The Parables of Joseph - Part 2
Joseph in the Dungeon
In Genesis 39:1-20, the story of Joseph continues. After being sold into slavery to the Egyptians and being separated from his family, Joseph is sold to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. Though a slave, The Lord was with him, and prospered him, exalted him, and the blessing of Abraham came upon Potiphar’s house, his land and all that he had. Potipher is an alternative masculine form of “Potiphera” meaning “The one who Ra gave”. Ra was the Egyptian god of the sun. Then Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph who runs from her and leaves his garment behind. She lies and says that Joseph tried to rape her and shows Potiphar the tunic that Joseph wore. Interestingly, she describes him as “…the Hebrew servant which thou hast brought unto us, came in to mock me...” (Genesis 39:17) So, at this time he is still recognizable in regard to his heritage. This is important, as we shall see later in Part 3. “Then, Joseph is thrown into the prison, in “a place where the king’s prisoners were bound…” (Genesis 39:20).
This part of the story is not as chock full of prophetic meaning as before. It is just a repeat of Yeshua’s being falsely accused, bound and condemned, though He was not guilty of any sin or crime. The tunic (or “robe” or “garment”) is once again a part of the story. It was what Joseph wore in Potiphar’s house that clearly gave him his position and identity as the “overseer in his house, and over all that he had.” (Genesis 40:4-6) So, like the coat of many colors, this was also stripped from him. This is another picture of the selling of Yeshua into slavery to the Gentiles (Romans), who also falsely accused Him, condemned Him, enslaved Him, imprisoned Him, and stripped Him of His robes. This is important because it shows that not only Joseph’s brothers (Israel) did this to him, but also the Egyptians did the same. Yeshua was rejected, enslaved, falsely accused, stripped of His garments, sentenced, and condemned to die on a cross. Then spiritually he went to the prison house of sin and death in hell. He was rejected and condemned by both Israel and the Gentiles. The phrase “in the place where the king’s prisoners were bound” carries a double meaning in that the Most High God, King of the Universe, made Yeshua to be sin on our behalf. Yeshua was bound for the crimes of our sin against the King and sent as a prisoner into hell as our substitute– for both Jew and Gentile. This is Joseph as a parable of the Suffering Messiah – the Innocent Lamb of God who took away the sin of the whole world.
But that is not the end of the story, for chapter 39:21 says, “but the Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison…” Yeshua was not abandoned forever in the pit of hell. After the price for man’s sin was paid in full, God’s mercy and favor raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him authority over “the keeper of the prison” which is Satan. Yeshua defeated him, and Satan was forced to hand over to Him the keys of death and hell. Keys open and close the prison house. So, “the keeper of the prison (actually - was forced to) committed into Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison.” (Genesis 39:22) Yeshua conquered all for us in hell’s prison house!
Chapter 40 of Genesis begins with a story of two different servants “Of the king” – Pharaoh. They both offended Pharaoh. One was the head butler and one was the head baker. They both came “into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.” (Genesis 40:3b) “And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward.” (Verse 4) They both dreamed a prophetic dream. Both were sad and told Joseph what they had dreamed. The butler dreamed of a vine with three branches that grew, blossomed and bore clusters of ripe grapes. He had Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, took the grapes, pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and gave it to Pharaoh. The baker also dreamed a parallel dream where he saw three white baskets on his head. The top basket had all kinds of pastries and ‘bake meats’ for Pharaoh. Then birds came and ate them out of the basket.
In between these two accounts, Joseph tells ONLY the butler his story that he 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.” He asked the butler to tell Pharaoh when all those good things happened to him and he was restored back before the king to “shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house…” This is the only time that Joseph requests help and deliverance from his trials.
Joseph gives the interpretations of the two dreams. They both dream for a period of three days. They both receive their destinies “yet within three days”. The butler would be forgiven and restored back into favor with the king. The baker, however, would be condemned and hanged, again by the king, and his flesh eaten off his bones by the birds. In verse 12, Joseph said, “Pharaoh shall lift UP thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup into his hand…(as before)”. In verse19, Joseph told the baker, “Pharaoh shall lift thy head from OFF thee, and shall hang thee on a tree.” So, one was forgiven and restored, and one was found guilty and executed. It happened just as Joseph told them.
In verse 23, it says, “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forget him.”
Chapter 40 of Genesis is a microcosm of the entire plan of God for mankind concerning the plan of redemption. It is a parable of the redeeming work of Messiah and the final judgment of the righteous and the wicked. Really, you say? Well, consider:
Joseph was imprisoned in the dungeon of the king’s prisoners in Egypt. Yeshua was thrown into the prison house of sin for the salvation of the Gentile nations for (literally) three days and three nights. The two “servants of Pharaoh” represent the righteous and the wicked…the harvest of souls in the last “Day of the Lord.” The chief butler represents all those that are saved from eternal death and restored back into favor with the King – The Most High God. The chief baker represents the wicked that refuse to repent and are eternally lost. They are executed (eternal death/separation from God) and their flesh is eaten by the demons (birds). The three days represent the three days of grace from the resurrection of the Messiah Yeshua until the final judgment at the Great White Throne after the Millennium Messianic Kingdom– or - two thousand years from the Resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah until the seventh Day of the Lord – and then the final Day – the 1000 year reign of Yeshua upon the earth – which is also the Sabbath Rest for Man. It will be heaven on earth! A day is like a thousand years according to Moses who wrote Psalm 90 and according to the Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3:8. Peter urges us to remember this prophetic time cycle when we are thinking about the second coming of Yeshua and the end of all things. We have now come to the end of the second day and the dawning of the third day “in the year of Our Lord” or A.D.–Anno Domini), since it has been nearly 2000 years since Yeshua’s death, burial, and resurrection. The Kingdom of Messiah is thus the Third Day prophetically. It is also the Seventh Day since the beginning of man in the Garden of Eden. So we are also prophetically at the end of the sixth day of 1000 years - or 6000 years since Adam and Eve. The entire plan of God for man before the Great White Throne Judgment and eternity is a total of 7000 years.
