“Sometime after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker committed an offense against their lord the king of Egypt. 2 And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, 3 and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined. 4 The captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them. They continued for some time in custody.” (Genesis 40:1–4 (ESV)
Today’s text begins with the phrase ““Sometime after this.” Moses does not tell us how long Joseph was in prison prior to the events of Genesis 40. All we know for certain was that he was in prison and he was serving the Lord (Gen. 39:19-23).
Puritan John Bunyan spent twelve years imprisoned in Bedford County Gaol for his biblical preaching. In prison, Bunyan had a copy of the Bible and of John Foxe‘s Book of Martyrs, and writing materials. He also had at times the company of other preachers who had been imprisoned. It was in Bedford Gaol that Bunyan wrote Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. He alsobegan work on The Pilgrim’s Progress as well as several tracts. He was chosen as pastor of the Bedford Meeting, which was a gathering of prisoners for worship. The Pilgrim’s Progress was not published until some years after his release.
The point of comparison is that God uses His chosen people to serve Him where and when He chooses. Even if the field of ministry is within prison cell. This was certainly true with respect to the Apostle Paul (Acts 28:16-31).
Genesis 40:3 refers to Joseph being confined. The word confined (a-sur) means to be tied up and bound. It was not an easy time for the Patriarch.
Psalm 105:16-19, in reference to Joseph, says, “16 When he summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread, 17 he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. 18 His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; 19 until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him.”
It was during this indefinite period of time that Pharaoh became angry with two of his officers: the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. The text does not provide any reason for Pharaoh’s anger. The chief cupbearer was in charge of all aspects of the king’s beverages. This included not only quality control but also to ensure none of Pharaoh’s drinks were poisonous. The chief baker was in charge of all of the king’s meals. He also made sure Pharaoh’s food was not tampered.
Genesis 40:4 says, “The captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them. They continued for some time in custody.”
The chief cupbearer and chief baker may be fellow prisoners, but the captain of the guard appoints Joseph to attend, or serve, both of them. This would be the perspective of the lesser serving the greater.
Dr. R .C. Sproul writes, “Though time in prison could make anyone discouraged, Joseph does not waver from his consistent service. No matter the work he was given to do — overseer of the prison or attendant to the cupbearer and baker — Joseph continued to serve others and wait on the Lord. We should expect nothing less since patience has always been a distinguishing mark of God’s people (Gal. 5:22). Do you patiently wait for our Father to act or do you try to force His hand?”
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!