JOSEPH IN PRISON
PSALM 23:4A, ESV
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
GENESIS 40:1-4, NIrV
1 Some time later, the Egyptian king’s baker and wine taster did something their master didn’t like. 2 So Pharaoh became angry with his two officials, the chief wine taster and the chief baker. 3 He put them in prison in the house of the captain of the palace guard. It was the same prison where Joseph was kept. 4 The captain put Joseph in charge of those men. So Joseph took care of them.
Some time passed while they were in prison.
For years, Joseph had been locked in a dark and dirty Egyptian jail. What laws had he broken? None! He’d been tossed into the slammer for something he didn’t even do. But during these dark days, there was a bright spot for Joseph – the Lord God was with him. God blessed everything Joseph did. As a result, the jail keeper put Joseph in charge of his other cellmates. One day, two important new prisoners joined Joseph in jail. What made them so important? They both worked for the Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. One had tested Pharaoh’s wine for poison and the other had baked his bread.
+ Who was the Pharaoh?
+ Why had the wine taster and baker been thrown into prison? (vs. 1-2)
GENESIS 40:5-8, NIrV4
5 Then each of the two men had a dream. The men were the Egyptian king’s baker and wine taster. They were being held in prison. Both of them had dreams the same night. Each of their dreams had its own meaning.
6 Joseph came to them the next morning. He saw that they were sad. 7 They were Pharaoh’s officials, and they were in prison with Joseph in his master’s house. So he asked them, “Why do you look so sad today?”
8 “We both had dreams,” they answered. “But no one can tell us what they mean.”
Then Joseph said to them, “Only God knows what dreams mean. Tell me your dreams.”
When Joseph checked on the wine taster and baker, he sensed something was bothering them. What had them so troubled? Their crazy dreams! Normally, dreams are just our brains getting exercise as we snooze. But in the Bible, God sometimes used dreams to send a message. This happened to Joseph’s dad, who dreamed of an angel-covered ladder to heaven. It happened to Joseph, who dreamed of the sun, moon, and 11 stars bowing before him. And now it happened to the wine taster and baker. But there was a problem: they had no idea what secrets their weird dreams were telling them!
+ Why were the wine taster and baker so upset? (vs. 8)
+ According to Joseph, who knows what special dreams mean? (vs. 8)
GENESIS 40:9-13, NIrV
9 So the chief wine taster told Joseph his dream. He said to him, “In my dream I saw a vine in front of me. 10 There were three branches on the vine. As soon as it budded, it flowered. And bunches of ripe grapes grew on it. 11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand. I took the grapes. I squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup. Then I put the cup in his hand.”
12 “Here’s what your dream means,” Joseph said to him. “The three branches are three days. 13 In three days Pharaoh will let you out of prison. He’ll give your job back to you. And you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand. That’s what you used to do when you were his wine taster.
Because dreams take place in our minds, weird and impossible things can happen. In the wine taster’s dream, he stood in front of a grapevine with three branches. Pretty normal, right? But then, like a video played at high speed, the vine instantly sprouted flowers and popped out grapes! The wine taster grabbed those grapes, squished them into Pharaoh’s fancy cup, then handed it to Pharaoh to drink. Because God was with him, Joseph knew exactly what this dream meant. In three days, Pharaoh was going to release his wine taster from prison and give him his old wine-tasting job back!
+ Describe the wine taster's dream.
GENESIS 40:14-15, NIRV
14 But when everything is going well with you, remember me. Do me a favor. Speak to Pharaoh about me. Get me out of this prison. 15 I was taken away from the land of the Hebrews by force. Even here I haven’t done anything to be put in prison for.”
After hearing Joseph explain his dream, I’m sure the wine taster was ready to party. In three days, he would escape this awful prison and be back at his old comfy job! But when that happy day came, poor old Joseph would still be a slave rotting in jail, all for something he didn’t even do! Knowing the wine taster would soon be standing next to the most powerful man in Egypt, Joseph asked him a favor. “Please tell Pharaoh my story. Tell him how I was stolen from my home and sold as a slave. Tell him that I’ve been thrown into prison, even though I haven’t done anything wrong!”
