Monday, June 5th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 40". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ genesis-40.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 40". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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And it came to pass (literally, and it was) after these things (literally, words, i.e. after the transactions just recorded), that the butler—מָשְׁקֶה, the hiph. part. of שָׁקָה, to drink, signifies one who causes to drink, hence cupbearer (cf. Genesis 40:11)—of the king of Egypt and his baker—the אֹפֶה (part. of אָפָה, to cook or bake) was the officer who prepared the king's food. The monuments show that the Egyptians had carried the arts of the confectioner and cook to a high degree of perfection—had offended (or sinned against) their lord (literally, against, the preposition being repeated) the king of Egypt—whom they had attempted to poison (the Targum of Jonathan), though this of course is only a conjecture in the absence of specific information.
And Pharaoh was wroth—literally, broke forth (sc. into anger)—against two of his officers (vide Genesis 37:36) against the chief—sar: the word occurs in one of the oldest historical documents of ancient Egypt ('Inscription of Una,' line 4, sixth dynasty), meaning chief or eunuch (vide ' Records of the Past,' 2.3)—of the butlers,—an office once filled by Nehemiah in the Court of Persia (Nehemiah 1:11), and Rabshakeh (Aramaic for "chief of the cupbearers") in the Court of Assyria (2 Kings 18:17)—and against the chief of the bakers. Oriental monarchs generally had a multitude of butlers and bakers, or cupbearers and Court purveyors, the chiefs in both departments being invested with high honor, and regarded with much trust (Herod; 3.34; Xenoph; 'Cyrop.,' 1.3, 8).
And he put them in ward (or in custody) in the house of the captain of the guard,—i.e. Potiphar (vide Genesis 37:36)—into the prison,—literally, house of enclosure (vide Genesis 39:20)—the place where Joseph was bound. The word אָסור, from אָסַר, to make fast by binding, seems to corroborate the Psalmist's assertion (Psalms 105:18) that Joseph had been laid in iron and his feet hurt with fetters; but this could only have been temporarily (vide Genesis 40:4, Genesis 40:6).
And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them (literally, set Joseph with them, i.e. as a companion or servant; to wait upon them, since they were high officers of State, not to keep watch over them as criminals), and he served them (i.e. acted as their attendant): and they continued a season in ward (literally, and they were days, i.e. an indefinite period, in prison).
And they dreamed a dream both of them (on dreams cf. Genesis 20:3), each man his dream in one night (this was the first remarkable circumstance connected with these dreams—they both happened the same night), each man according to the interpretation of his dream (i.e. each dream corresponded exactly, as the event proved, to the interpretation put on it by Joseph, which was a second remarkable circumstance, inasmuch as it showed the dreams to be no vain hallucinations of the mind, but Divinely-sent foreshadowings of the future fortunes of the dreamers), the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison.
Genesis 40:6, Genesis 40:7
And Joseph came in unto them in the morning (a proof that Joseph at this time enjoyed comparative freedom from corporeal restraint in the prison), and looked upon them, and, behold, they were sad. The word זֹעֲפִים from זָעַף, to be angry, originally signifying irate, wrathful, τεταραγμένοι (LXX.), is obviously intended rather to convey the idea of dejection, tristes (Vulgate). And he asked Pharaoh's officers that were With him in the ward of his lord's house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly today?—literally, knowing what (מַדּוּעַ—מָה יָדוּעַ—τί μαθών) are your faces evil, or bad (πρόσωπα σκυθρωπὰ, LXX.; tristier solito, Vulgate), today?
And they said unto him, We hays dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it—literally, a dream have we dreamt, and interpreting it there is none. This must be noted as a third peculiarity connected with these dreams, that both of their recipients were similarly affected by them, though there was much in the butler's dream to inspire hope rather than dejection. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God?—literally, Are not interpretations to Elohim? i.e. the Supreme Being (cf. Genesis 41:16; Daniel 2:11, Daniel 2:28, Daniel 2:47). The Egyptians believed ὅτι ἀνθρώπων μὲν οὐδενὶ προσκέεται ἡ τέχνη μαντικὴ τῶν δὲ θεῶν μετεξετέροισε (Herod; 2:83). Tell me them, I pray you. Joseph's request implies that the consciousness of his Divine calling to be a prophet had begun to dawn upon him, and that he was now speaking from an inward conviction, doubtless produced within his mind by Elohim, that he could unfold the true significance of the dreams.
