In Genesis 40:23 we read the words, ‘Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.’
The context informs us that Joseph and the butler had a remarkable relationship. They had met in a prison in Egypt, where Joseph was, as one falsely accused, and where the chief butler was, as one who had displeased Pharaoh. Joseph had shown tenderness and compassion to the butler in his sad state. In the providence of God, the butler had dreamed a dream which Joseph, as guided by God, truthfully interpreted. The butler was duly restored, whilst his fellow, the baker, was executed.
How very surprising then to read that this man forgot the person who had so accurately foretold what did indeed take place! ‘Yet’ – our attention is drawn to the wonder that such a one should forget Joseph – yet he did. Perhaps he was filled with the busyness of his restored position, or had some fear of Pharaoh, who can tell? What is sure is Joseph continued to languish in prison, whilst the butler walked at liberty.
In his commentary, Matthew Henry writes, ‘See here an instance of base ingratitude; Joseph had deserved well at his hands, had ministered to him, sympathized with him, helped him to a favourable interpretation of his dream, had recommended himself to him as an extraordinary person upon all accounts; and yet he forgot him.’ He goes on to write,’We must not think it strange if in this world we have hatred shown us for our love, and slights for our respects.’
In the providence of God, Joseph was be released at the time when he would be exalted to great usefulness and to high honour. When that time came, the butler said, ‘I do remember my faults this day…’
But whatever we might think of the ingratitude of the chief butler, how is it with us who have the hope that we have been saved by Jesus Christ? Matthew Henry comments, ‘Joseph had but foretold the chief butler’s enlargement, but Christ wrought out ours…yet we forget him, though often reminded of him…’
If we have been forgetful of the Lord Jesus Christ today, let us remember Him, and give thanks for all that He has done. ‘For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.‘ (Mark 10:45)
G B Macdonald