Genesis 40: Joseph and the Prisoners

The cupbearer served the Pharaoh wine and the baker his food, through which the Pharaoh was susceptible to poison, so his trustworthiness of these officials was paramount. The offenses of these men is not made known.

They had been in prison for some time before they had the dreams. In this time Joseph had become acquainted with them, as they were placed under his charge. Joseph did not use his exalted place to mistreat or oppress, but to serve. He attended to their needs. He inquired of their sadness out of compassion.  It was in Joseph’s character to raise their the spirits of those around him, even in such a seemingly hopeless place as prison.

The dreams of the cupbearer and baker were perplexing to them. They were stirred in a way they could not understand. They knew they dreams meant something, but they could not grasp the meaning. Joseph’s solution was confident and reassuring. He rightly gave the glory to God, the only true God, to whom all interpretations belong.  God had communicated twice to Joseph in his dreams. When Joseph told his dream to his brothers, they ridiculed and conspired against him. Notice that Joseph’s reaction contrasts theirs.

The cupbearer told his dream first. He got good news; that he would be set free and restored. The interpretation included a time frame of three days. If the interpretation did not come true in three days, Joseph would be proved a fraud. Joseph had faith what God revealed, enough faith that he requested the cupbearer mention him to Pharaoh when he was restored to his position.  While Joseph was exalted and served with godliness in prison, it was not where he wanted to stay. He wanted freedom, and knew it would only come according to God’s will. With the cupbearer, God gave Joseph an opportunity to plead his case to the outside. Joseph spoke briefly of his circumstance, but did not dwell on it or pity himself. He said he had done nothing wrong, being confident in his righteousness before God.

When he heard that the dream of the cupbearer was positive, the baker engaged Joseph to interpret his dream, anticipating good news. Joseph told him what God revealed. The interpretation was gruesome, but Joseph did not manipulate or soften God’s truth to make the baker feel better. The baker would die, and God wanted him to know it. The baker had three days to think about his impending death. He had chance to look at his life, his sin, and ask for repentance.

In three days the interpretations proved true, and served as a witness to God. Pharoah demonstrated his mercy with the cupbearer freedom, and his power with the baker’s execution. 
The cupbearer forgot about Joseph in the midst of his own happiness.

Pride causes us to fall from high places. This may have been the case with Pharaoh’s two officials. We are to use positions of power to serve, as Joseph did, as our Lord did. Desperate, dreadful places are where we must be most hopeful. Christ is needed in such circumstance. We must tend to the needs of others above ourselves.  It good to point our companions to God when they are sad and distressed.

Not all dreams are messages from God, but if God chooses to he may communicate this way, and we are right to inquire of a dream that moves us if so guided by the Holy Spirit. We cannot assume a meaning for every dream we have. God will interpret a dream if it needs interpretation, but it is best not to obsess or dwell over dream meanings. Our clear communication with God is through his Word, prayer, and our relationship with Jesus Christ. Not all messages from God are what we want to hear, but they are what he wants us to hear. This is true with the gospel. We do great harm if we water down the truth of God. We must tell the gospel as it was given to us, without alteration for comfort’s sake, or else souls are guided to condemnation instead of salvation. Even in suffering for our righteousness we can be confident of it, and faithful in God. We should use the time given to us to repent of our sins and follow our Lord. Nothing is so relieving and refreshing as receiving mercy: this is the way with Jesus. Nothing is so frightening as not receiving mercy: this is this way without Jesus.  We should always remember the kindness done to us, especially in who helped us in our poor circumstances. It is too easy to forget the people who helped us when we move on to more comfortable surroundings. We must always remember Christ, who showed to us the greatest kindness. 


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