And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, In my dream, behold, a vine was before me—literally, in my dream (sc. I was), and behold a vine (gephen, from the unused root gaphan, to be bent, a twig, hence a plant which has twigs, especially a vine; cf. Judges 9:13; Isa 7:1-25 :43; Isaiah 24:7) before me. The introduction of the vine into the narrative, which has been pronounced (Bohlen) an important factor in proof of its recent composition, since, according to Herodotus (ii. 77), the vine was not cultivated in Egypt, and, according to Plutarch ('De Is. et Osir.,' 6), it was not till after Psammetichus, i.e. about the time of Josiah, that the Egyptians began to drink wine, has now by more accurate study been ascertained to be in exact accordance, not only with Biblical statements (Numbers 20:5; Psalms 78:47; Psalms 105:33), but likewise with the testimony of Herodotus, who affirms (2:37) that wine (οι}noj a)mpe&lenoj) was a privilege of the priestly order, and with the representations on the monuments of vines and grapes, and of the entire process of wine-making. And in the vine were three branches:—sarigim, tendrils of a vine, from sarag, to intertwine (Genesis 40:12; Joel 1:7)—and it was as though it budded, and her blossoms shot forth;—literally, as it budded (Murphy); or, as though blossoming (Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch); it shot forth its blossom (Keil); or, its blossoms shot forth (Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Murphy)—and the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes:—more correctly, its stems caused to ripen, or matured, clusters, the אֶשְׁכֹּל being the stalk of a cluster, as distinguished from the עֲגָבִים, or clusters themselves, though interpreters generally (Kalisch, Keil, Murphy) regard the first as the unripe, and the second as the ripe, cluster—and Pharaoh's cup—כּזֹס, a receptacle or vessel, either contracted from כֵּגֶס, like אִישׁ for אֵגֶשׁ (Gesenius), or derived from כּוּא, to conceal, to receive, to keep, connected with the idea of bringing together, collecting into a thing (Furst)—was in my hand: and I took the grapes, and pressed them—ἐξέθλιψα (LXX.), expressi (Vulgate), a translation adopted by the most competent authorities (Gesenius, Furst, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, et alii), though the sense of diluting with water is advocated by Dathe, Havernick ('Introd.,' § 21), and others as the most appropriate signification of שָׁחַט, which occurs only here. That Pharaoh is represented as drinking the expressed juice of grapes is no proof that the Egyptians were not acquainted with fermentation, and did not drink fermented liquors. In numerous frescoes the process of fermentation is distinctly represented, and Herodotus testifies that though the use of grape wine was comparatively limited, the common people drank a wine made from barley: οἵνῳ δ ἐκ κριθέων πεποιημένῳ (2:77)—into Pharaoh's cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand—literally, I placed the cup upon Pharaoh's palm, כַּף, used of Jacob's thigh-socket (Genesis 32:26), meaning something hollowed out.
