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This staged drama between the king’s cupbearer and his baker provides the backdrop for Joseph later on to be summoned before the king to interpret his dream. It will open the door that will lead to Joseph’s eventual release from prison and exaltation in the royal household. But for now, the drama focuses mainly on the two diametrically opposed destinies that stem from the very similar common roots. There is a serious infraction committed by each individual that stirs the ire of the king. There is the common imprisonment under the care of Joseph. There are the parallel dreams which require interpretation by God’s messenger, Joseph. We finish with the surprising contrast in fortunes coupled with the crushing blow to Joseph of remaining overlooked in his captivity when he should have been rescued. He is forgotten by man, but not forsaken by God. The providence of God remains right on track in bringing about God’s desired kingdom objectives.

God is developing the character of Joseph through His two favorite classrooms: Disappointment and Delay. Joseph got to experience both of these in spades. He bounced from the pit into which he was thrown by his brothers into the pit of prison under Potiphar in Egypt. Despite his knowledge of God’s glorious promises for his future, his hopes kept getting dashed time after time as God did not act on the timetable desired by Joseph. How do we deal with Disappointment and Delay? How are we able to maintain our conviction in the goodness and faithfulness of God and continue to glorify Him with our testimony and service while we remain in the pit?


A. (:1-3) How Did They End Up in Prison with Joseph?

1. (:1) Crime Against the King

“Then it came about after these things the cupbearer and the baker for the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt.”

They served at the pleasure of the king;

Positions of prominence can be quite precarious

Bob Utley: we know of 38 kinds of cakes which were regularly baked as well as 57 kinds of breads. Some of the bread was dyed different colors and made of different kinds of grain and in different physical shapes to resemble some of the animals and characteristic objects of Egypt.

2. (:2) Culprits Angered the King

“And Pharaoh was furious with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker.”

Don’t poke the bear

Bob Utley: “furious” — denotes an intense wrath that issues in action.

3. (:3) Confinement Appointed by the King

“So he put them in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, in the jail, the same place where Joseph was imprisoned.”

Providential appointment – linking these 2 with Joseph

B. (:4) How Did Joseph Serve Them as a Faithful Steward?

1. Delegation of Charge

“And the captain of the bodyguard put Joseph in charge of them,”

2. Description of Care

“and he took care of them;”

Functioned as a faithful steward; did not put his own needs first; saw needs and took the initiative to meet them

3. Duration of Confinement

“and they were in confinement for some time.”

Shows the character that God was building into Joseph – building his endurance and perseverance as he continued to maintain a good attitude and a good testimony over a long time of undeserved imprisonment


A. (:5) Dreams Needing Interpretation

“Then the cupbearer and the baker for the king of Egypt, who were confined in jail, both had a dream the same night, each man with his own dream and each dream with its own interpretation.”

Look at the Lord’s timing; nothing happens for a long time and then all of a sudden, both of them have key dreams on the same night

B. (:6-8a) Dejection Perceived by Joseph – Sensitive and Compassionate

“When Joseph came to them in the morning and observed them, behold, they were dejected. And he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were with him in confinement in his master’s house, ‘Why are your faces so sad today?’ Then they said to him, ‘We have had a dream and there is no one to interpret it.’”

A danger of disappointment is that we become so self-absorbed that we no longer are available to serve others

Parunak: No doubt they told one another of their dreams, and were struck by the coincidences. These coincidences suggested to them that the dreams were not ordinary, but had special significance. Joseph himself later tells Pharaoh that a doubled dream is evidence of its divine origin (41:32, “for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass”; cf. Job 33:14-18). In fact, doubled dreams are typical of Joseph’s history (here; in ch. 41; the two dreams of Joseph’s dominance in ch. 37), and Joseph may have learned this significance from these previous dreams.

C. (:8b) Divine Connection Offered by Joseph – “Here am I, Send Me” Attitude

“Then Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell it to me, please.’”

Joseph was all about giving God the credit for everything He accomplished; look at the relationship that Joseph testifies to with this powerful God

Ron Ritchie: The Egyptians had a belief, widespread in antiquity, that “sleep puts us in real and direct contact with the other world where not only the dead but also the gods dwell. Dreams therefore are a gift from the gods.” (Vergote, Joseph en Egypte. ) Joseph took advantage of this “teachable moment” and told them of his relationship with Yahweh , the one and only living God in this land of hundreds of manmade gods. And then he asked them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” Joseph’s attitude was consistent with the Old Testament’s rejection of occult practices and its reliance on prophecy as a means of discovering God’s will (see Deuteronomy 18:10-22).

Joseph took the initiative to offer his concern and compassion and to testify that God is able to provide the interpretation of dreams that they were seeking; he offers his assistance in serving their needs to be the conduit for God’s prophetic interpretation



A lot hinges on a preposition in this section

A. (:9-15) Dream of the Chief Cupbearer and Joseph’s Interpretation

1. (:9-11) The Dream of the Chief Cupbearer

“So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, ‘In my dream, behold, there was a vine in front of me; and on the vine were three branches. And as it was budding, its blossoms came out, and its clusters produced ripe grapes. Now Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; so I took the grapes and squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.’”

2. (:12-13) Joseph’s Interpretation

“Then Joseph said to him, ‘This is the interpretation of it: the three branches are three days; within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you will put Pharaoh’s cup into his hand according to your former custom when you were his cupbearer.’”

