Genesis 40 – No Good Deed Goes Unforgotten

Genesis 40 Bible with Equal Exchange 71 percent Cacao Very Dark Chocolate

Today’s ChocolateEqual Exchange 71% Cacao Very Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassageGenesis 40

Happy Labor Day, Chocolate Bookers. As I begin this post, it’s Friday, and I am somewhere between Chicago and Charlotte, in the sky, traveling to spend the holiday weekend with family. Fortunately, though, I am not fleeing to visit my uncle because my brother will be out for my blood as soon as my father dies. No, I am going to visit my brother: and not to make amends for the time I ripped him off by trading him a bowl of soup for his inheritance and then tricked our dad into giving me the blessing meant for the elder son. My family owns no herds: not of goats, not of camels, and decidedly not of drama llamas. Anyway, in today’s chapter, Joseph the Dream Master comes into his own, so let’s check that business out.

As we rejoin Joseph, he welcomes two newcomers to the prison where he is both captive and assistant warden. Pharaoh’s former cupbearer and baker have failed to please their king, and he has sent them indefinitely to the Shame Hole to think about what they’ve done. Then this line hits me: “The captain of the bodyguard put Joseph in charge of them” (4). Remember who is the captain of the bodyguard? It’s Potiphar. The jail is in some fashion part of the building in which he resides. Moreover, he–the man who had Joseph imprisoned in the first place–is the one entrusting the newcomers to Joseph.

Possibly, anyway. It may be that there is now a new captain of the bodyguard. But if this is the same Potiphar, and he’s buried the hatchet to the point where he entrusts newcomers to Joseph’s care, then why hasn’t he let Joseph go free outright? It’s a weird detail, and I’m not sure what to make of it.

I’ll tell you what detail I do know what to make of, though. Once the former cupbearer and baker are handed over to Joseph, the text tells us: “He took care of them” (4). The verb here is שָׁרַת, sharath, meaning “to attend as a menial or worshipper; figuratively, to contribute to.” The NASB supplies “ministered to” as an alternate translation here. So when the chief jailer gives Joseph authority over the prison, what does it look like when he uses that authority? It doesn’t look like him giving orders or bossing everyone around, or implementing new organizational initiatives, or even what most of us would consider “leadership.” Joseph serves the newcomers. He does for them what a menial servant, an inferior, would do. He’s not in it to hype himself up. He’s treating his job like a race to the bottom.

After awhile, the cupbearer and baker have dreams about their former positions. Frustrated by their inability to figure out their dreams’ significance, they take them to Joseph. Okay, that’s not entirely right. Joseph proactively picks up on their blues, so he asks them, “Why are your faces so sad today?” (7). He pays attention to them, and he offers to help them without any prompting. He’s not the same self-centered kid that he was when his brothers sold him into slavery. Dude’s growing.

So, with insight provided by God (8), Joseph shows the cupbearer and baker that their dreams, via metaphor, indicate their futures. In three days, Pharaoh will give the cupbearer back his position, but he’ll give the baker the axe. Sure enough, in three days that’s exactly what happens. Unfortunately, however, the cupbearer has the memory of a goldfish. Despite seeing both his and the baker’s dreams come to pass according to Joseph’s interpretation, he forgets Joseph entirely.

So, for now, Joseph remains King of the Prison. Will he ever regain his freedom? Yes, of course he will. You know how this story turns out.

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