The captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them.
I. THE CONVICTION OF HIS INNOCENCE AND INTEGRITY GAINS GROUND. Joseph was, at first, thrown into a dungeon and laid in irons. Now, this severe discipline is relaxed, and he is appointed to a kind of stewardship over the other prisoners. It is highly probable, that, by this time, Potiphar was convinced of his innocence, though he detained him in custody for prudential reasons. Joseph was everywhere giving the impression of being a good and holy man. The character of Potiphar's wife could not long be concealed; and as it became more and more known, the belief in Joseph's innocence would gain ground.
II. HE DISCOVERS SIGNS OF HIS TRUE VOCATION.
1. As a saint of God. Mark how Joseph refers to God in every important crisis of his history. When Pharaoh's two officers lamented that there was no interpreter of their dreams, he said, "Do not interpretations belong to God?" He was always true to his religion. Mark his temperateness and forbearance, his calmness and simplicity. He does not speak unkindly of his brethren, he does not even name them, but simply states that he was "stolen out of the land of the Hebrews," and that he had " done nothing" that they should put him " into the dungeon" (ver. 15). Here was the faith and resignation of a saint, whose life was fit to be recorded in the pages of Revelation as an eminent and worthy example to all ages.
2. As a prophet of God. As such he interprets dreams, which are here to be considered as Divine revelations to men of warning, reproof, and teaching (Job 33:14-18).
3. As a kind and just ruler of men. Joseph was clearly a man who was destined to wield a commanding, and even a regal influence over others. He was fitted for this, doubtless, by his intellectual gifts and characteristics, but more especially(1) by his sympathy. "Wherefore look ye so sadly to-day?" he said to his fellow-prisoners, whose dreams suggested the worst forebodings (vers. 6-7). He himself had been in the school of affliction, and he had learned to be tender. Though he had griefs of his own to bear, he felt for others. He cannot be a true ruler of men who has not learned sympathy.(2) By his uprightness. He was firm and faithful, even when he had to tell unpleasant truths (vers. 18-19). Such are the qualities required in a true ruler of men (2 Samuel 23:3-4).
III. HE RETAINS FAITH AND HOPE IN GOD IN THE MIDST OF ALL. HIS ADVERSITIES. God was with him in the prison. Therefore he does not abandon himself to despair, but still trusts and hopes on.
(T. H. Leale.)
I. We cannot but be struck with THE MINUTE PARTICULARITY OF THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD. See at how many critical points Joseph's life touches the lives of others, and is, thereby, carried so much the farther forward towards the attainment by him of the place which God was preparing for him. When I get to a great railway junction, and find trains coming m together from the east, and the north, and the south, just in time to join another that is starting from that point for the west, I should be regarded as a simpleton if I spoke of that as a wonderful coincidence. And yet on the great Railroad of Life, when I come to such a junction and meet there a train that leads me on to some significant sphere of service, I am supposed to be a simpleton if I refer that to the over-ruling providence of God. But I am not a simpleton — I am only reasoning in that department as I would in the domain of literature or daily travelling; and he who repudiates God's providence is the fool, according to that scathing utterance of the Psalmist — "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God."
II. We are reminded by this history also that THE CHARACTER OF THE INDIVIDUAL HAS AS MUCH TO DO WITH WHAT I HAVE CALLED THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PLOT OF HIS LIFE AS THE PLAN OR PURPOSE OF GOD HAS. Providence is not fatalism. Joseph, if he had chosen to act otherwise than he did, might have thrown away all the opportunities which these places of junction in his life afforded him. The men that fail in life do not fail for want of such opportunities as Joseph had, but for want of the character to see these opportunities, and the ability to use them. Keep near to God, therefore, form your character according to His principles, and then, even though you may be in a prison, you will find a way to serve Him, and will feel that somehow you are on the road to your success, and in training for your sphere.
III. We may learn that THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN THEMSELVES UPHELD IN TROUBLE, ARE THE MOST EFFICIENT HELPERS OF OTHERS WHEN THEY ARE IN TRIAL. Young as Joseph was, he had not seen enough sorrow to dispose him to sympathize with others in their affliction. And in the suggestive question which he put to his fellow-prisoners, "do not interpretations belong to God?" he not only expresses his own faith, but in the most delicate and skilful manner indicates to them the source whence alone true consolation comes. More than thirty years ago, just at the beginning of my ministry, I was in the house of a beloved pastor, when he was called to pass through the greatest trial that a man can know, in the death of a truly good and noble wife. Two mornings after, the postman brought in a sheaf of letters. I think there were more than twenty of them, but each was from a brother minister who had been led through the same dark valley, and who was seeking to comfort him with the comfort wherewith himself had been comforted of God. Only a few evenings ago I met a Christian lady, with whom I was comparing notes regarding the experience of the loss of little children, and she said to me, "I never see the death of a little child announced in the newspaper but I have an impulse to write to the parents and speak comfortably to them." Thus we may console ourselves under our own trials with the thought that God is endowing us thereby with the gift of sympathy, and fitting us to become " sons of consolation" to others in affliction. The price is costly, but the learning is precious.
