Joseph, Interpreter of Dreams

Genesis 40:1-23

In prison, Joseph meets two other prisoners, the Pharaoh’s butler and baker. One night, they each have a dream which sets them on edge. Joseph invites them to share their dreams, and, crediting God, offers to help them find their meanings.


The butler says he dreamt of a blossoming vine with three branches, which brought forth grapes. He crushed the grapes into wine and gave them to Pharaoh. Joseph tells him in three days, Pharaoh will pardon him, and he will return to his former job. He asks the butler to remember him favorably and ask for his release when he is freed.


Encouraged by Joseph’s message for the butler, the baker tells of his dream, in which he held three baskets of bread overhead. Birds, however, flew to the topmost basket and ate the bread within. Joseph tells him in three days, he will be executed.


All comes to pass as Joseph predicts, and the baker is executed while the butler is restored to Pharaoh’s service. The butler, however, forgets his promise to Joseph and neglects to mention him or secure his freedom.


The Israel Bible notes Joseph’s description of his experiences to the butler, telling him he was kidnapped from “the Land of the Hebrews”. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch picks up on the unusual early reference, saying while the Torah elaborates on the early escapades of the Patriarchs, it makes no mention of the surrounding nations’ reactions to their presence. This verse, however, is an indication that even at this early juncture in history, the Children of Israel have enough of an impact that their dwelling-place is colloquially known as “the Land of the Hebrews”.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think the butler forgets to mention Joseph just days after he successfully interpreted the two prisoners’ dreams?

Comments ( 3 )

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  • Herman Arentsen

    I think that the wish of Joseph to be freed from jail came forth from a pure human longing to end this phase of his life.. Now there was the possibility. So I think it was not just forgetfulness all amidst a busy courtlife, but also G-d made him forget. He would release Joseph AT HIS TIMING !

  • SueJean Heinz

    I believe that the timing in the story of Yoseph is paramount to the success of the whole plan. We see him sink to the lowest level of the pit and then fall deeper into slavery. He rises from here in Potiphar's household, but soon falls into a new low as a prisoner. Using the skills he has honed in Potiphar's household, he soon rises to a level of sorts in the prison, but Elohim allows him to wait until his hope in the butler has faded and he turns his attention back to hoping and praying to Elohim for his deliverance from the prison.
    When he comes before the Pharaoh, we can see that he attributes his deliverance from the prison solely to Elohim and doesn't attempt to take any credit for himself or give any to any other man. We can see a whole new level of maturity when he is faced with the Pharaoh's puzzle. All of this came through the timing and the challenges he endured on his way to the top.
    Baruch Hashem.

    • Angela B

      True, the Torah says that the help of man is worthless and it stood true when the cup bearer couldn't help Yoseph. It is only Yahweh who can help man.

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