Genesis 40

Just Waiting

Joseph is prospering if such a word may be used for a Hebrew slave in an Egyptian prison. Some time passes, and he is joined by two of Pharaoh's former officials, the cupbearer, and the baker. God's wise providence is guiding Joseph even if time and circumstances seem to say otherwise. Scripture leaves out any details about the offense committed by these two officials, but we know that Pharaoh was angry and they were imprisoned simultaneously. They are consigned to Potiphar who places them in Joseph's custody. Scripture does not provide how long they were there sufficed to say that any amount of time in a prison is too long. 

Double Vision

These two men had a troubling dream on the same night, and when Joseph came in the following day, he could see the stress and worry on their faces. It is worth noting the way Joseph went about his responsibilities. He was aware of the people around him. Joseph does not seem to be self-absorbed or feeling sorry for himself; this was someone who genuinely took an interest in those around him even if they were only prisoners. Joseph asks them why they were so down. They both are suffering from the same problematic situation. They disclose that they both had troubling dreams and there is no one to help them understand what they mean. Joseph's confession of faith to these two officials is admirable as he declares that interpretations belong to God and asks them to tell him about their dreams. Though unstated, Joseph has implied that God would reveal to him the meaning of these dreams.

Good News / Bad News

These officials may have been suspicious, surprised, or just figured that they had nothing to lose so they tell Joseph about their dreams. The cupbearer describes how in his dream there was a grapevine with three branches that had ripe grapes on them. The cupbearer had Pharaoh's cup in his hand, so he pressed the grapes and gave the cup to Pharaoh. God gave Joseph the interpretation. The three branches were three days, and the cupbearer would be restored to his former station. The cupbearer must have been greatly encouraged by this interpretation and his burden lifted. Joseph seizes the opportunity and asks him to remember his kindness. He asks him to leverage his official position and tell Pharaoh about the injustice that he has suffered. The chief baker saw that Joseph's interpretation was favorable and he is eager to share his dream in the hopes of hearing good news. In the chief baker's dream, he saw three baskets filled with baked goods on his head and in the top basket birds were eating out of the basket. The interpretation of this dream is ominous and brought news of death. Scripture does not indicate how Joseph felt about the interpretation, but he reveals that in three days Pharaoh would hang or decapitate the chief baker and the birds would consume his flesh. Sure enough, three days later on Pharaoh's birthday, Pharaoh lifted up the heads of his former officials among his servants. The chief cupbearer was restored, and the chief baker was hanged. Joseph must have been eager to hear from the cupbearer. Did he watch the door more carefully? Did he rehearse what he would say to Pharaoh given the opportunity? Did he pray? The sad reality was that the cupbearer was so relieved that he completely forgot what Joseph had asked of him.

Things To Consider:

  • How do you cope with prolonged adversity?
  • Do you serve well when things are not going your way?
  • Do you believe that God is at work in the midst of difficulty? Why or why not?
  • Do you think God uses dreams today? Why or why not?
  • Do you speak the truth to people even if it is painful or difficult?
  • Do you think Joseph was right to try and manipulate the cupbearer? Why or why not?
  • What do you think happened when Pharaoh sent for the cupbearer and baker?
  • Why do you think the cupbearer forgot?