Genesis 40:20
And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants.
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(20) He lifted up the head.—From its use in this verse some have supposed that the phrase must mean “to put them on their trial,” or “take account of them” (whence the margin reckon). More probably the words are used to point out the exact fulfilment of Joseph’s interpretation of their dreams.

Genesis 40:20. He lifted up the head — Of these servants; took an account of them, examined their cases, and, either according to the merit of their cause, or through caprice, disposed of them as is here mentioned.

40:20-23 Joseph's interpretation of the dreams came to pass on the very day fixed. On Pharaoh's birth-day, all his servants attended him, and then the cases of these two came to be looked into. We may all profitably take notice of our birth-days, with thankfulness for the mercies of our birth, sorrow for the sinfulness of our lives, and expectation of the day of our death, as better than the day of our birth. But it seems strange that worldly people, who are so fond of living here, should rejoice at the end of one year after another of their short span of life. A Christian has cause to rejoice that he was born, also that he comes nearer to the end of his sin and sorrow, and nearer to his everlasting happiness. The chief butler remembered not Joseph, but forgot him. Joseph had deserved well at his hands, yet he forgot him. We must not think it strange, if in this world we have hatred shown us for our love, and slights for our kindness. See how apt those who are themselves at ease are to forget others in distress. Joseph learned by his disappointment to trust in God only. We cannot expect too little from man, nor too much from God. Let us not forget the sufferings, promises, and love of our Redeemer. We blame the chief butler's ingratitude to Joseph, yet we ourselves act much more ungratefully to the Lord Jesus. Joseph had but foretold the chief butler's enlargement, but Christ wrought out ours; he mediated with the King of Kings for us; yet we forget him, though often reminded of him, and though we have promised never to forget him. Thus ill do we requite Him, like foolish people and unwise.The interpretations prove correct. "The birthday of Pharaoh." It is natural and proper for men to celebrate with thanksgiving the day of their birth, as life is a pure and positive blessing. The benign Creator gives only a happy and precious form of existence to those whom he endows with the capacity of estimating its value. A birthday feast cannot be without a chief butler and a chief baker, and hence, the fate of these criminals must be promptly decided. "Lifted up the head;" a phrase of double meaning. The chief butler remembers not Joseph. This is a case of frequent occurrence in this nether world. But there is One above who does not forget him. He will deliver him at the proper time.

- Joseph Was Exalted

1. יאר ye'or, "river, canal," mostly applied to the Nile. Some suppose the word to be Coptic.

2. אחוּ 'āchû, "sedge, reed-grass, marsh-grass." This word is probably Coptic.

8. חרטמים charṭumı̂ym, ἐξηγηταὶ exēgētai, ἱερογραμματεῖς hierogrammateis, "sacred scribes, hieroglyphs." חרט chereṭ "stylus," a graving tool.

43. אברך 'abrēk "bend the knee." In this sense it is put for הברך habrēk imperative hiphil of ברך bārak. Those who take the word to be Coptic render it variously - "bow all, bow the head, cast thyself down."

45. פענח <צפנת tsāpenat-pa‛nēach, Tsaphenath-pa'neach, in the Septuagint ψονθομ-φανήχ Psonthom-Fanēch. "Revelator occulti," Kimchi. This is founded on an attempted Hebrew derivation. Σωτήρ κόσμου Sōtēr kosmou in Oxford MS., "servator mundi," Jerome. These point to a Coptic origin. Recent Egyptologists give P-sont-em-ph-anh, "the-salvation-of-the-life or world." This is a high-flowing title, in keeping with Eastern phraseology. אסנת 'âsnath, Asenath, perhaps belonging to Neith, or worshipper of Neith, a goddess corresponding to Athene of the Greeks. פוטי פרע pôṭı̂y-pera‛, Potiphera', seems to be a variation of פוטיפר Pôṭı̂yphar, Potiphar Genesis 37:36. אן 'ôn or און 'ôn, On equals Oein, "light, sun;" on the monuments TA-RA, "house of the sun." ביתשׁמשׁ bêyth shemesh, Jeremiah 43:13, Heliopolis, north of Memphis, on the east bank of the Nile.

