Genesis 40:1
And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt.
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(1) Butler.—Heb., one who gives to drink, cupbearer. As we learn in Genesis 40:11 that it was grapewine which he gave the king to drink, this chapter has been the main dependence of the new critics for their proof that the Book of Genesis was not written by Moses. For Herod. (i. 77) says, “The Egyptians make use of wine prepared from barley, because there are no vineyards in their country.” As Herodotus was thirteen centuries later than the time of Joseph, they argue not only that the vine could not have been introduced into Egypt at so early a date, but that the records of Joseph’s life could not have been put together by anyone acquainted with Egypt, in spite of their exact knowledge in all other respects of Egyptian customs. But when we turn to Herodotus himself, we find the most complete refutation of the previous statement. For, in Book ii. 37, speaking of the liberal treatment of the priests, he says, that they had an allowance of “grape-wine.” Again, in Genesis 39, he tells us that it was the custom to pour wine on a victim about to be sacrificed. To one used to the extensive vineyards of Greece and Asia Minor, the comparative scarcity of the vine, and the use of another ordinary drink in its place, would be striking; but that he was guilty of gross exaggeration in his statement is proved by evidence far more trustworthy than his own writings. For, on the tombs at Beni-hassan, which are anterior to the time of Joseph, on those at Thebes, and on the Pyramids, are representations of vines grown in every way, except that usual in Italy, festooned on trees; there is every process of the vintage, grapes in baskets, men trampling them in vats, various forms of presses for squeezing out the juice, jars for storing it, and various processes, even of the fermentation, noticed. Numerous engravings of the sculptures and paintings on these ancient monuments may be seen in Wilkinson’s Egypt; and most abundant evidence of the culture of the vine in ancient Egypt has been collected, and an account of the vines grown there given in Malan’s Philosophy or Truth, pp. 31-39. It neither is nor ever was a great wine-producing country, but the vine existed from one end of the country to the other, as it does at this day.

Baker.—Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians, ii. 38, 39, gives proof from the monuments, that they had carried the art of making confectionery to very great perfection.

Genesis 40:1-3. We should not have had this story of Pharaoh’s butler and baker recorded in Scripture, if it had not been serviceable to Joseph’s preferment. The world stands for the sake of the church, and is governed for its good. Where Joseph was bound — That is, was a prisoner, as the word אסור is used, Isaiah 22:3; or had been bound, Psalm 105:18.

For being now made governor of the prisoners, he was doubtless made free from his bonds.

40:1-19 It was not so much the prison that made the butler and baker sad, as their dreams. God has more ways than one to sadden the spirits. Joseph had compassion towards them. Let us be concerned for the sadness of our brethren's countenances. It is often a relief to those that are in trouble to be noticed. Also learn to look into the causes of our own sorrow. Is there a good reason? Is there not comfort sufficient to balance it, whatever it is? Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Joseph was careful to ascribe the glory to God. The chief butler's dream foretold his advancement. The chief baker's dream his death. It was not Joseph's fault that he brought the baker no better tidings. And thus ministers are but interpreters; they cannot make the thing otherwise than it is: if they deal faithfully, and their message prove unpleasing, it is not their fault. Joseph does not reflect upon his brethren that sold him; nor does he reflect on the wrong done him by his mistress and his master, but mildly states his own innocence. When we are called on to clear ourselves, we should carefully avoid, as much as may be, speaking ill of others. Let us be content to prove ourselves innocent, and not upbraid others with their guilt.The chief butler and chief baker, high officials in Pharaoh's court, come under the displeasure of their sovereign. "In the house of the captain of the guards." It appears that this officer's establishment contained the keep in which Joseph and these criminals were confined. "Charged Joseph with them." As Joseph was his slave, and these were state prisoners, he appointed him to wait upon them. It is probable that Joseph's character had been somewhat re-established with him during his residence in the prison.CHAPTER 40

Ge 40:1-8. Two State Prisoners.

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.Pharaoh’s chief butler and baker are put into prison, and committed to Joseph, Genesis 40:1-4. They dream, and are sad, Genesis 40:5,6. He asks the reason, Genesis 40:7. Their answer, and Joseph’s reply, Genesis 40:8. The chief butler tells his dream, Genesis 40:9-11. Joseph interprets it of his restoration, and desires him to be mindful of him, Genesis 40:12-15. The chief baker also tells his dream, Genesis 40:16,17. Joseph interprets it, Genesis 40:18,19. Both made good by the event, Genesis 40:20-22. The butler forgets Joseph, Genesis 40:23.

1720 No text from Poole on this verse.

And it came to pass after these things,.... After Joseph had been accused and cast into prison, where he had been for some time:

that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt; committed some fault, at least were accused of one, which raised his displeasure at them. The Targum of Jonathan says, that they consulted to put poison into his drink and food; which, it is not improbable, considering their business and office, they might be charged with; at least it is much more probable than what Jarchi suggests, that the one put a fly into his cup, and the other a little stone or sand into his bread.

And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt.
1–8. The two Officers in Prison

1. after these things] A vague definition of time: see Genesis 15:1, Genesis 22:1, Genesis 39:7.

the butler] In Genesis 40:2; Genesis 40:20 he is called “the chief butler.” The word is rendered in Nehemiah 1:11, “cupbearer,” an officer who looked after the king’s cellar.

his baker] In Genesis 40:2; Genesis 40:22 he is called “the chief baker,” an officer who looked after the king’s bakehouse. These officials filled high positions at the Egyptian court. Cf. Genesis 37:36.

offended] Lit. “sinned”; so LXX ἥμαρτον, Lat. peccarent.

Verse 1. - And it came to pass (literally, and it was) after these things (literally, words, i.e. after the transactions just re. corded), that the butler - מָשְׁקֶה, the hiph. part. of שָׁקָה, to drink, signifies one who causes to drink, hence cupbearer (cf. ver. 11) - of the king of Egypt and his baker - the אֹפֶה (part. of אָפָה, to cook or bake) was the officer who prepared the king's food. The monuments show that the Egyptians had carried the arts of the confectioner and cook to a high degree of perfection (vide Hengstenberg, 'Egypt and the Books of Moses,' p. 27; Wilkinson, 'Ancient Egyptians,' 2:33-39, ed. 1878) - had offended (or sinned against) their lord (literally, against, the preposition being repeated) the king of Egypt - whom they had attempted to poison (the Targum of Jonathan), though this of course is only a conjecture in the absence of specific information. Genesis 40:1The head cup-bearer and head baker had committed crimes against the king of Egypt, and were imprisoned in "the prison of the house of the captain of the trabantes, the prison where Joseph himself was confined;" the state-prison, according to Eastern custom, forming part of the same building as the dwelling-house of the chief of the executioners. From a regard to the exalted position of these two prisoners, Potiphar ordered Joseph to wait upon them, not to keep watch over them; for את פּקד does not mean to appoint as guard, but to place by the side of a person.
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