Friday, March 11, 2011

Genesis 40:1-8 Dream Assignment

"Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt.  Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined.  The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them."  (Genesis 40:1-4 NIV)

Was it a dinner gone badly or some other matter which resulted in the cupbearer and baker being thrown into prison?  We do not know these details because they are not an important factor in this story, as far as advancing the account of how God is working in Joseph's life to accomplish His own plan.  However, it is continually emphasized throughout this portion of Scripture that these two new prisoners are significant servants from the court of the Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.  This is setting the stage for the next major change in Joseph's life.

Joseph is apparently assigned to his duties as an attendant to these prisoners by the same man who had him put in prison -- the captain of the guard -- which Genesis 37:36 tells us was Potiphar, Joseph's previous master.  Actually, I suppose that Potiphar is still Joseph's master, even though Joseph is in prison, so it would be logical that Potiphar was directing Joseph's activities.  Also, as captain of the guard, Potiphar was responsible for seeing that these men were taken care of, so he picks a man who will be trustworthy.

"...After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men -- the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison -- had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.  When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected.  So he asked Pharaoh's officials who were in custody with him in his master's house, 'Why are your faces so sad today?'

'We both had dreams,' they answered, 'but there is no one to interpret them.'

Then Joseph said to them, 'Do not interpretations belong to God?  Tell me your dreams.' " (Genesis 40:4-8 NIV)

It is remarkable that Joseph, who has already been in prison for some time, is concerned with the lives of these two men.  It would have been easy for Joseph to have become so consumed by his own situation and needs that he would have no energy for inquiring after other prisoners' conditions.  Instead, Joseph is continuing to faithfully carry out his duties, and seems genuinely concerned about the distress which is visible on the officials' faces.

When Joseph finds out that the men's dreams have caused their dejection, he immediately reminds them that God is the only competent interpreter of such matters.  However, Joseph offers to listen to their dreams.  Obviously he does not think that he is as capable as God.  Instead, I believe he is offering to listen to their dreams and then pray to God for an interpretation.  Joseph is still in prison, but he knows who he is -- a servant of God.  In a small way, Joseph is continuing to carry out one of the blessings promised to Abraham --that all nations would be blessed through Abraham's descendants. (Genesis 12:3)

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