Genesis Chapter 40


The chief butler and baker of Pharaoh in prison, Their dreams interpreted by Joseph. (Verse 1-19.)

The ingratitude of the chief butler. (Verse 20-23.)

Chapter Forty is a self-explanatory chapter and needs little commentary accept to say that Joseph not only dreamed dreams as in the beginning, but he also was gifted by God to interpret dreams.

I am sure he thought many nights about the dreams he had as a lad in Canaan Land, but he had no idea how any of those dreams would come to pass as he was in prison in Egypt and his brothers were free in the land of promise.

The normal man in his circumstances would have become bitter towards any talk of dreams, he probably thought his were nothing more than nightmares, after all they got him where he was today (in Jail) by bringing the wrath of his brothers down upon his head.

I’ll bet as Joseph spent those long nights in prison he probably begged God for the ability to understand his dream as its fulfillment seemed impossible and his faith was ultimately rewarded.

Don’t let your present circumstances cause you to doubt God’s promises my friend but allow the time of testing to have its perfect way in you and shine while all others around you are overcome by their surroundings.

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.

[Nehemiah 1:11]

2 And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers.

[Gen 41:10]

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.

Jesus was also condemned between two prisoners, one of which would be redeemed while the other would be punished even further.

Luke 23:32. And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. 33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

4 And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward.

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.

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

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?

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.

[Gen 41:16, Dan 2:28]

“Do not interpretations belong to God?”  Many today make the claim that the Bible is incapable of being understood because “That’s just your interpretation….” or because “Everyone has their own interpretation….”  What everyone who makes such statements fails to realize is that God is the one who wrote the Bible and he knows exactly what he meant when he said what he said.  If we want to know what the Bible means, we need to read it and ask the God to whom all interpretations belong for the right interpretation.  This is where John 16:13 and I Cor. 2:10-14 come into play. The difficulty is rarely in understanding what God said, but rather the difficulty often lies in BELIEVING it!

9 And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, In my dream, behold, a vine was before me;

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:

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.

this verse refers to new wine – grapes freshly squeezed into a cup rather than old wine that has been allowed to ferment.

12 And Joseph said unto him, This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days:

[Judges 7:14, Dan 2:36, Dan 4:19]

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.

[Psa 3:3, Jer 52:31]

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:

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.

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:

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.

18 And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation thereof: The three baskets are three days:

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.

Joseph does not hesitate to give the bad news from God to the baker just as quickly as he gave the good news from God to the butler.  Any preacher or minister who will be faithful to God will not hesitate to give his people the “whole counsel of God” – the negative as well as the positive!  Far too little preaching on sin has resulted in the situation so evident in our country today.  Does the minister at your church preach the negative parts of the Bible against sin and about hell as well as all of the positives?  If not, you would be wise to find a church where the whole Bible is preached!

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.

[Matt 14:6]

birthdays are only mentioned twice in the Bible – in both cases someone dies as a result (compare Matthew 14:6-10); despite this negative context, there is nothing in the Bible that prohibits anyone from celebrating birthdays as the Jehovah’s Witnesses insist

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.

[Esther 7:10]

23 Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.

[Job 19:14, Psa 31:12, Eccl 9:15, Heb 13:16]

The Butler in this story is restored after three days which is symbolic of the Messiah being resurrected after three days. The baker is cut off after the same three days as Israel is for her rejection of its Messiah. Israel has refused to believe all that Christ has done for her and has suffered greatly because of it. She has been too busy seeking after riches and fame to consider the lowly carpenter.

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

Verse 1-19 – It was not so much the prison that made the butler and baker sad, as their dreams. God has more ways than one to sadden the spirits. Joseph had compassion towards them. Let us be concerned for the sadness of our brethren’s countenances. It is often a relief to those that are in trouble to be noticed. Also learn to look into the causes of our own sorrow. Is there a good reason? Is there not comfort sufficient to balance it, whatever it is? Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Joseph was careful to ascribe the glory to God. The chief butler’s dream foretold his advancement. The chief baker’s dream his death. It was not Joseph’s fault that he brought the baker no better tidings. And thus ministers are but interpreters; they cannot make the thing otherwise than it is: if they deal faithfully, and their message prove unpleasing, it is not their fault. Joseph does not reflect upon his brethren that sold him; nor does he reflect on the wrong done him by his mistress and his master, but mildly states his own innocence. When we are called on to clear ourselves, we should carefully avoid, as much as may be, speaking ill of others. Let us be content to prove ourselves innocent, and not upbraid others with their guilt.

Verse 20-23 – Joseph’s interpretation of the dreams came to pass on the very day fixed. On Pharaoh’s birth-day, all his servants attended him, and then the cases of these two came to be looked into. We may all profitably take notice of our birth-days, with thankfulness for the mercies of our birth, sorrow for the sinfulness of our lives, and expectation of the day of our death, as better than the day of our birth. But it seems strange that worldly people, who are so fond of living here, should rejoice at the end of one year after another of their short span of life. A Christian has cause to rejoice that he was born, also that he comes nearer to the end of his sin and sorrow, and nearer to his everlasting happiness. The chief butler remembered not Joseph, but forgot him. Joseph had deserved well at his hands, yet he forgot him. We must not think it strange, if in this world we have hatred shown us for our love, and slights for our kindness. See how apt those who are themselves at ease are to forget others in distress. Joseph learned by his disappointment to trust in God only. We cannot expect too little from man, nor too much from God. Let us not forget the sufferings, promises, and love of our Redeemer. We blame the chief butler’s ingratitude to Joseph, yet we ourselves act much more ungratefully to the Lord Jesus. Joseph had but foretold the chief butler’s enlargement, but Christ wrought out ours; he mediated with the King of Kings for us; yet we forget him, though often reminded of him, and though we have promised never to forget him. Thus ill do we requite Him, like foolish people and unwise.