Prophetic Dreams of Restoration and Judgment (Genesis 40)
In Chapter 39 we read about Joseph overcoming temptation just to end up getting falsely accused of attempted rape and thrown into prison. Today we’re going to read about how Joseph once again makes the best out of a terrible situation, works diligently, and is entrusted with managing the prison he was bound in. While managing the prison a couple of prominent Egyptian officials are going to join him and God is going to use Joseph to interpret prophetic dreams that a couple of Egyptians had. One good dream, and one very bad dream.
THE TWO DREAMSGenesis 40:1 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.
Genesis 40:2 And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers.
Genesis 40:3 And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.
It doesn’t say what these men did to offend their lord the king of Egypt. Being that the baker and the butler were such high ranking officials, it’s likely they were suspected of conspiring against the king. They were probably being held in ward until some kind of investigation was complete.
And it’s no coincidence that they were sent to the same prison where Joseph was bound. God purposely brought these men to Joseph, and we’ll soon find out why.
Genesis 40:4 And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward.
Joseph was in charge of watching over and serving these two high profile Egyptian prisoners for a time, while they continued a season in ward. This again shows that Joseph was such a diligent and loyal worker that the captain of the guard entrusted him with this important duty.
Had Joseph just sat in a corner and felt sorry for himself this great opportunity that is about to present itself would never have occurred. Remember that. Remember to always keep faith no matter what situation you are in and God will eventually provide a way out for you, just like He is going to do for Joseph.
Genesis 40:5 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.
Genesis 40:6 And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked upon them, and, behold, they were sad.
Genesis 40:7 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?
Joseph was a compassionate guy. He asks them why look ye so sadly to day? No doubt he was concerned about these guys and wanted to know what he could do to help them.
Genesis 40:8 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.
Supposedly the Egyptians believed in the prophetic nature of dreams. Now I’m sure these guys have all kinds of dreams that they didn’t really remember or care about, but there was something very real about these dreams. They knew it, or they wouldn’t be so concerned about trying to figure out what they mean.
Notice the humbleness of Joseph here, giving God credit by asking the rhetorical question, “Do not interpretations belong to God?”. My friends, never forget that. When reading many difficult to understand parables, dreams, or visions given in the Bible, including the great book of Revelation, remember that ALL understanding comes from God. After figuring out that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus answered Peter and said, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17).
It didn’t matter if there were Egyptians around who majored in “The Art of Interpreting Dreams”, no amount of human effort alone can give you spiritual insight into the things of God, the eyes of your mind must be illuminated by God.
Genesis 40:9 And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, In my dream, behold, a vine was before me;
Genesis 40:10 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:
Genesis 40:11 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.
Genesis 40:12 And Joseph said unto him, This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days:
Wait a minute, Joseph didn’t get a degree in “The Science of Interpreting Dreams” or “Hermeneutics for Prophetic Interpretation”. In fact, Joseph had no formal education at all, as far as we can tell. He grew up herding sheep, was sold into slavery by his brothers, worked his way up to become a successful business manager, was then falsely accused and thrown in prison, from lowly prisoner Joseph again work his way up, this time to become manager of the prison he was bound in. With this kind of background, how could Joseph say, “This is the interpretation of it”? He had no worldly credentials.
Ah, but what he did have was a hard work ethic and the blessings of God (verse). Some would call Joseph a self-made man, others would say he wasn’t qualified because he didn’t get a degree from their universities or seminaries. But here he is rightly interpreting prophetic dreams given through the power of God. Ironically religious men to this day still believe that their worldly credentials from prestigious religious institutions qualifies them to authorities on the mysteries of God. But I quote again, “Do not interpretations belong to God?”
Furthermore, God often hides the meaning of prophetic writings from so-called wise men. I can’t tell you how many times I went into a church where the Pastor was heavily credentialed, with all kinds of formal education and degrees listed after their name, as though that qualifies them to speak for God.
Jesus says the opposite. In Luke 10:21-23 He says this as it relates to the church leaders of his day:
“In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight…And he turned unto his disciples, and said privately, blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see:”
Genesis 40:13 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.
Genesis 40:14 But 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:
Genesis 40:15 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.
Okay, so the butler must have either been found innocent or forgiven of his trespass against Pharaoh. Within three days he was going to be released from prison and restored to his former position. I bet this was a great relief to him! (Note: the words “three days” and “restored” should pop out to you. More on that later.)
Make mention of me unto Pharaoh – This was the first time that Joseph proclaimed his innocence. Before that, he seemed to stay silent. Some believe that this was Joseph’s weak moment, and that he was trying to force things according to his own timing now by asking this favor. Possibly, after all as good as Joseph was he was still just a mortal man, he was not the Messiah, though he was a pretty good type.
Genesis 40:16 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:
The chief baker thought his odds were good now since the interpretation was good for the chief butler’s dream, why not then give this a shot and see what it means. You know a lot of people look at the Bible this way. Week after week Pastors ignore the Biblical passages of doom and judgment and look only for the sweet stuff, like grace, mercy, prosperity, and forgiveness. The reality is that it doesn’t always end that way for all people.
Genesis 40:17 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.
Genesis 40:18 And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation thereof: The three baskets are three days:
Genesis 40:19 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.
Oh man. Not the outcome he was expecting. Though the butler was forgiven for his trespass against the king of Egypt, the chief baker would not be. Thousands of years later we see something very similar happen. Do you remember the two criminals who were bound next to Jesus on the cross? One was forgiven and the other was not!
Check out the other parallels here:
Joseph – Type of Jesus
Pharaoh – Type of the wrath of God
Three Days – Both dreams fulfilled in three days. Jesus fulfilled many prophecies when he arose the third day.
Bread Baskets – Bread symbolic of broken body of Jesus on the cross
Wine – Symbolic of the blood of Jesus
Hanged on a Tree – An obvious reference to the cross
My friends this is no coincidence. There is almost always a deeper teaching for those with “eyes to see” and “ears to hear”.
Genesis 40:20 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.
Genesis 40:21 And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand:
Genesis 40:22 But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them.
Genesis 40:23 Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.
Joseph hoped in the chief butler but the chief butler let him down, he forgot him. No surprise there. We cannot rely upon man for salvation. Now, Joseph is still stuck in this prison. I think there is a reason for this. Perhaps Joseph indeed did have a weak moment when he asked for deliverance from man. Perhaps God wanted to teach Joseph one final lesson before delivering him. That lesson would be:
SALVATION ONLY COMES ONLY BY FAITH IN GOD. No man can save us, and no amount of human effort can deliver us from the bondage of death.