TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 40:1-15 (NRSV*)
Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker offended their lord the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he waited on them; and they continued for some time in custody. One night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own meaning. When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers, who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”
So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms came out and the clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.” Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days; within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But remember me when it is well with you; please do me the kindness to make mention of me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this place. For in fact I was stolen out of the land of the Hebrews; and here also I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.”
AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE
Dreams are the strangest things. I mean, I’m a good Egyptian servant, and I know that dreams are supposed to be messages from the gods, but couldn’t the gods make their messages easier to understand? Stuck in this prison cell, I sure could use a bit of hope and guidance. But what was I supposed to make of this dream? I was complaining to my friend, the baker, about how hard it is to understand dreams, and one of the other prisoners asked me for more details. I told him about the branches, the grapes, and pouring the wine into Pharaoh’s cup, and he said that I would be free in three days, and restored to my position of honor as Pharaoh’s cupbearer! Who would have thought that I would hear a word of hope in this god-forsaken prison? I sure hope this Joseph guy is right! He asked me to remember him when I’m released, and to tell Pharaoh about his situation. No problem! If I get out, how could I forget what Joseph did for me? Oh, man, I hope he is right about that dream… I just can’t stand it in here for much longer!
— Pharaoh’s Cupbearer
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…
- If you heard the cupbearer’s dream, how might you have interpreted it?
- Joseph shows a great deal of empathy in verses 6-7. For someone who had not been able to “read” his brothers’ emotions very effectively, what do you think has prompted this change in Joseph?
- What is Joseph implying when he asks, “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (verse 8)
- How confident does Joseph seem in his ability to interpret the dreams? What does this say about how he feels about his relationship with God at this point in his life?
- What do you think the cupbearer’s reaction might have been to hearing his dream interpreted?
According to The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, the cupbearer was “a wine taster and trusted royal advisor in Egyptian, Israelite, Assyrian, Persian, and other Near Eastern courts.” Wikipedia (an online encyclopedia edited by its readers) states: “A cupbearer was an officer of high rank in royal courts, whose duty it was to serve the drinks at the royal table. On account of the constant fear of plots and intrigues, a person must be regarded as thoroughly trustworthy to hold this position. He must guard against poison in the king’s cup, and was sometimes required to swallow some of the wine before serving it. His confidential relations with the king often gave him a position of great influence. The position of cup bearer is greatly valued and given to only a select few throughout history.” To read the entire Wikipedia article on cupbearers, click here.
* New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.