And Joseph (acting no doubt under a Divine impulse) said unto him, This is the interpretation of it (cf. Genesis 40:18; Genesis 41:12, Genesis 41:25; Judges 7:14; Daniel 2:36; Daniel 4:19): The three branches (vide supra, Genesis 40:10) are three days:—literally, three days these (cf. Genesis 41:26)—yet within three days (literally, in yet three days, i.e. within three more days, before the third day is over) shall Pharaoh lift up thine head,—not μνησθήσεται τῆς ἀρχῆς σου (LXX.), recordabitur ministerii tui (Vulgate), a rendering which has the sanction of Onkelos, Samaritan, Jarchi, Rosenmüller, and others; but shall promote thee from the depths of thy humiliation (Gesenius, Furst, Keil, Kalisch, &c.), to which there is an assonance, and upon which there is an intentional play, in the opposite phrase employed to depict the fortunes of the baker (vide infra, Genesis 40:19) and restore thee unto thy place:—epexegetic of the preceding clause, the כֵּן (or pedestal, from כָּגַן, unused, to stand upright, or stand fast as a base) upon which the butler was to be set being his former dignity and office, as is next explained—and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh's cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler. After which Joseph adds a request for himself. But think on me when it shall be well with thee (literally, but, or only, thou shalt remember me with thee, according as, or when, it goes well with thee), and show kindness, I pray thee, unto me (cf. Jos 2:12; 1 Samuel 20:14, 1 Samuel 20:15; 2 Samuel 9:1; 1 Kings 2:7), and make mention of me unto Pharaoh,—literally, bring me to remembrance before Pharaoh (cf. 1 Kings 17:18; Jeremiah 4:16; Ezekiel 21:28)—and bring me out of this house: for indeed I was stolen (literally, for stolen I was stolen, i.e. I was furtively abducted, without my knowledge or consent, and did not voluntarily abscond in consequence of having perpetrated any crime) away out (literally, from) of the land of the Hebrews:—i.e. the land where the labrum live (Keil); an expression which Joseph never could have used, since the Hebrews were strangers and sojourners in the land, and had no settled possession in it, and therefore a certain index of the lateness of the composition of this portion of the narrative (Block, 'Introd.,' § 80); but if Abram, nearly two centuries earlier, was recognized as a Hebrew (Genesis 14:13), and if Potiphar's wife could, in speaking to her Egyptian husband and domestics, describe Joseph as an Hebrew (Genesis 39:14, Genesis 39:17), there does not appear sufficient reason why Joseph should not be able to characterize his country as the land of the Hebrews. The Hebrews had through Abraham become known at least to Pharaoh and his Court as belonging to the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:15-20); and it is not a violent supposition that in Joseph's time "the land of the Hebrews" was a phrase quite intelligible to an Egyptian, as signifying not perhaps the entire extent of Palestine, but the region round about Hebron and Mamre (Nachmanides, Clericus, Rosenmüller)—scarcely as suggesting that the Hebrews had possession of the land prior to the Canaanites (Murphy). And here also have I done nothing (i.e. committed no crime) that they should (literally, that they have) put me into the dungeon. The term בּוֹר is here used to describe Joseph's place of confinement, because pits or cisterns or cesspools, when empty, were frequently employed in primitive times for the incarceration of offenders (el. Jeremiah 38:6; Zechariah 9:11).
Genesis 40:16, Genesis 40:17
When (literally, and) the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he (literally, and he, encouraged by the good fortune predicted to his fellow-prisoner) said unto Joseph, I also was in my dream, and, behold, I had three (literally, and behold three) white baskets—literally, baskets of white bread; LXX; κανᾶ χονδριτῶν; Vulgate, canistra farince; Aquila, κόφινοι γύρεως (Onkolos, Pererius, Gesenius, Furst, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, et alii); though the rendering "baskets of holes," i.e. wicker baskets, is preferred by some (Symmachus Datbius, Rosenmüller, and others), and accords with the evidence of the monuments, which frequently exhibit baskets of wickerwork—on my head. According to Herodotus (2.35), Egyptian men commonly carried on their heads, and Egyptian women, like Hagar (Genesis 21:14), on their shoulders. And in the uppermost basket (whose contents alone are described, since it alone was exposed to the depredations of the birds) there was of all manner of bake-meats for Pharaoh—literally, all kinds of food for Pharaoh, the work of a baker. The monuments show that the variety of confectionery used in Egypt was exceedingly extensive. And the birds—literally, the bird; a collective, as in Genesis 1:21, Genesis 1:30 (cf. Genesis 1:19)—did eat them out of the basket upon my head.
