Joseph and two prison dreamers
One sweet dream, one nightmare1 The king’s top wine steward and his top baker both somehow managed to offend the king. 2 He was furious at both of them—wine steward and baker. 3 He ordered them arrested. He put them in the same prison as Joseph, in the custody of the commander of his bodyguard. 4 The commander of the bodyguard gave Joseph the job of taking care of the two. Both men stayed in jail for a long time. 5 One night both of the jailed men had dreams—the wine steward and the baker. Each man had his own dream. Each dream had its own meaning. 6 When Joseph came to them the next morning, they both looked depressed. 7 Joseph talked to both of the men who were in prison with him in his master’s custody. “What’s wrong? Why do you look so down?” 8 They said, “We’ve had a dream and there’s no one in here who can tell us what it means.” Joseph said, “Not so fast. Don’t dream explanations come from God? Please, tell me what you dreamed.” 9 The king’s top wine taster and steward told Joseph, “Listen, in my dream there was a vine in front of me. 10 This vine had three branches. They started budding. Blossoms popped out and grew into clusters that produced ripe grapes. 11 Pharaoh’s cup was sitting in my hand. So I grabbed some grapes and squeezed the juice right into Pharaoh’s cup. I handed the cup to Pharaoh.” 12 Joseph said, “Here’s what that means. The three branches on the vine mean three days. 13 In three days Pharaoh will lift your head from hanging in shame. He’ll release you from prison and give you back your job. Once again you will be the person in charge of handing Pharaoh his wine, just as you did before, when you were his wine steward. 14 All I ask is one favor. When this happens, don’t forget me. Please tell Pharaoh about me, and help me get out of this prison. 15 I don’t belong here. I was kidnapped from my home in the land of the Hebrews. I have done nothing to deserve being put in this pit of a prison.” 16 When the king’s top baker saw what a wonderful dream interpretation Joseph gave the wine steward, he told Joseph his dream. “I had a dream, too. I saw three baskets full of bakery food sitting on top of my head. 17 The top basket held all kinds of baked food for Pharaoh. But birds were eating out of the basket as it set right there on top of my head.” 18 Joseph said, “Here’s what that means. The three baskets mean three days. 19 In three days Pharaoh will lift your head from your body and hang your corpse in shame on a tree. Birds will eat the flesh off your bones.”
Wine guy gets ahead, baker loses head20 This is exactly what happened on the third day—which was Pharaoh’s birthday. He had a birthday party, with a feast for all of his servants. He lifted up the head of his wine steward, which had been hanging in shame. 21 He gave the wine steward back his job and put him in charge of serving him wine. 22 But he hanged the top baker, just as Joseph predicted. 23 The chief wine steward, however, forgot about Joseph and his request for help in getting out of prison.
Potiphar put Joseph in the prison that we find out later is managed by the captain of the palace bodyguard—a title that seems to describe Potiphar himself. Whoever the warden was, he allowed the jailer to put Joseph in charge: “Joseph ran the prison” (39:22). What do you make of that?
What do you think about dreams like the ones the wine steward and the baker had—dreams that tell the future, as though the future is locked in place?
Joseph’s dream interpretations track nicely with a couple of dream interpretations that show up in ancient books. For example, a person who dreamed about a full cup could expect a good future. And a person who dreamed about carrying food on top of his head could expect sorrow. Would it bother you if we found out that Joseph read some of the dream interpretation books that were circulating at the time? Or do you think it’s more likely that some of Joseph’s dream interpretations ended up in ancient books?
Given the dramatic fulfillment of Joseph’s dream interpretations, does it seem strange to you that the wine steward went back to work and forgot all about Joseph’s request for help in getting out of prison?
LIFE APPLICATION. Based on dreams you have and the dreams of people you know and trust, do you think there are times when God is using dreams to try to prepare us for what is coming or perhaps to calm us about something that has been troubling us?
LIFE APPLICATION. There are prophecies and dream interpretations throughout the Bible that indicate God knows the future before it happens. We saw that in the story of the traveler who visited Abraham’s camp; he said Abraham and Sarah would have a son within the year (18:10). And we see it in these dream interpretations of Joseph. To what extent do you think our future is set, and to what extent are we able to direct our own course in this journey through life?