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Joseph in Prison. Study Text for Prisoner Experiences

TEXT: Genesis 39:23 “The keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was under his hand;

because the LORD was with him (Joseph), and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.”

Our text finds Joseph still in the midst of a great trial of faith. He has been mistreated,

misrepresented, maliciously accused and imprisoned. In the midst of it all Joseph remained patient

and kept his testimony intact.

A glimpse at Joseph’s life reveals the trials he was forced to face...

• He was treated unfairly by his own brothers and sold into slavery.

• He became a slave in a foreign land.

• He was falsely accused of sexual assault and unjustly imprisoned.

HOWEVER – Joseph chose not to be a victim. He understood that “The Lord was with Joseph!” That

truth alone made his prison experience bearable.

As we rejoin Joseph in prison, we see his experience reveals some important lessons for God’s people

today. Chapter 40 finds Joseph shut up in prison, but still believing and serving the Lord. In that prison

he was forgotten by many, but he was never forgotten by the Lord.

The path of life leads us into similar prison situations. We all face hardships and trials. That is the

way of life!

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye

shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Romans 8:38-39 “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor

powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall

be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We may, at times, we feel we are forgoten. We may be forgotten by those around us, but we are

never forgotten by the Lord (Heb 13:5).
#1. JOSEPH’S PRISON DUTY (v 1-4). “And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the

king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt. 2 And Pharaoh was wroth against

two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers. 3 And he put

them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was

bound. 4 And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they

continued a season in ward.”

While Joseph waits in prison, he receives some new roommates – Pharaoh’s Butler and Baker.

• The Butler was Pharaoh’s Cupbearer. When anything to eat or drink was brought before

Pharaoh, the cupbearer would taste it first to make sure it was safe for Pharaoh. Cupbearers were

close to the rulers they served. They were so close that they had conversations and where some-times

were privy to royal secrets. They were highly trusted servants that literally held Pharaoh’s life in their

hands (Nehemiah 2:1ff).

• The Baker was Pharaoh’s Personal Chef. He was responsible for the food that Pharaoh ate as

well as those that dined at his table. He too would have been a trusted servant in Pharaoh’s


• Apparently, there had been a problem with Pharaoh’s food and these men are in trouble.

They have been cast out of their positions and find themselves locked up in prison.

When these men get to prison, they receive privileged treatment. They were treated like celebrities;

they even have a

servant assigned to minister to their needs. Joseph is picked to be their servant.

• On the surface, this seemed to be just another assignment; but, in reality this was the

providence of a sovereign God at work in Joseph’s life. God had just brought Joseph face to face with

the man God would later use to secure Joseph’s release from prison.

We should never discount the seemingly small twists and turns of this life. God can and does use

small things in great ways.
• The same is true in your life and mine. What we see as a “chance” encounter may be the

meeting of a lifetime. What we see as an “accident” or as “coincidence” may be God at work in your


• God guides through the tiny details of our life! There are no accidents with Him.

Psalm 37:23 “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.”

Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.”


One morning Joseph checks on his charges and they are both sad. They tell him they have had

disturbing dreams and don’t know what they mean. When Joseph hears this he must have thought of

his own dreams (Gen 37:5-11). His dreams seemed as though they had been derailed, or at best

delayed. He encourages the Butler and Baker to tell him their dreams. Joseph knows the God Who can

give them the interpretation.

• The butler tells Joseph his dream and receives good news (v 9-13).

• When the baker hears the butler’s good news, he tells Joseph his dream. His interpretation is

not good, but Joseph humbly tells him the truth anyway (v 16-19).

Try putting yourself in Joseph’s place. He has been given a dream from the Lord. In his dream, he is

going to rule someday. His dream has yet to be fulfilled. In fact, from all appearances, Joseph’s

dreams have all been shattered.

What does Joseph do? Does he get angry and give up on the Lord? Does he say, “I’m finished with all

this dreaming! Just leave me alone!”

