The Scandal of Pharaoh’s Wine Steward and Baker Became the Major News Story In Order to Save Joseph (Yosef)

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Review of Genesis Chapter 39 from verse 19 until Chapter 40 verse 13 as Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

19 When her husband heard his wife’s story and her description of the incident, he became furious. 20 Joseph’s master had him arrested, and placed him in the dungeon where the king’s prisoners were kept. He was to remain in that dungeon.

21 God was with Joseph, and He showed him kindness, making him find favor with the warden of the dungeon. 22 Soon, the warden had placed all the prisoners in the dungeon under Joseph’s charge. [Joseph] took care of everything that had to be done. 23 The warden did not have to look after anything that was under [Joseph’s] care. God was with [Joseph], and God granted him success in everything he did.

1 Soon after this,* the Egyptian king’s wine steward and baker offended* their master, who was the king of Egypt.

2 Pharaoh was incensed at his two courtiers, the chief steward and chief baker, 3 and he had them arrested. They were placed in the house of the captain of the guard,* in the same dungeon where Joseph was imprisoned. 4 They were under arrest for a long period of time, and the captain assigned Joseph to look after them.

5 One night, the two of them dreamed. The Egyptian king’s steward and baker, who were imprisoned in the dungeon, each had a dream that seemed to have a special meaning* 6 When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were upset. 7 He tried to find out what was wrong with Pharaoh’s courtiers who were his fellow prisoners in his master’s house. “Why do you look so worried today?” he asked.

8 “We [each] had a dream,” they replied, “and there is no one [here] to interpret it.”

“Interpretations are God’s business,” replied Joseph. “If you want to, tell me about [your dreams].”

9 The chief steward related his dream to Joseph. “In my dream,” he said, “there was a grape vine right there in front of me. 10 The vine had three branches. As soon as its buds formed, its blossoms bloomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. 11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand. I took the grapes and squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup. Then I placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”

12 Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation: The three branches are three days. 13 In three days, Pharaoh will lift your head* and give you back your position. You will place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you did
before, when you were his steward.

Rashi Explains the Connection between the Slander against Joseph and the Scandal Involving the Wine Steward and the Baker

Because this malignant woman made the righteous man (Joseph) a familiar topic of conversation with every one so that he was spoken about discreditably the Holy One, blessed be He, brought about the offences of these men in order that people should turn their attention to them and not to him (Genesis Rabbah 88:1), and also in order that relief should come to the righteous man by their agency (Genesis Rabbah 88:3).


40:1 Soon after this. Literally, “after these events.” See 39:7.

— offended. According to Midrashic tradition, there was a fly in the wine and a pebble in the bread

( Bereshith Rabbah 88; Rashi). Others state that they tried to assassinate the king with poison (Targum Yonathan ) or that they tried to seduce his daughter (Bereshith Rabbah).

40:3 captain of the guard. Potiphar. See 37:36.

40:5 special meaning. Literally, “each one like the interpretation of the dream.” This means that the dream had a special meaning (Rashbam). Others, “a portentious dream” (Rashi), or “a dream with its interpretation”

(Ibn Ezra; Bereshith Rabbah 88). Some translate it, “a dream with personal significance,” or “a dream needing interpretation.”

40:13 lift your head. Idiom for “single you out,” or “give you special consideration.”