A Daily Genesis

Genesis 40:18-23

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[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 40:18-19 . . Joseph answered: This is its interpretation: The three baskets are three days. In three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and gibbet you upon a pole; and the birds will pick off your flesh.[/B]

It's lucky for the baker that he would be already dead before the gibbeting because a common method of gibbeting in those days was impaling; which was a grizzly spectacle. Wooden poles, about three to four inches in diameter were sharpened to a pencil point and forcibly inserted into the abdomen, up into the rib cage to catch on the spine in back of the throat; and the pole was then set upright to suspend the victim above the ground like human shish kabob.

I'm looking here at an impaling on an Assyrian stone relief-- in the July/August 2006 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review --commissioned by Sennacherib for his palace at Ninevah to celebrate the capture of Lachish. The victims are three Israelites who still have their heads; strongly suggesting that they were alive when the poles were run into their bellies and up into their upper torsos.

Nobody could possibly survive an injury like that for more than a few seconds. The pole would not only penetrate the stomach, but also the liver, diaphragm, lungs, some large blood vessels, and the bronchial tubes; resulting in almost instant death-- quite excruciating, and very bloody.

Public impaling was no doubt a very effective deterrent to insurrection; and nobody in those days seemed overly concerned about executing criminals in a "humane" manner. Cruel and unusual punishments were the norm; and nobody dared stage an "Occupy Wall Street" protest about them lest their days end in like fashion.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 40:20a . . Pharaoh's birthday came three days later, and he gave a banquet for all his officials and household staff.[/B]

What really is the purpose of a birthday party anyway if not to celebrate the continuance of your own existence?

For guys in Pharaoh's position (e.g. Kim Jong Un of N. Korea, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and Thein Sein of Myanmar) life is good: better than what you could ever hope to ask for; and of course that's cause for celebration. But for the majority of their subjects, life wasn't all that good, and nothing to celebrate. No doubt relatively few Egyptians in that day derived a significant amount of pleasure from their own existence.

People normally count Job as one of the most righteous men who ever lived, yet when he lost his health and wealth, Job cursed the day of his birth and wished he was never born. (Job 3:1-26)

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 40:20b-23 . . He sent for his chief cup-bearer and chief baker, and they were brought to him from the prison. He then restored the chief cup-bearer to his former position, but he sentenced the chief baker to be impaled on a pole, just as Joseph had predicted. Pharaoh's cup-bearer, however, promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.
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One might wonder how it was possible for the cup-bearer to not be thoroughly amazed enough at the fulfillment of Joseph's predictions to begin exclaiming his prison experience with such enthusiasm as to totally rivet the attention of every single one of Pharaoh's courtiers and instantly secure Joseph's freedom.

But if we take into account the hand of God in the glove of His people's history, then it seems reasonable to conclude that God didn't want Joseph in the limelight just yet; so he put a mental block in the cup man's head to silence him for the time being.

No doubt when Joseph was apprised of recent developments by his friend Potiphar, he was deeply disappointed, and probably a bit consternated too. Joseph probably assumed-- and with good reason --that those successful predictions were his ticket to freedom at last.

But even if Pharaoh had taken note of Joseph at this particular point in the narrative, he was still Potiphar's property, and would have to remain in custody because of his "affair" with Potiphar's wife. Dreams or no dreams, does anyone seriously believe that Pharaoh would have taken the word of a slave over one of his own trusted courtiers?

So even had the cup-bearer brought Joseph's ability to Pharaoh's attention, it probably wouldn't have succeeded in gaining him the degree of freedom he really wanted. In point of fact, it may have even resulted in his death because Pharaoh would certainly want to know why Joseph hadn't been summarily executed on the spot for rape. No; bringing Joseph to Pharoah's attention at this point would have caused problems for both the slave and his master.

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