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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Genesis 40

 

 

Verse 1

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.

Ver. 1. Had offended their lord the king of Egypt.] What their offence was is not expressed. The Hebrews say, Pharaoh found a fly in his cup, and a little gravel in his bread, and therefore imprisoned these two great officers. But this had been to kill a fly, as one said, upon a man’s forehead with a great beetle. Some think they attempted the chastity of Pharaoh’s daughters. Such a thing as this made Augustus so angry against Ovid. But most likely it was for some conspiracy; such as was that of Bigthan and Teresh. [Esther 2:21] The present government is, for most part, always grievous; (a) to some discontented great ones especially, who know not when they are well, but are ready to drive a good prince out of the world, and then would dig him up again, if they could; as the swain said of Dionysius. (b) But what said Alphonsus, that renowned king, to this, in a speech to the Pope’s ambassador? He professed that he did not so much wonder at his courtiers’ ingratitude to him, who had raised sundry of them from mean to great estates, as at his own to God, whom by every sin we seek to depose, nay, to murder: for, Peccaturn est Deicidium .{ Romans 1:30 1 John 3:15}


Verse 2

Genesis 40:2 And Pharaoh was wroth against two [of] his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers.

Ver. 2. And Pharaoh was wroth, &c.] That had been enough to have broke their hearts: as a frown from Augustus did Cornelius Gallus; and another from Queen Elizabeth did Lord Chancellor Hatton. (a)

Ut mala nulla feram, nisi nudam Caesaris iram

Nuda parum nobis Caesaris ira mali est? ”

saith Ovid. And again,

“ Omne trahit secum, Caesaris ira, malum.


Verse 3

Genesis 40:3 And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph [was] bound.

Ver. 3. And he put them in ward, &c.] See the slippery estate of courtiers: today in favour, tomorrow in disgrace; as Haman; Sejanus, whom the same senators conducted to the prison, who had accompanied him to the senate. They which sacrificed unto him, as to their god, which kneeled down to adore him, now scoffed at him, seeing him dragged from the temple to the jail, from supreme honour to extreme ignominy. His greatest friends were most passionate against him, &c., they would not once look at him; as men look not after sundials, longer than the sun shines upon them. (a)

The place where Joseph was bound.] Here was a "wheel within a wheel," [Ezekiel 1:16] a sweet providence; that these obnoxious officers should be sent to Joseph’s prison.


Verse 4

Genesis 40:4 And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward.

Ver. 4. And the captain of the guard, &c.] This was Potiphar probably: who by this time saw his own error, and Joseph’s innocency; yet kept him still in prison, perhaps to save his wife’s honesty. Truth is the daughter of Time; (a) it wil1 not always lie hid. Splendet cure obscuratur; vincit cum opprimitur, Hinc, ut Pacis templum in media urbe extruxerunt olim Romani, ita Veritatis statuam in suis urbibus olim coluerunt Aegyptii. (b)


Verse 5

Genesis 40:5 And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which [were] bound in the prison.

Ver. 5. And they dreamed, &c.] Of dreams natural and supernatural. {See Trapp on "Genesis 20:3"}


Verse 6

Genesis 40:6 And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked upon them, and, behold, they [were] sad.

Ver. 6. And, behold, they were sad.] Or, Angry; and yet knew not how to help themselves. But carnal men digest their passions, as horses do their choler, by chewing on the bit. Pope Boniface being kept prisoner by Cardinal Columnus, tore his own flesh with his own teeth, and died raving. (a) Bajazet, the great Turk, could not be pacified in three days, after he was taken by Tamerlane; but, as a desperate man, still sought after death, and called for it. (b) Vivere noluit, mori nesciit; as it is said of that bishop of Salisbury, (c) prisoner in King Stephen’s days.


Verse 7

Genesis 40:7 And he asked Pharaoh’s officers that [were] with him in the ward of his lord’s house, saying, Wherefore look ye [so] sadly to day?

Ver. 7. And he asked Pharaoh’s officers, &c.] Vincula qui sensit, didicit succurrere vinctis. Joseph’s tender heart soon yearned toward them, upon the sight of their sadness: and, unasked, he offers himself to them; as our Saviour did to the widow of Nain, and to those two doubting disciples, Luke 24:17. Cyprian’s compassion is remarkable: Cum singulis pectus meum copulo, maeroris et funeris pondera luctuosa participo: cum plangentibus plunge, cum deflentibus defleo, &c. I weep with those that weep, and am like affected, as if like afflicted.


Verse 8

Genesis 40:8 And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and [there is] no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, [Do] not interpretations [belong] to God? tell me [them], I pray you.

