It is amazing to just step back and see the plan of God unfold in Joseph’s life. He was thrown into prison by Potiphar who kept the Pharaoh’s prisoners. The cupbearer and baker became prisoners of the Pharaoh and, therefore, ended up in the same prison as Joseph. Because of Joseph’s honesty and hard work, which both Potiphar and the jailer recognize, he is put in the position to get to know the cupbearer and baker. God gives the two officials dreams and God gives Joseph the interpretation of those dreams. God has brought Joseph to this point in his life. And God will soon bring the next phase of his promise to Joseph to fruition. The question today is: Do you believe in this God who is in control of everything. You saw in this story that God works in the lives of people in many different ways. He uses lives for his purposes and moves people where he wants them. Do you believe in this God? Many people make God into their butler who only works and acts when they permit him. They pretend that God won’t bless or save unless they first tell him he is allowed to do so. This is not the God of the Bible. This is not the one true God. God does what He wills and takes counsel with no one. God gives grace to the undeserving and unknowing and will bless, as we have seen in Genesis, even those that are in sin. God will do whatever he wants. Is this the God you believe in? If not, then I pray that you will find the one true God. If you have found Him, then my prayer is that we would grow in our faith and trust in him. Joseph could have lamented being falsely accused and jailed and cursed God. But he remained faithful in those horrible circumstances. May we follow his example. May we follow the example of our savior who was like a lamb that was led to the slaughter. May we like so many of the brothers and sisters that have gone before us, that stood for the truth, for the faith, though it cost them their lives. May we know and act according to the fact that, though we might find ourselves in a place we hate and never thought we would be in, that, in the end, there is laid up for us a crown and Jesus is waiting there to give it to us.
a. Joseph is proven true. Three days pass and we find that it is the Pharaoh’s birthday and he makes a feast for all of his servants. At the feast his lifts up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. This means that they were both brought to trial on this day. The cupbearer is either found innocent or is pardoned for his crime and is restored to his position as chief cupbearer. The baker is found to be guilty and is beheaded and his body hung on a spike. Everything happened just as Joseph had said. He was right. Interpretations come from the Lord. Joseph was a wise man of God, like Daniel after him, and this special gift from God will one day lead him to importance in the land of Egypt. b. Joseph is forgotten. At the very end of the chapter, we find the connecting sentence between chapters 40 and 41. We might be wondering why we received all these details about these two officials and their dreams. Well, this last verse ties these two stories together. Joseph had asked the cupbearer to remember him when he was restored to his position. Joseph hopes that his case would come before the Pharaoh and the truth of his wrongful imprisonment would come to light. But, the cupbearer, being restored to his position simply forgot about Joseph. We should not judge the cupbearer too harshly because how many times have we found that when our lives are at ease and things are going well that we forget about the troubles of others. It will not be until the end of two full years that God will change the entire direction of Joseph’s life, again.
a. Joseph, the wise man. Joseph, being the one to attend to the needs of the two officials, checks in on them one morning. As he walks in he notices that both the baker and cupbearer looked as if they were troubled by something. And so he asks them, “Why are your faces downcast today?” Joseph has befriended them enough at this point that he is a). aware of their change in countenance and b). able to approach and ask two officials of the Pharaoh’s court this question. The two men confided in Joseph that they both had dreams. These dreams were special enough that the men knew that they meant something and that they needed to be interpreted. We are told in Scripture that,” Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets…” One of these ways that God used was dreams. But it wasn’t always the prophet himself that received the dream, sometimes it was his job to interpret another’s dream. You’ll remember Daniel and his interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Daniel was a wise man of Babylon, and like the other wise men, his job was to interpret dreams. God had given Daniel the ability to understand visions and dreams. Of course, Nebuchadnezzar wanted his wise men to also tell him what the dream was, which they could not do, except Daniel because God gave it to him. Like the Babylonians, the Egyptians believed in dreams and their ability to tell the future. The gods would speak to you through your dreams. We can see that this belief and practice is alive and well in Joseph’s day because the two officials are upset that they do not have access to a