Ancient Wisdom of Pharaoh's DreamsSubmitted by TRIPLETT-WESTENDORF FINANCIAL GROUP on January 4th, 2021
Every workday I spend 30 minutes reading. This habit developed about 5 years ago after I was introduced to the world of personal development by my good friend Kevin. He’s been a big influence on my life, usually leading me to be a better person by example.
I try to read books about topics that interest me, but will also help me be equipped to serve our clients. If there’s a specific area of financial planning that I feel I need to be better educated about I’ll buy several books and work my way through them over the course of several months. I’m no speed reader. I can get through about 10 pages or so during each 30 minutes session. It may take me 4 to 6 weeks to finish one book before I’m on to the next. Even at that pace, I can read 8 to 10 books each year.
In my search for wisdom, one specific book I’d never read cover to cover kept coming up time and again. Many folks I admire and respect would refer to various pages, chapters, or specific stories within. Over and over they’d use the lessons to relate to things happening around us.
When I realized I didn’t own this book I felt a little ashamed, and foolish too. How could I have overlooked this literary masterpiece? Why did I not own a copy in my own personal collection?
After all, so many successful folks before me had studied it, and benefited from the wisdom it held. I set out immediately to get a copy. Thanks to Amazon Prime in a matter of days I had my own leather-bound copy.
What book was so desperately missing from my library? The Holy Bible, of course. Did I already mention I was a bit ashamed for not owning a copy? I immediately set out to read it cover to cover beginning with the old testament which was most foreign to me.
One of the stories from Genesis I found interesting was that of Pharaoh’s dreams. Not the same defiant Pharaoh from Exodus and the 10 Commandments, but one of his predecessors.
Let me be clear. I am not an authority on the bible. I’m not I qualified to preach from the pulpit, nor will I attempt to do so.
I just figured there are worse things I could do with my time. Spending 30 minutes a day reading from the book that has influenced so many great leaders seemed like a good place to start. If I am committed to continuing my personal and professional development why not here. Let me tell you that so far, I have not been disappointed.
One of the first stories that jumped out at me was about Pharaoh’s dreams. It’s not to say that the other stories leading up to it were not noteworthy. Many I had heard before like Adam and Eve, or Cain and Able. Pharaoh’s dreams was a story I had not been exposed to, and it resonated with me as a retirement planner.
As the story says, Pharaoh had a dream one night. He had dreamt of seven fine looking fat cows. They rose out of the river. These must have been pretty impressive creatures for him to recall them so vividly as fine animals. It seemed pleasing to him.
However, shortly after the first seven cows rose from the river something disturbing happened. As his dream continued seven more cows rose from the river. However, the sight was not pleasing at all. These cows were gaunt and ugly. They were clearly not desirable to anyone. Then something horrible happened. The seven gaunt and ugly cows devoured the seven fine looking specimens.
Pharaoh awoke suddenly from his nightmare, probably in a cold sweat. Shaken by what he had envisioned it was difficult to sleep. What could it possibly mean?
Nevertheless, after some time had passed he was able to fall back asleep. He drifted off to and began to dream once again.
This time he dreamt of seven heads of grain growing on a single stalk. The grain was plump and good. This must have been quite pleasing considering what he had just experienced. After all, in ancient times grain would have been much more valuable than perhaps we think of it today. Grain fed the people of Egypt and happy people are peaceful people. You’d want your grain to be plump if you were Pharaoh, wouldn’t you?
However, his dream didn’t end there. Shortly after the plump heads of grain emerged he had a vision of seven more heads of grain growing a single stalk. This time the heads of grain were withered and thin. They had been blighted by the east wind. To Pharaoh’s horror the seven thin heads of grain then devoured the plump grain.
Pharaoh awoke from his second nightmare. This time he could not go back to sleep. He just had to know what this was all about.
Pharaoh summoned his wise men and the magicians of Egypt. He explained the dream vividly to them. He recounted how the seven ugly cows had devoured the fine-looking fat cows, and how the thin heads of grain blighted by the east wind had devoured the plump heads of grain. To his disappointment, none of them could interpret pharaohs dream.
Overhearing what was happening, his head butler recalled meeting a man while in an imprisoned dungeon. The butler and the head baker had upset the Pharaoh, and Pharaoh had thrown them both in prison. While he was there the head butler met a Hebrew by the name Joseph.
Joseph had accurately interpreted one of the head Butler’s dreams. It had come to pass true to his word. The head butler told Pharaoh all about it, and after hearing the story Pharaoh sent for Joseph to come before Pharaoh to interpret his dream.
Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams
When the guards brought Joseph before Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to him, “I have had a dream and no one can interpret it, but I have heard that you can understand a dream and interpret it.”
Joseph replied, “it is not me; God will give Pharaoh an answer for peace.”
Pharaoh explained to Joseph what he had seen. Pharaoh told him all about the seven fine-looking cows, and the seven gaunt and ugly cows that had devoured the first seven. It’s like nothing he’d ever seen in all of Egypt. Even after devouring the fat cows no one could tell the difference because they were still as ugly and gaunt as before. He spoke of the plump heads of grain, and how they were devoured by the withered thin heads of grain. When Pharaoh was finished he looked to Joseph and asked what does it all mean.
Joseph explained to Pharaoh that the dreams he’d seen were actually one in the same. What he had been shows was what the Lord had intended to do to the land of Egypt. He had been shown it twice because it was already in motion.
He said that Pharaoh has been shown that there would be seven years of great plenty that would come throughout the land of Egypt. Egypt’s fields and livestock will flourish and be plentiful. There will be an abundance of resources. There will be more than enough to sustain everyone, and these would be good days for people of Egypt, and the sounding land. No one would go hungry, and everyone will be happy, prosperous, and peaceful.
