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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Gen. 39:21–40:23]

JOSEPH was now pining in prison, among criminals. But even here God did not abandon him, and caused him to find favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison, who gave him charge of all the prisoners. Amongst these were the chief butler and the chief baker of Pharao, accused of treason against their king. After some time, they both, on the same night, had a dream which perplexed them and made them sad.

Joseph, perceiving their sadness, asked them, saying: “Why is your countenance sadder to-day than usual?” They answered: “We have dreamed a dream, and there is nobody to interpret it to us.” Joseph said to them: “Doth not interpretation belong to God? Tell me what you have dreamed.”

The chief butler first told his dream: “I saw before me a vine on which were three branches which by little and little sent out buds; and afterwards the blossoms brought forth ripe grapes. And the cup of Pharao was in my hand, and I took the grapes, and pressed them into the cup which I held, and I gave the cup to Pharao.”

Joseph answered: “This is the interpretation of the dream: The three branches are yet three days, after which Pharao will restore thee to thy former place, and thou shalt present him the cup as before. Only remember me, when it shall be well with thee, and do me this kindness, to put Pharao in mind to take me out of this prison!”

Then the chief baker, seeing that Joseph had so wisely interpreted the dream, said: “I, also, dreamed a dream that I had three baskets of meal upon my head; and that in one basket which was uppermost I carried all kinds of pastry, and that the birds ate out of it.”

 

Fig. 11. Gathering grapes.

Joseph said to him: “This is the interpretation of the dream: The three baskets are yet three days, after which Pharao will take thy head from thee and hang thee on a cross, and the birds shall tear thy flesh.” The third day after this was the birthday Pharao.

 

Fig. 12. Treading the grapes.

At the banquet he remembered the chief butler and chief baker. The former he restored to his Place; the latter he caused to be hanged on a gibbet. The chief butler rejoiced in his good fortune, but he thought no more of Joseph.

The object of suffering. Joseph really had a great deal to endure. At home, after being derided by his brethren, he was sold to be a slave in a strange land. Then, though innocent, he was thrown into prison and bound with chains, as if he were the worst of criminals. He had, apparently, lost everything now, home, freedom and honour, but he still kept what was best of all, his innocence and his confidence in God. Every kind of external misfortune had befallen him, but he still had a good conscience, and the peace of God in his heart, so that, in spite of everything, he was still inwardly happy. But we ask: “Why did Almighty God allow this holy, innocent man to be burdened by so many troubles?” The answer is: “He allowed it in order that Joseph might be confirmed in virtue, and prepared by these humiliations for his future exalted position. All the sufferings which God allows to befall the just are for this same end; only their exaltation does not always take place in this world, but generally in the next.”

 

Fig. 13. Wine-press.

Fig. 11–13. Wine-making in Egypt. Ancient Egyptian wall-paintings.

God does not forsake his servants. God was with Joseph, that is, He comforted and upheld him in his sufferings and enabled the jailer to recognise his innocence and usefulness, and thus to lighten his captivity. We learn by this story of Joseph that Almighty God does not forsake those who are His, and that we ought always to trust in Him, have recourse to Him, and submit ourselves to His will. You can see now why the Church (by the mouth of her priests) says “Dominus vobiscum” to us so often; for these words express her wish that God may always be with us by His grace. The response: “And with thy spirit”, equally expresses the wish that God may, by His grace, dwell in the soul of the priest.

Compassion. When he was set over the other prisoners, Joseph was not rough and harsh with them, but, on the contrary, sympathised with them, and comforted those who were in trouble. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

Humility. Joseph at once gave it to be understood that the interpretation of the dreams must come from God, and that of himself he could give none. He thus gave the glory to God.

Ingratitude. The chief butler behaved most ungratefully towards Joseph by forgetting him in the time of his own prosperity. Was not that horrible? But to whom is it that we owe most gratitude? Is it not to God? Thanksgiving is a necessary part of the worship of God. We should not thank Him by words only, but also by deed, and by doing His holy will. He who offends God grievously proves that he is thoroughly ungrateful.

APPLICATION. You have often been ungrateful to God, and also to your parents and superiors, by vexing and grieving them. Think of all the benefits both to soul and body which you have received from God! Say your morning and night prayers, and your grace at meal-times devoutly.

The chief butler forgot Joseph who, all the time, was lingering in prison. Christians are very apt to forget their departed friends and benefactors who are suffering in the prison of purgatory. Has it been so with you? Pray every day for the holy souls, and especially for your relations and benefactors.








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