IV. THOSE WHOM WE BENEFIT HAVE OFTEN VERY POOR REMEMBRANCE OF KINDNESS. Men too often write the record of grudges in marble, and of favours in water. Nay, such is the perversity of human nature, that not unfrequently men return evil for the good which has been done them. One spoke to an English statesman of the violent enmity which another evinced towards him. "Yes," was the reply, "and I cannot understand it, for I never did him any kindness that I can remember." The sarcasm was bitter, but there was enough of truth in it to give it point; and every one who seeks to be a helper of others learns, sooner or later, to give over looking for human gratitude, and to think mainly of the Lord Jesus Christ and His appreciation.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
1. Let no circumstances ever tempt the children of God to doubt and question the watchful care and kindness of their heavenly Father's providence. Let them bear in remembrance, that He not only works in His own way, but chooses His own time; and let them rest in the assurance that both His way and His time are always the best. Though He tarry, then, wait for Him. "Fret not thyself in any wise to do evil."
2. The source of true and constant enjoyment of that happiness which all seek and so few find must be within. It lies essentially in a sense of God's love. This is happiness. This will ever he associated with confidence in His wisdom, and faithfulness, and kindness; and consequently with contentment in all conditions. These are sources of joy of which no power can rob us, and which remain ever the same — amidst all changes unchanging.
(J. S. Van Dyke.)
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
I. PRISON OCCUPATIONS. The crime is the disgrace, and not the scaffold or the prison. Good men have often been imprisoned, while many wicked have escaped. Yet, notwithstanding the prison, these sufferers are amongst our heroes and martyrs. Milton said, "there shall one day be a resurrection of names and reputations." Bunyan, Baxter, &c., are not honoured the less for the dungeons in which they suffered. Next to escaping the prison, the best thing is, like Joseph, to suffer innocently. Joseph in prison. Suffering often hardens the bad and purifies and manifests the good. Joseph's character could not be hid. Even the keepers saw how different he was from the ordinary criminals committed to their care (see Proverbs 16:21. The prisoner becomes a keeper (so many of the captive Jews, as Daniel, Nehemiah, Mordecai, were exalted). Is so much trusted as to be freed from supervision (Genesis 38:22-23). God, who was with him in Canaan, is with him in Egypt, and in prison. He does not forsake His friends in distresses brought upon them by their fidelity to Him.
II. PRISON COMPANIONS. The butler and baker, two officers of importance in eastern and ancient courts. Yet even these were not spared by a capricious and absolute monarch. "Oh, how wretched is that poor man that hangs on princes' favours!" In a palace one day, a prison the next. In ancient times a courtier's office was often like the Bridge of Sighs at Venice, "a palace and a prison on each hand." These men may have suffered justly; like the malefacters who were crucified with Jesus (Luke 23:41). The worst punishment of the good is forced fellowship with the wicked. As providence over-ruled the wrath of Joseph's brothers, so now he ever-rules the wrath of Pharaoh. One of these degraded officials shall be the instrument of Joseph's release and exaltation.
III. PRISON DREAMS. That is: the dreams of the butler and baker. The subject was so strange, and the recollection so vivid, that they were troubled. Dreamland, a mysterious region to the ancients. No interpreter of dreams in the prison, they thought. Joseph's inquiry. Be thinks of his own dreams, doubtless, and the transitory trouble they had brought him into. He gives the praise to God, as the true interpreter of dreams. By the help of divine illumination, he reveals the meaning of their dreams. No doubt he saw that God had sent them those dreams for him to interpret; and that his connection with these men would work out the fulfilment of his own dreams. It is certain that what was foretold by their dreams would have occurred even if they had never dreamed at all. Hence, it was clear that there was a purpose in their dreaming, and in their relating their dreams to Joseph. Probably had not Joseph been in prison, they would not have dreamed as they did. Learn:
I. If we suffer, let it be for righteousness' sake.
II. When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies, &c,
(J. C. Gray.)
