Improving My Preaching (3)

Personal Reflections on Joseph in Jail (Genesis 40)  (Total time spent 3 hrs of 25)

  • The prison is described in the Expanded Bible as a ’round house.’  It is then referred to in many translations as a house.  Was it the domestic dwelling of the Captain of the Guard? What is ‘the prison of the Captain of the Guard’ as opposed to other prisons of the day?
  • The description of the cupbearer varies from version to version – wine steward(GNB); Chief Security Officer (ISV); Butler (JUB).  I think that this reflects the intents of the interpreters.  Wine Steward makes the role relatable to a modern audience.  Chief Security Officer shows that the cupbearer would taste the drink to see if there was poison.  Was the cupbearer also responsible for looking out for potential assassins in the palace?  It seems ironic, then, or particularly serious, that the person who is responsible for the security of the Pharaoh should participate in something (possibly with the baker), that would result in getting jailed.  I wonder if the king got an upset stomach, but later decided that he wasn’t being poisoned but that the food he had eaten must be to blame.  The butler interpretation is the most funny one to me.  It shows how the context of British society was superimposed on an Egyptian context.  English society has had butlers who serve up the wine for centuries, but I doubt if the Egyptian cupbearer resembled what we would think of as a butler except that he perhaps managed the wine cellar.
  • Joseph asks for mercy.  We are very sympathetic to his plight and we long for mercy for him.  Maybe we have been through similar situations where we were done an injustice.  The cupbearer though forgets him.  Maybe the cupbearer just wanted to put the whole situation behind him.
  • The faces of the baker and the cup-bearer are described as bad/evil in the original language, but we translate it as downcast.  Are they sad because they have had troubling dreams or because they can’t find an accurate interpretation?  Evil in Genesis is the obstruction of what is good.  God’s goodness is not flourishing in the lives of those around Joseph.  Joseph’s interpretation restores the cupbearer to a life of flourishing.  However, expecting that he will also receive flourishing because of the cupbearer the baker must have had a face that looked even more evil when he received the news of his own death.
  • What was the ancient court set-up of the Pharaohs of Egypt?  Are there any historical accounts of Pharaoh’s birthday parties?
  • How does a vine grow?  The stages of growth are mentioned quite particularly.  This is then repeated when the ears of corn grow in Pharaoh’s dream.  Maybe this similarity triggered the cupbearer’s memory.
  • JUB Bible says that the baskets were white.  Other translations say that the baskets were wicker or describe their constrauction and not their colour.  Reading an interlinear Bible will help with this.
  • Injustice is added to injustice as Joseph’s kindness to the cupbearer is not repaid.
  • ‘He lifted up the heads …’ is cleverly phrased.  Pharaoh lifts up one head to restore him, he lifts up the other to remove it completely.
  • Hanged is literally ‘impaled.’  Ancient practices of impaling have frequently been misunderstood because of the lack of that practice in the West.  In the West we often imagine a gallows and a rope for a hanging death.  In the East the body was thrown onto a spike (tree) and allowed to become food for wild animals like birds.
  • ISV:   “Despite all of this, the senior security adviser not only didn’t remember Joseph, he deliberately forgot him.”  This translation seems to emphasize the deliberateness of the neglect that was shown to Joseph.
  • God sometimes overlooks injustice so that his greater plan can be completed.  God is the one who is ultimately telling his story in the Bible .  Although Joseph would gladly secure his own release from jail, it does not serve God’s purposes.  Although Joseph does not like jail and wants to be released, he does not show bitterness against God because he is in jail.

For a modern story of an innocent in jail, follow the link:

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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