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Genesis 40:16-23 and 41:1-44
Genesis 40:2-3 "And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of
the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers.
We don't know why the butler and the baker were imprisoned.
However, since they were responsible for the quality and safety of Pharaoh's food and drink, their charges were probably related to some irregularities in that area.
Perhaps poison had been discovered in the palace, and these men were suspected in a plot to assassinate Pharaoh.
So they ended up in the very prison that Joseph was in charge of to await their fate.
V 5 "And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison."
No doubt they were convinced that their dreams were a message from the gods, a communication that would enlighten them concerning their rather uncertain future.
Had they been free, they most certainly would have consulted the wisemen and magicians in Pharaoh's court, but being stuck in prison, they were left to wonder about their future.
The next morning when Joseph came in to see how they were doing, he was surprised and concerned by their downcast looks.
Years of hardship had made him a most considerate man, and a man who was always ready to witness for his Lord.
V 8-15 "And
they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there
is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I
Joseph had been the bearer of good news. Maybe the butler would be able to bring him good news also.
Yes, Joseph had reason to hope that this meeting was of the Lord.
All these years of confinement were beginning to make sense.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
And Joseph was not the only one that had reason to hope.
V 16-19 "When the chief baker saw that the
interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph, I also was in my dream, and,
behold, I had three white baskets on my head:
I'm sure Joseph was much affected by these ill tidings, but he couldn't hide the truth.
And both dreams had been very specific.
In the butler’s dream, he had been successful in performing his office.
V 11 "And Pharaoh's cup was in my hand: and I took the grapes, and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand."
The wine was prepared quickly and given to Pharaoh immediately with no possibility of contamination or poisoning.
Thus the butler’s innocence and his reinstatement were assured.
However, in the case of the baker, he had been unsuccessful in his attempt to deliver his food to Pharaoh: "The birds did eat them out of the basket."
And not only that, but he had failed to cover the food to protect it from contamination or any interference by others.
Thus his dream indicated failure.
Either he would be found guilty of an attempt to poison Pharaoh, or at the very least, neglecting his duty to protect Pharaoh’s food.
In either case, he would be executed.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
V 20-22 "And
it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday,
that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of
the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants.
No doubt Pharaoh had taken the opportunity of this very special day to bring down his verdict.
All of his servants and his government officials, etc. would have been there, gathered from the four corners of the nation to attend his birthday.
So in front of all his guests, Pharaoh reinstated his faithful butler, but the baker was executed immediately and publicly as a warning to any who might contemplate such a crime.
It was a graphic example of the rewards of loyalty and the result of treachery.
And I'm sure someone would have made sure that Pharaoh’s political prisoners were informed of his decisive action.
Although this would be chilling news for some of them, it was definitely good news for Joseph.
The butler had been reinstated, and the prison doors would soon be swinging open.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
However, Psalm 146:3-5 says, "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son
of man, in whom there is no help.
Certainly Joseph was hoping in "the God of Jacob," and certainly we couldn't blame him for doing his best to get the ear of Pharaoh, but his plan didn't work.
Whether it was just busyness, catching up on things after a prolonged absence, or a reluctance to bring up the subject of prison, we don't know.
Whatever the case, the butler had shamefully neglected his duty.
As V 23 says, "Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forget him."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
For a while, Joseph might have consoled himself by saying, Probably he’s just waiting for the right opportunity to bring the subject up.
However, as the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, and finally two long years went by in silence, Joseph realized that he had been forgotten.
His brothers had forgotten him, at least as much as their conscience would allow.
Potiphar had forgotten him, in spite of the great prosperity he had enjoyed.
And now it was the butler.
This was just part of a rather dark period in his life that he would rather forget.
I'm sure the prison walls began to close in on Joseph as the full realization of what had happened finally hit him.
And--"Hope deferred maketh the heart sick."
However, as his confidence in the butler turned to ashes, his hope in God remained strong.
Even though he didn't have Romans 8:28 to uphold him, he had its principle in his heart.