wise man in the jail. “There is no one to interpret them.” Apparently, none of the Pharaoh’s dream interpreters were jailed along with them. And so they are upset, not because they’re in jail, but because they don’t know what their dreams mean. They mean something, but what? The unknown has driven them to sadness. Little did they know that they had a dreamer in their midst. A wise man had been jailed with them though he did not belong to the Pharaoh. Joseph says to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.” God, like Daniel, has given to Joseph the ability to interpret dreams. Joseph correctly attributes this to God. It is not from him that these messages come. He is not making this up himself. The dream and interpretations come from God. In the law, we read that a dreamer that leads God’s people astray through their own interpretations should be put to death and in Jeremiah God says that he was against those that prophesy lying dreams. b. The cupbearer’s dream. Both the officials agree to give Joseph a try and they tell him their dreams. The cupbearer goes first. He saw a vine that had three branches. And it miraculously blossomed and then produced ripe grapes. The cupbearer took the grapes and squeezed their juice into the Pharao’s cup, then he took the cup and put it into the Pharaoh’s hand. Joseph, hearing the dream, promptly interprets it for him. The dream means that in three days he would be returned to his former position as cupbearer. His downcast head would be lifted up. Because the cupbearer would return to the side of the Pharaoh, Joseph asks the official to remember him, to do him the kindness of mentioning him before the king. This would be the payment for his interpretation. Then Joseph describes his situation. He says he was stolen out of the land of the Hebrews and he has done nothing, there in Egypt, to be thrown into the pit. Isn’t interesting that Joseph does not condemn his brothers nor Potiphar’s wife in his statement? He simply says he was stolen from his home and that he was an innocent man. A lesser man would point fingers and name names. But not Joseph. He doesn’t condemn but only asks to be treated fairly. c. The baker’s dream. While the cupbearer is talking with Joseph, the baker hears that the interpretation of the dream was favorable and so he asks Joseph to interpret his dream. The baker dreamed that he had three cake baskets on his head. It was the norm for Egyptian men to carry heavy loads upon their heads while women would carry them on their shoulders. In the top basket, he had all kinds of baked goods for the Pharaoh. As he was carrying them birds came and began eating all the food. It was a somewhat similar dream to the cupbearer. They both were performing their jobs in their former positions. They both were serving the Pharaoh. But the outcomes were different. Upon hearing the baker’s dream Joseph was ready to interpret the dream. Like the branches, the baskets represented three days. And like the cupbearer, the baker’s head would be lifted up as well. But, his head would be lifted up so that it could be lifted off, and then his body would be impaled and put on display where the birds would come and eat his body. A slightly different interpretation, right?
a. The cupbearer and the chief baker. Sometime after the end of chapter 39, two officers of the Pharaoh do something, what we are not told, that offended the king. The cupbearer and the chief baker did something to anger the Pharaoh to the level of deserving prison. Both of these positions were ones of notoriety and importance but that did not exempt them from trouble. As Matthew Henry said, “High places are slippery places.” The chief baker was just that. He was in charge of all the baked goods and confections for the palace. This job and the many different types of baked goods were displayed on monuments. The cupbearer was equally important. He not only brought the cup to the Pharaoh but he was in charge of ensuring that there were was something to put in the cup and that it was of high quality. When we look at the dreams that they have in the following verses we see a description of their normal duties. So these two men are thrown into prison, but not just any prison. He was placed into the custody of the captain of the guard, Potiphar, and he put him into the same prison that was attached to his house where he had put Joseph. Of course, we know that this is no coincidence. b. Potiphar appoints Joseph. Remember that Joseph was a model inmate and had been given many responsibilities in the prison. When Pharaoh had the two officers incarcerated, Potiphar, who was well acquainted with Joseph’s work ethic, put Joseph in charge of caring for the two men. While the cupbearer and baker were in the prison, Joseph attended to their needs. Again, this has led many to believe that Potiphar didn’t fully believe his wife’s accusations against Joseph. But he could not prove his innocence either. We are about to see that this is a key appointment for Joseph. Meeting and getting to know the two officials will ultimately lead to his exoneration and promotion to second in the land. As we have seen over and over again, God uses people, even those that may not believe in him, for his purposes, his glory, and the good of his people.
