Genesis 40:20-23 Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand, but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation. The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.
It is interesting that the Hebrew Scriptures use the same verb ‘lifted up’ to indicate what Pharaoh did to the heads of both the Chief Cupbearer and the Chief Baker: the one was ‘lifted up’ in honour, and the other was ‘lifted up’ by a noose around his neck – with quite the opposite result!
We are reminded of Jesus’ words in John 12:32 – “But I, when I am LIFTED UP from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” To inform the reader who is not familiar with this Semitic idiom, John goes on to explain: “He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die” (33). Jesus was ‘glorified’ and ‘honoured’ through a cruel ‘lifting up’ on a cross of shame to die for sinful man. He was glorified because this was a voluntary act of obedience to the Father’s will, and because, by this act of obedience, he fulfilled God’s purpose for creation by purchasing the eternal salvation of everyone who comes to him at the foot of the cross and turns to him in repentance-and-faith.
And there are other interesting little ‘parallels’ (and a ‘contrast’) in this story that foreshadow what Jesus has done for us: it was the cup-bearer who was honoured and reinstated, foreshadowing Jesus’ bearing the cup of God’s wrath to save us from it, and then being gloriously resurrected to give us new life. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:25); it was the baker who died, foreshadowing Jesus, who said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35, 48), and at the Last Supper, “took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” (Luke 22:19).
The little ‘contrast’ is the fact that, after the cup-bearer was reinstated in a position of authority, he forgot Joseph in prison, which contrasts with Jesus’ words to the condemned criminal on the cross: “Then [the criminal] said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’” (Luke 23:42-43). So we can pray confidently with James Montgomery: “And when these failing lips grow dumb and mind and memory flee, when thou shalt in thy kingdom come, Jesus, remember me
” (Hymn: ‘According to thy gracious Word’).
– Bruce Christian