Joseph, Interpreter of Dreams

Nov 29, 2015

וַיְהִי אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה חָטְאוּ מַשְׁקֵה מֶלֶךְ־מִצְרַיִם וְהָאֹפֶה לַאֲדֹנֵיהֶם לְמֶלֶךְ מִצְרָיִם׃

Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt gave offense to their lord the king of Egypt.

Genesis 40:1

וְלֹא־זָכַר שַׂר־הַמַּשְׁקִים אֶת־יוֹסֵף וַיִּשְׁכָּחֵהוּ׃

Yet the chief cupbearer did not think of Yosef; he forgot him.

Genesis 40:23

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?

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