Joseph in Prison Bible Story

Joseph in Prison

Of all the sons of Jacob, Joseph was the favorite. As a young boy, Joseph had dreams that revealed he would one day rule over his brothers. This special favor caused intense jealousy and resentment among Joseph’s older brothers.

One day when Joseph was 17 years old, his brothers saw him coming from far away in the fields where they were tending their flocks. In their bitterness, they plotted to kill Joseph. “Here comes the dreamer!” they sneered. “Let’s get rid of him and see what becomes of his dreams.”

The brothers roughly seized Joseph, stripping off his colorful robe their father had lovingly made for him. They were about to kill Joseph when the eldest brother Reuben spoke up, suggesting they merely throw him into an empty cistern in the wilderness instead.

Reuben hoped to come back secretly later and rescue Joseph from the cistern to spare his life. But when Reuben left, the other brothers saw a caravan of Ishmaelite traders passing by. Judah had the idea to sell Joseph to the traders as a slave instead of harming him.

So Joseph’s brothers callously sold him for 20 pieces of silver. The traders took Joseph far away to Egypt, while Joseph’s brothers put his special robe in goat’s blood to make it look like he’d been killed by a wild animal. They brought the blood-stained robe back to their father Jacob, who was inconsolable with grief, thinking Joseph was dead.

Meanwhile, the Ishmaelite traders continued their journey to Egypt, where they sold the young Joseph as a slave to one of Pharaoh’s high officials named Potiphar.  Despite being ripped from his home and family and forced into slavery, Joseph remained faithful to God. And the Lord caused everything Joseph did to prosper greatly.

Potiphar soon noticed this and promoted Joseph to oversee his entire household and property. God’s blessings flowed through Joseph so much that Potiphar handed over all his affairs to this young Hebrew slave-turned-steward.

However, Potiphar’s wife started looking at Joseph with lustful desire, tempting him day after day to come lie with her. As a man of integrity, Joseph refused, saying “How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a grave sin against God!”

One day when no other servants were around, Potiphar’s wife tried forcibly pulling Joseph into her bedroom to sleep with her. But Joseph broke free, running outside so quickly that she was left holding his cloak in her hands.

Furious at being rejected, Potiphar’s wife screamed accusations against Joseph – that he was the one who had tried to force himself on her! When Potiphar returned, she showed him Joseph’s cloak as proof and repeated her lies against the innocent Joseph.  

Potiphar had no choice but to accept his wife’s accusation and throw Joseph into the very same prison where Pharaoh’s other unfortunate prisoners were kept. Despite maintaining his integrity and fearing God, Joseph landed in the darkest, bleakest of circumstances through no fault of his own.

Yet even in prison, Joseph found favor with the Lord, who blessed everything he did. So much so that the prison warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and all activities that took place behind those barred walls.

One night, both Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker ended up in the same prison block, each having their own separate dream that troubled them. As was customary at that time, dreams were seen as significant, but there was no one to interpret their meaning.

Noticing their sadness the next morning, Joseph asked “Why are your faces looking so downcast today?” After hearing that each one had dreamed a perplexing dream, Joseph said with hope, “Doesn’t the interpretation of dreams belong to God? Tell me your dreams and perhaps He will reveal the meaning to me.”

The cup-bearer went first, describing his dream about a vine with three branches that budded blossoms, brought forth ripe clusters of grapes, which he squeezed into Pharaoh’s cup to give to him.

Joseph’s interpretation was positive: “The three branches represent three days, after which Pharaoh will lift you up out of prison and restore your position as his personal cup-bearer.”

Joseph then asked the cup-bearer, “When that happy day comes, please have some loyalty and kindness toward me. Tell Pharaoh about my story, for I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews and brought here unjustly as a slave with no wrongdoing.”

Feeling hopeful about the cup-bearer’s dream interpretation coming true, the baker excitedly told his dream next about three bread baskets piled onto his head. The top basket contained all kinds of bakery foods for Pharaoh, but birds were eating the bread from it.

Regrettably, Joseph had to interpret this second dream as bad news. “The three baskets represent three days as well,” Joseph explained. “But after that, Pharaoh will have you hanged and birds will eat your body from the basket on your head!”

Just as Joseph had said, three days later the cup-bearer’s and baker’s fates came true just as dreamed. The cup-bearer was pardoned and reinstated to his position serving Pharaoh. But the baker was put to death by hanging.

Unfortunately, the cup-bearer did not keep his promise to tell Pharaoh about Joseph’s unjust imprisonment when he got out. He simply forgot all about Joseph, who remained wrongfully stuck in that same miserable prison for two more long years while his life slowly wasted away.

It seemed like Joseph was well on his way to fulfilling the dreams of his youth about rising to greatness and importance. But the tragic injustices and betrayals he experienced instead left Joseph utterly alone, far from his family, wasting away in a harsh Egyptian prison through no fault of his own.

Having to endure such dark trials tested Joseph’s faith immensely. Yet in the midst of every circumstance, whether being sold into slavery by his own brothers, working as the head servant over Potiphar’s household, or being falsely accused and thrown into the dregs of prison life – the favor of the Lord remained upon Joseph because of his integrity and faithfulness.

Joseph’s ability to interpret the cup-bearer’s and baker’s dreams foreshadowed how God would use this gift to not only gain Joseph’s long-awaited release from prison at last, but to elevate him to second-highest power over all of Egypt! Joseph’s circumstances were about to drastically change from the lowest lows to the highest heights, all by the sovereign hand of the Almighty.