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose"
And if ever there was a man that was "called according to his purpose," it was Joseph.
Of course he was very disappointed, but he would not despair.
Psalm 42:5 "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance."
He still believed in his own personal dreams, and he knew for a fact that the Lord had spoken through him in the case of the butler and baker, so he continued to hope in God.
And you know what? The very next step in Joseph's career also involved dreams.
Genesis 41:1-8 "And it came to pass at the end of two full
years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The corn in Pharaoh's dream probably wasn't corn as we know it, but rather some kind of grain such as wheat or oats.
In those days, that fertile country would have been covered with waving fields of grain, which were the staple crop of the country.
So whether it was corn or cattle, the subject of the
We’re not given the name of the river in Pharaoh's dream,
but I'm sure it would be the Nile, for it’s the only river of any importance in
So any dream about the national food supply was important, and its interpretation would be considered a message from the gods.
So the magicians and wisemen were called in immediately.
After all, they were the personal representatives of
The problem was, this message wasn't
from the gods of
Pharaoh was at his wits’ end, and all the wisdom of
It was an absolute crisis!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Then his cup bearer had an attack of conscience.
Standing right beside his master, and no doubt in a
trembling voice, he said, in V 9, "I do remember my faults this day:
There was no doubt what his butler was driving at, but the idea was almost unthinkable.
Pharaoh was probably the most powerful king of his day, ruling one of the greatest civilizations in the known world.
How could he solicit the aid of a Hebrew, a foreigner, a mere slave, and even a criminal?
How could he possibly look for assistance from such a source? But God had set the stage perfectly.
He had to know the answer to his dreams, and no one else could help him.
V 14-16 "Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of
the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto
Again, as in the case of the chief butler and the chief baker, Joseph’s answer gave all the glory to God.
And not only did he give honour to his Creator, but he had to commit his future into His hands.
Two years ago, he had entrusted his future to the chief butler, and had been forgotten.
But now he was in a very unique position.
The whole nation was hanging on his answer, and he could strike any bargain he pleased.
Could he not have said, Yes, I have the ability to interpret your dreams, but before I do, I must have your assurance of my freedom.
That's what his father would have done.
But instead, Joseph committed his own welfare into the hands of God, and used this great opportunity to give glory to God: "It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace."
Indeed, this man had graduated from God's university of higher learning.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
And you know what? Not only would it take humility and the absolute commitment of his future into God's hands, but such an answer would take a great deal of courage.
As a slave and a prisoner, he was confronting the mighty Pharaoh of Egypt.
Seated upon his imperial throne, Pharaoh wore the double
crown that symbolized the union of Upper and
On his brow would be the twin insignias of those two lands, the falcon and the serpent.
In one hand he would be holding the crook for Upper Egypt,
in the other would be the flail, the symbol of
And he was supposed to be a god himself, the incarnation of Ra.
So his functions were as much religious as they were political.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
No doubt Satan was whispering in Joseph’s ear, You better not tell him that he has to depend on your Hebrew God for his answer. After all, he thinks he’s a god himself. If you insult him before his whole court, he’ll have you executed, or at least thrown back into prison.
But Joseph’s testimony remained clear.
He didn't see a mighty Pharaoh that he must depend upon for his very life. No, he saw a poor lost sinner that needed to know the one true God.
"It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace."
And wonder of wonders, that great Pharaoh accepted Joseph’s testimony without objection, and told him his dreams.
V 17-24 "And
Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the
And now, with the eyes of all
V 25-32 "And
Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh
what he is about to do.
They only had to wait for a month or two to prove him right or wrong.
He was telling them "What God is about to do"--not some obscure prophecy 500 years into the future.
But it didn't even occur to them to check him out.
Even before his words could be proven, both Pharaoh and his court were convinced of their validity.
Pharaoh’s dreams had seemed so incomprehensible to his wisemen and magicians.
However, once Joseph interpreted them, their meaning became so obvious, and Joseph’s words had such a ring of truth about them that no one doubted his explanation.