Ver. 8. And there is no interpreter.] The superstitious Egyptians did curiously observe their dreams; and commonly repaired to the soothsayers for an interpretation. [Genesis 41:8] Joseph calls these idolaters from their superstitions vanities to the living God; as Isaiah did those of his time, [Isaiah 8:19-20] and Daniel those of his. [Daniel 2:28; Daniel 5:18] He had consulted with God by prayer, and with the Scripture, which revealed sufficient direction to him, [Ezekiel 31:1-12] and so soon despatched the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. [Daniel 4:10] So Joseph here; he suffered "troubles as an evildoer, even unto bonds: but the word of God is not bound." [2 Timothy 2:9]


Verse 9

Genesis 40:9 And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, In my dream, behold, a vine [was] before me;

Ver. 9. Behold, a vine was before me.] God, of his infinite grace and wisdom, gives men such signs as excellently answer and agree to the thing thereby signified; those two sacraments of the New Testament, for instance; which the Greek fathers (in the apostle’s sense, Hebrews 9:24) call αντιτυπα, signs and symbols of better things, signified and sealed up thereby to the believer. The Lord, saith venerable Beza, knowing well the vanity of our natures, prone to idolatry, hath appointed us two sacraments only; and those consisting also of most simple signs and rites. For signs, he gave us water, bread, and wine. The rites are no more than to sprinkle, eat, drink (things of most common use); and a very little of these too, that men may not too much doat on the elements, or external acts in the sacrament, but be wholly raised up to the mystery, and by faith mount up to Christ thereby set forth and exhibited - fetching him down, as it were, that we may feed on him. Hence the outward sign is no further used than may serve to mind us of the inward grace. (a) The minister also stirs up the people to look higher than to what they see, with Sursum corda; Lift up your hearts. A thing in use among the primitive Christians. (b)


Verse 10

Genesis 40:10 And in the vine [were] three branches: and it [was] as though it budded, [and] her blossoms shot forth; and the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes:

Ver. 10. It was as though it budded.] As though; for dreams are but the empty bubbles of the mind, children and tales of fancy, &c.


Verse 11

Genesis 40:11 And Pharaoh’s cup [was] in my hand: and I took the grapes, and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.

Ver. 11. And pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup.] That he might have his wine fresh and new.

“Dulcius ex ipso fonte bibuntur aquae.”


Verse 12

Genesis 40:12 And Joseph said unto him, This [is] the interpretation of it: The three branches [are] three days:

Ver. 12. The three branches are three days.] That is, They signify three days. So Genesis 41:26. "The seven kine are seven years." So, "this is my body": that is, This signifieth my body, saith Zuinglius, after Augustine and Ambrose. Or, This is the sign and figure of my body, saith Calvin, after Augustine and Tertullian; whatsoever Bellarmine and Hunnius (a) prate to the contrary. It is an ordinary metonymy, whereby the name of a thing signified is given to the sign, for the analogy that is between them, and for the certainty of signification. Homer and Virgil have the like. (b) As for those Christians that eat their God, let my soul be with the philosophers, rather than with them, saith Averroes, the learned Arabian. When it was objected to Nicolas Shetterden, martyr, by Archdeacon Harpsfield, that the words of Christ, when he said, Hoc est corpus meum, did change the substance, without any other interpretation, or spiritual meaning, he answered: Then like when Christ said, "This cup is my blood," the substance of the cup was changed into his blood, without any other meaning; and so the cup was changed, and not the wine. Harpsfield hereupon was forced to confess that Christ’s testament was broken, and his institution changed from that he left it; but he said, they had power so to do. (c)


Verse 13

Genesis 40:13 Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler.

Ver. 13. Yet within three days.] Joseph foresaw the time of the butler’s deliverance; he knew not the time of his own. In good hope he was, that now he should have been delivered, upon the restoration of the butler, and his intercession for him; but he was fain to stay two years longer; "till the time that God’s word came: the word of the Lord tried him"; [Psalms 105:19] by trying, as in a fire, his faith and patience in afflictions.


Verse 14

Genesis 40:14 But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house:

Ver. 14. But think on me, &c.] Liberty is sweet, and should be sought by all lawful means. [1 Corinthians 7:21] The Jews censure Joseph for requesting this favour of the butler; and say, he was therefore two years longer imprisoned. But this is a hard saying. Possible it is, that Joseph might trust too much to this man, and be too hasty to set God this time, and no other; and so might be justly crossed of his expectation. It is hard and happy so to use the means as not to trust to them; and so to wait God’s good leisure, as not to "limit the Holy One of Israel." We trust a skilful workman to go his own way to work, and to take his own time. Shall we not do as much for God! He oft goes a way by himself, and gives a blessing to those times and means whereof we despair.


Verse 15

Genesis 40:15 For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews: and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.

Ver. 15. For indeed I was stolen away.] Joseph inveighs not against his brethren that he may clear himself; but hideth their infamy with the mantle of charity, which is large enough to cover a multitude of sins. It is a fault to speak of other men’s faults, unless it be in an ordinance. Infamy soon spreads. (a)

Out of the land of the Hebrews.] So he by faith calls the land of Canaan; which yet was detained from them, till the sins of the Amorites were become full. But God’s promises are good freehold. Jacob disposeth of this land on his deathbed; though not the least master of it.

