What does Genesis 41:8 mean?Pharaoh's two dreams from the night before left him troubled (Genesis 41:1–7). In both visions, he saw a group of seven pleasant, healthy images consumed by a second group of seven gaunt, unhealthy ones. Egyptian culture placed great emphasis on the importance of dreams. Even so, these visions were especially vivid. Pharaoh knows these are not ordinary dreams: they need to be understood.
As the ruler of Egypt, Pharaoh calls all the magicians and wise men to interpret his dreams of sickly cows and grain eating up healthy ones. These men were likely priests in the Egyptian religious practices. They would have been trained in the ways of magical spiritism, divination, traditional medicine, and such. Throughout the Old Testament, kings often called on guilds of shamans and spiritualists to serve them.
Of course, since these practices are all based in false belief and superstition, they're unable to reveal deeper truths. At "best," they're enabled by demonic spirits who are ultimately hostile to humanity. Whatever power they have is limited (Exodus 8:18–19). The leaders of Egypt would have been disappointed to see their magicians and wise men fail to help Pharaoh. Even with all their training and experience, they cannot interpret Pharaoh's obscure dreams. Those with a biblical perspective are not surprised at all.
There is a hidden element of God's influence in this moment. It would have been easy for Pharaoh's magicians to invent a false meaning for his dream—possibly something minor or encouraging. In some cases, that might have been considered a better option than simply saying "I don't know." That these advisors seem prevented from offering any answers, at all, speaks to the Lord's setup for what comes next.
This helplessness finally inspires the king's cupbearer (Genesis 41:20–23) to mention the dream interpreting ability of Joseph (Genesis 41:9–13). Joseph is still trapped in prison (Genesis 41:1) two years after helping the cupbearer understand his own dream.