1998Joseph is suddenly "sprung" from jail to crack the dream-code for Pharaoh. After being washed and shaved, he is given a new tunic and is rushed to the royal court. Pharaoh says he has heard that Joseph has the ability to interpret dreams. Joseph replies that it is God who will parse Pharoah's cryptic, symbolic dream.
Joseph Gets a Dream Job
Joseph's/God's interpretation of the dream numbs Pharaoh and his court, but before they have time to recover, Joseph, now speaking for himself, offers the following unsolicited advice:
"So, now let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this: Let him appoint appointed-overseers for the land, dividing the land of Egypt into five parts during the seven years of abundance. Let them collect all kinds of foods from the good years that are coming, and let them pile up grain under Pharaoh's hand as food provisions in the cities and keep it under guard. So the provisions will be an appointed-reserve for the land for the seven years of famine that will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not be cut off by the famine."
Your Genesis Navigator
1. What is the difference between being discerning (Navon) and wise (Chacham)? Look them up in a dictionary.
2. Would you consider Yosef's pitch to Pharaoh discerning or wise?
Values Of Our Fathers, Pirke Avot 4:1
Ben Zoma said: Who is considered wise? One who learns from everyone. As it is said: From all who taught me have I gained understanding, when your testimonies were my meditation. (Psalms 119:99)
Who is considered mighty? One who subdues his primal urges. As it is said: One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and one who rules his spirit than one who conquers a city. (Proverbs 16:32)
Who is considered rich? One who is happy with what he has. As it is said: when you eat of the labor of your hands, happy will you be, and it will be well with you. (Psalms 128:2)...
Babylonian Talmud, Tamid 32a
Alexander the Macedonian said to the sages: Who is called wise? They replied: Who is wise? He who discerns what is about to come to pass. He said to them: Who is considered mighty? They replied: Who is mighty? One who subdues his primal urges. He said to them: Who is considered rich? They replied: Who is rich? One who is happy with what he has.
1. Look at these two texts. Note where they differ.
2. Why does Pirke Avot give one definition of a wise person while the quotation from the Talmud gives another?
3. Which quotation is most analogous to Yosef?
Joseph goes from being the mouthpiece for the Holy One to a sly self-promoting prisoner looking for employment on the outside. His plan works. After Pharaoh sees that his court approves, he says:
"Since a god has made you know all this, there is none as discerning and wise as you." (Genesis 41:39)
Pharaoh mistakenly gives Joseph's "god" the credit for the strategy that Joseph himself had quickly designed after successfully interpreting Pharaoh's dream. Joseph capitalizes on this confusion and lets Pharaoh think that Joseph's plan to save Egypt was also Divinely inspired.
The words "discerning and wise," or in Hebrew navon v'chacham, describe two aspects of the intellect. To be discerning is to be perceptive or insightful while the primary definition of being wise is to possess knowledge that can be implemented usefully. (See the O.E.D.)
Joseph, in partnership with the Holy One, has the insight to translate the dream symbols of cows and sheaves into real facts that describe years of plenty and years of famine. His wisdom, however, is to devise a plan that will save Egypt and enhance his position at the same time.
Often, those who are discerning, those who see, have difficulty implementing what they envision, while those who can implement a vision may have difficulty seeing. Those who are discerning, the navonim or theologians, often see themselves in conflict with the chachamim, the engineers. It is rare and precious to have both qualities harmoniously complementing each other in the same body.
Joseph's heart is open to God and this is the source of his insight, but Joseph the engineer knows how to immediately translate his insight into a design that will release him from prison and save Egypt at the same time. As the verse in Proverbs says: "One who is quick in his work will stand before kings, he will never stand before the benighted." (Proverbs 22:29)