YOSEF, PRISON DREAMS Gen 40
CONTEXT: Dreams, in Biblical narratives, are understood as messages from God, revelations about the future. Objects and events in the dreams were thought to be mysterious symbols, requiring interpretation. That was the job of professionals, wizards, thought to be gifted with insight. Yosef piously links interpretations to God, and immediately sees and tells the point of the dreams.
GLOSSARY: Eunuch, (v.1) saris, ִיססָר, is the Hebrew cognate, or translation, of the Akkadian title of office: ša rēši, “the one of the (king’s) head.” The position was some sort of courtier and the usage points to eunuch. Tanach translators tend to render “officer,” unless there is clear reference to emasculation as in Isaiah 56:3, or in connection with harem keepers as in Book of Esther. Assyriologist and Biblical Scholar Hayim Tadmor argues convincingly that the title referred to eunuchs in early Akkadian writings and biblical usage likely means the same. (“Was the Biblical sārîs a Eunuch?” in Solving Riddles and Untying Knots, Eisenbrauns, 1995, pp.317-325.)
1It happened, after these things, that the cupbearer of the king of Mitsrayim and the baker, messed up with their lord, the king of Mitsrayim. 2Paroh grew furious over his two eunuchs, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. 3He put them under guard of the house of the chief slaughterer, the round house, where Yosef was imprisoned. 4The chief slaughterer appointed Yosef for them and he served them. For days they were under guard. 5In the same night they both dreamed a dream, each his own dream, each with his dream solution. (The cupbearer and the baker of the king of Mitsrayim who were imprisoned in the round house.)
6Yosef came to them in the morning and saw them: they looked peaked. 7He asked the eunuchs of Paroh (there with him under guard in his lord’s house,) “Why are your faces bad today?”
8They said to him, “We have dreamed a dream and there is none to interpret it.”
9So the chief cupbearer told Yosef his dream: “In my dream there was a vine before me. 10The vine had three canes. Its bud seemed to rise and bloom. Its bunches of grapes ripened. 11Paroh’s cup was in my hand. I took the grapes and squeezed them into the cup and I set the cup on Paroh’s palm.”
12“This is its interpretation,” said Yosef to him. “The three canes are three days. 13In another three days Paroh will lift your head and return you to your pedestal. You will set Paroh’s cup into his hand as in the earlier job description when you were his cupbearer. 14If you would but mention me along with yourself when it is good for you. You could do me a favor if you mention me to Paroh and get me out of this house. 15Stolen! For I was stolen from the land of the Ivrim. And here, too, I have not done a thing that they should put me into the pit.”
16The chief baker saw that he had interpreted for good. So he said to Yosef, “Me, too. In my dream there were three baskets of bread on my head. 17In the top basket some of all Paroh’s food done by a baker. And the fowl was eating it from the basket right off my head.”
18Yosef replied, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. 19In another three days Paroh will lift your head right off you and hang you on a tree. The fowl will eat your flesh right off you.”
20It happened. On the third day was Paroh’s birthday and he made a drinking party for all his servants. He lifted the head of the cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. 21He restored the chief cupbearer to his cupbearing so that he placed the cup on Paroh’s palm. 22The chief butler he hanged, as Yosef had interpreted for them.
23The chief cupbearer did not remember Yosef. He forgot about him.