He dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me”
The dream in Genesis 37:9 brings to mind another book in the Bible—the very last book, in fact. Take a look at Revelation 12:
Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne (verses 1-6).
Now, these are the only two places in the Bible with a sign featuring the sun, moon, and twelve stars, and the interpretation is given. In Genesis 37:10, Jacob gave the interpretation because he knew exactly what the sun, the moon, and the stars were—his family. The signs represented Jacob himself, Jacob’s wife (and Joseph’s mother) Rachel, and all of his sons, who would become the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. It’s all right there, no guessing required.
When you know the whole Bible, the last book is a lot easier to understand. It’s strange, for sure, but not hard to interpret. All the idiomatic expressions in Revelation are already unlocked in previous books of the Bible. And yet a lot of commentators have weighed in on Revelation 12, with some interesting interpretations of the woman, sun, moon, and stars. But when you’re familiar with Genesis 37, you can see the tie-in with Revelation 12. The woman there is Israel and her tribes too. She gave birth to the Messiah, and from the first prediction of His coming (Genesis 3:15), His enemy the devil has sought to annihilate Him—for centuries by attempting to destroy the people from whom the Messiah would come, Israel. Satan thought he had finally succeeded at the cross, but Jesus’s resurrection and ascension to God’s right hand signaled the reality of his ultimate defeat. Joseph’s dream pointed not only to the moment when his family would come to him in Egypt to save their lives from famine, but God’s bigger picture of preserving Israel to maintain the line from which Jesus Christ would come.