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Genesis 40:13

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 1-23

- Joseph in Prison

An uncomplaining patience and an unhesitating hopefulness keep the breast of Joseph in calm tranquillity. There is a God above, and that God is with him. His soul swerves not from this feeling. Meanwhile, new and distinguished prisoners are introduced into his place of confinement.

Genesis 40:1-4

The chief butler and chief baker, high officials in Pharaoh‘s court, come under the displeasure of their sovereign. “In the house of the captain of the guards.” It appears that this officer‘s establishment contained the keep in which Joseph and these criminals were confined. “Charged Joseph with them.” As Joseph was his slave, and these were state prisoners, he appointed him to wait upon them. It is probable that Joseph‘s character had been somewhat re-established with him during his residence in the prison.

Genesis 40:5-8

These prisoners dream, “each according to the interpretation of his dream,” the imagery of which was suited to indicate his future state. They were sad - anxious to know the meaning of these impressive dreams. “Why are your forces bad today?” Joseph keeps up his character of frank composure. “Do not interpretations belong to God?” In his past history he had learned that dreams themselves come from God. And when he adds, “Tell them now to me,” he intimates that God would enable him to interpret their dreams. Here again he uses the general name of God, which was common to him with the pagan.

Genesis 40:9-15

The chief butler now recites his dream. “Pressed them into Pharaoh‘s cup.” The imagery of the dream is not intended to intimate that Pharaoh drank only the fresh juice of the grape. It only expresses by a natural figure the source of wine, and possibly the duty of the chief butler to understand and superintend the whole process of its formation. Egypt was not only a corn, but a vine country. The interpretation of this dream was very obvious and natural; yet not without a divine intimation could it be known that the “three branches were three days.” Joseph, in the quiet confidence that his interpretation would prove correct, begs the chief butler to remember him and endeavor to procure his release. “Stolen, stolen was I.” He assures him that he was not a criminal, and that his enslavement was an act of wrongful violence - a robbery by the strong hand. “From the land of the Hebrews;” a very remarkable expression, as it strongly favors the presumption that the Hebrews inhabited the country before Kenaan took possession of it. “I have not done aught.” Joseph pleads innocence, and claims liberation, not as an unmerited favor, but as a right. “The pit.” The pit without water seems to have been the primitive place of confinement for culprits.

Genesis 40:16-19

The chief baker is encouraged by this interpretation to tell his dream. “I also.” He anticipates a favorable answer, from the remarkable likeness of the dreams. “On my head.” It appears from the monuments of Egypt that it was the custom for men to carry articles on their heads. “All manner of baked meats” were also characteristic of a corn country. “Lift up thy head from upon thee.” This part of the interpretation proves its divine origin. And hang thee - thy body, after being beheaded. This was a constant warning to all beholders.

Genesis 40:20-23

The interpretations prove correct. “The birthday of Pharaoh.” It is natural and proper for men to celebrate with thanksgiving the day of their birth, as life is a pure and positive blessing. The benign Creator gives only a happy and precious form of existence to those whom he endows with the capacity of estimating its value. A birthday feast cannot be without a chief butler and a chief baker, and hence, the fate of these criminals must be promptly decided. “Lifted up the head;” a phrase of double meaning. The chief butler remembers not Joseph. This is a case of frequent occurrence in this nether world. But there is One above who does not forget him. He will deliver him at the proper time.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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.
Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 323

These and other scriptures clearly proved to Miller's mind that the events which were generally expected to take place before the coming of Christ, such as the universal reign of peace and the setting up of the kingdom of God upon the earth, were to be subsequent to the second advent. Furthermore, all the signs of the times and the condition of the world corresponded to the prophetic description of the last days. He was forced to the conclusion, from the study of Scripture alone, that the period allotted for the continuance of the earth in its present state was about to close. GC 323.1

“Another kind of evidence that vitally affected my mind,” he says, “was the chronology of the Scriptures.... I found that predicted events, which had been fulfilled in the past, often occurred within a given time. The one hundred and twenty years to the flood (Genesis 6:3); the seven days that were to precede it, with forty days of predicted rain (Genesis 7:4); the four hundred years of the sojourn of Abraham's seed (Genesis 15:13); the three days of the butler's and baker's dreams (Genesis 40:12-20); the seven years of Pharaoh's (Genesis 41:28-54); the forty years in the wilderness (Numbers 14:34); the three and a half years of famine (1 Kings 17:1) [see Luke 4:25;] ... the seventy years’ captivity (Jeremiah 25:11); Nebuchadnezzar's seven times (Daniel 4:13-16); and the seven weeks, threescore and two weeks, and the one week, making seventy weeks, determined upon the Jews (Daniel 9:24-27),—the events limited by these times were all once only a matter of prophecy, and were fulfilled in accordance with the predictions.”—Bliss, pages 74, 75. GC 323.2