1. Providence keeps its method in multiplying mercy to His saints in misery.
2. The sins of others God sometimes maketh an occasion of refreshing His own servants.
3. Court officers are very prone to sin, and abuse favours.
4. Kings themselves are not secured from offences by their nearest servants (ver. 1).
5. Kings, offended, are apt to swell in wrath and displeasure.
6. Greatest wrath of kings is apt to rise against officers (ver. 2).
7. The wrath of kings usually causeth the restraint and imprisonment of their criminal subjects.
8. God orders place where the wrath of man imprisons, and that for His own ends.
9. Innocents and malefactors may lie together in the same prison (ver. 3).
10. God inclineth the hearts of chief commanders for imprisonment, more to the innocent than guilty.
11. Innocent prisoners under Providence may have the charge of malefactors.
12. Good souls trusted in any capacity, do execute it faithfully.
13. Set times and seasons of restraint God appoints to His own and others for His own ends.
14. All these Providence orders to be occasions of glorifying His grace in His saints (ver. 4).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
They dreamed a dream.I. THE DREAMS.
II. THE INTERPRETATION. Notice how honestly Joseph tells the truth — gives his message faithfully — does not hide what God has given him to say.
III. THE FULFILMENT. It all came true. Joseph had the comfort of feeling that he had been taught of God, and that so God was caring for him. Lessons:
1. God knows all things.
2. God foreknows all things.
3. God wisely orders all things.
(W. S. Smith, B. D.)
(C. Geikie, D. D.)
1. We all allow that God may and does influence the workings of our minds through the operation of the laws of suggestion or association while we are awake; for it is impossible to hold in any intelligible fashion the doctrine of the agency of the Holy Spirit unless we make such an admission. But if God can thus influence our minds when we are awake, it is equally easy for Him to do so while we are asleep, so that there is no antecedent impossibility against the view that He may speak to men in and through the visions of the night.
2. Again, the providence of God must take cognizance of our dreams as well as of our waking thoughts, and must be equally in and over both, otherwise it is not really universal. Hence there is nothing either absurd or unphilosophical or impious in supposing that God may avail Himself of the phenomena of dreams for the purpose of turning the mind to His truth, or leading it into some particular direction. How He does that it is impossible to say. Sleep is a mystery, and dreams are a mystery, and to them both we may apply the words of Hamlet, "There are more things in heaven and earth than have been dreamed of in philosophy"; while, whatever may be said of dreams in general, we are probably not wrong in believing that the visions here recorded were from the Lord.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
I. Two PICTURES WHICH NEEDED AN INTERPRETER, Dream pictures. Prison walls can't shut out the sights which come to men in sleep.
1. The picture which the butler saw.
2. The picture which the baker saw.
II. THE INTERPRETER AND HIS INTERPRETATIONS. If we want to know what a picture means, the best person to tell us is the man who painted it? Who had painted these dream pictures? Sometimes see a plate on which child has been rubbing paints; a quantity of colour smudges, blue, red, green, yellow, all mixed up together! Many dreams something like this, just a quantity of thought smudges. The butler thinks about grapes and cups; the baker about bread and confectionery; no wonder that in their dreams they should see pictures which remind them of such things. Once a great artist, Turner, got his grandchildren to rub their fingers about in the colours on his palette. When they had made a great mess he said, "Now stop." And then from their smudges he painted a most beautiful picture. God sometimes does this with our thought-smudges. So here, with the butler and the baker; He took their confused thoughts and made clear pictures out of them. In the prison was a man who trusted God, and because he trusted God, therefore God trusted him. He understood what the dream pictures meant; God taught him to interpret them. Conclusion: Some people like to have dreams, but dreams are not much good if they have no meaning, or if we can't find out what the meaning is. God sometimes teaches men by dreams, but He has many other ways of teaching them; the world itself is a great picture-book full of meaning for those who can interpret it. Better to be an interpreter than a dreamer. If we can interpret, not dreams only but all nature will bring us messages from God. Can we be interpreters? Yes, if we are like Joseph, pure, simple, trusting God, trying to obey Him. Everything about us has a meaning if only we could understand. The seeds growing say to the interpreter, "Don't be in a hurry; first the grain, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear." The wind says, "Ye know not whence I come or whither I go, and God's spirit is like me." The moon says, "I am so bright and beautiful because I reflect the light of the sun; if you want to be bright and beautiful, you must reflect the glory of Christ." We need not mind dreams, good or bad; let us learn to trust and obey God, so that He may teach us to be good interpreters.
(C. A. Goodhart, M. A.)
