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Chapter 40

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The Cupbearer And The Baker (ch. 40:1 - 23)  


In verse 1 we see the phrase "king of Egypt".  In verse 2 we see the word "Pharaoh".   The King of Egypt was the Pharaoh.  The word "Pharaoh" is another name for king.  It is not a personal name.


In verse 1 we are introduced to two men, the cup bearer, and the baker.  The cupbearer would bring wine to the king and taste the wine before the king drank it to make sure it was good wine, and especially to make sure it was not poison. 


In verses 2 and 3 we note that for some reason the king got very angry with the cupbearer and the baker.  We note here that both of these men where in charge of their respective departments.  Why the king was angry with these men, we don't know.  He was so angry the he put them both in prison, under the control of the "captain of the guards".  Many scholars feel this captain was Potiphar because he is seen as the captain of the guards in the last chapter.  We also learn from this verse that Joseph was in the same prison and Potiphar put him there.


Concerning the baker, history tells us that Egyptian culture had many kinds of breads and cakes. It is said that they had 38 different kinds of cakes and 57 different kinds of bread.


The NIV says in verse 3 that Joseph was "confined".  Other translations use other words such as "bound".  Egyptian prisoners were normally bound at the ankles in chains so they could not go far.


In verse 4 we learn that the captain of the guard put the cupbearer and the baker under Joseph's authority.  We learned from the last chapter that Joseph had once again gained respect, even in prison, and so he had some authority over the other prisoners.  And, if the captain of the guard was indeed Potiphar, that goes to show that Potiphar did respect Joseph even when he was in prison.  It also may suggest that Potiphar did not fully trust his wife, or believe that Joseph had actually raped her, as we discussed in the last chapter.


In verses 4 and 5 we learn that Joseph had now been in prison for a long time.  How long, we don't know, but we do know that God was with Joseph which can be seen in this chapter.  We often don't attribute bad things happening to men of God, but the Bible shows just the opposite to be true.  Many great men of the Bible suffered greatly, all in the cause and plan of the Lord.  


We see in verses 6 and 7 that one day Joseph came into the room where the cupbearer and the baker were and he saw that they looked very dejected.  He asked them why they looked so unhappy.


In verse  7 the prison is called Joseph's "master's house".  This is yet another point to suggest that this was the prison that Potiphar was in charge of, because we know that Potiphar was, and it appears still is, Joseph's master.


In verse 8 the two men told Joseph that they both woke up that morning, each having a disturbing dream. 


Joseph answers by saying that interpretations of dreams come only from God.  Again, the Hebrew word "Elohim" is translated as God here.  He is the all-powerful most high God.  Then he asked the men to tell him the dream.  Right away Joseph is distinguishing himself as someone who is connected with God.  He certainly is set apart from his other brothers in that respect.  They were far from a godly group of men. 


If you remember, when Joseph was seventeen years old he had a couple of dreams himself.  It appears now that he had also received the gift of interpreting dreams at some point in his life, maybe even when he was seventeen. 


In verses 9 through 11 the cupbearer proceeds to tell Joseph his dream.  He saw a vine with three branches full of blossoms that soon turned into grapes, and that soon fermented.  He squeezed the grapes and put the wine in the king's cup and gave the wine to the king.


Joseph interprets the dream in verse 12 and 13.  He said that the three branches are three days and within three days Pharaoh would "lift up" the cupbearers head and restore him to the position he once had.  That was good news to the cup bearer.  I'm sure the baker was listening and expected good news as well, or at least hoped to hear good news.


Notice the phrase, "lift up your head".  The same phrase will be used in connection to the baker's dream but in a very different way.


Since the cupbearer would be restored to his position Joseph took the opportunity to ask him to remember him to Pharaoh so Pharaoh would let him out of prison.  Joseph explains that he is a Hebrew and was sold into slavery and put into prison for no reason.  He wanted out.  It turns out that the cupbearer forgot about Joseph for two whole years.


In verses 16 and 17 we see the baker's dream.  He was walking with three baskets full of bread on his head.  Birds came and ate the bread.


Joseph interprets the baker's dream in verse 18 and 19.  The three baskets represent three days.  In three days Pharaoh would "lift up the baker's head",  hang him, and the birds would eat his flesh.  I'm sure the baker wasn't impressed.


We should note here that the baker did not die from a hanging.  He had his head chopped off and after that, he was hung.  This was often done in Egyptian culture.  The dead body would be put on display and the birds would indeed eat the flesh.  This was meant to be a deterrent for perspective criminals.  Even when Jesus was hung on the cross, He hung in a very public place just outside of Jerusalem.  It was on a main road for all to see.  Criminals in Roman culture too were killed in public as a deterrent to perspective criminals.


It turns out, in verse 20, that the third day from the day when Joseph interpreted the dreams it was Pharaoh's birthday.  The verse says "he lifted the heads" of both the cup bearer and the baker.  The same phrase is used for both, but with two different results and meanings.  Verse 21 says just that. 


Verse 21 says that Pharaoh hanged the baker, but once again, the baker was hung after his head was cut off.


Verse 23 closes this chapter.  The cup bearer did not remember Joseph after he was set free. 


Joseph is often seen as a type of Jesus, as a prophetic symbol.  Some put more stock in these types than others.  For those who do, it seems to me, that if there is any prophetic significance to this story, part would be these two men.  One was saved, and one wasn't.   Like the two thieves on the cross with Jesus, one was save, and one wasn't.


It is interesting to compare these two dreams with Jesus' death on the cross.  I think there might be some prophetic significance in these two dreams and the way in which they were fulfilled.  When Jesus died on the cross, his body, like the baker's body, hung on the cross in a public place.  Most bodies hung on Roman crosses for a few days.  Jesus' body didn't because He died the same day He was placed on the cross.  It often took a couple of days for a person to die on the cross.  Bird's would often come and peck away at the body, as they did with the baker's body.  The baker's dream could possibly represent Jesus' death on the cross for our sins.  The cupbearer's dream then could represent the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.          

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