I can almost see the wisemen and magicians shaking their heads and saying to themselves, Why hadn't we thought of that?
But more than the obvious truth of Joseph’s words was the fact that God had turned the heart of Pharaoh to Joseph’s favour, as He had done twice before.
And we can also see the truth of Proverbs 21:1---"The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
But Joseph didn't stop there.
As a mere slave and prisoner, he then proceeded to tell Pharaoh,
the supreme ruler of
V 33-37 "Now
therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the
And not only did Pharaoh accept the advice of a slave, but he gambled his whole future and the future of his of country on this unknown man.
V 38-44 "And
Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in
whom the Spirit of God is?
This was a tremendous step of faith on Pharaoh’s part.
He had cast in his lot with Joseph and with Joseph's God.
Had he ignored his interpretation,
Yes, his people had always been used to prosperity, and the hardships of a famine might have plunged the country into revolution.
There's no telling what would have happened if Pharaoh had ignored Joseph's interpretation!
As it turned out, this famine established his throne and his wealth.
Rather than destroying his kingdom, it consolidated his absolute
Yes, the LORD would bless Pharaoh, but He would bless him for Joseph's sake.
Pharaoh's good fortune, and the saving of
As Isaiah 40:15-17 says, "Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the
small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little
God's only purpose in exulting Pharaoh and saving
Later, when another Pharaoh arose that knew not Joseph, it would be a different story.
He would say, "Who
is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
No doubt Potiphar was also in court on that momentous day. After all, he was the "captain of the guard.”
I wonder what his thoughts were when the slave he had
put into prison got the top job in
I can just imagine the scene in his house that evening.
As they were eating their supper, he might have looked at his wife rather sharply and said, Do you remember that Hebrew slave that you accused of molesting you?
With a soured face, she probably would have replied, Oh, yes, I remember him, and good riddance!
Well, Pharaoh has
just made him the governor of
For my sake, and especially for yours, I hope you weren't lying.
Well, he needn't have worried. Joseph wasn't a vengeful man.
I'm sure he had settled that account long ago with the firm conviction--"ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
One of the key components in Joseph's plan had been to "look out a man discreet and wise."
Another key component was to increase the taxes.
According to historical records, it wasn't unusual for nations to collect a tithe, or 10% from the people.
Joseph had proposed a doubling of the taxes, to "--take up the fifth part of the
In that day,
Even in normal years, they could provide for their own needs and maintain a good export business.
So during those seven good years, their tendency would be to increase their exports and make a fortune.
Certainly any man who would take the profit right out of their pockets would have to be "a man discreet and wise" if this plan was to go smoothly.
So the right man for the job was very important, and I don't think Joseph had any intention of suggesting himself.
After all, he was a foreigner, and had never held any political office.
He had been a herdsman in the past, which, by the way,
was a despised occupation in
But Pharaoh had other ideas.
Joseph's ability to interpret his dreams had thoroughly convinced him that God was with him.
And not only that, but Joseph’s character, which God had been honing for years now, had convinced Pharaoh that he was the man.
And, of course, and most importantly, God had turned the heart of the king to Joseph’s favour.
What an elevation this was, and in a moment!
The long years in prison, in which he had learned humility and patience, had not been wasted.
Most men, being so suddenly elevated, would have been ruined by pride, but not Joseph.
He now had the king's ring on his finger, giving him the authority to seal official documents in Pharaoh's name.
And he wore a gold chain about his neck, the emblem of his own personal authority, but he was still the Lord's servant.
V 43 "And he
made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him,
Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the
Here again Joseph pictures the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of His people, and, indeed, the Saviour of the world.
Immanuel (God with us), He--"made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant."
He was betrayed by His brethren, falsely judged by a Gentile (as Potiphar had falsely judged Joseph), and after His affliction, He became the Saviour of mankind, and eventually His own national brethren.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As we see Joseph riding through the streets in Pharaoh's
chariot, with a gold chain about his neck, and the welfare of
Philippians 2:9-11 speaks of His great triumph---"Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him,
and given him a name which is above every name:
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