THE HUMAN FACTOR
Loving Lord, I want to see who You really are, and to love You as I really should.
Read Genesis 40
The Cupbearer and the Baker
40 Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. 2 Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, 3 and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. 4 The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them.
After they had been in custody for some time, 5 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.
6 When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. 7 So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why do you look so sad today?”
8 “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.”
9 So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, “In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, 10 and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. 11 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.”
12 “This is what it means,” Joseph said to him. “The three branches are three days. 13 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. 14 But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. 15 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.”
16 When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, “I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread.[a] 17 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.”
18 “This is what it means,” Joseph said. “The three baskets are three days. 19 Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and impale your body on a pole. And the birds will eat away your flesh.”
20 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: 21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand— 22 but he impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation.
23 The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.
- Genesis 40:16 Or three wicker baskets
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectAre there individuals or unforeseen circumstances that are frustrating you at the moment? Bring them to God. He is bigger.
The previous chapter ended with the words, ‘and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper’ (39:23 NRSV). If only life were so straightforward, with the will of God always prevailing in every situation! But life is not like that.
Human frailty lies at the heart of these events – the vanity and unpredictability of Pharaoh and the forgetfulness of the chief cupbearer deeply impact Joseph. This ‘human factor’ makes the story a lot more believable. A capricious boss, an unreliable friend, or a forgetful colleague can have a huge impact on our lives.
The unpredictability of life is emphasized by the double meaning of ‘lifted up the heads’, which means life for one man and death for another (20). It is as though these men’s futures hang in the balance of one word’s ambiguity. Joseph’s life is also precarious, but he is not passive. He states his case, asks for help, and does all he can to work for his release (14).
Human unpredictability also makes this story a real page-turner! Can God’s purposes in our lives be frustrated by human frailty? The Joseph story suggests that in the long term it is God’s will that prevails.
Does it seem like God’s plans keep getting thwarted in your life? Cling tightly to Jesus today and trust that He has you in His hands.
Lord, thank You for Your Word. It’s a lamp for my feet and my guide through the dark times of life.