Genesis 40


In this chapter we find that whilst in prison, Joseph meets the chief cupbearer and chief baker and he looks after them. They were troubled by the dreams they had and so, Joseph interprets their dreams for them. It’s quite clear that God is working through Joseph as he correctly interprets their dreams.

‘Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them.’ Genesis 40:1-4

We don’t know what the chief cupbearer and the chief baker did to promote Pharaoh’s anger, but they now find themselves in prison where Joseph is assigned to take care of their needs.

The chief cupbearer was an officer of high rank with Egyptian, Persian and Assyrian as well as Jewish royals, 1 Kings 10:5 / 2 Kings 18:17, and it was his duty to fill the king’s cup and present it to him personally, Nehemiah 1:11.

The chief baker was also an officer of high rank and it was his duty to bake the food and personally present it to Pharaoh.

The Cupbearer And Baker Have Dreams

‘After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison—had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So, he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, ‘Why do you look so sad today?’ ‘We both had dreams,’ they answered, ‘but there is no one to interpret them.’ Then Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.’ Genesis 40:4-8

It’s important to note that the Egyptians believed in the prophetic nature of dreams, this is possibly why God used dreams time and time again, when He was dealing with them. notice that no one could interpret their dreams, that’s possibly because there was no one in prison with them who could interpret them.

Joseph is quick to explain to them that no one can really interpret dreams anyway except God Himself but knows that God can use him to interpret their dreams for them.

The Cupbearer’s Dream

‘So, the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, ‘In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in his hand.’ ‘This is what it means,’ Joseph said to him. ‘The three branches are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer.’ Genesis 40:9-13

In the cupbearer’s dream he saw a vine with three branches, these three branches represent three days. It appears that the cupbearer was innocent of his crime because Joseph tells him he will be restored back to normal duties within three days as the Pharaoh’s cupbearer. Notice that Pharaoh will ‘lift up his head’ as opposed to the baker, where Pharaoh will ‘lift off his head’, Genesis 40:13.

‘But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.’ Genesis 40:14-15

Joseph, after favourably interpreting the cupbearer’s dream, asks him to remember him, sadly, we know how the story goes, he actually forgets about him, Genesis 40:23, but remembers him at a much later date, two years later, Genesis 41:1 / Genesis 41:9-13. He asks him to mention Joseph to Pharaoh so that he can get out of prison.

Joseph explains his innocence by telling him about how he ended up in Egypt in the first place, Genesis 37:28, and how he ended up in this dungeon because Potiphar’s wife had lied through her teeth about him, Genesis 39:11-20.

The Chief Baker’s Dream

‘When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favourable interpretation, he said to Joseph, ‘I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread. In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.’ ‘This is what it means,’ Joseph said. ‘The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and impale your body on a pole. And the birds will eat away your flesh.’ Genesis 40:16-19

The baker dreamt he had three baskets on his head, the three baskets represent three days. Unlike the cupbearer who was innocent of his crimes, but the baker appears to be guilty of his crimes because Joseph tells him that he won’t be restored but Pharaoh will cut off his head within three days.

Notice that Pharaoh will ‘lift off his head’ as opposed to the cupbearer, where Pharaoh will ‘lift up his head’, Genesis 40:13.

We don’t know exactly how he was to die, some suggest he was hanged, some suggest that he was beheaded first and then impaled upon a pole, other suggest he was impaled and then beheaded and then his body would be eaten by the birds.

Joseph’s Interpretations Come True

‘Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand—but he impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation. The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.’ Genesis 40:20-23

In ancient Egypt, the birthdays of the Pharaohs were considered as ‘holy’ days, with no work being done. We can only imagine what’s going through the minds of the cupbearer and the baker, I’m sure one was hoping that Joseph’s interpretation of their dream would be accurate, whilst the other was hoping that Joseph got it wrong.

Because God was working in and through Joseph, his interpretations of their dreams were accurate, sadly, the cupbearer forgot about Joseph and his request, Genesis 40:14-15. We can only imagine what was going through Joseph’s mind, as once again he’s let down by those around him, whom he thought were friends, Psalm 105:18.


We must remember that Joseph doesn’t know the end of the story, but I’m sure that Joseph knew that these dreams were actually coming from God and I’m sure he knew that God was actually interpreting them for him, in order that He may eventually be realised from prison and be seated next to Pharaoh.

We also must remember, when Joseph had his first two dreams, he told his brothers that they would bow down to him at some point, Genesis 37:5-9.

The bigger picture is that God was working in and through Joseph to eventually place him a position of high ranking in Egypt so, that God could bring the household of Jacob into Egypt.

It was God’s plan that they stay there for four hundred years and then be led to the Promised Land in order for them to become a nation and eventually bring about the Messiah.

Go To Genesis 41



"For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city."

Acts 18:10