By Freeman Chambers
Consider this: The two servants of Pharaoh put into prison with Joseph are not needed for the story to be complete. For Joseph to be released from jail and brought into Pharaoh’s court, at least one person had to experience Joseph’s dream interpretation skills so that when Pharaoh had a perplexing dream, they would know who to recommend. But you only actually need one person to do that. The winetaster in this story saw that Joseph was accurate in his interpretations, and told his master. This brought an end to Joseph’s time in jail, and led to him being elevated him to a place of eminence in Pharaoh’s court, saving countless lives. But the other servant is not needed. Why does God in His infinite wisdom not just have one servant imprisoned with Joseph, but two?
As my thoughts of these three individuals in an ancient Egyptian prison went through my mind I became stunned by something I had never considered before … like so many things in the Torah this one aspect is so very profound, dare I say earth shaking, because it is hidden in plain sight.
A righteous man among two offenders
Joseph was put in prison for a crime he did not commit. He was tempted to take another man’s wife but did not give in, just as Yeshua was tempted and did not give in but resisted Satan’s offers. Joseph was accused of attempting to take another man’s wife, an accusation that was not true. In like manner, Yeshua being the Son of God was accused of blasphemy, because he spoke the truth declaring that He is the Son of God and that He will be at the right hand of the power on high. Both Joseph and Yeshua were accused falsely and both were sent to a harsh punishment for a crime not committed by either of them. But the earth shaking part of the story is the two servants of Pharaoh.
There were two men, not three or four, not one, but two men who were crucified with Yeshua. Both Yeshua and Joseph had two men by their side in their hour of suffering; one destined for salvation, the other for perdition.
But there is more! Why are we given the gory details of how the one (extraneous) servant was executed? Recall what Joseph told him what would happen to him after three days’ time. He was told that his head would be cut off and that his body would be hung on a tree and that the birds would eat his flesh. Why is that necessary for the overall story of Joseph? Why do we need to know the manner of that servant’s death?
A key to the afterlife
We are told that the man on the cross to the right of Yeshua, that Yeshua turned to him and said, “Today you will be in paradise with me.” The other man, to Yeshua’s left, died with no hope of life after death. The following is how that man who died with no hope of life after death relates to Pharaoh’s servant who was executed 1900 years earlier.
In order to appreciate the parallels in the Joseph story, we have to understand a bit about ancient Egyptian culture and their ideas about death. Without knowledge of their way of thinking about the afterlife, the pronouncement of the gory details of the servant’s execution makes no sense.
“In ancient Egypt, the end of life marked the start of a challenging journey – one that could be smoothed using the spells compiled in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. After you died, Egyptians believed, your ba (spirit) would depart your body – but only temporarily. The ba would need to return to your remains periodically, perhaps every night, and for this reunion to be successful the body had to be intact. That’s why Egyptians developed a complex process of mummification – because without it your afterlife would be jeopardized.” 
Culturally, this is what was accepted as truth in Joseph’s day. So when the servant heard that his head would be cut off and that his body would be eaten by the birds it was not the thought of physical death that gripped him (as bad as that was) but that he had no hope of an afterlife because his body would not be intact.
“Halting decomposition was, however, not enough to guarantee that you would prevail in the next world. Your ba would itself face several challenges on its journey – and an Egyptian Book of the Dead would be an invaluable aid in dealing with these. So the book was often placed in the coffin, sometimes even wrapped up within the bandages of the mummy, ensuring that the words inside would follow you as you encountered the perils of life after death.”
With the understanding of what that servant surely was thinking, one can see that God had written down and hidden, in a sense, the fate of the man on the cross next to Yeshua who failed to believe.
Isaiah 53:12 says: Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.
Isaiah stated that Yeshua would be numbered with the transgressors, but Joseph’s story prophetically tells us the details of those transgressors: there would two men, one who would be given hope and a future, while the other would perish without hope.
Moses wrote about me
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. “I do not accept glory from human beings, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”
In this seemingly small point in Joseph’s life our great God is showing us all that his plan on the day of Yeshua’s crucifixion was detailed long before the crucifixion took place, to the point that He announced beforehand those two men who were crucified alongside Yeshua and who represent the choice in front of us all.
Interestingly, in the encounter between Joseph and those two servants things are in reverse of what they were on the day of the crucifixion
- Joseph asked the servant who was to be reinstated to remember him once he was back in Pharaoh’s palace, but the scriptures tell us that the servant forgot about Joseph. And Joseph spent another two full years in prison. It was forgotten and delayed. In contrast, on the day of the crucifixion the man on Yeshua’s right asked the Lord to remember him when he comes into His kingdom, and Yeshua told him that day he would be in Paradise with him – it was remembered and immediate.
- For the two servants with Joseph, three days’ time was determined for the events that would take place in their life, while for Yeshua we know that at the end of three days God raised him from the dead.
- Last but not least, Yeshua presented the bread and the wine to his disciples and the world. The bread is his body broken for us while the wine is his blood of the new covenant. The two servants in prison with Joseph present the bread and wine to Joseph by virtue of their dreams. Remember we are told one had a dream about the grapes on the vine and how he pressed the juice into the cup. The other servant was a baker and in his dream was the bread in the basket. All of the interaction between Joseph and the two servants testifies of Jesus 1900 years before Yeshua broke the bread and gave the cup to his disciples.
I believe God our Father had this event in Joseph’s life take place in reverse order so that when future generations, who are called, will read it they will know that this was determined by a living God and not the fictitious writing of a man. All of the key elements of the crucifixion are right there. This is a preview of the crucifixion event told 1900 years ahead of time. God had not forgotten Joseph in that cell, and the cross was no mistake. It was all foreseen, and God was over every detail of the story which led first to the salvation of Israel, and then to the salvation of all who believe. Yeshua is indeed is the Messiah and there is none other – there is no need to doubt who He is.
 History Extra – Guidebook to the Ancient Egyptian afterlife