And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream…
The king of Egypt's servants, it seems, have incurred his displeasure; they are in prison, bound, waiting for punishment, utterly in his power, quite helpless to atone for their sin, or appease his anger. Now here surely there is pictured for us in parable the state of man since the Fall. He has incurred the wrath of God; this world is his prison, and there is a still more fearful prospect of judgment and fiery indignation in the world to come; and nothing can be done, no man can atone for his own sins, nor for those of any one else; he has, indeed, bread to eat and raiment to put on, but he lives ever in the fear of death, for he has lost the favour of God, the great King. These prisoners dream each a dream in the dismal night of their imprisonment. They are filled with strange thoughts and fears which they cannot interpret; they desire above all things to know their fate, but none can tell them. Just so is man by nature; just like this were the thoughts and forebodings of the Greeks and Romans and other heathen nations, who had lost the knowledge of God, and yet were ever "feeling after Him, if haply they might find Him"; if, perhaps, they might learn what they were, whence they came, and whither they were going, As we read their writings we feel as if we could almost look into their faces, and see them bewildered and sad; for their life is to them but a dream, a riddle, a puzzle, and there is no interpreter of it for them. Now there is another person introduced. He is a servant like the others, in prison like them, yet invested with authority, endowed with Divine wisdom, able to tell them all that they so much desire to know. He has done no wrong, yet he is disgraced and punished; he suffers for another's fault; he might have escaped and lived in honour, but he would not. "Is not this the Christ?" He entered the prison, that he might set the prisoners free. Yet not all; for now we must notice that there are two prisoners, with different dreams, and very different fates. So it is all through the Bible. "One is taken, the other left;" Abel and Cain, Jacob and Esau, David and Saul; down to Peter and Judas, and the two thieves crucified with our Lord. The first dreamer, the king's butler, or more correctly his cupbearer, dreams of his life; he sees a vine, it buds, it blossoms, till clusters of ripe grapes hang thick upon it. Pharaoh's cup is in his hand, he plucks the grapes, he presses the juice into the cup, and humbly presents it to Pharaoh, who accepts it. This dream is a life, and what sort of a life? An active, faithful, watchful, dutiful life. The cup of the Great King is in our hand, to tell us what He expects of us, fruit, Rood fruit, sweet, ripe, mature fruit, fruit at the due season, when He comes to seek it, that He may drink the new wine with His chosen servants in His kingdom. Jesus, the better Joseph, came to tell glad tidings to those who thus diligently did the will of God, that their labour was not in vain, that their work should be accepted, that they should soon be brought out of prison, be freed from the bondage of this death, and after three days, that is the time of Christ's resting in the grave, they should have a joyful resurrection, and so their high calling should be restored to them which Adam's sin had lost them; and thus should they be evermore with the Lord. Thus did Christ tell men their dreams. This brings us to the second dreamer; he too dreams of his life; he is Pharaoh's baker, and his duty is to provide baked meats for the king. But what does he do? He prepares baked meats indeed; but he puts them into "Baskets with holes;" for, as the margin tells us, this is the true force and meaning of the words. And he puts these baskets on his head; that is, in a place where he can neither see them nor protect them. The consequence is that the wild birds light upon the baskets, and devour the meats, and he does not notice them; or the meats drop through the holes, for he cannot see them; and so they are lost, and become an easy prey. The butler and baker both worked, the former acceptably, the latter in vain. And his punishment is noteworthy. The birds that devoured his work that should have satisfied his master, presently devour his flesh as he hangs dead upon a tree. May we not see his fault indicated by his punishment? For, Job says, "They that plough iniquity and sow wickedness, reap the same." A man's sins are their own punishment; what he sows he reaps. These careless people work and labour and toil; they clutch fast that which they can gather for themselves, be it little or much; but the things of God are put into a "basket with holes," out of sight, above their heads, and their eyes are toward the earth; and so they lose all; and when they come before the King, they will have nothing to present to Him. The birthday of our King is near; the birthday in humility and poverty, yet He will make a feast to all His servants, a spiritual feast, to which He bids all "that are religiously and devoutly disposed"; all His servants, not a few but all; the feast is provided for all; He expects all. And yet we must not think only of His birthday, but of the great second coming, when, like Pharaoh, He will reward and punish His servants according to their works. But, in the meantime, He sends a Joseph to us; He tells us our dreams, shows us ourselves, our life, and our end, in the mirror of the word of God, as St. James calls it.
(F. C. Woodhouse, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison.
WEB: They both dreamed a dream, each man his dream, in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were bound in the prison.