Double Dreams & God’s Timing
Genesis 41:25; 32: And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do…And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.
You’re probably familiar with the story of Joseph and his dreams. He was the favorite son of Jacob, who gave him a multi-colored coat which set him apart from all his brothers. The jealousy of the brothers, already aggravated because of their father’s favoritism, boiled over when Joseph shared two dreams he had. In the first, he and his brothers were binding sheaves in the field and all of their sheaves stood around and bowed to his sheaf. They hated Joseph for this, and then he had another with the same meaning: the sun and moon and eleven starts bowed to Joseph. In the first, his brothers bowed to him, in the second, his parents did as well. They were two dreams that foretold the same event: Joseph’s eventual rise to power in Egypt.
But there was one glitch: Joseph’s brothers were so incensed by the dreams that they ended up selling him into slavery. In slavery, Joseph did well for himself in becoming head over all of Potiphar’s household, but he found himself persecuted once again and was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife. As he languished in prison, he used his gift of interpreting dreams to help Pharaoh’s cupbearer by giving him hope of his release. But when the cupbearer was returned to his former position in accordance with Joseph’s interpretation, he forgot about Joseph until two years later when Pharaoh had a dream that could not be interpreted by anyone else.
Pharaoh called for Joseph and explained the two dreams he had. Upon hearing them both, Joseph told Pharaoh that the significance of the “two” dreams was the same (“the dream of Pharaoh is one”) and that the doubling of the dream signified that the dream was established by God. I have only heard the principle of the “double dream” spoken of once outside of Scripture, and that was only briefly, in a book by Perry Stone called Interpreting Dreams and Visions. But once I read it, I went back to the story of Joseph, and the principle is clearly displayed through the story. We learn three things about “double dreams”:
1) a doubling of a dream is still one dream but with two manifestations
2) the doubling of a dream means that the thing signified is “established by God”
3) God will bring the thing to pass “shortly”.
Something very interesting about what Joseph told Pharaoh is that Joseph himself had had a “double dream” it appears, but since that double dream, there had been no indication whatsoever that the thing it signified was coming to pass, and certainly not “shortly.” (I say “it appears” because the text doesn’t call Joseph’s dreams a ‘double dream” but it seems that the same principle was in effect). By the time Joseph stood before Pharaoh, he had been in slavery and prison for several years, having experienced family betrayal, false accusations, and selfish neglect. Joseph’s story is often told as if he were a braggart before his brothers and perhaps egged them on. But I don’t see much in the story indicating that Joseph was in any way unrighteous. It was Jacob’s favoritism that sparked the jealousy in Joseph’s brothers, and his brothers had to have been quite vindictive to sell their brother into slavery–a severe price for being annoying! Further, Joseph was a faithful servant to Potiphar when he was falsely accused, and had only helped the cupbearer in prison when the cupbearer turned around and forgot about him. There’s nothing to show that Joseph deserved or contributed to his situation. He was a victim multiple times over, and yet his faith in God remained.
If I were going to ask the Lord to reveal anything extra about that story, I would ask to know whether Joseph ever stopped believing that his first dreams were from God. Based on what he told Pharaoh, it seems like he didn’t. Pharaoh had the same type of “double dream” that Joseph had, and with clear confidence Joseph told him that the dream was from God and that it would come to pass soon. But one has to ask, “How could the double dream indicate that God would bring it to pass shortly, when Joseph had been languishing for years?” I believe the answer is that everything Joseph experienced after sharing his dream was a necessary step to its ultimate fulfillment. Soon after Joseph’s dream, he was sold into slavery to Egypt. In order to eventually rise to power in Egypt, he had to first get there. Then, after doing well in Potiphar’s house, he was thrown in prison, where he met the cupbearer. In order to eventually, serve right under Pharaoh, Joseph had to get to Pharaoh and it was the cupbearer who introduced him. Joseph also had to be there at the right time–right when they needed to prepare for the hard times that were coming. While I’m sure Joseph would have liked if God had put him in the right place at the right time some other way, it’s unquestionable that God was positioning Joseph for the fulfillment of that dream.
A question that comes to mind is why God would give a word and then send His people through times of trials before fulfilling that word. I believe the answer is found in Deuteronomy 8:2:
“And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”
God led the Israelites through the wilderness in order to test their hearts before Him. He planned to give them the Promised Land, but first He sought to prove their faithfulness. Would they continue to believe His word? Would they obey Him even though times were difficult? Would they be satisfied with His provision? For many, indeed, for all of the first generation, none were allowed to enter into into the Promised Land. This shows us that only the faithful will inherit God’s promises, and God’s word will only be fulfilled in the lives of the faithful. More than anything, we must cling to His word in faith and be obedient to His commands if we want to see Him do great things in us and through us. Joseph, through years of hardship and innocent suffering, maintained steadfast confidence in God.
I think another thing to take away from this story is that Joseph’s dreams were about God’s purposes, not Joseph’s. God certainly planned to honor Joseph, but the broader purpose was beyond Joseph himself. As he says at the end, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” The good God had in mind was the deliverance of Jacob and his sons–the burgeoning people of Israel–from famine. It wasn’t just Joseph’s glory.
Sometimes we can get frustrated when we think that God is not fulfilling a promise He made to us on time. But we have to remember that the things God speaks to us are not simply about us–they are beyond us. Instead of calling God to account for not being faithful to us, we have to quiet our souls and conform ourselves to whatever timing and purpose He has. Like Joseph, if we follow God faithfully, He will honor us in the process; but we can’t look to God for self-promotion. It will often be the case that when the Lord does truly reveal a future blessing to us, that we will have to wait what appears to be a long time. Abraham waited many years for the fulfilling of God’s promise, and David was on the run in the wilderness for seven years after God anointed Him king. But this has to do with the Lord’s timing and working things together according to His ultimate plan. We have to take the blessing with His timing.