2861.) Genesis 40

“Joseph Interprets the Butler’s and Baker’s Dreams in a Prison” by Alexander Ivanov, 1827 (The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg)

Genesis 40   (NRSV)

The Dreams of Two Prisoners

Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker offended their lord the king of Egypt. 2Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, 3and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined.

The butler was in charge of Pharaoh’s wine. The baker was in charge of Pharaoh’s food. They were imprisoned because they offended their lord, the king of Egypt. It is difficult to tell if it was in a minor or a major way. Considering how the account will develop, it is probable there was a plot to murder the Pharaoh (perhaps by poisoning). But we never lose sight of the over-arching reason: whatever external reason they were sent to prison, they were really there to meet Joseph.

–David Guzik

4The captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he waited on them; and they continued for some time in custody.

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

Joseph was in prison. His feet were hurt with fetters, his heart was hurt by injustice and unkindness. But none of these things prevented him from helping others.

The story that follows shows how full of kindness his service must have been. Joseph must have done more than his bare duty. We do not go for sympathy to those who have been cold and uninterested in our affairs. We avoid them. The butler and the baker went to Joseph sure of his loving, self-forgetful sympathy.

It makes us think of Another whose feet were hurt, and His hands and His side, and far more His loving heart. Out of the midst of His pains He thought of others, only of others.

Matthew 27:42:  He saved others; Himself He cannot save. More and more these words seem to sum up His life on earth.

Lord Jesus, who left us an example that we should follow in Thy steps, help us to follow. Let us forget self in service. Give us Thy love that, loving others, loves them to the end.

5One night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own meaning. 6When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled.


Do I notice when the people I am with are troubled? Do I ask them about it, and try to help them however I can? Am I willing to put the needs of others above my own?

Galatians 6:2 (NIV)

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

7So he asked Pharaoh’s officers, who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?”

8They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.”

And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”

9So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, 10and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms came out and the clusters ripened into grapes. 11Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”

12Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days; 13within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer.

In only three days, the cupbearer will know if Joseph was correct or not.

14But remember me when it is well with you; please do me the kindness to make mention of me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this place. 15For in fact I was stolen out of the land of the Hebrews; and here also I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.”

16When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, 17and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.”

18And Joseph answered, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days; 19within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you! —and hang you on a pole; and the birds will eat the flesh from you.”

Joseph interprets the butler and baker's dreams. Domenico Maggiotto,

Joseph interprets the butler and baker’s dreams. Domenico Maggiotto,



Kings/Pharaohs and birds —  HERE  the German chamber choir, ClaritasVocalis, directed by the founder Uwe Heller, perform “Sing a Song of Sixpence” from Five Childhood Lyrics by John Rutter. Wonderful fun!


20On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants, and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. 21He restored the chief cupbearer to his cupbearing, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand; 22but the chief baker he hanged, just as Joseph had interpreted to them.

23Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

Again Joseph is forgotten. But hang on, Joe! There is light at the end of your tunnel, and God is going to rescue you in a way you cannot now begin to imagine!

All people God uses greatly, He first prepares greatly. Are we willing to endure the greatness of God’s preparation? God orders both our steps and our stops.

Proverbs 15:33 (NIV)

The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom,
and humility comes before honor.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Ivanov.   https://dwellingintheword.wordpress.com/2009/06/17/32-genesis-401-23/
Joseph dressed in red.    https://sincetimebegan.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/joseph-baker-butler.jpg
Ratner.  http://www.ratnermuseum.com/includes/images/photos/bible/bible-45.jpg
Maggiott.     http://www.realbiblestories.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Maggiotto_Joseph-Interpreting-Dreams-Pharaohs-Butler-And-Baker.jpg

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