Joseph was chosen, special, elected, confirmed not just by his father’s favoritism but also by dreams given to him by God. Yet, as scholar Gary Anderson says, “Election is not a matter simply of a set of benefits to be claimed and enjoyed; election involves a cost.” Joseph paid a cost.
The cupbearer shared his dream with Joseph: a vine with three branches that blossom with grape clusters. He was pressing the grapes directly into Pharaoh’s cup. Joseph responds with a confident interpretation. The three branches represent three days. In a short time, the cupbearer will have his position restored. And then Joseph seizes an opportunity: He pleads with the cupbearer to remember him, and briefly recounts his ordeal of kidnapping and wrongful imprisonment.
The chief baker then shared his dream, and he also wanted a favorable dream interpretation—but Joseph could respond with only the truth. In three days, the baker would be executed. This second interpretation proves that Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams was real. It also should have served to remind the cupbearer of Joseph’s unique ability and plight.
This narrative is recounted with perfect dramatic tension. It looks like our hero Joseph has finally found a way to escape from years of prison! His God-given ability to interpret dreams will now see him freed! But the passage ends on a despairing note: “The chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph; he forgot him” (v. 23). We can imagine the crushing disappointment as Joseph eagerly waited for something to happen, day after day, month after month. Would deliverance never come? Was God still faithful? Had all his gifts from God and his testimony for God been for nothing?
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