Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. the butler--not only the cup-bearer, but overseer of the
royal vineyards, as well as the cellars; having, probably, some
hundreds of people under him.
baker--or cook, had the superintendence of every thing relating
to the providing and preparing of meats for the royal table. Both
officers, especially the former, were, in ancient Egypt, always persons
of great rank and importance; and from the confidential nature of their
employment, as well as their access to the royal presence, they were
generally the highest nobles or princes of the blood.
3. Pharaoh put them in ward, &c.--Whatever was their crime, they
were committed, until their case could be investigated, to the custody
of the captain of the guard, that is, Potiphar, in an outer part of
whose house the royal prison was situated.
4. The captain of the guard charged Joseph with them--not the
keeper, though he was most favorably disposed; but Potiphar himself,
who, it would seem, was by this time satisfied of the perfect innocence
of the young Hebrew; though, probably, to prevent the exposure of his
family, he deemed it prudent to detain him in confinement (see
They continued a season in ward--literally, "days," how long, is
uncertain; but as they were called to account on the king's birthday,
it has been supposed that their offense had been committed on the
preceding anniversary [CALVIN].
5-8. they dreamed a dream--Joseph, influenced by the spirit of
true religion, could feel for others
Observing them one day extremely depressed, he inquired the cause of
their melancholy; and being informed it was owing to a dream they had
respectively dreamed during the previous night, after piously directing
them to God
he volunteered to aid them, through the divine help, in discovering the
import of their vision. The influence of Providence must be seen in
the remarkable fact of both officers dreaming such dreams in one night.
He moves the spirits of men.
9-11. In my dream, behold, a vine was before me--The visionary
scene described seems to represent the king as taking exercise and
attended by his butler, who gave him a cooling draught. On all
occasions, the kings of ancient Egypt were required to practice
temperance in the use of wine [WILKINSON]; but in
this scene, it is a prepared beverage he is drinking, probably the
sherbet of the present day. Everything was done in the king's
presence--the cup was washed, the juice of the grapes pressed into it;
and it was then handed to him--not grasped; but lightly resting on the
tips of the fingers.
12-15. Joseph said, . . . This is the
interpretation--Speaking as an inspired interpreter, he told the
butler that within three days he would be restored to all the honors
and privileges of his office; and while making that joyful
announcement, he earnestly bespoke the officer's influence for his own
liberation. Nothing has hitherto met us in the record indicative of
Joseph's feelings; but this earnest appeal reveals a sadness and
impatient longing for release, which not all his piety and faith in God
16. I had three white baskets--The circumstances mentioned
exactly describe his duties, which, notwithstanding numerous
assistants, he performed with his own hands.
white--literally, "full of holes"; that is, wicker baskets. The
meats were carried to table upon the head in three baskets, one piled
upon the other; and in the uppermost, the bakemeats. And in crossing
the open courts, from the kitchen to the dining rooms, the removal of
the viands by a vulture, eagle, ibis, or other rapacious bird, was a
frequent occurrence in the palaces of Egypt, as it is an everyday
incident in the hot countries of the East still. The risk from these
carnivorous birds was the greater in the cities of Egypt, where being
held sacred, it was unlawful to destroy them; and they swarmed in such
numbers as to be a great annoyance to the people.
18, 19. Joseph answered and said, This is the
interpretation--The purport was that in three days his execution
should be ordered. The language of Joseph describes minutely one form
of capital punishment that prevailed in Egypt; namely, that the
criminal was decapitated and then his headless body gibbeted on a tree
by the highway till it was gradually devoured by the ravenous
20-22. it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's
birthday--This was a holiday season, celebrated at court with great
magnificence and honored by a free pardon to prisoners. Accordingly,
the issue happened to the butler and baker, as Joseph had foretold.
Doubtless, he felt it painful to communicate such dismal tidings to the
baker; but he could not help announcing what God had revealed to him;
and it was for the honor of the true God that he should speak
23. yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph--This was human
nature. How prone are men to forget and neglect in prosperity, those
who have been their companions in adversity
But although reflecting no credit on the butler, it was wisely ordered
in the providence of God that he should forget him. The divine purposes
required that Joseph should obtain his deliverance in another way, and
by other means.