As we start Genesis 40, we find Joseph sitting in an Egyptian prison. Remember where he has come from. Joseph was born in Mesopotamia and as an infant was brought into the land of Canaan and lived near Shechem. His older half-brothers Simeon and Levi murdered all the men of the city of Shechem while his other brothers plundered the city. As he grew older his mother gave birth to his only full brother Benjamin. Rachel would die and be buried on the road to Bethlehem. Joseph grows up and as a 17-year-old young man, he receives a special gift from his father, a coat of many colors. His half-brothers grow jealous of him and begin to hate him. Joseph brings a bad report concerning some of his brothers and they begin to hate him. God gives Joseph two dreams which drive the brothers to desire murder. As the brothers were out keeping the flocks, Joseph went to check in on them for their father. The brothers plotted against him first devising murder, then leaving him for dead in a pit, but finally settled on selling him into slavery. Joseph is bought by some Ishmaelite traders who were on their way to Egypt to sell their goods. While in Egypt, they sell Joseph to Potiphar, the captain of the guard. Joseph is blessed by God and rises in importance in the house, equal to his master. Potiphar’s wife desires Joseph but he refuses which leads her to falsely accuse Joseph of attacking her. Joseph is thrown into prison, where he suffers at first but later rises in favor with the jailer, who puts him in charge of the care of those in the jail. Joseph, a man who walks blamelessly before the Lord, serves his God diligently as he works in the prison. As John Angell James put it, “Joseph was imprisoned, but he was infinitely happier there, with God’s smiling conscience…No place is frightful to a good man, but the ‘dungeon of a bad conscience’. Free from that, Joseph is at liberty, though in prison…Here again, in this seemingly hard condition, we see Joseph maintaining his self-respect, his confidence in God, his benevolent activity, his accommodating disposition, and his general good conduct. By this course of action, he subdued even his jailor…” As we continue Joseph’s story, we first find that there is a key appointment that leads to the continuation of his story. In verses 5-19, we find the bulk of this episode where Joseph interprets the dreams of two fellow prisoners. The last verses of this chapter will show us if Joseph is indeed able to do what he says he can do: interpret dreams.
As we conclude, we must first see the warning here. Potiphar and his wife have a horrible marriage. They are pagans and do not worship the one true God and so we should not expect a biblical marriage, and yet, we should pity them. Unfortunately, too many marriages between Christians look like this too. There is distrust, and pointing fingers, and bad-mouthing behind the spouse’s back. There is a lack of guarding the heart against temptation which leads to thoughts and desires of adultery. A biblical, God-honoring marriage takes work. We need to realize that the marriage relationship is a front on which spiritual warfare takes place. The flesh, the world, and the devil all want your marriage to fail. A good marriage is a target for the enemy. A weak marriage will be devoured by the roaring lion. Second, consider our brother Joseph and his obedience to the Lord. I have talked to several of you about the character of Joseph. Oftentimes, Joseph is depicted as an arrogant, self-centered young man strutting around in his coat of many colors. But if we just read the text, we don’t see that at all. He is obedient to his father. Joseph works hard as a slave. He is a model prisoner. He gives credit to God for his ability to interpret dreams. He pleads with his case that he has done nothing wrong. Joseph is not perfect but he is a godly man, obedient to the commands of God. As Psalm 128 says, “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.” The excellent wife of Proverbs 31 is a God-fearing woman whose works praise her in the gates. Joseph feared God more than Potiphar and his wayward wife. He feared God more than the keeper of the prison. The Lord was with him and whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed. God had a plan for Joseph that was established before time began. The same is for you. Your part is to obey him. Fear him. Follow him. The Lord will be with you.
This last section can be summed up by the words in verse 21, “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor.” Love and grace are what God gave Joseph. This is displayed through Potiphar and the keeper of the prison. a. Grace and favor with Potiphar. Potiphar is clearly embarrassed and angered by the accusation of his wife. He takes Joseph in puts him in the walled prison where the prisoners of the king were kept. But, that’s it? In Psalm 105:18 “it says that his feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron.” He will spend a couple of years in prison, but according to Egyptian law, he could have given him 1000 blows. If found guilty he could have received worse. Many suggest that Potiphar did not fully believe his wife and her purity and that is his reason for leniency. But we know the ultimate reason, the love, and favor of God. b. Grace and favor with the jailer. Because of God’s love and favor not only does Joseph excel as a servant but also as a prisoner. He is so trusted by the jailer that if anything was done in the prison it was done by Joseph. The keeper of the prison trusted Joseph so much that he basically transferred his job to him, without pay of course, but Joseph had the responsibility.