Genesis 40:18, Genesis 40:19
And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation thereof (the exposition was supplied by God, and, however willing or anxious Joseph might be to soften its meaning to his auditor, he could not deviate a hair's-breadth from what he knew to be the mind of God): The three baskets are three days: yet within three days—literally, in three days more (ut supra, Genesis 40:13)—shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee (i.e. deprive thee of life, the phrase containing a resemblance to that employed in Genesis 40:13, and finding its explanation in the words that follow), and shall hang thee on a tree—i.e. after decapitation (cf. Deuteronomy 21:22, Deuteronomy 21:23; Joshua 10:26; 2 Samuel 4:12), which was probably the mode of execution at that time practiced in Egypt (Michaelis, Clarke, Keil, Murphy, Alford, Inglis, Bush), though some regard the clause as a description of the way in which the baker's life was to be taken from him, viz; either by crucifixion (Onkelos, Rosenmüller, Ainsworth) or by hanging (Willst, Patrick, T. Lewis), and others view it as simply pointing to capital punishment, without indicating the instrument or method (Piscator, Lapide, Mercerus, 'Speaker's Commentary'). And the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee. "The terror of approaching death would be aggravated to the poor man by the prospect of the indignity with which his body was to be treated" (Lawson).
And it came to pass (literally, and it was, as Joseph had predicted) the third day (literally, in, or on, the third day), which was Pharaoh's birthday,—literally, the day of Pharaoh's being born, the inf. hophal being construed with an accusative—that he made a feast—a mishteh, i.e. a drinking or banquet (vide Genesis 19:3)—unto all his servants. "The birthdays of the kings of Egypt were considered holy, and were celebrated with great joy and rejoicing. All business was suspended, and the people generally took part in the festivities'. And he lifted up the head—here the one phrase applies equally, though in different senses, to both. A similar expression occurs in the annals of Assur-nasir-pal (Sardanapalus), column 2 line 43: "Their heads on the high places of the mountain I lifted up"—of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants—literally, in their midst, as a public example.
Genesis 40:21, Genesis 40:22
And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand (literally, Set the cup upon Pharaoh's psalm): but he (i.e. Pharaoh) hanged the chief baker (vide supra, Genesis 40:19): as Joseph had interpreted to them.
Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph (as Joseph had desired, and as he doubtless had promised), but forgot him—as Joseph might almost have expected (cf. Ecclesiastes 9:15, Ecclesiastes 9:16).
Joseph in the round house at Heliopolis.
I. THE PRISONERS AND THEIR ATTENDANT.
1. The prisoners.
(1) Their rank. They were high officers of state—the chief of the butlers and the chief of the bakers, i.e. the principal cupbearer and Court purveyor.
(2) Their offense. They had sinned against their lord the king of Egypt; in what way it is of no importance to inquire, since "we would have heard nothing about them had their story not been connected with that of Joseph" (Lawson), though the Rabbis allege that they had been detected in an attempt at poisoning their master.
(3) Their punishment. "The king's wrath is as the roaring of a lion," and "as messengers of death" (Proverbs 19:12; Proverbs 16:14); and the two offenders were immediately arrested and thrown into prison, committed to the keeping of the captain of the round house, where Joseph was bound.
(4) Their privilege. Their punishment was tempered with clemency. In consideration of their official rank, the governor of the tower appointed Joseph to wait upon them and act as their servant.
2. Their attendant. In this new capacity Joseph behaved himself wisely and with discretion. With regard to his illustrious companions in misfortune, he—
(1) Served them faithfully. "Joseph had been unjustly enslaved, unjustly imprisoned, unjustly detained in his prison, and yet he declined not the work enjoined by his master" (Lawson). Joseph appears to have always acted on the principle commended by the royal preacher (Ecclesiastes 9:10), and on that recommended by Christ (Luke 14:11). "Joseph was a better man than the men whom he served. He was sprung from noble ancestors, and knew that he would one day be exalted above them; but at this time he cheerfully performed to them every service in his power" (Lawson).
(2) Sympathized with them sincerely. Though bearing his own misfortunes with unmurmuring resignation and manly fortitude, because sustained by God's grace and the possession of truly religious principles, the amiability of Joseph's nature led him to commiserate his fellow-prisoners who had no such inward supports and consolations as were enjoyed by him. In particular on one occasion mentioned in the text he was so struck with their dejected countenances that he feelingly inquired the cause of their sadness.
