After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows, attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke. And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. So in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh. Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “I remember my offenses 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 interpretation. A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.”
Dear God, it feels like it’s been a while since I really dug in and spent some time with one of the images from the Bustard book Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups. There is so much in this image, I might need to break my observations into categories.
Chief Cup Bearer:
- The original dream had three branches on the vines and I see three clusters of grapes.
- The cup bearer is small combed hair and clean shaven.
- The cup bearer is dressed.
- The cub bearer is obviously bearing a cup for Pharaoh.
- The baker is hanging (some translations say he was impaled, but the artist went with the hanging translation).
- The baker is naked.
- The birds are literally eating his flesh while he is still hanging.
- There is a basked by his feet to represent the basket that had been on his head in the dream.
- In death, his face is turned towards Pharaoh.
- Pharaoh is seen as being much larger than the cup bearer.
- His headpiece has a cobra snake on it.
- He has the traditional eye make-up to make it obvious to us that this is Pharaoh.
- There is a fence as a backdrop in the image. I’m not sure what that is about. Could that represent the wall that Joseph is behind, still in prison. It’s interesting that Joseph is not represented in this image.
I’ve made these observations before reading what Bustard had to say about this piece and this story.
John Piper writes: “Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph…is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.” It is often difficult to see the point of the evil circumstances in our lives, but examples like the life of Joseph serve as reminders that God is actively working for our benefit. The sometimes circuitous paths he sets us on are to keep us loving him and depending on him. They are for our good and his glory.
I like the line “…examples like the life of Joseph serve as reminders…” because the structure of the Bible is such an interesting way for you to have communicated with us and laid out the bread crumbs for us to find our way to you. I was thinking about this recently. How else would I have done it? If I were God, would I have just laid out a manual with a bunch of rules or would I just give example after example of how I have interacted with my people over thousands of years? Obviously, you picked the latter, and while that certainly gives impacts the way we develop as individuals and corporately as the church it also gives us greater insight into you. In storytelling parlance, you show more than you tell.
Father, help me to remember that you are sovereign and that there is a plan. Let that faith in something I cannot always see sustain me in my pursuit of you and the peace I experience in you. Be glorified in me so that others might be drawn to you as well.
In Jesus’s name I pray,