Richard Agee

Genesis 39-40: Yosef resists wife of Potiphar and interprets three-days-related dreams of cupbearer and baker of Pharaoh

Richard AgeeThe Lord was clearly with Yosef (Joseph) in Potiphar’s house, yet Yosef was framed for jilting an adulterous wife. And the Lord was with Yosef in the prison he was thrown into, interpreting two dreams about the future of the pharaoh’s jailed wine server and baker. The symbols of wine and bread there point to the future life of Yeshua the Messiah.

This section is not a reflection on Yosef (Joseph) but a reflection on our Creator. Every chapter is a revelation of God’s mind and His Messiah. We can know God’s thoughts and actions as we closely read the Scripture. We understand the teachings and thoughts of the Messiah as we carefully read the Torah, Prophets and Writings (TaNaKh). 

When Yosef arrives in Egypt, he is sold to an Egyptian officer named Potiphar. The word that is translated as officer in many English translations is סָרִיס saris (Strong’s H5631). He is a a palace guard and an executioner, a man who has power from Pharaoh to cut off one’s life. He was a very powerful, prominent leader. He was a captain of the executioners. Yosef was sold to a killer, a very deadly man. 

Once Yosef came into Potiphar’s house, God caused everything Yosef did to prosper. Potiphar observed this, putting two and two together and figured out that the increasing wealth of his household was due to God’s hand on Yosef. Yosef found grace and favor in Potiphar’s eyes. We think of grace as a New Testament concept but grace is found in the earliest pages of the TaNaKh. 

Potiphar promoted Yosef to the highest possible position in Potiphar’s household. He had complete authority over everything in Potiphar’s household, except his wife. 

Potiphar’s wife also took notice of Yosef but for a different reason. The Bible says that Yosef was very handsome, which we would expect as the grandson of Sarah. Potiphar’s wife had lust in her heart for Yosef and started chasing after him to commit adultery with her. He tried to ignore her. Yosef fought against that temptation, telling her that he can’t sin against God. 

She waited until one day when there were no men in the house because they were all off working, and tried to force herself on Yosef. 

In these days, all clothing was basically a uniform, anyone who saw your garment would know who you were and be able to instantly identify your status in society. The garment that Potiphar’s wife grabbed off his body was not just a cloak, it was a symbol of Yosef’s status as the head of the household. 

It was a unique garment and after Yosef fled, she had it in her hand and had to explain to the other servants how she ended up with it so she had to create a very cleaver lie to explain herself so she framed him as an attempted rapist. 

She calls him a “Hebrew,” which means that he comes from the other side of “the River,” i.e., Euphrates River. He was a foreigner. Abram and his descendants did not look like the people of the area of Canaan and Egypt. 

When Potiphar heard his wife’s tale, he had Yosef sent to the prison where the king’s prisoners are sent. Once Yosef is in prison, he impresses the captain of the prison and soon he is in charge of the prison just as he was in charge of Potiphar’s house. 

After Yosef was giving charge of the prison, he meets a couple of Pharaoh’s new prisoners, a cupbearer and a baker. We don’t know what these men did to end up in jail. We don’t know if they Pharaoh had good reason to throw them in jail or if they were falsely accused but it doesn’t really matter to the story. If God wanted us to know, He would have shown us. 

Some English translations call the cupbearer a butler and that is probably a more accurate translation of his title, because he would have had charge over all the food and drink of the Pharaoh’s household. 

Both the cupbearer and the baker have dreams that perplexed them and Yosef asks them for permission to interpret their dreams. 

Bread + wine + three days = Messianic reference

Both dreams have a similar pattern of three days, let’s go over each dream. The first dream was the dream of the cupbearer. 

 “In my dream, behold, there was a vine in front of me;  and on the vine were three branches. And as it was budding, its blossoms came out, and its clusters produced ripe grapes. Now Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; so I took the grapes and squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.”  In this dream, Yosef tells the cupbearer that the three branches represents three days and in three days, his life and title will be restored to him. 

The baker also has a dream of three but it’s a little different. 

“I also saw in my dream, and behold, there were three baskets of white bread on my head; and in the top basket there were some of all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, and the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.”

Only one basket was picked at by the birds, not all the baskets were consumed. His dream had the opposite conclusion: the baker would be executed in three days. 

Three days later was Pharaoh’s birthday. There are some in Messianic circles that make big issues about pagan connections to birthday celebration, but that isn’t the focus of this passage. What we need to focus upon is the three days connected to life and death. 

Just as Yeshua’s blood is represented by wine and vineyards, Yeshua body is the bread of life, and it was torn up as He died for us. This is a representation of his life and death.

The cupbearer did not forget about Yosef after his restoration to Pharaoh’s on purpose. God hid the memory in the back of his mind until Yosef was 30 years old. It wasn’t Yosef’s time yet. He had a few more years to go before he would be sufficiently prepared for the next step of his journey.  

Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.

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