Genesis Chapter Forty


Read Genesis 40:1-4 – Pharaoh’s Butler and Baker


v.1-2And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt. 2And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers.”


            As we noted in our study of chapter 39, the prison that Joseph was in was a prison reserved for offenders from the household of Pharaoh and the households of officials in his court.  Consequently when two of his servants offend him they are also sent to this prison.  The first is called his butler in several translations, his cupbearer in most of the modern versions.  Cupbearer is probably more in keeping with the language of the original manuscripts.  The other is his baker.


v.3-4And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound. 4And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward.”


            Since the keeper of the prison had already turned most of his responsibilities over to Joseph these men who were prominent among the servants of the king are turned over to him as well.


Read Genesis 40:5-19 – Their Dreams and Interpretations


v.5And 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.”


            God is preparing the way for Joseph.  On the same night, the butler and the baker have a dream; a dream that troubles them and that they do not know how to interpret.


v.6-7And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked upon them, and, behold, they were sad. 7And he asked Pharaoh’s officers that were with him in the ward of his lord’s house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly to day?”


            Joseph, being a man of compassion, sees that two of his charges are very downcast so he asks them why.  Frequently it isn’t hard to discern when someone is sad or troubled.  Those who have concern in their hearts for others, look upon others with some compassion will do just as Joseph did and ask why, seeking perhaps a means of helping that person with their troubles.  Those who don’t, wont’, those who are faint hearted may see but won’t ask.  The same kind of situation helped Nehemiah get to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon:


Nehemiah 2:2Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart….”


v.8And 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 pray you.”


            Joseph can help these men with their dreams but will take no credit for this ability.  He rightly tells them that this is in the realm of existence that belongs to God.  Daniel was of the same mind:


Daniel 2:27-28Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king; 28But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these;”


v.9-11And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, In my dream, behold, a vine was before me; 10And in the vine were three branches: and it was as though it budded, and her blossoms shot forth; and the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes: 11And 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 butler or chief cupbearer to the king dreamed about his former occupation.  It was as though a grape vine sprouts before him, blooms, and bears grapes.  He takes these grapes squeezes their juice into the king’s serving cup and serves it to Pharaoh.


v.12-13And Joseph said unto him, This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days: 13Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler.”


            The interpretation of the dream is that within three days the butler will be restored to his former duties.  He will again serve King Pharoah in the same capacity, accomplishing the same duties as he had done previously.


v.14-15But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and show kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: 15For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews: and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.”


            When Joseph interprets the butler’s dream he asked him to do one thing further.  When he is restored to his position in the household of Pharaoh he asks the butler to remember him in prison.  He has been put in this place through no fault or sin that he has committed again anyone and he wishes to regain his freedom.


v.16-17When 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: 17And in the uppermost basket there was of all manner of bakemeats for Pharaoh; and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head.”


            As would be common with all men; when the baker hears the good news that the interpretation of his dream brings the butler he wants his dream interpreted as well.  His dream also involves his service to Pharaoh but is a little different that that of the butler.  He is carrying three baskets of bakemeats, (baked goods in later translations) on his head but instead of serving them to Pharaoh the birds come and eat them.


v.18-19And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation thereof: The three baskets are three days: 19Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee.


            The interpretation of the baker’s dream is not good news at all.  In three days he will be executed and the flows of the air will feast on his flesh.


Read Genesis 40:20-23 – The Dreams Come True


v.20And 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.”


            The scripture goes further and tells us that the third day after the dreams were interpreted was the birthday of Pharaoh.  As was common on such occasions a feast was conducted, here we’re told a feast for the servants of Pharaoh.  During these feasts certain activities could be expected to take place.  It may be that through the benevolence of a certain king men would be released from prison or even that others would be executed, perhaps in sport as by the Caesar’s of Rome in the arenas.  We find that a birthday celebration is the setting for the execution of John the Baptist in the New Testament.


Matthew 14:6-7  But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. 7Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.”


            On that occasion, the daughter of Herodias, being coached by her mother asked Herod for the head of John the Baptist.  On this occasion the butler and baker are taken from prison.


v.21-23 And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand: 22But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.”


            During his birthday celebration Pharaoh restored the butler to his former position and hanged the baker just as Joseph had interpreted in their dreams.  Joseph had asked the butler to remember him in his predicament but the butler forgot him.