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Chapter 40:1-15 (ESV)

Posted on November 16, 2020  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 40:1-15 (ESV) - Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker committed an offense against their lord the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them. They continued for some time in custody.

And one 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 interpretation. When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh's officers who were with him in custody in his master's house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” They 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.”

So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh'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.” Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh's cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit”

Question to consider: What about this story points to the fact that Joseph had trusted in God during his imprisonment?

“Some time after this” is a small phrase that tends to cover a lot of time. Who knows how long Joseph was in prison, though it was long enough to be favored by the keeper of the prison. Two prisoners were brought in and put in the house of the captain of the guard. According to chapter 39, the captain of the guard was Potiphar. So either Potiphar didn’t really believe the accusations by his wife against Joseph, or enough time had passed that there was a new captain of the guard.

The two prisoners worked as officers for Pharaoh. One was his chief cupbearer, and the other his chief baker. The text said that Pharaoh was angry with the men, but given what happens to them, it seems like both were suspects in an attempt to poison the Pharaoh.

Joseph seemed to be a compassionate person for even though he had been wrongfully imprisoned, he seemed to care about others enough for them to open up and confide in him. It is also clear that he called upon the name of the Lord given that he had faith that the Lord would interpret their dreams. The cup bearer’s dream was positive with the interpretation saying the cupbearer would be restored to the king’s favor within three days.

There is a second interpretation offered in the targum that pointed to the three branches being the three fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the expressed grapes pointing to the cup of wrath that God would have Pharaoh drink. Sometimes prophetic interpretations had a near-term and long-term fulfillment. The near-term established the legitimacy of the prophet so that the long-term fulfillment could be accepted.

After 400 years of slavery, God would indeed pour out His cup up wrath on the Pharaoh through ten plagues and being drowned in the Red Sea. Unfortunately, after the interpretation of the dream, the cupbearer did not bring up the injustice of Joseph’s imprisonment to the Pharaoh like Joseph had asked.


Dear heavenly Father, it is difficult to wait for things, especially during times of uncertainty. Help us to be patient and continue to serve You in the tasks right in front of us while we wait for whatever You have next for us. Amen.