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The Pharaoh's Chief Butler

The chief butler, or cupbearer, was a high-ranking royal official for ancient kings and queens, including Egyptian (see The Ancient Egyptians), Babylonian (see Ancient Empires - Babylon), Persian (see Ancient Empires - Persia), Assyrian (see Ancient Empires - Assyria), and Israelite (see Solomon and Israelite Dynasties). They often served as close confidants of rulers, and were highly trusted, not just for their advice, but also because of their permitted access to their assassination-prone masters.

Ancient Egyptians Joseph and the Pharaoh's Chief Butler

After finding himself in prison because of a false accusation made by Potifar's wife (Genesis 39:1-20), Joseph (see Coat Of Many Colors), with God's help, interpretted the dream of the also recently-imprisoned Pharaoh's chief butler, which ultimately led to Joseph's release two years later:

"And Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison [see Prison], the place where the king's prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison." (Genesis 39:20 RSV)

"Some time after this, the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker offended their lord the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief butler and the chief baker, and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he waited on them; and they continued for some time in custody." (Genesis 40:1-4 RSV)

"So the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, "In my dream there was a vine before me, and on the vine there were three branches; as soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh's cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand." Then Joseph said to him, "This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days; within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you shall place Pharaoh's cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his butler. But remember me, when it is well with you, and do me the kindness, I pray you, to make mention of me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews; and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon." (Genesis 40:9-15 RSV)

"Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile [see The Nile River], and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows sleek and fat, and they fed in the reed grass. And behold, seven other cows, gaunt and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the gaunt and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. And Pharaoh awoke." (Genesis 40:23-41-4 RSV)

"So in the morning his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men; and Pharaoh told them his dream, but there was none who could interpret it to Pharaoh. Then the chief butler said to Pharaoh, "I remember my faults today. When Pharaoh was angry with his servants, and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own meaning. A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard; and when we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream" (Genesis 41:8-12 RSV)

"Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh." (Genesis 41:14 RSV)

"And Pharaoh said to his servants, "Can we find such a man as this, in whom is the Spirit of God?" So Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discreet and wise as you are; you shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only as regards the throne will I be greater than you." And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Behold, I have set you over all the land of Egypt." Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; and he made him to ride in his second chariot; and they cried before him, "Bow the knee!" Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt." (Genesis 41:38-43 RSV)

Fact Finder: Was Nehemiah a cupbearer?
See Nehemiah


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