The Dreams of Joseph Part One
Posted by: Brittney Zellner
“Gen 37:5 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. 6 And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed 7 For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. 8 And his brethren said to him, “shall thou indeed reign over us? …or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us?” And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. “
Though his dreams were short, there was much more to them than meets the eye. Most people assume that when the brothers interpreted the dream that they were correct in their interpretation …and since we all know how the story ends with the brothers bowing down to Joseph, it is safe to assume we are correct as well …right? But are dreams really that simple?
Dreams have many layers and it is my firm belief after learning the symbolism of this dream that when Joseph spent all that time excessively weeping after seeing his brothers, his tears had more to do with how profound the plan of Yah was in his life and the world than it did his finally correlating sheaves bowing down with people bowing down. It was at that moment that he understood all the details of the dream that had its finale in the room with his brothers bowing down and when later he says to his brothers in Gen 50:20 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
His dream was actually about the details of his life and how every single step of the way was perfectly planned out by Yah for his good and the good of the kingdom of Yah. Each person in the dream represented a gained characteristic from humble situations in which Joseph was blessed with. The names of the brothers are representative of him overcoming those situations.
Their names were originally given based on the experience the mothers who had them and how they felt at their birth. The mothers had humbling circumstances that turned into something new and precious in their lives that they were thankful for with the birth of each son.
Now I will go through his dream starting with their names and show what I mean. Keep in mind that all words have meaning and that includes names. I will then explain all the other symbols in the dream.
“…we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.“
The Name Symbolism
The “we” Yoseph spoke of are as follows:
Reuben’s name meant, “Behold a son”. He was named this because Leah was in the misery of not feeling loved by her husband before his birth and she felt astonished that she could actually be so blessed as to have the first son. Symbolically in Joseph’s life “Reuben” represented overcoming the biggest obstacle of his young life; his brothers hated him and this left him miserable no doubt. They hated him “all the more” after he told them his dream, indicating that even before he told them the dream, they already hated him. He likely felt incredibly happy that he had this dream and that even his father seemed to approve. In his view of things he had just become sincerely important and this was Yah’s way of showing him that he had seen his misery of feeling unloved by his brothers he was an important son to behold.
Simeon’s name meant favorable hearing or good news and was named so because his mother thought his birth meant that Yah had seen that she was not loved. Symbolically “Simeon” represented overcoming the next big obstacle of young Joseph’s life. His brothers sold him into slavery and yet because of possibly his good looks and favor he was sold to a very rich and powerful man. He could work hard to prove himself in this home and have an opportunity to live comfortably. Joseph could see all of this after hearing the good news of who his new master would be and what his new job was.
Levi’s name means “a joining or to attach” and was named so because his mother thought his birth would cause her husband to be more attached to her and accepted instead of just her sister. In Joseph’s life “Levi” represented him overcoming the mental obstacle of being a servant by being given favor from Yah and earning the opportunity to be in charge of his master’s home. He now had a place where he belonged and was appreciated. He had a joining or attachment of acceptance, respect and security that he had never felt before.
Judah’s name means “praise” and was named so because his mother had finally realized that she was always so focused on herself that this time she would just praise Yah for the birth of yet another son. In Joseph’s life “Judah” represented overcoming the next obstacle that he was unfairly judged and put in prison. He came to the realization that every terrible situation he was put in, the father always lifted him to a position of respect and appreciation of his abilities. He was given charge of the entire prison and therefore this time he would simply praise Yah.
Dan’s name means, “he has vindicated” and was named so because his mother Rachel, after much waiting felt finally vindicated. Rachel had waited for many, many years to have a son for her husband and though it was not with her own womb, it was legally her son to claim. In Joseph’s life “Dan” represented his overcoming the obstacle of waiting for his life in prison to end but like his mother would not feel the fullness of his this victory until even more years of waiting. From the moment the men who worked for Pharaoh had come to the prison he must’ve have known in his heart that this was his chance and his final opportunity to be released. After the dreams he had interpreted had both come true and the butler promised to tell Pharaoh about him, he must have thought to himself “God has judged me and heard my voice, I have been vindicated!”
