The Cupbearer and the Baker (40:1–23)
1–3 While in prison Joseph interpreted the dreams of two officials of Pharaoh king of Egypt.122 Pharaoh had become angry with his chief cupbearer and chief baker and had thrown them into prison with Joseph.
4–8 The two officials were troubled because they knew of no one who could interpret their dreams. Joseph reminded them that interpretations belong to God (verse 8)—that is, dreams could be correctly interpreted only by God or by the person to whom God gave the knowledge (Genesis 41:16). Then Joseph, knowing that he possessed that knowledge, offered to interpret their dreams.123
9–22 These verses recount the two dreams and Joseph’s interpretation of them. The interpretations are not obvious, especially in the case of the chief baker’s dream (verses 18–19). Joseph indeed must have possessed direct, God-given knowledge concerning these dreams—especially so, since both interpretations proved true (verses 20–22). Thus in this chapter we gain a further appreciation of Joseph’s spiritual wisdom and insight. Even Pharaoh was later to acknowledge that Joseph was discerning and wise (Genesis 41:39), one who possessed the spirit of God (Genesis 41:38).
23 Joseph had asked the chief cupbearer to remember him when he was released from prison and to mention him to Pharaoh (verse 14). That was not wrong on Joseph’s part; one is always entitled to take reasonable steps to improve one’s circumstances. But if Joseph had put his faith in the cupbearer rather than in God, he would have been setting himself up for disappointment. Men disappoint; God never disappoints.
The cupbearer forgot him. Joseph remained in prison for two more years. When he came out he was thirty years old (Genesis 41:46). He had come to Egypt when he was seventeen. For thirteen years God prepared Joseph to become the ruler of all Egypt under Pharaoh—through slavery, false judgment, and finally imprisonment. God’s training is not easy. But if we are willing to yield ourselves to Him, we cannot imagine the wonderful things He may choose to do through us (Ephesians 3:20–21).