Genesis 40


Pharaoh's chief butler and his chief baker, having offended

their lord, are put in prison, 1-3.

The captain of the guard gives them into the care of Joseph, 4.

Each of them has a dream, 5.

Joseph, seeing them sad, questions them on the subject, 6, 7.

Their answer, 8.

The chief butler tells his dream, 9-11.

Joseph interprets it, 12, 13.

Gives a slight sketch of his history to the chief butler, and

begs him to think upon him when restored to his office, 14, 15.

The chief baker tells his dream, 16,17.

Joseph interprets this also, 18,19.

Both dreams are fulfilled according to the interpretation, the

chief butler being restored to his office, and the chief baker

hanged, 20-22.

The chief butler makes no interest for Joseph, 23.


Verse 1. The butler] mashkeh, the same as [Arabic] saky

among the Arabians and Persians, and signifying a cup-bearer.

Baker] opheh; rather cook, confectioner, or the like.

Had offended] They had probably been accused of attempting to

take away the king's life, one by poisoning his drink, the other

by poisoning his bread or confectionaries.

Verse 3. Where Joseph was bound.] The place in which Joseph was

now confined; this is what is implied in being bound; for, without

doubt, he had his personal liberty. As the butler and. the baker

were state criminals they were put in the same prison with Joseph,

which we learn from the preceding chapter, Ge 39:20, was the

king's prison. All the officers in the employment of the

ancient kings of Egypt were, according to Diodorus Siculus, taken

from the most illustrious families of the priesthood in the

country; no slave or common person being ever permitted to serve

in the presence of the king. As these persons, therefore, were of

the most noble families, it is natural to expect they would be

put, when accused, into the state prison.

Verse 4. They continued a season] yamim, literally

days; how long we cannot tell. But many suppose the word signifies

a complete year; and as Pharaoh called them to an account on his

birthday, Ge 40:20, Calmet supposes they had offended on the

preceding birthday, and thus had been one whole year in prison.

Verse 5. Each man according to the interpretation] Not like

dreams in general, the disordered workings of the mind, the

consequence of disease or repletion; these were dreams that had an

interpretation, that is, that were prophetic.

Verse 6. They were sad.] They concluded that their dreams

portended something of great importance, but they could not tell


Verse 8. There is no interpreter] They either had access to

none, or those to whom they applied could give them no consistent,

satisfactory meaning.

Do not interpretations belong to God?] God alone, the Supreme

Being, knows what is in futurity; and if he have sent a

significant dream, he alone can give the solution.

Verse 11. And I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh's

cup] From this we find that wine anciently was the mere expressed

juice of the grape, without fermentation. The saky, or

cup-bearer, took the bunch, pressed the juice into the cup, and

instantly delivered it into the hands of his master. This was

anciently the yain of the Hebrews, the οινος of the

Greeks, and the mustum of the ancient Latins.

Verse 12. The three branches are three days] That is, The three

branches signify three days; so, this IS my body, that is, this

bread signifies or represents my body; this cup IS my blood,

REPRESENTS my blood; a form of speech frequently used in the

sacred writings, for the Hebrew has no proper word by which our

terms signifies, represents, &c., are expressed; therefore it says

such a thing IS, for represents, points out, &c. And because

several of our ancestors would understand such words in their

true, genuine, critical, and sole meaning, Queen Mary, Bishops

Gardiner, Bonner, and the rest of that demoniacal crew, reduced

them to ashes in Smithfield and elsewhere!

Verse 14. Make mention of me unto Pharaoh] One would have

supposed that the very circumstance of his restoration, according

to the prediction of Joseph, would have almost necessarily

prevented him from forgetting so extraordinary a person. But what

have mere courtiers to do either with gratitude or kindness?

Verse 15. For indeed I was stolen] gunnob gunnobti,

stolen, I have been stolen-most assuredly I was stolen; and here

also have I done nothing. These were simple assertions, into the

proof of which he was ready to enter if called on.

Verse 19. Lift up thy head from off thee] Thus we find that

beheading, hanging, and gibbeting, were modes of punishment

among the ancient Egyptians; but the criminal was beheaded before

he was hanged, and then either hanged on hooks, or by the hands.

See La 5:12.

Verse 20. Pharaoh's birthday] The distinguishing a birthday by

a feast appears from this place to have been a very ancient

custom. It probably had its origin from a correct notion of the

immortality of the soul, as the commencement of life must appear

of great consequence to that person who believed he was to live

for ever. St. Matthew (Mt 14:6) mentions Herod's keeping his

birthday; and examples of this kind are frequent to the present

time in most nations.

Lifted up the head of the chief butler, &c.] By lifting up the

head, probably no more is meant than bringing them to trial,

tantamount to what was done by Jezebel and the nobles of Israel to

Naboth: Set Naboth on high among the people; and set two men, sons

of Belial, to bear witness against him, &c.; 1Ki 21:9, &c. The

issue of the trial was, the baker alone was found guilty and

hanged; and the butler, being acquitted, was restored to his


Verse 23. Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph] Had he

mentioned the circumstance to Pharaoh, there is no doubt that

Joseph's case would have been examined into, and he would in

consequence have been restored to his liberty; but, owing to the

ingratitude of the chief butler, he was left two years longer in


MANY commentators have seen in every circumstance in the history

of Joseph a parallel between him and our blessed Lord. So,

"Joseph in prison represents Christ in the custody of the Jews;

the chief butler and the chief baker represent the two thieves

which were crucified with our Lord; and as one thief was pardoned,

and the other left to perish, so the chief butler was restored to

his office, and the chief baker hanged." I believe GOD never

designed such parallels; and I am astonished to find comparatively

grave and judicious men trifling in this way, and forcing the

features of truth into the most distorted anamorphosis, so that

even her friends blush to acknowledge her. This is not a light

matter; we should beware how we attribute designs to God that he

never had, and employ the Holy Spirit in forming trifling and

unimportant similitudes. Of plain, direct truth we shall find as

much in the sacred writings as we can receive and comprehend; let

us not therefore hew out unto ourselves broken cisterns that can

hold no water. Interpretations of this kind only tend to render

the sacred writings uncertain; to expose to ridicule all the

solemn types and figures which it really contains; and to furnish

pretexts to infidels and irreligious people to scoff at all

spirituality, and lead them to reject the word of GOD entirely, as

incapable of being interpreted on any fixed or rational plan. The

mischief done by this system is really incalculable. See the

observations on Clarke's notes "Ge 37:36".

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