a. Desire turns to hatred. Potiphar’s wife is a perfect example of how the sinful desires of the heart work. When it is tempted it will stop at nothing to get it. But if it can’t get it, then it will turn and seek to destroy the very thing the heart desired. Seeing Joseph fleeing from her, and his garment in her hand, her mind turns from desire to hatred and she immediately calls the other servants into the room and falsely accuses Joseph of trying to take advantage of her. We need to listen to Jeremiah here. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Potiphar’s wife is an example of why the Disney philosophy of “just follow your heart,” is so dangerous. b. You did this. Before we move on, we need to see one more thing. Why was Potiphar’s wife so quickly taken by Joseph? Because she already despised her husband. You can see it in what she says. “He brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us.” “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us.” She blames everything upon her husband. It’s not her fault and it’s not Joseph’s fault. It’s Potiphar’s fault, of course. She sounds like Adam, “It was the woman who you gave to me.” This is a warning to the married couples to guard your relationships. Don’t allow bitterness to grow between you or you might regret it.
a. Temptation invites temptation. We come to the second part of verse 6 where we are told that Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. So all around, he is just a good-looking guy. And after some time Potiphar’s wife “cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘lie with me.’” What was her first problem? She cast her eyes on Joseph. She allowed herself to be tempted by the handsomeness of Joseph. She did not do as Job did who said that he made a covenant with his eyes not to gaze upon a woman. She was not only tempted to sin but she embraced that sin. In verse 10 we are told that she would do this day after day. Her temptation led her to invite Joseph into the temptation. Often this is how sin works and why bad company corrupts good morals. The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about a woman like this. Proverbs 5:3-6, “For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end, she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.” Day after day Potiphar’s wife tried to capture Joseph with her eyelashes as Proverbs 6:25 says. b. Wickedness and sin against God. It is in this temptation that we find the godliness of Joseph. When tempted by Potiphar’s wife, he rebukes her. He argues that her husband has put him in charge of everything in the household, in fact, they are equals. The only thing that Potiphar kept for himself was his wife. Then Joseph asks a question. We might expect him to say, “How could I do this great wickedness and sin against Potiphar since he has done all this for me?” But he doesn’t. He says, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” That is good theology. In that question, he acknowledges that God is the cause of his blessing, and to commit adultery would be a sin against God himself. As David would say, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil.” To sin with Potiphar’s wife would be a direct assault against God. Joseph is not fearing man, he is fearing God. “With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him,” (Proverbs 7:21) until one day all the other men on the house were outside working and Joseph came inside to work. Potiphar’s wife, who is not the least bit dissuaded by Joseph’s rebukes tries to force herself upon him and grabs his garment. Joseph fights against her, slips out of his garment, and makes a run for it. According to Solomon, Joseph has made wisdom his sister and insight his intimate friend.
a. The Lord blessed Joseph. As we learned from the end of chapter 37, Moses reminds us that Joseph was taken by the Ishmaelite traders down to Egypt and was sold to the captain of the Pharaoh’s guard whose name was Potiphar. Moses writes that the Lord was with him and the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. Moses uses the name of God here to impress upon us that the God of covenants was the one behind all of this. As we read through this story, we are being continually pointed to God’s promises that he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. None of the events, the successes, and the trials are brought about solely by Joseph’s actions. Because the Lord was with Joseph, he became a successful man. God’s blessing was on Joseph and so Joseph was placed in Potiphar’s house to work and not out in the field. Joseph was a good servant and after some time Potiphar took notice. This reminds me of what Paul said in Colossians 3:22-24, “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” I think this would be a fair description of Joseph. Due to his faithful service and the blessing of God, Joseph was promoted. Instead of being a common house slave, Potiphar made him in charge of all that he had. He became the overseer or steward of the house. In ancient Egyptian monuments, the overseers were depicted recording the expenditures and labor of the house. (Ellicott) Joseph went from favorite of his father to chattel, to the overseer of one of the important households in Egypt. b. The Lord blessed Potiphar. We again return to a common theme as God blesses the unbeliever because of the believer. We saw it with Lot and Jacob and now we have it again in Joseph. Verse 5 says that the “Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake.” God will cause the wicked to gain status and prosperity for the good of his children. The wealth was not an end in itself but only a means to a greater purpose. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all received wealth as a blessing from God, but the blessing of wealth was to be used for God’s purposes. When Potiphar elevates Joseph, he finds that he is blessed in his house and his fields. Wisely, Potiphar puts Joseph in charge of everything except the food that he ate which is probably due to the Egyptian belief that eating with the Hebrews was an abomination. (We find this in Genesis 43:32). We should also remember what God told Abraham, that he was to be a blessing to the nations. God is blessing the nations through Joseph.