Genesis Chapter 40
Some time after Joseph was thrown in jail by Potiphar for his wife's claims about him, and after being elevated by the prison-guard to a higher position over the other inmates, Pharaoh's chief cupbearer and chief baker committed an offense against Pharaoh. He put them in the custody of the captain of the guard over the prison where Joseph was being held (40:3). The prison guard put Joseph over them, and he attended them.
The baker and the cupbearer both dreamed separate dreams that troubled each of them. When Joseph saw that they were troubled he asked them why they were downcast, and they said they were downcast because they had dreams and no one could interpret them. Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me." (40:8)
Dream #1 - The Cupbearer's Dream of Grape Juice for Pharaoh
The cupbearer told Joseph his dream. There was a vine before him with three branches, and as soon as it budded, it's blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh's cup was in his hand, and he took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup and put the cup in Pharaoh's hand (40:12).
Interpretation #1 - The Cupbearer's Restoration
Joseph told him that the three branches equate to three days, and that in three days Pharaoh would lift up the cupbearer's head and restore him to his office, and he will resume his cupbearing responsibilities before the king (40:12-13). Joseph then made a request, "Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit." (40:14-15) Seeing that Joseph garnered more favor than other slaves under Potiphar, and that now he was being shown more favor by the prison guard can cloud our vision of Joseph's real condition. He was a suffering man. This was not some journey of comfort. He was a slave, and now he was a prisoner. This has been a terrible trial for him.
Dream #2 - The Baker's Dream, Birds Eating Out of the Top of 3 Baskets on His Head
The baker saw that the cupbearer's interpretation was favorable, so he asked Joseph to interpret his dream too. He described his dream; there were three cake baskets on his head, and in the top basket there were a variety of baked foods for Pharaoh, but birds were eating it out of the basket (40:16-17)
Interpretation #2 - The Baker's Demise
Joseph told him that the three baskets are three days, and in three days Pharaoh would lift up his head from him, and he would hang on a tree, and birds would eat his flesh off (40:18-19).
The third day came around, and it happened to be Pharaoh's birthday. He made a feast for the servants and did exactly as Joseph interpreted the cupbearer and the baker's dreams. Then Moses notes that despite Joseph's right interpretation, the cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
Reflections on Genesis 40
Joseph himself was a dreamer, and now here we see that he can interpret others' dreams as well. In helping these two men by interpreting their dreams it is most important to see where his ability comes from. Consider verse 8, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me." He's not claiming to a powerful man, but a humble man, through whom God is working. Ultimately, no one can produce prophetic revelation about the future, but God can reveal it to and through a man, and that appears to be what is happening here. Joseph knows that God is with him, even as the text has told the reader that this is the case (39:2, 21, 23; cf. Acts. 7:9). Joseph is not only able to interpret dreams, but also God's providence (45:5-8; 50:20). (Waltke, 528) All of this points to God's authority over all things, and His knowledge of all things: past, present, and future. Joseph is prefiguring what God's prophets are like. Men who are close to the Lord, and who are a mouthpiece for God in specific circumstances. Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of God's prophets. The second person of the Trinity is no mere prophet though, He is the very Son of God (John 3:16-18; 6:35-40; 10:34-39). And He didn't merely come to reveal dreams, but God' good news of how we can be saved through Jesus' substitutionary death for His people. He came to reveal God's plan, and beyond that to give God's message of salvation through God's judgment that ultimately crushed Jesus. Joseph's trial here is only a foreshadow of how God's prophets would suffer in the future. But all of their suffering points to Jesus Christ's suffering to satisfy the wrath of God for hopeless sinners who repent and believe in Jesus.
Another thing to notice, is that in the midst of Joseph's trial God is orchestrating his deliverance. Just because his present circumstances are dire that doesn't mean that God is not orchestrating events for Joseph's good, the good of all of Egypt and even Joseph's family, and for the glory of God. God is using Joseph's faithfulness to Him in this time to bring about his deliverance. What is immediately forgettable by the cupbearer will not always be the case, because God is bringing His perfect plan to come to pass. We too often think that in the midst of a trial we should give up all together, not realizing that it is through the trial that our true allegiance to God is tested and proven. Only, why is God continuing to preserve Joseph here? Well, we'll see more clearly in the next chapter.