Here’s a vocabulary word for you: oneiromancy. It means “prophecy by dreams.”

I wonder if I’ve come across as somewhat credulous writing this blog. While I’ve been contesting the ages, noting that repeated events are probably different sources being merged, but nowhere in here have I suggested that maybe none of this happened at all. Maybe it’s all legend, based on nothing.

That’s partly because I don’t believe that. I believe it’s based on something, if only because a people making up an origin story full-cloth would probably try to make their ancestors a more virtuous bunch. Garbled, yes, exaggerated, important parts lost, silly chronology added, all what you’d expect from centuries of oral tradition. But a niggling part of me, against the skepticism of my academic training, believers that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob actually lived. You can chock that up to a religious bias, but hey, I also suspect the Mahabharata was based on a real war that happened once, so there you go.

What I don’t believe in is dream interpretation. I don’t believe that you can tell the future from dreams, that dreams contain some sort of secret set of symbols that an expert can interpret. It’s one of the many reasons why I have very little respect for psychoanalysis.

Thus, when I say I don’t believe this story happened, it’s not so much that I don’t believe God could give someone the gift to interpret dreams, bur rather that I don’t believe dreams are interpretable. Sure, you could argue that they express the various concerns and thoughts of the day that our brains process as we sleep, but the easy analogy of “three branches are three days” (v 12), where pouring a cup of wine means being restored to cupbearer, and bird eating bread means bird eating your flesh – that’s not how my experience of dreams has ever worked.

It’s true that sometimes in the Bible God grants specific, miraculous visions in dreams. But that doesn’t seem to be what’s going on. Dreams just happen to have meanings. The ability to interpret them is miraculous. And like I said, I don’t believe dreams have interpretable meanings.

I suppose you could argue that God gave each of these meaningful dreams as specific miracles to allow Joseph to escape prison (and later, to save Egypt from famine). One would think there would be easier means, but the Lord works in mysterious ways…

Oh, bah, of course that’s stretching the text! This is just one of those things people believed back then, like how mandrakes can get you pregnant and black-and-white sticks in the area turn animals spotted and striped. Unlike those things, though, there are still plenty of people who believe it now. And I don’t understand why.

My long delay in posting was due to planning a Christmas party at my work (which went well, yay!) and so maybe it’s fitting that this chapter ends on a party. I didn’t know that pharaohs had birthday parties, but I imagine they were more formal, ceremonial events about his connection to the gods etc.

It’s never explained why he forgives his cupbearer and not his baker. Did one commit a less grievous offense than the other? I mean, did the cupbearer just spill wine on the pharaoh’s favorite kilt, while the baker tried to poison him? Or was it just royal whim? Either way, since this party was part of my job’s consideration for offering me a third year, I’m really hoping I wind up like the cupbearer…

The Japanese: kyuujiyaku “waiter,” shukun “one’s lord,” ayamachi “mistake, error, fault” (v 1), rougoku “prison” (v 3), fusakikondeita “melancholy, depressed” (v 6), tokiakasu “to solve” (v 8), mirumiru “in an instant,” fusafusa “in tufts, in clusters,” juku shita “ripe” (v 10), shibori “squeezing” (v 11), rouya “jail” (v 15), anda “woven” (v 16), tsuibamu “to peck at” (v 19), moyousu “to hold an event” (v 20).