So, what is the difference between the butler and the baker in this story that makes all the difference in their final outcome? At first glance, it doesn’t seem to make any sense why one is saved and one is executed. In the same way, to the natural man, it seems entirely unfair for some to be saved and some to be damned. Why doesn’t God just save everyone if He is such a God of love and mercy? Why is the butler saved? Why is the baker killed?
In this parable, Pharaoh represents God as the Judge of His servants – all people. Since all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory…all are condemned to the prison of hell. So that is why BOTH are held “in ward…by the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.” The captain of the guard represents Satan here who is in charge of the prison. Yeshua WAS bound in our place but now is free, resurrected, and seated at the right hand of the Father. Until the price of our sin debt and penalty was paid in full and Yeshua was no longer bound, all of mankind was doomed to this dungeon. But Joseph (Yeshua) was sent by God to this very place as our Substitute – the greatest gift of love ever given - so we could have a ransom – a Kinsman/Redeemer - to get us out of prison and acquit us from all our guilt of sin before a Holy God.
The butler brought wine to the king that was pressed from grapes that grew from a vine with three branches. This is a picture of the precious blood that Yeshua shed and brought to the Father as full payment for our sins. That blood flows and covers all of mankind’s sin for three thousand years…until sin is no more. That is the meaning of the three branches. Those are three prophetic “days” concerning the redemption and salvation of the righteous.
There is a parallel reference here to the sacrifices of Abel and Cain. Abel brought the fat and the blood of an animal, and Cain brought the fruits of the ground – his crops. Abel’s sacrifice represents God’s grace alone through the blood of an innocent animal sacrifice; the other is the self-righteous works of Cain that he gained “through the sweat of his brow”. God accepted Abel and his sacrifice, but he rejected Cain and his sacrifice. The chief baker brought bread with yeast before Pharaoh. Bread with leaven represents sin in the Bible as well as self-effort and legalistic works of religion to earn God’s approval. Only the shed blood of Yeshua the Messiah and His broken body – the Bread from Heaven – God’s Holy Passover Lamb – could pay the price of our debt of sin before a Holy God and rescue us from damnation and eternity in the lake of fire. Our own works and effort can never save us. The real question is: who are we like when we die and stand before the King of the Universe on that Last Day…the butler or the baker?
But there is more hidden in this chapter. Do you remember that Joseph tells his plight to the butler and asks to be remembered before Pharaoh? He asks the chief butler, “But think on me when it shall be well with thee, AND SHEW KINDNESS, unto me, and MAKE MENTION OF ME UNTO PHARAOH, and BRING ME OUT OF THIS HOUSE…THE DUNGEON.” (Genesis 40:14) Yeshua identifies Himself completely with those in His Body that suffering. They are still suffering persecution and other evils at the hands of the ungodly on this earth. This is another part of “the dungeon of Pharaoh”. Yeshua calls even the least of His that are suffering “My brethren”.
This is a startling parallel to the final parable of Yeshua in Matthew 25 concerning the sheep and the goats. The only criteria between those that are saved and those that perish is how they treated Yeshua’s “brothers and sisters” on earth. To the sheep or the righteous who are saved and inherit the Kingdom of God, He says, “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I WAS IN PRISON, AND YE CAME UNTO ME…” (Matthew 25:35-36) Yeshua then explains (when the righteous ask when they did that) and says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40b) The wicked are judged also by their lack of care for “…the least of these, my brothers and sisters”. They are damned and turned into hell. So, in a sense, Yeshua is still bound in the prison house of Pharaoh until He returns for us and takes us home.
He also pleads with us as His Body of believers in the Great Commission (in Mark 16:15-18 and Matthew 28:18-20) to rescue the lost and bring the good news of salvation to the whole world so that they can also come out of the prison house and be restored into fellowship and favor with the heavenly Father.
But, sadly, the butler is so wrapped up in his new life serving Pharaoh that, “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgot him.” In the same way, even though we have received such a great salvation, many of us forget Yeshua and do not minister to Him when He comes in disguise to us in this life, bound in the cruel dungeons of poverty, sickness, and persecution. We are too caught up in serving God and enjoying our inheritance of grace. But, Paul also said at the very end of the letter to the Colossians, “Remember my bonds”. (Colossians 4:18) He was a prisoner for the Lord’s work. We need to pray and intercede before the heavenly Father on behalf of the suffering church. That is why Joseph requested to be “remembered” before Pharaoh. Our prayers and intercession to our Heavenly Father are vital for victory for the Body and Bride of Yeshua our Messiah, as well as those that need to hear the Gospel and be saved. Many of His (and our!) dear “brothers and sisters” are suffering persecution and deprivation all over the world. Don’t forget them! Pray for them and help them in every way you can.
I will continue this teaching in Part 3: “Pharaoh’s Dreams and the Lord of the Harvest” – coming soon, Lord willing!
May the Lord bless you abundantly, dearly beloved saints of God!
In Our Messiah,