If we traversed and searched the earth from end to end, we could find none such as Joseph, a man in whom is the spirit of God. If ye think well thereof, I will set him over the land which he hath saved by his wisdom."
The astrologers, who were his counsellors, demurred, saying, "A slave, one whom his present owner hath acquired for twenty pieces of silver, thou proposest to set over us as master?" But Pharaoh maintained that Joseph was not only a free-born man beyond the peradventure of a doubt, but also the scion of a noble family. However, the princes of Pharaoh were not silenced, they continued to give utterance to their opposition to Joseph, saying: "Dost thou not remember the immutable law of the Egyptians, that none may serve as king or as viceroy unless he speaks all the languages of men? And this Hebrew knows none but his own tongue, and how were it possible that a man should rule over us who cannot even speak the language of our land? Send and have him fetched hither, and examine him in respect to all the things a ruler should know and have, and then decide as seemeth wise in thy sight."
Pharaoh yielded, he promised to do as they wished, and he appointed the following day as the time for examining Joseph, who had returned to his prison in the meantime, for, on account of his wife, his master feared to have him stay in his house. During the night Gabriel appeared unto Joseph, and taught him all the seventy languages, and he acquired them quickly after the angel had changed his name from Joseph to Jehoseph. The next morning, when he came into the presence of Pharaoh and the nobles of the kingdom, inasmuch as he knew every one of the seventy languages, he mounted all the steps of the royal throne, until he reached the seventieth, the highest, upon which sat the king, and Pharaoh and his princes rejoiced that Joseph fulfilled all the requirements needed by one that was to rule over Egypt.
The king said to Joseph: "Thou didst give me the counsel to look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt, that he may in his wisdom save the land from the famine. As God hath showed thee all this, and as thou art master of all the languages of the world, there is none so discreet and wise as thou. Thou shalt therefore be the second in the land after Pharaoh, and according unto thy word shall all my people go in and go out; my princes and my servants shall receive their monthly appanage from thee; before thee the people shall prostrate themselves, only in the throne will I be greater than thou."