(F. C. Woodhouse, M. A.)
I. HUMAN LIFE IS FULL OF MYSTERIES.
1. Where there is partial knowledge there must be mystery. A man must be a mystery to his dog. Civilized men are mysteries to barbarians. A field-marshal is a mystery to his valet. A locomotive engine is a mystery to a ploughboy. There are more mysteries within ourselves than we can solve in a lifetime. Mysteries without us need not therefore stagger us.
2. Temporary miscarriage of justice is a mystery. Clever intrigues of wickedness often succeed. A lie may bring large gain, while the candid statement of the truth may bring ill-fame and worldly ruin. Pharaoh's chief butler and chief baker-men of rank and position in the Court — may have been both innocent. Or, one may have been innocent, and one guilty. Yet both are committed to the same prison. Is not this a mystery?
3. That human destiny is revealed in dreams is a mystery. If one cannot, with the most wakeful sagacity, foresee clearly his earthly fortune and destiny, it is a strange thing that it can be indicated in a dream. Yet God has sometimes revealed to men coming events in their dreams.
II. THE MYSTERIES OF LIFE REQUIRE AN INTERPRETER.
1. The office of interpreter is useful to mankind. That is a narrow and erroneous view of human life that regards mechanical labour as alone profitable. The man who examines into the forces and movements of the human soul is as great a benefactor of his race as he who searches into the arcana of material nature. The interpreter of life's mysteries fulfils a noble task.
2. The power to interpret comes from large personal experience. Joseph was well aware that his course of life had been wholly shaped by his dreams.
3. The interpreter must be a man full of sympathy. Joseph's manifold sufferings had developed in him intense sympathy with the unfortunate.
III. THE REVELATIONS OF THE INTERPRETER WILL BE BOTH PLEASANT AND PAINFUL.
1. The true interpreter must be the ally of truth. He has no personal end to serve. Because Jesus was essentially the truth, therefore He was the teacher, the interpreter, the wonder-worker, the life.
2. It is a joy to bring glad tidings. Nevertheless, he will rejoice in the butler's joy: it will be a delight to turn sadness into song in another's heart.
3. The interpreter may be commissioned to carry sorrowful news. To do a man good service is a greater kindness than to give him pleasure. Joseph was the best earthly friend that chief baker ever had, though he announced, "in three days thou wilt be hanged." Joseph obtained for that man three precious days of preparation for the great change.
(J. Dickerson Davies, M. A.)
(M. Dods, D. D.)
commence, in Lower Egypt, before the middle of August, when the vintage is, in most cases, almost entirely completed. Vineyards, very tastefully arranged, were either combined with, or contiguous to, orchards, furnished with tanks, and often with reservoirs, with summer-houses, and reception-rooms, with avenues of trees and grass-plots, and always with a building for the wine-press (Isaiah 5:1, 2). "The vines were trained on trellis-work, supported by transverse rafters resting on pillars" which were, in many instances, gaily caloured, and divided the vineyard into numerous avenues; many vines were allowed to grow as standing bushes, and, on account of their lowness, required no support; while others were formed into a number of beautiful bowers. At the season of the vintage, from the end of June, boys were engaged to frighten away the birds by a sling or the sound of the voice; in gathering the fruit, the precarious aid of trained monkeys was more curiously than profitably employed; and after the conclusion of the vintage, kids were allowed to browse upon the vines. The simplest mode of pressing the wine was by putting the grapes into a bag, and turning the latter by two poles in contrary directions, or, by some other contrivance based on the same principle, but more remarkable is the foot-press; the workmen trod the grapes with naked feet, supporting themselves by ropes suspended from the roof. We possess several beautiful representations of such wine-presses, remarkable for elaborateness and tastefulness. After some other liquid was probably added to the juice, it was clarified by sieving, and perhaps by the application of eggs. The dream of the chief butler describes in rapid but comprehensive outlines the different stages in the growth of the vine; how it produces buds and blossoms, forms clusters, and matures ripe grapes, which the butler then presses into the goblet (ver. 10). This completeness seems to be the principal object of the narrative; it may be that only in order to shorten the whole process, and to compress it within the narrow frame of a vision, the juice, after having just been pressed out with the hand, is stated to have been placed before the king; whereas, ,in reality, it might have been allowed to ferment the usual time, as it is represented in numerous frescoes; but it is as probable that sometimes temperate persons (as it was later ordained in the Koran) abstained from fermented wine on account of its more intoxicating power, and that, at some period, the priests who regulated the king's table, as they controlled all his public and private affairs, prescribed to him the use of the unfermented juice of the grape.