Even though He finds himself in an unpleasant situation, he doesn’t lose his hope in those dreams or

in the God who gave them to him (v 8).

What a lesson for us today! There are going to be times when it seems like God has forgotten all

about you. There will be times when it seems that your dreams have been derailed. What you do then

will have an impact on what the Lord will do for you later.

Our duty in the prisons of life is to seek ways to glorify God (1 Cor 10:31).

timers! Joseph, on the other hand is there to stay. Yet, he is not sad! In fact, he’s concerned about

others and reaches out to help the Bulter and Baker get through their prison experience.

What a lesson for us! Most people can see no further than our own need! All they can think about is

how bad they hurt. Most people are petty and self-centered. Did you know that attitude is not what

the Lord wants from His people?

He wants us to lose ourselves in the needs of others (Philippians 2:4).

“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

He wants us to look around for someone that we can help (Galatians 6:1-2).

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of

meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so

fulfil the law of Christ.

He wants us to be like Jesus, who willingly laid down His life so that others might live! That’s not

easy, but it’s Scriptural!

When you and I get our eyes off self and set our heart to the business of helping someone else, we

will find that our own load gets lighter! The Lord wants us to be a blessing, even when we are in the

prison of life!

That is the kind of prison demeanor we need to display when we walk through our own difficulties. May

God help us to learn that He is always God and always good, regardless of how we are treated by


#4. JOSEPH’S PRISON DISAPPOINTMENT (Gen 40:20 – 41:1). “And it came to pass the third day, which

was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the

chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. 21 And he restored the chief butler unto his

butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand: 22 But he hanged the chief baker: as

Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him. 41:1

And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the


The dreams of the butler and the baker were fulfilled just as Joseph said they would. The butler was

restored to his office and the baker was executed.

• Joseph had asked the butler to remember him when we was restored (40:14-15), But, that’s

not what happens. We are told, the man “forgot him” (40:23). Surely this must have broken Joseph’s


• Days turned into weeks; weeks into months and months into two long years, (Gen 41:1). All

the while Joseph is still in his prison, disappointed, but waiting on God to move in his time.

This Prison Disappointment taught Joseph two valuable lessons that we need to learn as well.

• Joseph learned not to put too much confidence in man. Our only reliable help comes from the

Lord. He may use humans as His instruments, but behind the provision is the hand of God.

Psalm 121:1-8 “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. 2 My help cometh

from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. 3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that

keepeth thee will not slumber. 4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The

LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. 6 The sun shall not smite thee by day,

nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. 8 The

LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.”

• Joseph learned that God’s unseen hand moves along a divine path of providence. We need to

learn this truth: Our God is never early and never late! He always right on time!

There will be some disappointments in our prison experiences as well. The Lord may not move when

we think He ought and we will get discouraged. We will reach out for human help and find that it falls

short. This too will disappoint us.

• When times of disappointment come, we can become discouraged and look for a place to

pout, or we can do like Joseph and stay the course for the glory of God and serve Him faithfully.

• We should always remember that even though we may feel forgotten, we will never be

forsaken by the Lord. In His time, He will visit our prison and He will set us free!

CONCLUSION: What set Joseph apart from others? He knew the Lord was with him!
v 23 “The keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was under his hand; because the LORD was

with him (Joseph), and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.”

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

Our circumstances may be bad, but God is good! We need to look for ways to point others to Him even

though our own hearts are breaking! If He is the God of the mountain, He is also the God of the valley

(1 Thess 5:16-18).

“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ

Jesus concerning you.”

#3. JOSEPH’S PRISON DEMEANOR (v 6-7). “And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked

upon them, and, behold, they were sad. 7And he asked Pharaoh’s officers that were with him in the

ward of his lord’s house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly to day?”

As Joseph went about his duties, he saw that these two men were sad. I can understand their

sadness. They have been removed from prestigious position and cast into prison. But, they’re short

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