JOSEPH INTERPRETS THE DREAMS OF THE CHIEF BUTLER AND BAKER.
(1) Butler.—Heb., one who gives to drink, cupbearer. As we learn in Genesis 40:11 that it was grapewine which he gave the king to drink, this chapter has been the main dependence of the new critics for their proof that the Book of Genesis was not written by Moses. For Herod. (i. 77) says, “The Egyptians make use of wine prepared from barley, because there are no vineyards in their country.” As Herodotus was thirteen centuries later than the time of Joseph, they argue not only that the vine could not have been introduced into Egypt at so early a date, but that the records of Joseph’s life could not have been put together by anyone acquainted with Egypt, in spite of their exact knowledge in all other respects of Egyptian customs. But when we turn to Herodotus himself, we find the most complete refutation of the previous statement. For, in Book ii. 37, speaking of the liberal treatment of the priests, he says, that they had an allowance of “grape-wine.” Again, in Genesis 39, he tells us that it was the custom to pour wine on a victim about to be sacrificed. To one used to the extensive vineyards of Greece and Asia Minor, the comparative scarcity of the vine, and the use of another ordinary drink in its place, would be striking; but that he was guilty of gross exaggeration in his statement is proved by evidence far more trustworthy than his own writings. For, on the tombs at Beni-hassan, which are anterior to the time of Joseph, on those at Thebes, and on the Pyramids, are representations of vines grown in every way, except that usual in Italy, festooned on trees; there is every process of the vintage, grapes in baskets, men trampling them in vats, various forms of presses for squeezing out the juice, jars for storing it, and various processes, even of the fermentation, noticed. Numerous engravings of the sculptures and paintings on these ancient monuments may be seen in Wilkinson’s Egypt; and most abundant evidence of the culture of the vine in ancient Egypt has been collected, and an account of the vines grown there given in Malan’s Philosophy or Truth, pp. 31-39. It neither is nor ever was a great wine-producing country, but the vine existed from one end of the country to the other, as it does at this day.
Baker.—Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians, ii. 38, 39, gives proof from the monuments, that they had carried the art of making confectionery to very great perfection.
He served them.—Used only of light service. (See Note on Genesis 39:4.)
Into Pharaoh’s hand.—Heb., I placed the cup upon Pharaoh’s palm. The word is used in Genesis 32:25 of the hollow of Jacob’s thigh (see Note there). Here it means the hollow produced by bending the fingers inwards. Now the Hebrews always spoke of placing the cup in a person’s hand (Ezekiel 23:31, and see Psalm 75:8; Jeremiah 51:7); and even here Joseph, though probably speaking the Egyptian language, nevertheless used the Hebrew idiom, saying, thou wilt give Pharaoh’s cup into his hand. It is the Egyptian cup-bearer, who, using the idiom of his own country, speaks of placing the cup upon Pharaoh’s palm, the reason being that Egyptian cups had no stems, but were flat bowls or saucers, held in the very way which the cup-bearer describes.
Land of the Hebrews.—Jacob and his race had settled possessions in Canaan at Hebron, Shechem, Beer-sheba, &c. The term Hebrew, moreover, was an old one; for in the ancient record of the invasion of Palestine by Chedorlaomer, we saw that Abram was described as “the Hebrew” (Genesis 14:13). But Joseph did not mean that the land of Canaan belonged to them, but that he was stolen from the settlements of these “immigrants,” and from the land wherein they sojourned.
On my head.—The Egyptian men carried Burdens on their heads; the women on their shoulders (Herod. ii. 35).
Bakemeats.—Heb., All sorts of work for Pharaoh the work of a baker.
Genesis 40:21And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand:
Genesis 40:22But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them.
Genesis 40:23Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.