(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
Think on me when it shall be well with thee. —
(J. Parker, D. D.)
1. Sad and seduced souls may be brought to open their troubles to such as may truly answer them from God.
2. Things seen in dreams sent by God may signify matters of another nature. So the vine, &c. (ver. 10).
3. Actions are presented in some dreams by God to presage the like really to come (ver. 11).
4. God's gift of interpretation of dreams is a sure oracle.
5. God alone determines the truth to every sign. Three branches, three days (ver. 12).
6. Under symbols God may infallibly teach restitution, and advancement to imprisoned creatures.
7. God's prophets may declare that to others, which they cannot to themselves for good.
8. Restitution of evil-doers to favour must carry orderly ministration therein (ver. 13).
9. God's goodness to sufferers by His prophets, requireth good to them. Remember me (ver. 14).
10. It is not unbeseeming God's prophets to desire their own good.
11. It is reasonable to desire to be known to them who can help them.
12. Liberty is desirable by saints in their restraints.
13. It is just for God's innocents to complain of wrongs.
14. It is equal for God's afflicted ones to plead their own innocency.
15. It is fit for saints to desire freedom from dungeon calamities (ver. 15).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
2. But there was another reason why Joseph declared plainly what he had learned from God. He wished to have it known amongst the Egyptians that interpretations belonged to the God of the Hebrews, and that he alone could show things that were to come to pass. Joseph afterwards received the name of Zaphnath-paaneah, the revealer of secrets; but it was his desire to have it known that his God was the fountain of all his knowledge, and that confidence in any other God, or in any other way of coming to the knowledge of futurity, but by revelation from Him was vanity and the work of error.
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
1. God keeps time punctually in making good His word for good and evil unto creatures.
2. Man's day and God's may meet together for fulfilling God's will revealed.
3. The birthday's celebration is a heathenish practice and invention (ver. 20).
4. Such times worldly powers used to give out favours or frowns, to kill and keep alive.
5. Where God hath spoken of restitution to liberty and honour, there it is done (ver. 21).
6. Where God hath foretold of death and destruction, there it surely comes to pass (ver. 22).
7. Men restored to liberty and prosperity are apt to forget adverse conditions.
8. Carnal men usually prove unthankful for and unmindful of good done to them in misery.
9. God useth the forgetfulness of creatures to bring about His gracious end to His saints.
10. Unkindnesses from creatures are but to make His saints learn more patience toward God (ver. 23).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
2 Timothy 3.). Those who are unthankful to benefactors of their own race are likewise unthankful to their Maker and Preserver. If they were duly sensible of the blessings conferred upon them by God, they would not be ungrateful to those whom He is pleased to employ as the instruments of His benefactions. If all men abhor those who return not good for good, when it is in the power of their hands to do it; if they are justly accounted no better than publicans or heathens, who love only them who love themselves, how black is our ingratitude if we are not penetrated with grateful love to Him, who not only pitied us in our low estate, but wrought redemption for us by a life of sorrow, and by an accursed death?
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
The third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday.
Homilist.I. WE SHOULD MAKE IT A DAY OF THANKSGIVING. The birth of a human soul is a wondrous miracle, and for weal or woe is an event which will be felt through all eternity. Surely, such is a special season of praise. And thanksgiving is mainly united to joy. Pharaoh rejoiced and instituted a feast. We can show our thanksgiving in no better way than in a practical method of doing good to our fellows and dependents, and causing them to rejoice with us.
II. WE SHOULD MAKE IT A DAY OF RECTIFICATION. Pharaoh, with his little light, did so. The chief butler had been falsely accused, and the chief baker justly. The one he restored to his proper position, and the other was put to death. We all of us make mistakes, we form many harsh judgments, we misinterpret the feelings and actions of others, we shape our course wrongly. Surely, it is well then to make reparation for the past, and to put our lives on a new footing, and to make this part straight.
III. WE SHOULD MAKE IT A TIME FOR HUMILIATION AND PRAYER. It is true that God made us, but what have our lives been worth? What have they been worth to Him? Have we fulfilled the glorious objects for which we are created? And this humiliation should lead to prayer — prayer for Divine guidance and help, prayer for forgiveness and pardon.
IV. WE SHOULD MAKE IT A DAY OF REFLECTION AND RESOLUTION. "There is a time to be born," says the wise man, but "There is also a time to die." The one must necessarily remind us of the other. The season is indeed full of solemn thoughts. Can we bless the day we were born, or is it to us only the beginning of a long and terrible curse?