Joseph Gets Passed Over


Now it came to pass on the third day, Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. Then he restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. (Genesis 40:20-23)

Joseph’s life has three “matrix” cycles: as a prophet betrayed by his brothers [1], a priest tempted to “harlotry”, and finally as a conquering king.

The final cycle begins with Joseph in gaol (yes, that’s how we “Redneck Brits” spell jail). At the “Passover” step, Joseph truly gets passed over for promotion. The scavenging birds that eat the baker’s nightmare bread echo the birds that Abraham chased away in his own “Passover.” But the baker is unable to scatter them. As with Haman and Morcedai later on, someone else gets lifted to Pharaoh’s right hand instead of God’s man. The difference is that Joseph, unlike Mordecai, was being obedient. This was totally unjust.

But we are given some interesting pictures.

Firstly, the “bread and wine” judgments happen on the “third day”, echoing the grain and fruit plantings on Day 3 of Creation. This step is always about Ascension, the Covenant head lifted up. The structure of the chapter puts Joseph as the true Firstfruits, interpreting the dreams. The Ascension step is always a promise of the final “Booths” feast (as with Deborah’s song fulfilled in Samson). Eventually both men have their heads “lifted up” and the “Atonement” is made. One goat is covered, and the other is uncovered.

But back to the larger structure. The entire passage appears at the “Passover” step in this final greater cycle. Faithful Joseph is behind the “covered door” of the prison while Pharaoh’s judgments are passed. The old tent of Jacob is decayed and ready to pass away. God is forming a new Covenant, a new house. The bread is broken so the wine can again be poured out.

[1]  See Joseph As Torn Veil.

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