Our story begins many, many years ago, when Egypt was run by Pharaohs and the pyramids were only just being built. One night, when most of the world was asleep, Pharaoh stood next to the River Nile. He watched the black water lapping against the bank and listened to the frogs chirrup peacefully. Suddenly, the water began to swirl. Pharaoh watched carefully, was a crocodile about to emerge? He watched with interest as the water began to part. A nose appeared. It was a pink nose
Feeling confused, Pharaoh leaned closer. The water was bubbling and swirling and the nose began to be joined by others. Soon there were seven and they all began to emerge from the water. First there were nostrils, huffing and puffing droplets of water, then long furry faces with deep lashed eyes. Then strong necks and heavy shoulders, then backs and tails and legs. They were cows! With much splashing and mooing, the cows fought their way to the bank. When their hooves were safely on dry land, calm descended and they began to graze, nosing amongst the reeds for food. Pharaoh watched in amazement. The cows were fat, with great pink udders bursting with milk. Their damp coats shone in the moonlight, their stocky legs bearing the weight of wide flanks as they wandered along the river bank, peacefully chewing the fresh new reeds.
Then the water began to swirl once more, to bubble and boil. There were seven more small whirl pools which parted to reveal seven more noses. They were followed by snouts and eyes and bodies. Pharaoh watched as seven new cows heaved themselves onto land. But these cows were not lush and fat and brimming with health. They climbed weakly from the river, emitting only the thinnest of moo. They were skinny beasts, with shrunken udders and sharp bones protruding from their flesh.
The thin cows approached the fat cows. At first, pharaoh thought that they too were going to eat the lush grass that grew beside the river.
However, in horror, he watched as they opened their mouths, showing great pointed teeth and they bit into the flesh of the fat cows. The moonlight shone on red blood and white bone, torn flesh and devoured limbs. The night filled with screams and wails as the thin cows crunched through bone and sinew, lapping blood and chewing muscle. Pharaoh dropped, sickened to his knees. The thin cows had completely consumed the fat cows, yet they looked just as gaunt as before.
With a great heaving sigh, Pharaoh awoke. It had been a dream, disturbing and vivid. He got up from his bed, drank some wine and emptied his bladder. Then, feeling tiredness seeping back he sank back into the comfortable warmth of his bed. His mind began to wander.
This time he dreamed not of cows, but of wheat. He stood in a cornfield, feeling the golden sun warm his back and he saw that one stalk had seven ears of corn. They were plump and good. Then seven thin ears grew next to them, straggly and full of blight. The thin ears swallowed up the fat ears.
When Pharaoh awoke the second time, he was very uneasy. His dreams had been vivid and he was unable to forget them. What could they mean? He was Pharaoh, a powerful man, so he began to tell everyone he knew about the dreams, asking what they might mean. This was an age of mystic and magic, Pharaoh was sure his dreams meant something.
Several days later, one of his servants told him about a man who he had met years ago, when serving time in prison. The man was called Joseph and he was famous in the prison because he could interpret dreams. Pharaoh had Joseph hauled from prison and told him his dreams.
Joseph said that God would tell him the meaning. He told Pharaoh that both dreams had the same meaning. There would be seven good years, when the harvest would flourish and everyone would have plenty of food. This would be followed by seven bad years, when there would be a famine on the whole land. He said that God had sent the dreams, so that Pharaoh could appoint a wise man to organise the food. During the good years, they could put some of the extra food into storage, so that during the famine they had a supply of food to survive on. Pharaoh was very glad to know the meaning of his strange dreams, and being a wise leader, he appointed Joseph to be in charge of all the food.
And that is the end of the story. (Actually, it isn’t – you can read more in Genesis 41!)
(There is another true story. From 2002 to 2007, the British economy was doing well. People had more money and therefore paid more tax, so the government had more income than usual. So, were they wise like Pharaoh? Did they pay off some of their debt? Er, no. Actually, they increased the borrowing by having a deficit. They still spent more than they were earning.
Then, in 2008 there was a financial crisis. They had to borrow even more because they now were receiving less in tax plus they had to bail out some banks. Oh dear, sad story.)