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Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 219

The chief baker and chief butler of the king had been cast into prison for some offense, and they came under Joseph's charge. One morning, observing that they appeared very sad, he kindly inquired the cause and was told that each had had a remarkable dream, of which they were anxious to learn the significance. “Do not interpretations belong to God?” said Joseph, “tell me them, I pray you.” As each related his dream, Joseph made known its import: In three days the butler was to be reinstated in his position, and give the cup into Pharaoh's hand as before, but the chief baker would be put to death by the king's command. In both cases the event occurred as foretold. PP 219.1

The king's cupbearer had professed the deepest gratitude to Joseph, both for the cheering interpretation of his dream and for many acts of kind attention; and in return the latter, referring in a most touching manner to his own unjust captivity, entreated that his case be brought before the king. “Think on me,” he said, “when it shall be well with thee, and show kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: 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.” The chief butler saw the dream fulfilled in every particular; but when restored to royal favor, he thought no more of his benefactor. For two years longer Joseph remained a prisoner. The hope that had been kindled in his heart gradually died out, and to all other trials was added the bitter sting of ingratitude. PP 219.2

But a divine hand was about to open the prison gates. The king of Egypt had in one night two dreams, apparently pointing to the same event and seeming to foreshadow some great calamity. He could not determine their significance, yet they continued to trouble his mind. The magicians and wise men of his realm could give no interpretation. The king's perplexity and distress increased, and terror spread throughout his palace. The general agitation recalled to the chief butler's mind the circumstances of his own dream; with it came the memory of Joseph, and a pang of remorse for his forgetfulness and ingratitude. He at once informed the king how his own dream and that of the chief baker had been interpreted by a Hebrew captive, and how the predictions had been fulfilled. PP 219.3

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Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 332

As men increased upon the earth, almost the whole world joined the ranks of rebellion. Once more Satan seemed to have gained the victory. But omnipotent power again cut short the working of iniquity, and the earth was cleansed by the Flood from its moral pollution. PP 332.1

Says the prophet, “When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Let favor be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness, ... and will not behold the majesty of Jehovah.” Isaiah 26:9, 10. Thus it was after the Flood. Released from His judgments, the inhabitants of the earth again rebelled against the Lord. Twice God's covenant and His statutes had been rejected by the world. Both the people before the Flood and the descendants of Noah cast off the divine authority. Then God entered into covenant with Abraham, and took to Himself a people to become the depositaries of His law. To seduce and destroy this people, Satan began at once to lay his snares. The children of Jacob were tempted to contract marriages with the heathen and to worship their idols. But Joseph was faithful to God, and his fidelity was a constant testimony to the true faith. It was to quench this light that Satan worked through the envy of Joseph's brothers to cause him to be sold as a slave in a heathen land. God overruled events, however, so that the knowledge of Himself should be given to the people of Egypt. Both in the house of Potiphar and in the prison Joseph received an education and training that, with the fear of God, prepared him for his high position as prime minister of the nation. From the palace of the Pharaohs his influence was felt throughout the land, and the knowledge of God spread far and wide. The Israelites in Egypt also became prosperous and wealthy, and such as were true to God exerted a widespread influence. The idolatrous priests were filled with alarm as they saw the new religion finding favor. Inspired by Satan with his own enmity toward the God of heaven, they set themselves to quench the light. To the priests was committed the education of the heir to the throne, and it was this spirit of determined opposition to God and zeal for idolatry that molded the character of the future monarch, and led to cruelty and oppression toward the Hebrews. PP 332.2

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Ellen G. White
Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, 146-8

The part which Joseph acted in connection with the scenes of the gloomy prison, was that which raised him finally to prosperity and honor. God designed that he should obtain an experience by temptations, adversity, and hardships, to prepare him to fill an exalted position. 3SG 146.1

While he was confined in prison, Pharaoh became offended with two of his officers, the chief baker and the chief butler, and they were put in prison where Joseph was bound. “And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them, and they continued a season in ward.” Joseph made his life useful even while in prison. His exemplary conduct, humble deportment, and faithfulness, obtained for him the confidence of all in the prison, and those who were connected with it. He did not spend his time in mourning over the injustice of his accusers, which had deprived him of his liberty. One morning as Joseph brought food to the king's officers, he observed that they were looking very sad. He kindly inquired, “Wherefore look ye so sadly today? 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” Then the butler related to Joseph his dream, which he interpreted, that the butler would be restored to the king's favor, and deliver Pharaoh's cup into his hand as he had formerly done. The butler was satisfied with the interpretation, and his mind was at once relieved. 3SG 146.2

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