3. (:14-15) Joseph’s Appeal for Deliverance

a. (:14) Opportunity for Deliverance

“Only keep me in mind when it goes well with you, and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house.”

b. (:15) Basis for Deliverance: Victim of Injustice

“For I was in fact kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.”

Victim on two specific occasions:

– Back in the land of the Hebrews – kidnapped without cause

– Here in the land of Egypt – imprisoned without cause

B. (:16-19) Dream of the Chief Baker and Joseph’s Interpretation

1. (:16-17) Dream of the Chief Baker

“When the chief baker saw that he had interpreted favorably, he said to Joseph, ‘I also saw in my dream, and behold, there were three baskets of white bread on my head; and in the top basket there were some of all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, and the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.’”

Parunak: The baker wants the interpretation only if it is good. The butler wants to hear what God has to say to him, regardless. This distinction between attitudes to the word of God is crucial, and we do well to examine our hearts to determine whether we are like the butler or like the baker.

2. (:18-19) Joseph’s Interpretation

“Then Joseph answered and said, ‘This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days; within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head from you and will hang you on a tree; and the birds will eat your flesh off you.’”

Parunak: Joseph’s response begins identically with that to the butler, except that he replaces “branches” with “baskets.” They continue to be word-for-word identical through the phrase, “shall Pharaoh lift up thy head.” The baker’s heart is soaring as he hears the interpretation unfold…but Joseph does not go on to the promise of restoration. Instead, he adds to the clause “lift up thy head”, the prepositional phrase, “from off thee.” With this extension, the expression is no longer an idiom for exalting someone, but a somber prediction of execution. The baker will be executed. . . Joseph does not ask the baker to “remember him,” as he did the butler. The baker will be in no position to deliver him from prison.

Bob Utley: It is also obvious that v. 19 does not refer to hanging because it is difficult to hang one whose head has been cut off! This hanging apparently meant to hang or to impale one publicly after he was already dead (cf. Josh. 8:29; I Sam. 31:9-10; II Sam. 4:12). This seems to be the general intent of this public impaling as can be ascertained from Deut. 21:23. The fact that the man’s body would be eaten by birds would be especially horrendous to an Egyptian who place so much emphasis on embalming after death to preserve the body.


A. (:20) Time for Disposition

“Thus it came about on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants.”

B. (:21-22) Two Different Destinies – Consistent with Joseph’s Interpretation

1) (:21) Chief Cupbearer Restored to His Office

“And he restored the chief cupbearer to his office,

and he put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand;”

2) (:22) Chief Baker Hanged

“but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had interpreted to them.”

The details work themselves out in exact fulfillment to how Joseph had provided the interpretation of the two dreams. God makes no mistakes. God is all about the details.

Why is one person elected by God to salvation and another left to pay the consequences for his sinful behavior? It is a divine mystery … but it cannot be denied or controverted.


“Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”

One more nail in Joseph’s coffin;

One more heartbreaking disappointment

Alan Carr: The path of life leads us into prison situations from time to time. We all face hardships and trials. That is the way of life, John 16:33. Sometime we feel like we are shut up, shut down and shut off too. And, we feel that we are forgotten in that prison. Many times we are forgotten by those around us. Even though man may forget us in the prisons of life, the Lord never forgets and He refuses to forsake us while we are there, Heb. 13:5. . . This is a bad place to leave our hero. He has done the right things every time he had a chance and still he suffers for “righteousness sake”. There he stands falsely accused, wrongly imprisoned and now, he is also forgotten. Joseph cannot see it, but the wheels of providence are slowly advancing. God is slowly but surely lining up everything in Joseph’s life just the way it needs to be. Soon the plans and purposes of God will become crystal clear!

Brent Kercheville: Disappointment Qualifies Us for Service

Rather than degenerating into selfish thoughts of anger, bitterness, self-pity, withdrawal, depression, and resentment, consider how you can use your disappointment for God’s service so that he is glorified. What will you do with your disappointment? You can serve God and serve others through that disappointment. Rather than falling into sin yourself, serve the beauty that has turned into a beast. Serve your family. Live a life that honors God through the disappointments. Show that God is good even when life does not match expectations.

Disappointment is a tool to break our pride that causes us to think that we know how our lives ought to go better than God does. We need disappointment in life so that we move our faith to the one who does not disappoint: our Lord Jesus. Don’t be disappointed in the life God has given you to live. Are we greater than God to tell him how our life is supposed to go? Job thought he could do that. God rebuked Job for that thinking and Job despised himself for thinking and speaking this way (Job 42:6). Naaman made the same mistake with his disappointment in the way that he thought he would be healed by the prophet of God. Are we going to tell God how life is supposed to be?

Don’t waste your life living in disappointment. Are you just going to live disappointed each day? Or are you going to do something for God with your disappointment? Know that God is working and you can use this for his glory and for the good of others. Let your heart be changed by your disappointment to look forward to an eternal home with God that is free from disappointment.

Zeisler: The end of our story does not spell rejection, or injustice, or being used and then discarded. We will not ultimately be forgotten, lonely and rejected. The end of our story is glorification in Jesus Christ. That is our destiny if we are his children. However painful our present circumstances, we need to recall that the Lord is headed someplace with us. He has been raised from the dead, and his word is true. Although he was forgotten, rejected and misused, Joseph knew two things for sure: God was present with him and he would not fail him; and he had not yet seen written the final chapter of his story.