Genesis chapter 40

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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. 6And 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? 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. 9And 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. 12And 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. 14But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew 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. 16When 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. 18And 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.

What does Genesis chapter 40 mean?

Joseph continues to languish in a special prison attached to the house of the captain of the guard (Genesis 39:11–20). While Joseph's former master held that position (Genesis 39:1), Scripture does not use the name Potiphar from this point forward. It's unclear if Potiphar is still in that role, or if he has been replaced. After Joseph has been there "some time," likely several years, two new prisoners arrive. Pharaoh has become angry at both his chief cupbearer and his chief baker. He throws them into the prison, also called "the pit" or "the dungeon," where Joseph is. Genesis doesn't tell us what their offenses were (Genesis 40:1–3).

Just as in his prior role, Joseph's diligence and character have led to recognition (Genesis 39:21–23). He is given a kind of caregiver's role over these two new men. They, as well, are held for "some time," likely another period of years. In a dictator-driven legal system, a prisoner might be subject to almost any fate at any time. One night, both men experience vivid, impactful dreams. Egyptian religion took dreams very seriously, but these are especially jarring visions. The men are disturbed enough by the dreams that Joseph takes notice (Genesis 40:4–7).

In response to their concern, Joseph assures them that God can interpret dreams, and Joseph will pass those truths along. The first man's dream involves three productive grape vines; Joseph indicates that the man will be restored to his former position in three days. In addition, Joseph asks the man to speak to Pharaoh on his behalf. While Joseph accepts God's will for his life, he also recognizes the opportunity to advocate for his own release (Genesis 40:8–15).

The second man's dream also implies a resolution in three days, but not a happy one. The expression "to lift one's head" evokes a person looking downwards in defeat or shame as their face is raised into a more confident posture (Psalm 3:3). Both men will have their "heads lifted" by Pharaoh, but the baker will immediately be executed, and his corpse left to rot (Genesis 40:16–19).

These predictions come about exactly as Joseph predicted. Three days later, the king brings out the two men as part of his birthday celebration. One is restored to his prior role, the other is killed and his body left for scavengers. Despite this, the newly freed cupbearer makes no mention of Joseph. Either out of fear, caution, or some other motive, he says nothing. He does not lose memory of Joseph, but "forgets" him by setting his plea out of his mind (Genesis 40:20–23).

It will be another two years before a situation inspires the cupbearer to mention Joseph and his remarkable ability (Genesis 41:1, 9–14).
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