The Knowledge We Lack (Genesis 40)


What is the meaning of life? Some will say happiness, some will say something silly, like pizza, but I think we can all agree that we spend most of our lives searching for meaning. Well, knowledge, really. We spend most of the first quarter of our lives in school, and then we go to work, where our goal is to continuously gain the knowledge needed to keep us relevant in our workplaces. We go to church to learn about God. We take fitness classes to learn how to take care of our body. We watch the news to get new information about our world. Almost everything we do is about gaining knowledge. The question is, when have we gained enough?

Genesis 40 tells a story about two men who are, among other things, searching for knowledge. In fact, the information they seek could determine whether they live or die. The men are Pharaoh’s cupbearer and Pharaoh’s baker. Both have been thrown in jail, the one that Joseph is essentially running. As depressing as it must be to be put in chains, the cupbearer and the baker one day find themselves more distressed about some dreams they have than their lack of freedom. Joseph notices and offers to be God’s mouthpiece to the men and interpret their dreams.

Interpret he does. The cupbearer dreams of giving wine to Pharaoh, and Joseph informs him that this means he will get his job back soon. The baker dreams of attempting to bring baked goods to Pharaoh, only to have them pilfered by birds. Joseph explains (in the Bible the way he says it seems so blunt and straightforward – I wonder if he actually said it this way or if there was more hesitation or pity?) that this dream means that the baker is going to die a gruesome death. Within three days, the knowledge passed from Joseph to the two men proves to be accurate, as the cupbearer is reinstated and the baker is killed. Nothing changes about Joseph’s state, however, because even though he asked the cupbearer to put in a good word for him, the man forgets, and Joseph remains in prison.

The Treasures Within:

Cracking The Code

I used to find myself really frustrated by those kid’s shows where they want the kid to talk back to the TV, like Dora the Explorer or Blue’s Clues. The treasure needs to be found right this minute, but instead twenty-five minutes go by while the main character asks the audience over and over for the answers that are literally right in front of her.

Sometimes our own quests for knowledge can be a little bit like that. Here the cupbearer and the baker wanted to know what their future held and whether or not they’d be released or punished. God told them what they wanted to know in a dream, essentially sticking it right under their noses, but they needed Joseph’s interpretation in order to understand it.

Maybe God communicates with some of us in a similar way. There are times when it seems like God has not spoken to us. We are asking Him something, but He doesn’t care to answer or He simply doesn’t have one. Yet answers from God don’t just fall out of the sky (maybe there are a few exceptions, but you get the point). There are so many answers to so many of our questions sitting right in the Bible. It’s literally directly in front of us, but we aren’t seeing it. Instead of giving up, maybe we need to put in more effort. Study, read the words of God’s prophets, and ask for an interpretation. It may take time, but just like Dora, we’ll find what we were looking for in the end.

When All Goes Well

What’s the best thing that could happen to you right now? That’s not a very difficult question to answer because there are so many things we want. Had that question been asked Joseph while he was in prison, his obvious answer would be “to be set free”. Freedom was the goal. It was probably all Joseph thought about. We know this because he even asked the cupbearer to help him achieve it, hoping the word of a servant would be enough. We also know this because when he makes this request in verse 14, Joseph speaks of the cupbearer’s own eventual release metaphorically, talking of the time when “all goes well” with him. Obviously, the definition of “well” or “good” for Joseph is “release from prison”. But that’s not how God defined those words, at least not right then.

The cupbearer that Joseph placed his hope in dropped the ball. He forgot all about Joseph (which really seems divine because how could you forget about that one time a foreigner correctly interpreted an upsetting nightmare?), which meant that it was God’s will that Joseph stay in prison a little while longer. Joseph jumped the gun a little, hoping for a quick release. Obviously Joseph didn’t know what God knew. And that’s the thing. None of us do. We’re so sure that we know what is good or right or true or fair, but there’s so much knowledge that we lack. The only Person with it is God. So where does that leave us?

God’s Message To Us:

“Reach into the Source of all knowledge”. God’s goal has never been to confuse us or leave us in the dark. I don’t think He’s all that into dramatic irony, either. He wants to give us knowledge. He even says that straight out in the Bible (Jeremiah 33:3). So just as naturally as we pull up Google when we want to know something, we should turn to God when we find ourselves at a loss. The longer time goes on, and the more atrocities we see in this world, the more questions we’ll have. We can arrogantly assume we have all the answers and go on social media tirades for days, or we can take a look around. Read, study, and pray for knowledge. The treasure we’ll find is worth far much more than the effort we’ll put in.

What do you think? What is the knowledge you want from God? What else did you see in this chapter that you believe God wants you to know?

2 thoughts on “The Knowledge We Lack (Genesis 40)

  1. I agree that it seems unusual for the butler to forget Joseph. I think that maybe when he first got out, he decided to wait a while before he started asking for favors. I mean, after all, he had just been released from prison. He probably decided to wait for an opportune time, maybe when Pharaoh was cheerful and the situation was right. But then, as a few months went by, and no opportunities came, he forgot all about Joseph.


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