And here also have I done nothing, &c.] We may not betray our innocency by a base silence, but make seasonable apology; as did Daniel, [Daniel 6:12] Paul, [Acts 24:12-13] Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and other the primitive apologists. Francis, king of France, to excuse his cruelty exercised upon his Protestant subjects to the German princes, whose friendship he sought after, set forth a declaration to this purpose: that he punished only Anabaptists, that preferred their private revelations before the Word of God, and set at nought all civil government. (b) Which brand set upon the true religion, and all the professors thereof, Calvin not enduring, though he were then a young divine, twenty-five years old, yet he compiled and set forth that admirable work of his, called, "The Institution of Christian Religion." In commendation whereof, one (c) writes boldly -

Praeter Apostolicas post Christi tempora chartas

Huic peperere libro saecula nulla parem. ”

{a} Bλαβαι ποδωκεις. - -Sophocl.


Verse 16

Genesis 40:16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph, I also [was] in my dream, and, behold, [I had] three white baskets on my head:

Ver. 16. When the chief baker saw.] So when hypocrites hear good to be spoken, in the word, to God’s children, they also listen, and fasten upon the comforts, as pertaining to them: they "receive the word with joy": [Matthew 13:20] they laugh, as men use to do in some merry dream; they catch at the deserts as children, and conclude with Haman, that they are the men whom the king means to honour. But when they must practise duty, or bear the cross, they depart "sad"; [Mark 10:22] and Christ may keep his heaven to himself, if it be had on no other conditions.


Verse 17

Genesis 40:17 And in the uppermost basket [there was] of all manner of bakemeats for Pharaoh; and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head.

Ver. 17. And the birds did eat them.] He seeth not that he did anything, but suffereth only. He heareth therefore an unpleasing interpretation, saith Pareus.


Verse 18

Genesis 40:18 And Joseph answered and said, This [is] the interpretation thereof: The three baskets [are] three days:

Ver. 18. And Joseph answered, &c.] It is probable he used some preface to this sad destiny he reads him; as Philo brings him in saying, I would thou hadst not dreamed such a dream: (a) or as Daniel prefaced to Nebuchadnezzar; "My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation to thine enemies." [Daniel 4:19] If ministers, God’s interpreters, must be mannerly in the form, yet in the matter of their message they must be resolute. (a) Not only toothless, but bitter truths must be told, however they be taken. "If I yet please men, I should not be the servant of Christ." [Galatians 1:10]


Verse 19

Genesis 40:19 Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee.

Ver. 19. And shall hang thee on a tree, &c.] This was cold comfort to the baker: so shall the last judgment be to the ungodly; when the saints, as the butler, shall lift up their heads with joy. But what a sweet providence of God was this, that the butler should first relate his dream, and receive his interpretation, as good as he could wish! Had the baker begun, the butler would have been disheartened, and hindered, perhaps, from declaring his dream. And then, where had Joseph’s hopes been of deliverance by the butler? How could he have had that opportunity of setting forth his innocency, and requesting the butler’s favour, and good word to Pharaoh for his freedom? (a) See how all things work together for good to them that love God.

The birds shall eat thy flesh.] Those that were hanged among the Jews were taken down. [Deuteronomy 21:23] Not so among the Gentiles. A sore judgment of God threatened, in a special manner, against those that despise parents (b) [Proverbs 30:17] and fulfilled in Absalom. Abslon Marte furens, pensilis arbore obit. Gretser, the Jesuit, to show his wit, calls that tree, a cross; and makes it a manifest figure of the cross of Christ. Sed o mirum et delirum figurativae crueis fabrum! Our Lord indeed died upon the cross, and that with a curse. But that Absalom should, in that behalf, be a type of him, is a new Jesuitical invention. Some say, that in honour of Christ crucified, Constantine the Great abolished that kind of death throughout the empire.


Verse 20

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.

Ver. 20. Which was Pharaoh’s birthday.] An ancient and commendable custom, to keep banquets on birthdays; in honour of God, our Sospitator, for his mercy in our creation, education, preservation, &c.


Verse 22

Genesis 40:22 But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them.

Ver. 22. But he hanged the chief baker.] God’s menaces, as well as promises, will have their accomplishment. Vengeance is "in readiness" for the rebellious. [2 Corinthians 10:6] Every whit as ready in God’s hand, as in the minister’s mouth.


Verse 23

Genesis 40:23 Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.

Ver. 23. Yet did not the chief butler.] Too many such butlers, that forget poor Joseph! What cares Nabal though David die at his door, so he may eat the fat and drink the sweet, &c.? The heathens’ picture of their graces, young and fresh, two looking towards you, and one from you, bids check to all ungrateful persons.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Genesis 40:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/genesis-40.html. 1865-1868.

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