Naphtali’s name means “to struggle or to wrestle” and was named so because his mother Rachel said that she had a great struggle with her sister and prevailed. She had finally overcome her anger and jealously in their childbirth/husband love competition because now she had enough children to really be important. It brings to mind another struggle and wrestling in the bible, that of Rachel’s own husband and a person who might have been his brother. Jacob was also not willing to give up until he had overcome his issue with fear. During the last years of Joseph’s life in prison “Naphtali” symbolized his finally overcoming the desire to find a way out of prison and his anger at being there. There is not much that is explicitly stated in the word that says this. However, many who overcome psychological circumstances find that the things they have waited for do not happen until they make it past this point. Joseph likely struggled and wrestled for a long enough time that Yah finally blessed him with contentment in his situation.
Gad’s name means “good fortune” and was named that by his mother because she was blessed with so many sons. In Joseph’s life “Gad” symbolized that he was being blessed yet again when he was sent for to tell Pharaoh the meaning of his dream. This opportunity to overcome his imprisoned circumstance was seen to him as just another of a long line of good fortunes from Yah.
Asher’s name means “blessed or happy” and was named so because his mother said “How happy I am, women will call me happy” upon receiving the news of yet another son from Zilpah. She was overcoming her all of her issues with the realization that she had a much bigger role to play, that of a guide and a teacher to many sons. In Joseph’s life “Asher” symbolized his happy and blessed status of being given charge over all Egypt and partially overcoming the overall obstacle of his purpose in life. He would now be blessed and happy to be in charge of many sons and everyone would recognize that now.
Issachar’s name means “there is reward given for loss” and was given to him by his mother Leah because she was able to buy a night with her husband in exchange for her son’s mandrakes and conceived because of it. She made another gain against loneliness. In Joseph’s life “Issachar” represented overcoming the loss of family in his life. He was given a new name and a wife, Asnath. He more than likely felt like he had been given a reward for the loss of his original family.
Zebulun’s name means “dwelling” and was given because Leah felt that after 6 children her gift would be that her husband would have to live with her instead of Rachel. For Joseph, “Zebulun” symbolized finally serving a purpose for his family. He could provide a dwelling for them during the years of famine; he could save their lives with provision.
Joseph’s name means, “may he add” and was given this name because Rachel was finally remembered by Yah and had a son of her own and desired greatly to have even more. Joseph’s own name represented his own character in life. His purpose in life was to start at the bottom so that he could be lifted up and exalted by Yah for his purposes. Yah desired to keep adding to him with blessing and purpose all for the salvation of his family, people and even the known world.
Benoni and Benjamin
Benoni and Benjamin mean “son of sorrow” and “son of my right hand” respectively and he was named these names because Rachel had a difficult childbirth and just before she died she called him son of sorrow. Jacob instead called him Benjamin because this boy represented to him the carrying on of his love and purpose. Symbolically Benjamin represents everything the father is capable of doing. To Joseph, the name Benoni and Benjamin represented all he had learned in his life and would become. He believed that this past, present and future characteristic of himself that Yah had made him into was deserving of the most honor. Joseph could see that the boy represented the sorrow felt at the beginning of Joseph’s new life. That life, like Rachel’s, died but Yah the father chose to use him as his own second in command and right hand to bring about salvation for his family and the world.
The Other Symbols
Sheaves represent achievements through endurance of difficult situations. A field represents a psychological place of patience and hard work and personal growth. Working represents our purposes in life. The brothers working to pick up sheaves in a field symbolized that Joseph’s purpose in life was to gain achievements through endurance of difficult situations with a mind that is patient and working hard for personal growth.
Standing represents being prepared to move forward and bowing represents a humbling circumstance that lifts you up and causes you to elevate above those circumstances. When something is being surrounded, it symbolizes being the focus of everything and the reason for everything.
Essentially Joseph’s dream showed him that the point of his life was to be humbled 11 times and then lifted up so that he could gain character and appreciation for Yah’s plan for his life and be prepared to move forward. He probably realized all of this the day his brothers were present and he had to leave the room multiple times to weep uncontrollably.
Job 22:29 When people are brought low and you say, ‘Lift them up!’ then he will save the downcast.
Jas 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.