Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 26 2011 - E100.12b – Gen 40:1-23, Joseph interprets dreams

Joseph is in prison and is soon joined by two of Pharaoh's officials, his chief cupbearer and his chief baker – though we are not told what they had done to offend their royal master. Joseph, as trusted prisoner, has access to these officials, perhaps bringing them their daily food.

One day he notices that they both seem troubled. In response to Joseph's enquiries they tell him that they have both had strange dreams and there is no-one to interpret them. By this they probably mean that here in the prison they do not have access to the 'magicians' and 'wise men' of Pharaoh's court who were considered able to interpret dreams. Joseph does not claim to be like such men, he simply claims that if these dreams have a meaning, God alone is able to disclose what it is. Moreover, in inviting these two men to tell him their dreams, Joseph is claiming to know the living God and to be in communication with him.

The two dreams are related, and Joseph is able to give each man its interpretation. In three days, the chief cupbearer will be restored to his job at Pharaoh's side, but the chief baker will be executed. Joseph pleads with the cupbearer to remember him when he regains his position in Pharaoh's court, since he (probably unlike the cupbearer) has been unjustly imprisoned.

It all happens just as Joseph had told them. But, when the chief cupbearer was restored, he forgot Joseph.

We should not suppose from such Bible passages as these that all dreams have deep meaning and require interpretation. Most of our dreams are forgotten before we are fully awake and those we remember are more the construction of our uncontrolled minds than a revelation from God – though I would not wish to deny the influence of God, or of Satan, on our dreams.

But nor would I wish to leave this passage without highlighting a notable contrast with the witness of the New Testament. Joseph, the innocent prisoner, asks the guilty cupbearer to remember him when he is restored to his place at the side of the king; but he is forgotten. The guilty, dying thief, asks the guiltless Christ to remember him when he is restored to his kingdom; he is not forgotten. Jesus promises freedom from the imprisonment of sin and death and a place with him in Paradise. He never fails to remember his promises.

Lord Jesus, thank you that you remember me and plead my case in the courts of heaven. Thank you that because of your promise and your faithfulness I shall be brought safely into your presence.

Peter Misselbrook