Genesis 40: Joseph Interprets Two Prisoners’ Dreams

1 Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker committed an offense against their lord the king of Egypt. 2 And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, 3 and he 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 appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them. They continued for some time in custody. 5 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. 6 When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. 7 So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” 8 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.”

-I mentioned this in the study last chapter and I’ll say it again, these people are not stupid. These are real people who existed in world history that are no different than you and I. There is more knowledge available and more technologies that can be used but we are the same people with the same nature. The cupbearer and the baker knew they didn’t just have a weird dream but they were visions, there was no doubt. They knew they received some kind of communication from some divine entity but they could not understand it. They were grieved because they believed some god or gods were giving them instructions but they did not understand what to do. They may have been afraid they were going to be punished by the same god or gods that sent the dreams because they did not understand what they meant. Joseph somehow knows, most likely through the Holy Spirit, that not only are our visions from God but so are their interpretations. This is the same as when Paul warns about not speaking in tongues without an interpreter. Speaking in tongues is of God and man cannot understand what is of God unless God is the one who reveals it to us. It is the same for visions. If anyone receives a vision, it must be interpreted as well or by someone else filled with the Spirit. In this case, Joseph is that someone else.

9 So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, 10 and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. 11 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.” 12 Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. 13 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.

-Joseph isn’t just really smart or really, really lucky, he is filled with the Spirit to know the correct interpretation of this dream. There are a seemingly infinite number of ways one can interpret this yet Joseph gets it right. And if there was any doubt, all they would have to do is wait three days and see what happens. This is true of all prophesy in the bible. Prophesy is of God and can only be interpreted or revealed by God. It is impossible to guess that the prophesy we have covered so far about Jesus in Genesis 3:15 could have been predicted by itself by the Israelites in the desert when this was first presented yet we understand very clearly what it means today and there is virtually no dispute. In fact, all the prophesies about the coming Messiah had many different “guesses” about what they meant until the Messiah finally came and even when he was there, many still did not recognize Him as such because of their own preconceived notions of what the Messiah would be based on their own interpretations that were of themselves and not of God. In our study, I make many guesses as to what can be derived from the story and try to limit my options to what is logical and can be proven based on what we have. But when we cover more prophesy in the future, I must be careful to make sure to interpret prophesy based on what is answered later in scripture or what can be shown to have happened in actual, verifiable historical events. In doing so, I am making sure God is interpreting the prophesy and not me or any other man making a guess. In fact, its a guarantee that whatever I think it means is wrong because I am not God. I also hold the same view about the book of Revelation and all other end time prophesies. With the exception of the parts that explain themselves, we cannot know exactly what everything means because it hasn’t happened yet. God has not interpreted the meaning for us but we should be aware of these prophesies so that they are recognized when they finally occur and God reveals the meaning to us.

14 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. 15 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.” 16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, 17 and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.” 18 And Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. 19 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.” 20 On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. 21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. 22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

-The fact that the baker had a negative outcome based on the dream says something about Joseph to the Egyptians and to us the readers. It says that Joseph is not simply “good luck” but that something indeed supernatural was attached to Joseph and it was powerful enough to decide life and death. It was there to do God’s will, not to serve man. Joseph had the Spirit but he was not perfect and wanted to be free from his prison. Joseph is not as righteous as he can possibly be though he is very far along for his age and maybe the farthest along in the whole world at this time. God may have used this time to teach Joseph patience and grow him for what is to come but we are not told. God did this with Paul and prison is where he wrote all the letters that became a part of scripture that define Christianity and how churches operate to this day. Joseph needs to recognize that this is all part of God’s plan and he does later when his own vision is finally interpreted by seeing the vision come to life in front of his very own eyes.


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