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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Genesis 40

DREAMS OF THE BUTLER AND OF THE BAKER, Genesis 40:1-23.

While the narrative of this chapter contains little that needs explanation, the reader should note the following: 1) The manifold service and attendance of an Oriental despot. 2) His many fears, suspicions, and dangers. 3) The insecurity of the lives of his subjects, liable at any moment to be cut off in a fit of anger or caprice. 4) The occasional impressiveness and significance of dreams. 5) The righteous useful in prison. 6) Culpable forgetfulness of kindness.

Verse 1

1. After these things After Joseph had been imprisoned, and had found favour with the keeper .

The butler Or, cup-bearer . He was the officer who had charge of the king’s wines; and so important was this office that the chief or prince of the butlers (Genesis 40:2) found it necessary to employ the services of many others in this business . How the butler and baker offended we are not told; the Targum of Jonathan says “they had taken counsel to throw the poison of death into his food and into his drink, to kill their master . ” These officers would be especially subject to such suspicions .

Verse 3

3. Captain of the guard Or, chief of the executioners, whose dwelling was within a part of the prison .

Verse 4

4. Charged Joseph with them Being royal officers, it would be natural to charge a Hebrew slave to serve them, though he had charge of all the prison . Genesis 39:22.

Verse 5

5. Each man… according to the interpretation That is, each man’s dream, as the sequel shows, corresponded with its particular significance .

Verse 8

8. Do not interpretations belong to God He who had been visited with prophetic dreams in childhood, (Genesis 37:5; Genesis 37:9,) believed that God alone could interpret them . Comp . Genesis 41:16; Genesis 41:25; Genesis 41:32. In his imprisonment and loneliness he might well have despaired of any fulfilling of his own dreams, but he trusts in God .

Verse 9

9. Behold, a vine Notably the butler dreams of vines, and the baker of the food (Genesis 40:17) he was wont to prepare for the king . “Herodotus denies the existence of vines in ancient Egypt, and says that the Egyptian wine was made of barley. 2:77 . Yet Herodotus himself, (ii, 42, 48:144,) and Diodorus, (i, 11,) identify Osiris with the Greek Bacchus, the discoverer of the vine, and Diodorus (i, 15) expressly ascribes to Osiris the first cultivation of the vine. But it now appears from the monuments, that both the cultivation of grapes and the art of making wine were well known in Egypt from the time of the Pyramids.” Speaker’s Commentary.

Verse 13

13. Lift up thine head Lift it up from its present degradation in prison and in sadness . Comp . Genesis 40:19, note .

Verse 14

14. Think on me Here we note how Joseph longs for liberty .

Verse 15

15. I was stolen away Hebrews, for stolen, stolen was I . Joseph nowhere tells the manner of his being taken away from his home and kindred; he does not accuse his brethren, notwithstanding all their guilt .

Land of the Hebrews At that date probably the land of Canaan was so called among Egyptians, and Jacob’s family then looked upon it as peculiarly their own . Comp . Genesis 35:12.

Verse 16

16. Three white baskets Rather, three baskets of white bread . On my head The monuments illustrate this method of carrying baskets in ancient Egypt .

Verse 17

17. Bakemeats Hebrews, food of Pharaoh, the work of a baker . Thus his dream, like the butler’s, ran into the imagery with which he was most familiar .

Birds did eat Herein was what might be called “the bad sign” in the dream . The butler himself took the grapes which he saw in his dream, (Genesis 40:11,) but the birds eat of the bread on the head of the baker sign that they should eat his flesh. Genesis 40:19.

Verse 19

19. Lift up thy head from off thee A peculiar play on words; but the addition, from off thee, gives the sense as distinguished from that in Genesis 40:13. The victim was first beheaded, and afterwards hung, or impaled.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Genesis 40". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/genesis-40.html. 1874-1909.