URC Daily Devotion by David Whiting

Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker offended their lord the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he waited on them; and they continued for some time in custody.  One night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own meaning. When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers, who were with him in custody in his master’s house, ‘Why are your faces downcast today?’ They said to him, ‘We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.’ And Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.’

So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, ‘In my dream there was a vine before me, and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms came out and the clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.’  Then Joseph said to him, ‘This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days; within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But remember me when it is well with you; please do me the kindness to make mention of me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this place. For in fact I was stolen out of the land of the Hebrews; and here also I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.’

When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favourable, he said to Joseph, ‘I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.’ And Joseph answered, ‘This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days; within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a pole; and the birds will eat the flesh from you.’

The story of Joseph begins with two dreams that offend his family. Today we get two more dreams, this time they are not dreamt by Joseph but by other characters in the story.

Two senior officers from Pharaoh’s court, the cupbearer and the baker, had upset their king and they have been imprisoned in the house of Potiphar, the captain of the guard. We are not told what they had done to make Pharaoh angry or whether their imprisonment was justified. Maybe the result of something trivial, maybe something far more serious. The Talmud suggests that at a party given by Pharaoh ‘the princes discovered stone grits in their bread, and one of them discovered a fly in his wine’. Maybe like many through the centuries up to our own day they were just victims of the unjust sensitivities of power.

Joseph undergoes a temporary change in fortune as he is transferred from his own prison cell to wait upon these two men.

One night the two men both have a dream. It is well known that in ancient Egypt dreams were important and the two officers want an expert who will decipher the meaning of their dreams. Joseph sees their distress and asks the two men to tell him their dreams. He makes the point that is at the heart of today’s reading: “Do not interpretations belong to God”. Joseph is no professional interpreter of dreams, their meaning is given to him by God. Both Joseph and later Daniel rise to positions of authority in foreign courts through their interpretation of dreams and both make the same point that it is God who interprets dreams (see also Daniel 2:27-28).

Joseph goes on to explain the dreams.  He pleads to the cupbearer to remember him when it is well with him. Joseph expresses frustration at his circumstances: “I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon”. Another victim of injustice, perhaps?

Loving God,
things don’t always happen
in ways we want,
neither do things
always meet our expectation.
Help us to be patient
and put our trust in you.

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Dr David Whiting Sunderland and Boldon URC Partnership

Bible Version


New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved