JOSEPH, INTERPRETER OF DREAMS
Two men are seen now to be committed to Joseph's care in the prison, the cup bearer and the baker of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. It is not told us for what offenses they were imprisoned, but they had incurred Pharaoh's anger and this was enough (v.2). The captain of the bodyguard committed them to Joseph. We may wonder if this captain was Potipher, who is said in chapter 39:1 to have this position, but it is possible there was more than one captain.
After some time in the prison both the cup bearer and the baker were given a dream, each one different, but on the same night. The dreams were evidently strongly impressed on their minds, and in the morning Joseph observed that they were worried (v.6). In kindly questioning them, he draws from them the fact of their having dreams without any means of having them interpreted (v.8).
Joseph did not profess to be an expert in interpreting dreams, but rather told them, "Do not interpretations belong to God?" In this statement he was indicating that to have any answer they must depend on God Himself to reveal it. But he asks them to tell him their dreams.
The cupbearer's dream was that of a vine having three branches, which in the dream budded, blossomed and brought forth grapes. With Pharaoh's cup in his hand, the cupbearer squeezed the juice from the grapes into the cup and gave it into Pharaoh's hand (vs.9-12).
Joseph, in communion and the mind of God, had no difficulty in interpreting this dream. "The three branches are three days," he says (v.12), and within three days Pharaoh would "lift up his head," that is, bring him into public view, and restore him to his office of cupbearer.
There is striking spiritual significance in this dream. The three days remind us of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The juice of the grapes signifies the shedding of His blood, He enduring the suffering of the figurative winepress and His blood being shed as the only means of forgiveness of sins. Therefore, as depending on the value of the blood of Christ, the offending sinner is liberated from his guilt and bondage. The cupbearer then pictures the sinner saved by virtue of the shedding of the blood of Christ.
No wonder Joseph then requested of the cupbearer, "Think on me when it shall be well with thee." This surely speaks to the believer's heart today as being the request of the Lord Jesus. Since He has so greatly blessed us, it is only right that we should show some thankful response.
Joseph desired the cupbearer to speak to Pharaoh on his behalf, appealing to the fact that he had been kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, then was unjustly accused and put in prison (vs.14-15). It was true enough that there was no cause in Joseph for his being so treated, but how much more this is true of the Lord Jesus, who was totally sinless in every way, yet subjected to far worse treatment than was given Joseph.
The baker, when he heard Joseph's interpretation, expected a favorable interpretation of his dream also. He tells Joseph that in his dream he had three baskets on his head and in the top basket were all kinds of a bakery goods for Pharaoh, and the birds were eating out of the basket. Joseph's interpretation is however totally in contrast to that of the cupbearer's dream. "The three baskets are three days; within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head from you and will hang you on a tree, and the birds will eat your flesh from you" (v.19).
The significance of this is most important too. The three days would still remind us of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, for while this is great blessing to the believer (1 Thessalonians 4:14), it is just as surely the condemnation of the unbeliever (Acts 17:31). We have seen that the juice of the grapes is typical of the blood of Christ. It was given into the hand of the king. God is delighted with the value of the blood of His Son, and on this basis alone He forgives sin. But the bakery goods were the work of the baker's hands. They were intended for Pharaoh, just as men intend to please God by their good works, not realizing that these things can never take away the sins they have committed. God can certainly not accept men's works as a substitute for the work of His own son in bearing the agony of terrible judgment on Calvary. The bakery goods were intended for Pharaoh, just as men think God will accept their works as payment for their sins, but they did not reach Pharaoh's table: the birds ate them. The birds of the air are typical of the Satanic activity of evil spirits, who love to deceive people by flattery of their so-called good works (Matthew 13:4; Matthew 13:19). It is Satan who gains from this, not God.
Joseph's interpretation of the dreams was proven fully true when the third day arrived. Being Pharaoh's birthday, he made a feast for his servants. Both the cupbearer and the baker were brought forth to public view, but for contrary reasons (v.20). The chief cupbearer was restored to his former capacity, while the baker was hanged (vs.21-22). What influenced Pharaoh in these matters is not mentioned, but the evidence of God's presence with Joseph was unmistakable. But the cupbearer's heart was apparently not drawn to God in thankfulness. Rather than speaking well to Pharaoh about Joseph, he forgot him! May the Lord preserve us from being like him. For we who are believers have incomparably more for which to remember the Lord Jesus than the cupbearer had for remembering Joseph. He has not only foretold our deliverance, but has Himself delivered us from all our sins and our bondage by means of the great sacrifice of Himself. Believers may too easily allow this to become almost forgotten as to any practical realization of it; and there is real reason for the Lord's instituting the Lord's supper with the words, "This do in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19).
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Genesis 40". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany