Genesis 40

Joseph Interprets Two Prisoners' Dreams

1 After this, the king of Egypt's cupbearer and his baker offended their master, the king of Egypt.
2 Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker,
3 and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined.
4 The captain of the guard assigned Joseph to them, and he became their personal attendant. And they were in custody for some time.[a]
5 The cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison, each had a dream. Both had a dream on the same night, and each dream had its own meaning.
6 When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they looked distraught.
7 So he asked Pharaoh's officers who were in custody with him in his master's house, "Why are your faces sad today?"
8 "We had dreams," they said to him, "but there is no one to interpret them." Then Joseph said to them, "Don't interpretations belong to God? Tell me [your dreams]."[b]
9 So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph: "In my dream there was a vine in front of me.
10 On the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms came out and its clusters ripened into grapes.
11 Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh's cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand."
12 "This is its interpretation," Joseph said to him. "The three branches are three days.
13 In just three days Pharaoh will lift up your head[c] and restore you to your position. You will put Pharaoh's cup in his hand the way you used to when you were his cupbearer.
14 But when all goes well for you, remember that I was with you. Please show kindness to me by mentioning me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this prison.
15 For I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should put me in the dungeon."
16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was positive, he said to Joseph, "I also had a dream. Three baskets of white bread were on my head.
17 In the top basket were all sorts of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head."
18 "This is its interpretation," Joseph replied. "The three baskets are three days.
19 In just three days Pharaoh will lift up your head-from off you-and hang you on a tree.[d] Then the birds will eat the flesh from your body."[e]
20 On the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, he gave a feast for all his servants. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker:
21 he restored the chief cupbearer to his position as cupbearer, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand;
22 but he hanged[f] the chief baker, just as Joseph had explained to them.
23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.[g]

Genesis 40 Commentary

Chapter 40

The chief butler and baker of Pharaoh in prison, Their dreams interpreted by Joseph. (1-19) The ingratitude of the chief butler. (20-23)

Verses 1-19 It was not so much the prison that made the butler and baker sad, as their dreams. God has more ways than one to sadden the spirits. Joseph had compassion towards them. Let us be concerned for the sadness of our brethren's countenances. It is often a relief to those that are in trouble to be noticed. Also learn to look into the causes of our own sorrow. Is there a good reason? Is there not comfort sufficient to balance it, whatever it is? Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Joseph was careful to ascribe the glory to God. The chief butler's dream foretold his advancement. The chief baker's dream his death. It was not Joseph's fault that he brought the baker no better tidings. And thus ministers are but interpreters; they cannot make the thing otherwise than it is: if they deal faithfully, and their message prove unpleasing, it is not their fault. Joseph does not reflect upon his brethren that sold him; nor does he reflect on the wrong done him by his mistress and his master, but mildly states his own innocence. When we are called on to clear ourselves, we should carefully avoid, as much as may be, speaking ill of others. Let us be content to prove ourselves innocent, and not upbraid others with their guilt.

Verses 20-23 Joseph's interpretation of the dreams came to pass on the very day fixed. On Pharaoh's birth-day, all his servants attended him, and then the cases of these two came to be looked into. We may all profitably take notice of our birth-days, with thankfulness for the mercies of our birth, sorrow for the sinfulness of our lives, and expectation of the day of our death, as better than the day of our birth. But it seems strange that worldly people, who are so fond of living here, should rejoice at the end of one year after another of their short span of life. A Christian has cause to rejoice that he was born, also that he comes nearer to the end of his sin and sorrow, and nearer to his everlasting happiness. The chief butler remembered not Joseph, but forgot him. Joseph had deserved well at his hands, yet he forgot him. We must not think it strange, if in this world we have hatred shown us for our love, and slights for our kindness. See how apt those who are themselves at ease are to forget others in distress. Joseph learned by his disappointment to trust in God only. We cannot expect too little from man, nor too much from God. Let us not forget the sufferings, promises, and love of our Redeemer. We blame the chief butler's ingratitude to Joseph, yet we ourselves act much more ungratefully to the Lord Jesus. Joseph had but foretold the chief butler's enlargement, but Christ wrought out ours; he mediated with the King of Kings for us; yet we forget him, though often reminded of him, and though we have promised never to forget him. Thus ill do we requite Him, like foolish people and unwise.

Footnotes 7

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS 40

The history of this chapter is, the imprisonment of two of Pharaoh's officers, his chief butler and chief baker, who by the captain of the guard were made the charge of Joseph, Ge 40:1-4; they both dreamed in prison, which made them sad; Joseph taking notice of their sadness, asked the reason of it, and encouraged them to tell him their dreams, Ge 40:5-8; the chief butler told his dream of the vine and three branches, which Joseph interpreted of his restoration to his office within three days, and desired him to remember him unto Pharaoh when he stood before him, telling him his case, Ge 40:9-15; then the chief baker told his dream of three white baskets of food on his head, which the birds ate, and this Joseph interpreted of his being hanged within three days, Ge 40:16-19; and the events answered to the interpretation, but Joseph was forgot by the chief butler, Ge 40:20-23.

Genesis 40 Commentaries