(3) Directed them wisely. Learning that they were troubled on account of dreams which they had dreamt overnight, and of which they could not find the explanation, he piously exhorted them to look to God for the desired interpretations.
II. THE DREAMS AND THEIR INTERPRETATIONS.
1. The dreams—
(1) Agreed in the time when they occurred, happening on the same night; in the impressions they produced, filling the hearts of both dreamers with forebodings; in the person by whom they were explained, Joseph giving equally the key to both; and in the interval required for their fulfillment, only three days being allowed for the accomplishment of each.
(2) Differed in the imagery of which they were composed—that of the butler consisting of a tableaux in which himself and his royal master appeared beneath the shadow of a blooming vine, Pharaoh sitting on his throne, and himself pressing fine ripe clusters into Pharaoh's cup and setting it on Pharaoh's hand; and that of the baker representing himself also engaged in the performance of his official duties, bearing into Pharaoh's presence three wicker baskets of pastries and confections, out of the uppermost of which the birds came to eat;—in the character of the events which they foreshadowed—the butler's dream prognosticating speedy restoration to his butlership, and the baker's dream most ominously pointing to early execution.
2. Their interpretations. These were—
(1) Revealed by God. Joseph did not claim to be able of himself to interpret the significance of either of the dreams, but explicitly affirmed that to do so was exclusively the prerogative of Elohim.
(2) Declared by Joseph. Thus Joseph was authenticated as a prophet of the Lord in that heathen land.
(3) Fulfilled by Pharaoh. Pharaoh was no doubt unconscious that he was accomplishing a Divine prediction. So God is able to accord to men the completest liberty of action, and yet realize his own sovereign purpose. Exactly as Joseph had interpreted, both as to time and as to results, the dreams came true.
III. THE INTERPRETER AND HIS REWARD.
1. The interpreter's request. Joseph desired in return for his services to the butler that a word should be spoken for him to the king by that officer when restored to his occupation, in the hope that it might lead to his release from confinement. For this conduct Joseph has been blamed by some censorious critics; but
(1) his request was natural. Though required to endure the crosses laid on him by Divine providence with meekness and resignation, he was under no obligation to stay a moment longer in prison than he could justly help, but was rather bound to use all legitimate means to insure his deliverance. Then,
(2) his request was moderate. He did not ask much at the butler's hand in return for his own great service, only that his name should be mentioned to Pharaoh. Joseph was not exacting in his demands. Again,
(3) his request was touching. As he tells the butler, in the hope of moving him to pity, he was a stranger in a strange land, who had been forcibly abducted, though he does not say by whom. What a token of the kindly charity and truly forgiving spirit cherished by Joseph towards his brethren! And finally,
(4) his request was just. He had done nothing to deserve imprisonment -in that or any other dungeon.
2. The interpreter's reward. "Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgot him." This must have been
(1) a painful experience to Joseph, probably as cruel and unkind a blow as any he had yet received; as certainly it was
(2) a monstrous iniquity on the part of the butler, indicating a callous, ungrateful, and truly base disposition, though unfortunately it is
(3) a frequent occurrence in human life.
1. That God's saints are sometimes thrown by Divine providence into companionship with the worst of men.
2. That the excellent of the earth are often found filling the very humblest situations.
3. That God has many different methods of discovering his mind to men.
4. That God is able to fulfill his own predictions.
5. That wicked men sometimes meet their deserts in this life.
6. That God's people should sympathize with and succor their fellow-men.
7. That they who do good to others should hope for nothing again.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
The inspired man.