+ What did Joseph want the wine taster to say to Pharaoh? (vs. 15)
+ What did Joseph hope Pharaoh would do after he heard about Joseph’s story? (vs. 14)
GENESIS 40:16-19, NIRV
16 The chief baker saw that Joseph had given a positive meaning to the wine taster’s dream. So he said to Joseph, “I had a dream too. There were three baskets of bread on my head. 17 All kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh were in the top basket. But the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.”
18 “Here’s what your dream means,” Joseph said. “The three baskets are three days. 19 In three days Pharaoh will cut your head off. Then he will stick a pole through your body and set the pole up. The birds will eat your flesh.”
Listening to Joseph explain the wine taster’s dream made the baker think, “Ooh! Maybe he has good news for me, too!” So he shared with Joseph the strange things he saw as he snoozed. The baker’s dream began with a very unusual choice for a hat: three stacked baskets full of baked snacks for Pharaoh! Since he was wearing bread on his head, he couldn’t keep the birds from picking at his basket hat. Sadly, Joseph didn’t have any good news to share this time. “Pharaoh will not forgive you,” Joseph told the baker. “In three days, he’ll have you killed and let birds pick at your dead body!”
+ Describe the baker's dream.
GENESIS 40:20-23, NIRV
20 The third day was Pharaoh’s birthday. He had a feast prepared for all his officials. He brought the chief wine taster and the chief baker out of prison. He did it in front of his officials. 21 He gave the chief wine taster’s job back to him. Once again the wine taster put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand. 22 But Pharaoh had a pole stuck through the chief baker’s body. Then he had the pole set up. Everything happened just as Joseph had told them when he explained their dreams.
23 But the chief wine taster didn’t remember Joseph. In fact, he forgot all about him.
With God’s help, Joseph had told the wine taster and the baker exactly what their crazy dreams meant. Each one was a special message from God about the future. In three days, Joseph explained, the wine taster would be back at his old job, while the baker would become food for the birds! As they waited for those three days to pass by, I’m sure the wine taster hoped that Joseph was right. And I bet the baker prayed that Joseph was wrong! Of course, God was the one who let Joseph know what the dreams meant and God is never wrong.
Three days later, everything happened exactly as Joseph said it would. It was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave an order: "Bring out my old baker and wine taster!" At the party, he forgave the wine taster for whatever he had done to make Pharaoh mad and gave him his old job back. But when it came to the baker, Pharaoh was not in a forgiving mood. He did to the baker everything Joseph said he would.
Back in the prison, I’m sure Joseph thought, “Any day now, the wine taster will tell Pharaoh about all my troubles. When he does, Pharaoh will surely let me go and I’ll see my family again!” But in all the excitement, the wine taster completely forgot about his promise to Joseph. Day after day, Joseph waited to hear the happy news that he was finally free. Sadly, that day did not come.
The wine taster may have completely forgotten about Joseph, but God didn’t. He’d been with Joseph through every step of his up-and-down journey and he wasn’t about to abandon him now. God had exciting things in store for Joseph. In fact, in two years' time, Joseph was going to become that forgetful wine taster’s boss!
When trouble comes, it can be easy to feel that God has forgotten all about us. But the all-knowing God of the universe never forgets anything or anyone! The up-and-down roller coaster life of Joseph shows us that God always remembers his people. When things look like they couldn’t get any worse, we should trust that God has a plan to work things out for our best. This is exactly what he did in the life of Joseph.
Why can we trust that God wants the best for our futures? Because of what he’s done for us in the past. Though you and I and everyone else were sinners (breakers of God’s law), God loved us with a never-stopping love. His love for us was so great, he let his only Son die in our place so that we could be saved! If God would give up Jesus to save us, you better believe he loves us and has a good plan for us!
Certainly, none of us know about all the ups and downs of our own roller coaster lives. But we know exactly where we’ll be when we finally get off the ride. We’ll spend forever with God in his good kingdom, where each day will be the best day of our lives!
+ How could God know what Pharaoh would do three days before it happened?
+ How much longer did Joseph have to stay in prison? (see Gen. 41:1 for the answer.)