Genesis 40

The Word Made Fresh

1Some time after this, the king of Egypt’s cupbearer and his baker offended Pharaoh, 2and he was very angry with them. 3He put them under arrest and in the custody of the captain of the guard in the same prison where Joseph was being held. 4The captain of the guard put them under Joseph’s charge to look after them while they were there. Time passed, 5and one night the two of them — the chief cupbearer and the chief baker — dreamed, and their dreams were disturbing to both of them. 6When Joseph checked on them the next morning he could tell something was bothering them, 7so he asked them, “Why the long faces?”

8They told him, “We both had troubling dreams, and there is no one here to tell us what they might mean.”

Joseph said, “God knows the meaning of dreams. Tell me, what did you dream?”

9The royal cupbearer went first. “I dreamed that a vine appeared in front of me. 10It had three branches and when it budded its blossoms appeared and ripened into grapes. 11I was holding Pharaoh’s cup in my hand and I picked the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and then put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.”

12Joseph said, “Here is what your dream means: the three branches are three days. 13In three days Pharaoh will lift your head and put you back in his service, and you will be restored to your position and once again give Pharaoh his cup just as you did before. 14Remember me when that happens. Do me a favor and mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this place. 15I was brought here from the land of the Hebrews against my will, and I have done nothing to deserve a prison sentence.”

16Then the chief baker, having heard that promising interpretation, said to Joseph, “I also had a dream. In my dream there were three woven baskets on my head. 17In the top basket there were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but birds were eating it out of the basket.”

18Joseph told him, “Here is what your dream means: the three baskets are three days. 19In three days Pharaoh will lift your head and remove it from your neck and hang you on a pole where the birds will pick at your flesh.”

20Three days later happened to be Pharaoh’s birthday, and he threw a party for all his servants. He called attention to the cupbearer and the baker before all his servants. 21He restored the cupbearer to his station, and the cupbearer gave Pharaoh his cup. 22Then he had the chief baker hanged just as Joseph had said.

23But the cupbearer forgot all about Joseph.


1-8: Two of Pharaoh’s servants, his cupbearer and baker, offend him in some way and Pharaoh turns them over to none other than Potiphar. Although Potiphar is not mentioned by name, he is in fact the “captain of the guard” (see 39:1). He puts Joseph in charge of these two royal prisoners. After some time, they both have a dream. The next morning Joseph notices that they are not their usual chipper selves and asks them what is wrong. They explain that they have both had dreams but there is no one to interpret the dreams. Joseph, showing a bit of his old egotism, says that only God can interpret a dream and therefore they ought to tell their dreams to Joseph.

9-15: The chief cupbearer tells his dream first. (When he was put into prison, he was just the cupbearer. He has given himself a promotion while in prison.) He dreamed that a vine with three branches budded, blossomed, and put forth grapes. He pressed the grapes into Pharaoh’s cup and gave it to Pharaoh. Joseph says the interpretation is that in three days (corresponding to the three branches) Pharaoh will “lift up his head” and restore him to his former position. When that happens, he says to please tell Pharaoh about him, that he was wrongfully kidnapped and brought here and has done nothing to deserve jail.

16-19: The chief baker (he has gotten a promotion, too!) is encouraged now and tells his dream. He dreamed that he was carrying three baskets on his head, the top one filled with bread, and birds were eating the bread. Joseph says the interpretation is that in three days (corresponding to the three baskets) Pharaoh will “lift up his head,” right off his shoulders, hang him on a pole, and let the birds peck the meat off his bones. You would think he could break the news a little easier!

20-23: Three days later (I wonder if the baker got any sleep) Pharaoh hosts a banquet, has the cup bearer and baker brought up from prison, gives the cup bearer his cups and hangs the baker on a pole. The cup bearer forgets all about Joseph.


So, God has Joseph taken to Egypt as a slave to be purchased by none other than Potiphar, the captain of the guard. But human nature intervenes, and he is falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and is thrown into prison. So, God has Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker thrown into prison with him, gives them dreams that Joseph can interpret to tell them they are about to be released. But human nature intervenes, and the cupbearer forgets all about Joseph. So, two years go by, and then God gives Pharaoh a pair of disturbing dreams (in chapter 41), so the cupbearer will remember Joseph and Joseph will not only be in Pharaoh’s favor but will be put in charge of the country’s preparations for the famine that is still seven years away, knowing that Joseph’s family will have to come to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph. If Joseph had not been thrown into jail, what would have happened to all these people?

When things are not going well for you, consider that God may be planning to use you in some way.