However, this will not last forever. After the seven years of plenty had come to pass there would be a severe drought. Egypt would experience seven years of famine. The drought would bring years of poor crops. Egypt’s grain will not grow. The lack of grain would bring a famine. The livestock would suffer malnutrition and become gaunt and perish.
The people would grow hungry. The famine would devour all of the plenty received during the previous seven years. The famine will be so severe that people of Egypt would forget the good days. They will only remember the suffering during the days of famine. None of this would end well for Pharaoh, and his rule over Egypt. However, there was a path to peace in the face of what was to come.
Prepare During the Days of Plenty
Joseph suggested that Pharaoh select a wise and discerning man to be set over Egypt. Let this man select and appoint officers over the land. They will collect one fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the years of plenty. Take from the abundance and prepare for the famine to follow.
Let them gather all of the food of those good years to come, and store the grain in the cities of Egypt under the authority of the Pharaoh. That food shall serve as a reserve for the people during the years of famine to follow. It will keep the peace so that the land of Egypt will not perish during the famine.
Pharaoh sees the advice as good and ultimately selects Joseph to oversee the project. Joseph rises from a slave and prisoner in Egypt to a great leader who saves many people during a terrible period of drought and famine. The stored grain in the cities keeps the people of Egypt sustained. They even sell some of their surplus to outsiders who come from all over to buy grain from Pharaoh to feed their family and livestock. This makes Egypt very wealthy.
Sage Financial Advice?
As I was reading this story it reminded me of how important it is for us to take advantage of the good times, and consciously prepare for the inevitable hard times. Life is going to bring us seasons of plenty. We’ll feel abundant and full when things are going well. However, there will also be seasons when we might feel that resources are scarce. The economic fallout for many folks during the Covdid-19 Pandemic is just one recent example.
We will all experience good times when things seem to be going well. We’ll all face adversity and tough times too. We don’t necessarily need to experience dreams as Pharaoh did to tell us this. We see it all around us.
We have seen or experienced great times of economic abundance. For example, the past decade of economic expansion. We’ve also seen periods economic turmoil. For example, the bursting of the dot-com bubble in the year 2000 (which took the market 7 ½ years to recover from), and the great recession brought on by the housing crises of 2008 (which took 4 ½ years to recover from). How we prepare, or fail to do so, during the good times will ultimately impact us during the downtimes.
Scarcity Fosters Fear
Inadequately prepared people tend to be more stressed out and upset. A lack of resources can affect your mood, your attitude, and how you interact with other people. Feelings of scarcity and deficiency may cause someone to feel fearful. Fearful people tend to become angry. Anger breeds resentment towards others, society, and even rips seemingly close families apart.
There’s an antidote to scarcity, and the negative emotions it fosters like fear and resentment. Storing up some of our resources during the plentiful years will make us feel more stable during tough times. It’s much easier to keep the peace during scarce times if you have reserves to keep you and your family sustained until good times return. However, it is easy to become complacent when things are going well, and forget that there’s a winter season just around the corner.
An Answer for (Inner) Peace
As in the story, preparation during the years of prosperity can make the poorer years manageable. Recall Joseph’s reply to Pharaoh when he says that he’s heard that Joseph can interpret dreams. Joseph replies “it is not me; God will give Pharaoh an answer for peace.” The message he shares with Pharaoh is one of preparation for inevitable hard times during the good times. We have an answer for our own personal peace of mind. Store some of what you have for the years of financial hardship that is likely to come.
When we experience good times, times of abundance, it would serve us well to store some of it away. When we are feeling adequately prepared we’ll likely experience less stress, worry or anxiety when things aren’t going so well. It will be easier to have a feeling of abundance and care for others around you when you have already taken preparations to care for yourself and your family. We can “keep the peace,” as Joseph suggests to Pharaoh when we prepare in advance.
Storing Your Grain
The markets have been favorable. We’re seeing major market indexes hit all-time highs. Perhaps we’ll continue to see more equities market prosperity. For how long, no one really knows. Perhaps it will last weeks, months, years, or longer. Who knows for sure?
What we do know is that there will be periods of market turmoil and economic contraction. Periods of significant market selloffs are part of life for an investor. Those who are ill prepared to whether a downturn will suffer while those who stored their resources during times of abundance will be less likely to feel the pain.
Another recession will happen. The question is not if, but when? …and for how long? When it comes it could last months, or even years. Do you have enough stored to last 7 years of financial famine?
The Moral of The Story
If we learn anything from the story of Pharaoh’s Dreams it is that there will be good times and hard times. Sage advice would suggest that we store up some of the abundance during times of great economic times so that we can weather the hard times.
How much? Joseph tells Pharaoh to store up one fifth, or 20% of Egypt’s production. Maybe that it too much for you, or perhaps it is too little for someone else. Your specific situation will be different than someone else’s.
Determining the right balance between your market-based investments and your savings not subject to market risk is a personal one. Perhaps it’s a worthy exercise for you to commit to as we turn the clock on a New Year.
Have you experienced an abundance in your retirement accounts? Has your 401K, IRA, or other investment based savings accounts swelled as 2020 comes to a close? Perhaps now is a good time to store some of it in a place that is not subject to potential market loses. Perhaps now is a good time to sweep some of the abundance, and store it in a place that will be accessible during the next market downturn.
Doing so will put you in a much better position to weather the periods of economic contraction, and feel less stress when things look a little bleaker. You may even find yourself in a position to make the most of the next market downturn. Similar to the positions of Egypt selling grain to outsiders during the famine, you’ll be sitting on dry powder allowing you to go shopping for deals in a market place full of investments shares selling at low prices.
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