1. Joseph, now in prison (dungeon) had proved himself all over again (39:22-23). It is unknown exactly how long Joseph was with Potiphar before he was put in prison; Jews think it was but one year, while it was the ninth year of Joseph’s “residence” in prison that we read of the events in this chapter (cf. 41:1, 46).
2. Two of Pharaoh’s royal officials were cast into the prison where Joseph was a servant overseeing many of the prisoners. One of the prisoners was a cupbearer (chief butler, NKJV). “The Hebrew term cupbearer corresponds to the Egyptian wb’, an official (frequently a foreigner) who often became a confidant of the king and wielded political power (see K. A. Kitchen, NBD, 248). Nehemiah held this post in Persia” (NET, E-sword). The other prisoner was, just as the words indicate, the chief baker. These men played an enormous role in protecting the king; if the food or drink was tainted at all, these men who would be the “tasters” suffer first and, thus, spare the king.
3. While in prison they had dreams that were perplexing to them. Joseph inquires and declares that only God can interpret dreams. Because God was the interpreter of these dreams the certainty of their meaning was indisputable. Just as Joseph told the officials of Pharaoh, it came to pass.
4. Application: Dreams are remarkable. There are times when we dream and wonder about that which we dreamt. Other times we hardly remember if we dreamed at all. Every now and again I will think on my dreams and try to ascertain some reason for its existence in the overnight hours. Invariably, though, I have no luck at all. Since only God can properly interpret, it is a matter of good judgment for man to leave it there; however this good judgment has not prevented man from offering interpretations just the same. Even if one might properly interpret dreams, certainty of meaning (if any) belongs exclusively to God. Another point of application might be worth considering: it would have been easy, and perhaps it was actually occurring at the time, for Joseph to be in despair. For no wrong that he committed, he was in prison. He was in prison because of the evil of man (female). How should he approach his existence? One of two ways, I suppose. He could reply with despair and defeat or as Paul and Silas (Acts 16:25). Admittedly, it is much easier to say what should be done when sitting in the comforts of an office. However, is it not true just the same?