Genesis 40:1-23


Verse 1-4, And 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.  And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers. And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.  And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward.

I.    The Bible doesn't say what these two men did, so all our conjectures are vain.

A.     We do know that the positions they held were very important.

1.       The butler was more than just a servant, he is responsible for the purity of the wine served to Pharaoh.

2.       The baker did more than just bake bread, but was responsible for the food Pharaoh ate.

3.       If someone wanted to poison Pharaoh, they would have to go through one of these two men.

B.     The word "offended" means "to sin against".

1.       I believe these men being put in ward (temporary jail) shows their offense was a "minor" sin.

2.       If Pharaoh had received a "major" offense from them, he would, no doubt, have put them to death immediately.


II.    They were put in ward.

A.     This means they were put in jail, not for punishment, but until it was decided what would be done unto them.

1.       Numbers 15:32-36 - The man that gathered sticks on the Sabbath day was put " ward because it was not declared what should be done to him." Verse 34.

2.       Joseph was also put in prison, where he continually proclaimed his innocence. (Gen. 40:14,15.)

B.     Verse 20-23 - When Pharaoh decided what he would do to them, they were brought out of ward, and the judgment of Pharaoh was fulfilled.


III.    The Captain of the Guard is evidently Potiphar!

A.     Genesis 39:1 - Potiphar's position is Captain of the Guard.

B.     The place they were put.

1.       They were put in "ward", as already explained.

2.       In the house of the captain of the guard, or in the prison attached to his house.

a.       Evidently the captain of the guard is Potiphar.

b.       Evidently he lived in a house closely connected to the prison, so he could more closely guard the prisoners he was responsible for.

1.)    Verse 15, the prison is called a dungeon, meaning a "pit hole", especially one used as a cistern or prison.

2.)    Genesis 41:14, Joseph is taken out of the dungeon.

3.)    In the place where Joseph was bound.

a.)    There was, no doubt, other prisons where they could be sent.

b.)    This is no accident, but providence is working toward the physical salvation of Israel.

c.)    Joseph was not "tied up", but rather restrained from leaving the prison.

C.     It is very remarkable that Potiphar is putting these very important prisoners under the watchful eye of Joseph.

1.       This seems to indicate that Potiphar has begun to believe that Joseph is innocent of attacking Mrs. Potiphar.

a.       Potiphar does not release Joseph from prison, probably because of the pressure from his wife.

b.       John the Baptist lost his head because Herod would pacify Herodias, Mark 6:26, (see verse 14-29).

c.       God's children may indeed be innocent of wrong doing, but they will not be vindicated by wicked men because of internal and external pressures.

2.       The word "charge" (meaning "deliver to keep") and the word "serve" (meaning "to attend as a menial or worshipper).

a.       Joseph was responsible to Potiphar for them, because he was the servant of Potiphar.

b.       He was also responsible to them because he was their servant.


Verse 5, And 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.

I.    These dreams are not like some other dreams in the Bible.

A.     Men who do not worship God can dream prophetic dreams, but they are unable to interpret them.

1.       God can use anybody He chooses.

2.       Daniel 2 - God used Nebuchadnezzzar to dream a prophetic dream and Daniel to interpret it.

B.     Men who worship God can dream and interpret prophetic dreams.

1.       Genesis 15:12-21 - Abraham dreamed a prophetic dream concerning the future of Israel.

2.       Genesis 28:10-15 - When Jacob dreamed of the ladder to heaven with the angels going up and down and God standing about it, he knew it was of God.

3.       Genesis 37:5 - When Joseph dreamed about his future dominion over his brothers, he and all his family knew it was from God, although some doubted it would come true.


II.    According to the interpretation of his dream.

A.     This means that the dreams and the interpretations are not the same.

B.     Each man dreamed a different dream, which had different interpretation.


Verse 6, And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked upon them, and, behold, they were sad.

I.    The sadness of the butler and baker.

A.     They were not sad because they had offended Pharaoh or because they were in prison.

B.     The dreams made them sad.

1.       It is strange to consider the things that make us sad.

2.       When God intends to draw attention to a part of our lives, and cause us to forget other parts, he can do so.


Verse 7, And 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?

I.    It is important to note that Joseph noticed that the two men were sad.

A.     He has important business to take care of each day, but he is not to busy to notice the attitude of those around him.

B.     By our human reasonings, if Joseph had not noticed their sadness, the remainder of the story would not have happened.


Verse 8, And 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.

I.    The butler and baker are wanting one of Pharaoh's interpreters (Gen. 41:8) to tell them the meaning of the dream, but there are none of them in prison.

A.     Joseph depends on God for the interpretations of dreams, not on the interpreters in Pharaoh's court.

B.     Joseph is not afraid to proclaim the power of God to unbelievers, while he is in prison.


Verse 9-13,  And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, In my dream, behold, a vine was before me;  And 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:  And 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.  And Joseph said unto him, This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days:  Yet 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.

