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GENESIS 40:1-23 (The dreams of the cupbearer and the baker)
40:1-2 A cupbearer was responsible for making sure that the wine he poured into the king’s cup was not poisoned. The baker had to produce delicious cakes and “all sorts of baked food” (40:17) for Pharaoh and his guests. We don’t know what these two officials did to offend their master. Perhaps Pharaoh was enraged that things went badly wrong at a royal reception.
40:3-4 Both these important officials were put in the prison of the Captain of the Guard where Joseph was imprisoned. Joseph had special responsibility for them (see 39:22).
40:5-8 One night each of them had a vivid dream which they knew had an important message for them. In the morning, seeing they were troubled, Joseph asked them what had happened. They said they were upset because they had no one to give them the meaning of their dreams. Normally they would have access to recognized interpreters of dream (41:8). Joseph told them that only God could give the correct interpretation of a dream (41:16, 25; Daniel 2:47), and they had obviously seen that Joseph had this kind of divine insight (see note on 39:3)
40:9-11 The chief cupbearer described a vine with three branches. Each of these produced clusters of lush grapes which yielded wine which he could pour into Pharaoh’s cup.
40:12-13 The interpretation that Joseph was given was that within three days the cupbearer would be restored to his office.
Note : Only a small proportion of dreams have a message for us. In some cases a verbal message is received in a dream (as in Matthew 1:20; 2:12-13, 19, 22; 27:19). Dreams with vivid imagery can in some cases be interpreted by a prophet (as in Numbers 12:6; Daniel 1:17; 2:17-19, 36-44; 4:5-27; compare Acts 2:17-18 which quotes Joel 2:28). Prophets also receive visions, which they can then interpret (Isaiah 1:1; Obadiah 1:1; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 2:2-3; Zechariah 1:8, 18; 2:1; 3:1; 5:1; 6:1).
40:14-15 Confident that the cupbearer would be restored, Joseph asked him to mention his own situation to Pharaoh, and get him out of serving time in the prison. He also told the cupbearer the story of his being enslaved, and he asserted that the charge against him (39:17-19) was unfounded.
40:16-19 Imagining that he would also receive a good interpretation, the baker shared his dream. He had three cake baskets for Pharaoh on his head, and birds came and ate the food he had prepared. Joseph explained that within three days he would be decapitated and his body hung on a pole. Carrion birds would come down and eat his flesh.
40:20-22 Exactly three days later, as Joseph had predicted, Pharaoh gave a feast for all his servants on his birthday. The cup bearer and baker were brought out of the jail, and Pharaoh made an example of them by restoring the cupbearer to his work and hanging the baker.
40:23 Having been restored to high office, the cupbearer forgot Joseph and his exact interpretation of the dream. We can imagine Joseph’s disappointment as he hoped for his release, but found he had to remain in the jail for another two years (40:23). God does not seem to be in a hurry as we hope for his intervention. “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD”( Psalm 27:14; 31:24; 38:15; 39:7).
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