Joseph is already supreme in the narrow sphere of the prison: "all was committed to his hand." The narrow sphere prepares him for the wider. The spiritual supremacy has now to be revealed. "Do not interpretations belong to God?" The dreams are partly of man and partly of. God. Each man dreamed of things connected with his life. The butler of the wine coming from the grape-clusters, pressed into Pharaoh's cup, given into his hand. The baker of the white baskets and bakemeats, plucked from him while upon his head by the birds of prey. To a certain extent the interpretation was natural, but as at once communicated to Joseph it was inspired. The sphere of inspiration is concentric with the sphere of the natural intelligence and wisdom, but goes beyond it. The request of Joseph, that his spiritual superiority should be recognized and rewarded, was not fulfilled by the ungrateful man; but, as an act of obedience to the Spirit of God, it was committed to him who seeth in secret and rewardeth openly. Joseph is still being tried by the word of God. It is committed to him as a messenger and witness for the covenant people. It tries his faith and patience. The whole is a parable, setting forth—
1. The order of the world, as resting on the Divine foreknowledge and appointment in connection with the elect instrumentalities, bringing the things of Egypt under the dominion of the kingdom of God.
2. The providential hiding of gracious purposes. Joseph the seer in the prison, waiting for the hour of redemption, sending forth messages of truth to do their errands.
3. Invisible links between the rulers of this world and the representatives of the kingdom of God to be revealed in due time.
4. Discipline in the lives of God's people fruitful in blessed results, both for them and for all.—R.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
The interpreter of God's message.
We cannot but notice the importance often assigned in the Bible to dreams, as channels of revelation from God. The dreams of Jacob and of Pharaoh, and passages such as Deuteronomy 13:1 and Joel 2:28, show this. It may be that in the absence of the written word, which in its completeness is our heritage, God's message was thus given to them in portions. Applying this thought to the circumstances of the text, we see men who had received a message from God which they believed was of importance; but they could not understand it, and they are sad because there is no interpreter.
I. THE DEEP IMPORTANCE OF GOD'S MESSAGE. How many questions does life present! What and where are we? Whither going? What lies beyond the present? I see that all things decay; yet on all sides life from death. Is there such revival for me? Can the active, thinking spirit be as though it had never been—passed from existence ere the frail body began to decay? And if there be a life beyond the present, what is its nature? and what the preparation for it? Vainly does human wisdom try to answer these questions. He who made all things alone can explain his works (Psalms 94:9-12), and the Bible is his answer to our questions, wherein he tells us what we are, for what created, and how to fulfill the object of our being (Psalms 119:105).
II. But WE NEED AN INTERPRETER. It may be asked, Why? The Bible is open. Its words are such as any one can understand. This is true, as far as regards facts, and precepts, and doctrines. There is a knowledge of the word which the natural man can attain to; but the Holy Spirit alone can so open it as to make it "the power of God." It is one thing to know the doctrines of sin and of salvation, and quite another to know ourselves as sinners, and Christ as the Savior. The one puffs up with pride of knowledge, the other leads to the one Foundation. There is no more dangerous snare than of ignoring this work of the Holy Spirit. Too often men do not believe their need of it, and do not believe in his help. And thus the Bible is found dull, and its teaching departed from in daily life.
III. How TO GET THE INTERPRETER'S HELP. "Tell me." Think of our Lord watching his disciples in the boat. So he watches over thee, ready to help. Hast thou found it so? Has the light of God's love entered thy heart? It is the special work of the Holy Spirit to guide into all truth (John 16:13); not in solving mysteries and hard questions, but in revealing Christ to the heart. Have you sought this; sought with expectation the full gift; sought to know Christ (Philippians 3:10), and the transforming power of belief in his love? Will you seek? There lies the difficulty—the want of earnestness. Men seem afraid of being earnest. But it is the earnest (Matthew 11:12, βιασται) who enter the kingdom of heaven.—M.
HOMILIES BY F. HASTINGS
Genesis 40:23; Genesis 41:9
Pharaoh's forgetful butler.
"Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgot him." "I do remember my faults this day." Good men have sometimes had to bear painful imprisonments. Think of Bunyan and Baxter shivering behind the bars of a narrow cell, where light and air were almost excluded, and where disease and death held sway. How much brightness, however, has broken at times from behind prison bars! We might not have had the 'Pilgrim's Progress,' unless Bunyan had been incarcerated on the banks of the Ouse. Nor might the patience and kindness of Joseph's disposition have shone out so brilliantly but for his prison life. In a work entitled ' Five Years' Penal Servitude' a most vivid description is given of how the criminals of the clever and cultured class have to mingle and work with those of ignorant and most sensual type. Defaulting cashiers have to undergo the same treatment as cowardly garrotters and desperate burglars. Breaking the law brings any under its rigorous clutches, and levels all distinctions of class or education. Thus Joseph, a Hebrew slave, although not a criminal, would be despised by the chief butler of Pharaoh, but the butler had to associate with him. Indeed the former became his superior in prison, and was in a position to render to a State official certain kindness.
I. THE FORGETFUL INGRATE. This man was a courtier, a permitted adviser of the Pharaoh of Egypt, but he is sent to the common prison. Joseph gives him much cheer, attention, and kindness. He seeks in every way to relieve the monotony of prison life, and becomes a prophet and religious helper. He sees the butler one day sad of countenance, and learns the reason. Readily he, by Divine help, interpreted the perplexing dream. His words are verified. The chief butler was doubtless profuse in his thanks and promises, but we see how he kept them. Perhaps the forgetfulness was convenient. He did not wish, after his restoration, to remind his monarch—even by making a request—of his having been formerly in disfavor. He possibly never intended to make any effort, unless it should be a gain to himself. He is a very different man in prison and out. This is the way of men in life. Favors slip from the memory like floods from a smoothly-worn rock. We might here possibly find out certain things in our own conduct which would indicate a similar forgetfulness of favors. For example, Christ came as the good Joseph to share our captive state. Think of what love he showed in bearing so much suffering for us. Do not put aside the thought of it as not being definitely for you. It was for each one, as if there were none other for whom to suffer. Some have not believed, have not come out from prison, but have preferred the darkness to light, have thought that the atonement was all unnecessary. They cannot understand how evil is their state until brought out of it. A beggar would not be troubled about his patches and rags in the common lodging-house; but let him be taken into a room of decently-arrayed people, and he then feels the difference, and shudders at his degraded appearance. When once brought into Christ's light we see from what we have been saved, and should be grateful to him. Some have been brought into union with him, and afterwards have declined from his way. Dangerous state. We should blame others who were ungrateful; what if we have been! The longer action is postponed, the deeper the ingratitude, and the less likelihood is there that the favor will he felt. The longer postponed, the harder to acknowledge. Thus the butler may have hesitated to speak of Joseph because he would have to reveal his own ingratitude. Possibly he hoped Joseph was dead. Not so; Joseph lives. Forgotten by man, he is not forgotten by God. God will yet bring the forgetful one and his benefactor face to face.
II. AROUSED MEMORIES. Wonderful is that faculty of the mind whereby we can imagine ourselves to exist in the past. Some have weak memories, others strong. Some have memories for places and thoughts, others for dates, figures, and words. Whether memory be strong or weak, the power of association is such that at times facts long past will be brought back most vividly. Revisiting places of interest, traversing certain countries, will bring to memory past friendships, and perhaps even subjects of conversation formerly held there. A house in which one has been born or trained becomes a complete history in time. Certain seasons arouse memories of the past, as birthdays, wedding days, Christmas time, or Easter. Certain circumstances also arouse memory. Pharaoh's perplexity concerning his dream forcibly reminded the butler of his morning of sadness in the prison. "I do remember," &c. The butler implied that he repented of his sins and of his forgetfulness. He may not have been very sincere, but as a courtier he introduces a subject in that way. Let us remember our faults, our inconsistencies as Christians, our hesitation to confess Christ, our excusing ourselves on the ground of the doings of others. Let us be plain with ourselves. Let us not see the motes in the eyes of others, and forget the beams in our own. Let us remember them that we may be humbled, may gain experience of how to avoid them in the future, may gain strength to resist, may gain pardon for past faults, and learn thereby more of the infinite forbearance and love of God, who is so willing to blot out our transgressions, and even the memory of our sins.—H.