I.    The butler's dream.

A.     The events happened quickly.

1.       The vine's three branches budded, grew into clusters of grapes, which were immediately squeezed into Pharaoh's cup and given to him.

2.       Sometimes events do happen very quickly, although they are a long time in developing.

B.     The thought that Pharaoh drank only freshly squeezed grape juice has no validity at all.

1.       There are many proofs that wine was the common drink of that day.

2.       The Bible always associates grape juice with wine.


II.    The interpretation.

A.     There was evidently no hesitation by Joseph concerning the interpretation of the dream.

1.       Some believe Joseph went to privately pray and mediate before he gave the interpretation.

2.       This is not found in scripture.

B.     Lift up thine head - This means they will be put on trial.

1.       It does not mean that Pharaoh will cause their sadness to cease.

2.       The verdict of the butler's trial is that he will be declared innocent, and go back to work.

3.       When Joseph interprets the bakers dream, he also says, "lift up thine head", but adds the words "from off thee" indicating the outcome of the trial is that the baker will be beheaded.

a.       II Kings 25:27, Evil-merodach, King of Babylon, "lifted up the head of Jehoiachin King of Judah out of prison".

b.       It was at this point that Evil-merodach determined what would happen to Jehoiachin.

c.       This further confirms that prisons were not punishment like they are today.

d.       They were only "holding places" for the guilty until their punishment could be determined.


Verse 14,15, But 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:  For 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.

I.    Joseph says "think on me".

A.     Joseph uses the word "when", not "if".

B.     The meaning is for the butler to mention to Pharaoh concerning his dream and Joseph's correct interpretation.

1.       This would allow Joseph an opportunity to get out of prison.

2.       It would help him get a job as interpreter for Pharaoh.


II.    Joseph is careful not to blame his brothers for selling (stealing) him out of his homeland.

A.     We should be very careful not to blame people for the things that happen to us.

B.     We must learn that God is in control of every situation of our lives, whether it is good or bad.


III.    He also declares his innocence.

A.     This is the cry of almost every person in prison.

B.     Joseph's actions while in prison, would confirm his innocence.


IV.    It is interesting to note that Joseph is able to tell the future by interpreting the dreams of others, but is unable to tell his own future.

A.     God has not given him any dreams, or told him how he shall get out of prison.

1.       This doesn't stop him from wanting to get out of prison.

2.       Or from doing all in his power to do the Lord's will.

B.     Joseph must learn to live by faith just like the rest of us.

1.       He is a special person in the history of Israel, but God is pleased to have him learn like the rest of us have to learn.

2.       It takes Joseph many years to learn what God's will is for him.

3.       If it takes many years to discover God's will for your life, don't worry about "wasted years", for we cannot rush God.

4.       Let us be sure we are "working at" discovering God's will.

C.     Some people believe pastors are not like other people.

1.       We must learn to live by faith just like everybody else.

2.       The practical experiences of daily living belong to every person.


Verse 16-19,  When 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:  And 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.  And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation thereof: The three baskets are three days: Yet 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.

I.    The baker's dream.

A.     The chief baker must have been apprehensive about his dream.

1.       He said nothing about his dream until he saw the outcome of the butler's dream.

2.       He had good reason to be apprehensive because his dream was a little different.

a.       The butler went before Pharaoh, returning to his old job.

b.       The fowls ate what the baker had prepared for Pharaoh.

B.     The white baskets.

1.       The meaning is that the baked goods were white, not the baskets.

2.       There was food only in the topmost basket.


II.    The interpretation.

A.     The baker would be tried (lift up thy head) and beheaded on the third day.

B.     There is no mention of the way Joseph delivered this message.

1.       It is best to be soft when bringing a severe message such as this.

2.       It would be fitting with the character of Joseph to speak softly, not harshly.

C.     There is no mention as to how the baker received this interpretation.

1.       He could have sought other interpretations, but there was nobody he could go to.

2.       He had three days to get ready for death, if he believed Joseph.

3.       Joseph was the perfect person to teach him how to be saved, but there is no mention of any of this.


Verse 20-23, And 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. {21} And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand: {22} But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them. {23} Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.

I.    It came to pass just exactly like Joseph interpreted.

A.     The third day was Pharaoh's birthday.

1.       It seems extremely odd to celebrate a birthday by having a trial where one man is exonerated, and another is beheaded and hung!

2.       Their customs are extremely different from ours.

B.     A part of the birthday celebrations was to bring the butler and baker out of prison and hold their trial.


II.    The butler forgot his promise.

A.     Don't be too hard on the butler, for we all forget our promises from time to time.

1.       The excitement of the trial and its outcome would make you forget prior obligations.

2.       It is very likely the butler remembered his promise after things settled down a little, but it would be very difficult to bring up the subject to Pharaoh again.

3.       Pharaoh's remembrance of the butler's offense might cause him to imprison the butler again.

B.     Genesis 41:9-13 - There came a time when the butler remember the interpretations of the dreams and told Pharaoh.

1.       God has ways of bringing his will to pass.

2.       God has ways of causing us to overcome our embarrassment of past failures.