51. מנשׁה menasheh, Menasheh, "causing to forget."

52. אפרים 'eprâyı̂m Ephraim, "double fruit."

Here we have the double dream of Pharaoh interpreted by Joseph, in consequence of which he is elevated over all the land of Egypt.

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 plainly. Pharaoh’s birthday. Birth-days by persons of eminency then were, and since have usually been, celebrated with feasting and rejoicing.

And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday,.... The third day from the time the dreams were told, and the interpretation of them given, was the birthday of Pharaoh; either the day in which a son of his was born, or in which he himself was born, as Ben Melech observes; but the latter is more probable, since the former could not with propriety be called Pharaoh's birthday; and this might be either the day of his natural birth, or of his political birth, the time of his accession to the throne, which with the Romans was called "natalis imperii", and was observed with feasting and rejoicing (c), as well as the former, both among them and other nations: it is most likely this was Pharaoh's natural birthday, which was observed among the Egyptians as birthdays were among the Persians (d), and as Herod's was at his court in the days of Christ, Matthew 14:6; and as is usual in our times in most countries:

that he made a feast unto all his servants; his ministers of state, his courtiers, and all in his palace:

and he lifted up the head of his chief butler and of his chief baker,

among his servants; that is, among his servants, when their names were called over; or at this festival, these two were taken notice of, as being charged with crimes, and their cases were looked into and examined, and their heads were lifted up in a different sense: they were both lifted out of prison, but the one was lifted up to his former post and place in Pharaoh's court, and the other was lifted up to a gallows or gibbet, as follows; though perhaps this lifting of them both may only signify the trial of them, when they were set on high to be seen by the judge and all the court, see 1 Kings 21:9.

(c) Plin. Ep. l. 1. ep. 61. Herodot. Calliope, sive, l. 9. c. 109. (d) Herodot. Clio, sive, l. 1. c. 133.

And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's {h} birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants.

(h) Which was an occasion to appoint his officers, and to examine those who were in prison.

20–23. The Fulfilment

20. Pharaoh’s birthday] Cf. Matthew 14:6; Mark 6:21. Proclamations of amnesty on royal birthdays have been universal. They can be illustrated from the royal proclamations preserved in Egyptian inscriptions.

The title “Pharaoh” (= Egypt. Pr‘ô, “Great House”) is constantly used without a personal surname before the 22nd Dynasty (945–745 b.c.).

Verse 20. - And it came to pass (literally, and it was, as Joseph had predicted) the third day (literally, in, or on, the third day), which was Pharaoh's birthday, - literally, the day of Pharaoh's being born, the inf. hophal being construed with an accusative (vide Gesenius, 'Grammar,' 143) - that he made a feast - a mishteh, i.e. a drinking or banquet (vide Genesis 19:3) - unto all his servants. "The birthdays of the kings of Egypt were considered holy, and were celebrated with great joy and rejoicing. All business was suspended, and the people generally took part in the festivities' (Thoruley Smith, 'Joseph and his Times,' p. 62; vide Herod., 1:133: Ἡμέρην δὲ ἀπασέΩν μάλιστα ἐκείνην τιμᾶν νομίζουσι τῇ ἕκαστος ἐγένετο; and cf. Matthew 14:6; Mark 6:21). And he lifted up the head - here the one phrase applies equally, though in different senses, to both. A similar expression occurs in the annals of Assur-nasir-pal (Sardanapalus), column 2. line 43: "Their heads on the high places of the mountain I lifted up" ('Records of the Past,' vol. 3. p. 54) - of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants - literally, in their midst, as a public example. Genesis 40:20Joseph's interpretations were fulfilled three days afterwards, on the king's birth-day. הלּדת יום: the day of being born; the inf. Hoph. is construed as a passive with the accus. obj., as in Genesis 4:18, etc. Pharaoh gave his servants a feast, and lifted up the heads of both the prisoners, but in very different ways. The cup-bearer was pardoned, and reinstated in his office; the baker, on the other hand, was executed.
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