What did the baker do to get impaled?

Genesis 40

Whole Joseph was imprisoned, the royal baker and cup bearer were imprisoned as well. While doing his duties one day, he noticed that they looked disturbed. Upon inquiry, they stated that they had both had dreams, but nobody to interpret them. Joseph offered his help. First was the cup bearer:

“I saw a vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. It had barely budded when its blossoms came out, and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; so I took the grapes, pressed them out into his cup, and put it in Pharaoh’s hand.” (Genesis 40:10-11)

Joseph interprets this dream favorably, telling the man that he will be restored to his former position of cup bearer. Joseph then requests that when this happens, that the cup bearer tell the pharaoh about Joseph, and how he was kidnapped from his land and is wrongly imprisoned. Because of the favorable interpretation given to the cup bearer, the baker asks for his dream to be interpreted as well:

“I too had a dream. In it I had three bread baskets on my head; in the top one were all kinds of bakery products for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.” (Genesis 40:16-17)

Joseph did not interpret this dream in a favorable way. Instead, he told the baker that in three days the pharaoh would have him impaled. Three days later the pharaoh had a banquet, and Joseph’s interpretations of the dreams came true. The baker was impaled, and the cup bearer was restored to his position, however he did not tell the pharaoh about Joseph.

Well, this was a surprise. I did not expect dream interpretation or divination to be in the bible. I don’t know why I didn’t, but it was certainly unexpected. I can see it as an interesting way to move the story along., but it also reveals how long people have been ascribing special meaning to dreams. There is a lot of research into dreams, and over the years many people have advanced many theories as to their purpose and origin. While purpose may not be known, and really there doesn’t even have to be a purpose, it is known that dreams are not special to humans. I watch my dogs dream almost every day. While that may be quite adorable, it also let’s me know that dreams are not some special connection to a mystical or divine force. Be it some collective unconscious, psychic phenomena, or God. Unless of course my dogs are getting special messages about the future, in which case it looks like there is a lot of running and barking in store for us all.

But Cole, sometimes it seems like my dreams come true, what about that? Not considering the problems involved with remembering the details of events that happen completely inside your head, without any (or very minimal) input from your sensory organs, think about how many dreams a person has. I would conservatively venture that a person has 1-3 dreams each night. This means anywhere from 365-1,095 dreams a year. Statistically speaking, one would expect that every now and then, a dream would match up to something that happens in your life. Especially if you consider that the material from your dreams is often taken from things that happen in your waking life. This is also an example of confirmation bias. That being that people remember the few dreams they have that appear to be predictive, and forget the majority of those that don’t.

The interpretations that were given in this story, however, we’re highly symbolic. But the symbology wasn’t even consistent. For one, vines represented days, for the next, baskets. It would seem to me that for any kind of consistency in accuracy, the symbols would need to be consistent. Interpretations like this, that rely heavily on symbolism is like interpreting literature. Sure, there are some symbols whose meaning can be consistently traced culturally, but overall, the interpretation is left completely in the opinions of the one doing the interpretation. Really, I don’t see this as being any different from tarot card or palm reading.

Lessons I Learned:

  • What is essentially fortune telling is part of Christianity.
  • Don’t dream of birds eating from baskets on your head.

4 responses to “What did the baker do to get impaled?

  • hamiltonmj1983

    I think that the quite, “what is essentially fortune telling is a part of Christianity,” is stretching it a but. Part of life in the ancient near east, life in Palestine, Egypt, or Babylon, certainly. To attribute these writings to a religion that was started a few hundred years after these were written is a bit out of reach, in my opinion.

    Also, the symbols were incredibly relevant to the dreamers. Why would a baker dream of vines and a wine taster dream of bread baskets?

    • hamiltonmj1983


    • skepticole

      I don’t see a problem with calling the dream interpretation presented here as fortune telling. Joseph is divining future events from symbols in dreams. There isn’t much difference between modern day fortune tellers and this, except that Joseph claims his source of interpretation is his God, instead of spirits or psychic phenomena or whatever.

      As for saying it is a part of Christianity, the fact that Christians claim this as their holy book, the source of their religion means that this is also part of their religion. Joseph is obviously being written about in a positive light, someone whom the reader should feel positively about. He is the protagonist of this bit of story. That being said, it might not be a part of modern Christianity, I will give you that, but it is very much part of its history.

      As for the symbols, I did not say that they weren’t relevant, I said they were inconsistent. It makes sense that the baker dreams of baskets and the cup bearer dreams of grape vines. This is even consistent with what we know of dreams, the content can usually be traced to your waking life. The only consistency I see with the interpretations that Joseph offers is that he looks for a number, and attributes a period of time to it. After that he relies on received wisdom from God. That is hardly interpretation then, and more decoding of an encrypted message.

  • hamiltonmj1983

    Auto correct ate me alive…*bit not *but

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