Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 40:5-8

5 And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison.

6 And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked upon them, and, behold, they were sad.

7 And he asked Pharaoh’s officers that were with him in the ward of his lord’s house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly to day?

8 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.

Joseph was an attentive servant, and paused to ask the men under his care what the cause of their sadness was. As soon as he heard that they had strange, uninterpreted dreams, he immediately offered to translate the visions for them.

Frankly I envy his confidence in the matter. In my own path of discipleship I often feel anxious about my spiritual “performance.” I strain to bear my testimony better, to discern another’s feelings more deeply, to magnify God’s light more brightly. Just a couple days ago I had a spiritual conversation with a brother, and I found myself racking my brain, trying to come up with something insightful and meaningful to say, like I had an obligation to provide something of substance.

And the thing is, I know perfectly well that I’m doing this wrong. I know that I need to surrender making it my work and let it be His work. I need to stop worrying about whether I can come up with the right answer and leave it up to Him to provide it instead. Or leave it up to Him to not provide the right answer, and in that case not feel like I have to fill that void with myself.

I imagine Joseph was able to speak with confidence because he really knew that “interpretations belong to God,” and thus there was no pressure on him to personally rack his brain and figure out the correct meaning. God would provide it…. Or maybe He wouldn’t. Joseph didn’t actually promise that he would be able to provide an answer or not, just that he was willing to listen to the dreams and then listen for whether God had anything to say on the matter. And that was enough.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 40:1-4

1 And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt. 

2 And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers.

3 And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.

4 And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward.

I never noticed before that the two men Pharaoh consigned to prison were not just “a butler” or “a baker,” they were “the chief of the butlers” and “the chief of the bakers.” These men were not mere servants, they were officers, overseers of a band of workers, responsible for entire sectors of the royal household. It might even be that it was not these two men who offended the Pharaoh, but some of their subordinates, and they were being held responsible for not managing them better.

These men’s higher station might also explain why in verse four it says Joseph “served them.” It would seem that even in prison they retained a more exalted state than the rest of the prisoners. In the last chapter it sounded as though Joseph was an overseer of the other prisoners, but when the captain of the guard needed someone trustworthy to be a servant, Joseph was the one to fill that role as well.

This, of course, reminds me of the example of the Savior, who taught his disciples the idea of a servant-leader. Though he was the undisputed head of his followers, Jesus also washed their feet. This combination of roles requires one to have great capability and power, but also great humility and care. As we will see in the following verses, Joseph did indeed show great care to these men, concerning himself with their trouble and helping them with it as best he could.

The fact that Joseph was in a position of service to these men might also explain why the butler failed to remember him after he was restored to Pharaoh’s house. Perhaps in the pride of his lofty station he failed to give the proper space in his mind for the plea of his lowly servant Joseph.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 39:21-23

21 But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.

23 The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper.

I love the opening passage in today’s verses, that the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy. Here he is at the lowest point of his story, but he is not alone. This is a common theme in the stories of the patriarchs: that they are alone in a wild or dangerous place, with no one for their companion but God.

It is often said that the travesties that befell Joseph were all part of God’s plans, and even Joseph will later tell his brethren to not be angry with themselves, because God was sending him to preserve life all along. And while this is true, I believe it is worth noting that God being present in the process is not the same as saying that God threw him into the well or God cast him into prison. Those were evil actions, and it was evil men and women who did those things, not God. What God did was to be with Joseph in those low points and miraculously turn them into something good.

In verses 22 and 23 we hear a description of Joseph coming into the full trust of the keeper of the prison and having the entire operation put into his hands. It is identical to what we heard of Joseph earlier when he came to manage the entire estate of Potiphar. This is the second of the three-part repetition on this theme, and so it would seem there was no situation so low that Joseph couldn’t flourish in it.